Travel Lightly and Be Where You Are

I want to be where I am, not where my stuff is.

When we travel, great time and attention is devoted to our stuff. What stuff should bring? Did we bring enough stuff? Will our stuff fit in a carry on? If it doesn’t, will the airlines lose our stuff? Where will we put our stuff when we get there? How much room do we need for the new stuff we buy when we travel?

If I am wandering around a city, wondering if I remembered to bring an external hard drive or extra pair of shoes, I’m missing out. If I’m thinking about something I left  in the hotel room on the way to the airport, I’m distracted. More importantly, if on my travels, I am constantly on the hunt for more stuff, I’ve really missed out on what the city, or destination has to offer.

In two weeks I’ll be traveling to Portland and Seattle with nothing but a backpack. I know that doesn’t sound like revolutionary news, but if you’ve ever been anywhere with me before, you know that while I want to live with less, I don’t travel with less.

What I’m bringing…

  1. Small backpack.
  2. Computer
  3. Camera
  4. Iphone + charger
  5. Sunglasses (Here’s hoping)
  6. Lipstick. Yep, just one.
  7. Tinted Foundation
  8. Blush + brush
  9. Liner
  10. Mascara
  11. Deodorant
  12. Hairbrush
  13. Toothpaste & toothbrush
  14. ID, Debit Card, a little cash
  15. Underwear
  16. Raincoat (It’s Portland)
  17. Black Shirt
  18. Gray very casual dress (only if 60 degrees or higher predicted)
  19. Pink Sweater
  20. Something to sleep in
  21. Black flats

I’ll wear Jeans + Tank + Blazer + Sport shoes.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that on past trips, I typically packed two outfits per day (one for day and one for night) plus an additional outfit if I was planning to use a gym, pool or yoga studio. I don’t share that for any other reason than to let you know that minimalism does not come naturally to me. I crave less, but my travel experiences have not reflected that.

For you to fully appreciate how far I’ve come, you should also know, that I have traveled with another empty bag stuffed in my suitcase for…shopping. Yep, I used to bring stuff home. This should be a glaring example that big change is possible anytime.

What I think I’ll wish I had packed…

  • a shirt for each day
  • yoga clothes
  • socks
  • bathing suit
  • shorts or skirt
  • cute heels
  • lotion
  • flat iron
  • hair dryer
  • snacks
  • necklace

Francine Jay, better known as Miss Minimalist knows how to travel with less. I am reading her book  The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life and it’s smart and gentle. After reading her Extreme Light Travel routine though, my little backpack is starting to look like a little much. Maybe I’ll lose the black flats and blazer and wear the sweater. (baby steps)

On this trip, I’ll…

  • Board the plane slowly instead of rushing on to make room for my stuff.
  • Drop my things at a hotel and get out in the city, instead of unpacking and re-organizing.
  • Make due with what will fit in my pockets, so I can truly embrace each city.
  • Gaze out of the train window, instead of making sure my stuff is safe.
  • Enjoy a meal without thinking someone might trip over my suitcase.
  • Lose the thought of losing a bag knowing everything I need is on my back.

What’s in your suitcase? I’d love to hear your tips to travel lightly, and any great recommendations to get lost in Portland or Seattle.



  1. says

    One of my greatest travel-packing lessons came from my wife. We were using ziploc-like vacuum bags to save space.

    She’d gentle press the extra air out…like a gentle ugayi exhale. I started imitating her, and I started becoming calmer. We were leaving and had a lot to fit in a tattered backpack, but it didn’t feel all that bad.

    There is a kind of Zen to packing–you’ve touched upon some great ideas: packing less = a less cluttered travel. Less cluttered bag –> less cluttered mind. Less cluttered mind –> a richer experience.

    For you, Courtney, this will probably mean better photographs.

    I’ve come to believe that minimalism is not just a fad, but a language and a state of mind. It’s not a choice for the Brazilian Guarani; but for a culture accustomed to muchness and manyness, it represents revolution.

    Thanks for the “example lists” and the links to other insightful places to explore.

    Enjoy your mindful travels,

    • Courtney Carver says

      Mark, I love how packing actually made you calm. I look forward to that experience!

    • Amy says

      I’m so glad you pointed out that minimalism can be seen as revolution. I’ve been feeling lately that I’m not accomplishing anything, but just by acting on these ideas in my own life I’m already doing something different. To my surprise I’m actually making people angry by thinking this way. That is not the reaction I would ever have expected, but it’s evidence that I AM doing something big if it’s big enough to make people mad.

  2. says

    Thanks for this honesty + guidance. We’re moving overseas in a few months and we’ll be taking a lot of weekend trips from our new home. I need to flip a switch on my ‘pack for every scenario’ mentality if I want to really enjoy myself. Which is the point of travel, right? Add a toddler to this mix and it will be a challenge but not impossible.
    And enjoy the PNW! I went to UW so know Seattle well. Lovely city.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Thanks Rachel, Traveling with a toddler is another journey all together. I am excited to hear more about your move, but I loved having a friend in Vancouver! That is another city I would love to visit.

      • Jen says

        You can be a minimalist with small kids. I don’t believe that just because I am a mommy, I have to be weighted down like a pack mule.

        For a day trip, I bring a change of pants,socks and underwear in case my potty trained toddler pees, a light windbreaker or whatever seasonal gear is appropriate and maybe a lightweight snack like a fruit leather or suckers, but I don’t believe in feeding a child every two seconds, she eats when we all eat and we drink from water fountains, etc. I may bring a water bottle if I know nothing will be nearby. A light stroller is nice if we are walking far. I don’t bring toys for her, we entertain ourselves with whatever we find. You can definitely travel for the day with a kid without toys, DVDs, wipes, purell, it is quite liberating actually and I think it is good to teach a kid that they need to adapt to their surroundings. We haven’t had any big problems traveling that we can’t find a solution for.

  3. says

    Congrats! I’ve been very into traveling with less lately, and although it’s hard to convince myself I’ll be ok with less, I’ve been managing and it’s been great.

  4. Hilary says

    I am so inspired by this post. I hadn’t thought about my minimalist life (which I LOVE) translating into my travel habits. Now I want to go somewhere just so I can practice it! – I was so delighted to open today’s post and see a picture of Seattle. My minimalist life with my husband and our little dog finally made it possible for us to relocate to Seattle this past January. I fell madly in love with Seattle two years ago on a trip and made it my mission to get up here. We moved with a trailer attached to our car and sold/gave away the other car and anything else that didn’t fit in the trailer. We live in the smallest place we ever have (about 375 sq feet, a dream come true for us) and realized we moved with more than we need and are still minimizing down more each day. – I never knew love for a city until I met Seattle. I hope that you are richly blessed and touched by this city that is so dear to me (precious enough to leave family, friends and jobs and move up here with no jobs and no place to live). I am captivated by the history of this city (which I love seeing in the famous Pike Place market) and in the Underground Tour. For THE best view of the city from above, I don’t recommend the needle, instead I recommend Columbia Center (4th and Cherry, downtown). As Seattle’s tallest building, you can view the city from 73 floors up. It’s also much cheaper than the Space Needle (I think it’s 4 or 5 dollars, cash only). I learned about it after I got a job in the 1st floor Starbucks in Col. Center :) (Col. Ctr. is only open on weekdays though, since it’s an office building :)) Taking the ferry over to Bainbridge island gives priceless views of the city from Puget Sound. Gasworks, Discovery, and Volunteer Parks are some favorites of mine. If you like coffee, my local favorites are Trabant (there’s one near Col. Ctr) and Victrola (in Capitol Hill) – Have a great trip! I hope it’s everything you hope and more and that you get great pictures :)

  5. Helen says

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I feel a passionate urge to comment.

    • Hilary says

      My dad has been wanting me to watch JC’s “Stuff” bit for a while, and I’d had a hard time finding it at the time. So glad you posted. It was hilarious! Thanks :)

  6. says

    You have got me itching to travel somewhere! And I used to travel with family and take everything but the kitchen sink “just in case”. And then I traveled for work where image was everything, 2-3 outfits per day plus formal wear, makeup and jewelry and hari products, nightmare! I have a mid size carry-on, I think when hubby & I do get to go somewhere, I am going to do so with that bag. Your thoughts of not having to worry with your stuff really got me to thinking!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Bernice, Keep me posted if you give it a try. I have a feeling neither one of us will go back to our bag dragging days.

  7. Kristin says

    Hey Courtney,

    Hope you have a great trip! I do a little photography and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Lowepro bag. I am also not a fan of backpacks but this sidesling bag allows a camera and a few personal items to be packed safely and easily. It also has an expandable section that makes the bag 30% bigger (for clothes, etc). I’ve packed minimally for up to 5 days in the bag and it’s been absolutely perfect. Also has an easy access padded area for a camera.

    My last trip was a 5 day 400+ mile moped trip with my husband in the Florida Keys. It’s so great being able to enjoy the beauty of nature (and great photog opportunities) without worrying about all of my crap!

    p.s. I promise I’m not a salesman :) I just really love my bag!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Not that I’ll be buying anything new for the trip, but I would like to see that bag in person. Looks promising!

  8. says

    I just visited Seattle a few weeks ago for a wedding. I had a wonderful time! I definitely recommend Pike’s Place market. I took some neat pictures there (and I’m not a photographer). I also heard that the public library downtown is very cool, though I didn’t get to go. The bride and groom actually did some wedding shots there after the ceremony. If you like donuts, Top Pot was some of the best donuts I’ve ever had. I went there twice.

    As for minimalist travel, I started a “carry-on only” policy a couple of years ago. It has been fantastic. Last summer my husband and I went to Hawaii for 9 days and carried on everything, including some backpacking gear as we were doing an overnight hike while we were there. And we still took more than we needed!

  9. says

    I’m going to pass this along to my mom ~ she’ll be traveling tomorrow, and she has the same tendency to want to bring along a lot! :) Thanks for the timely post, Courtney.

  10. says

    This is a great post, inspirational & practical! It’s neat that you are taking a trip to enjoy solitude. I’ve never taken a trip by myself, but I’ve dreamed of it.

    I always pack too much because I have a huge fear of spilling something or getting caught in the rain and needing a change of clothes because I haaaaaaaaate wet clothing! Maybe that’s kind of silly. 90% of the time I don’t use every item I bring on a trip. But it seems the times I have gone minimalist, I’ve wished I brought something else! I suppose it’s all about bringing the RIGHT stuff, and owning versatile clothing.

    I’m in Olympia, I’ll wave as you pass from Seattle to Portland 😉

    • Courtney Carver says

      Liina, I highly a little trip by yourself. As much as love traveling with my family, that time alone once or twice a year is really great.

  11. says

    I love traveling lightly liked this. My partner is really into just bringing a day pack on big trips, and he’s taught me to travel much more lightly than I used to.

    On our recent three-week trip to Southeast Asia and Australia, we each brought one daypack, the same sized pack we would normally take for a day of hiking. I can’t believe how many people who worked in the airports asked us, “Are you sure you have all of your belongings?” People just aren’t used to seeing travelers with so little stuff. :)

  12. Abby says

    Interesting post but I’ve got to wonder, wouldn’t you def need to bring one more top and one more bottom? And what about shampoo? It can also triple as shower gel and detergent to wash your undies (also bring a piece of string to dry your clothes). I’d skip the camera because my phone takes great photos but I’d take a fanny for days when I don’t want to lug the backpack if I can find a safe place for the rest of my stuff (locker?). And I can’t travel anywhere without at least one book to read.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Abby, I am staying in a hotel so their shampoo should be fine. There will be towel racks for drying clothes. The camera, for me, is not negotiable. My iphone takes great pics but not the quality of my DSLR.

  13. says

    That sounds just absolutely lovely. I’m always curious when people provide lists… is that absolutely everything? Like no face wash or eye makeup remover for the mascara and eyeliner!?! Anyhow, those things are negligible.

    I had my first packing experience the very first weekend of doing my ODP and it was just lovely. I had to fly to Charleston and it was so much easier. But I wasn’t as paired down as one backpack. I tend to want to have lots of things with me when I travel as well and I’ve thought one roller suitcase that can go overhead and one large back that I can shove my purse into when boarding the plane so as to only have two carry ons is doing well… but, it still leaves me in all the situations you described above. And it sounds incredibly lovely to not have to consider luggage, or cart stuff all over. I think I don’t know how to exist without all the stuff I’ve so intentionally already paired down and think I have to have to go out into the world. If I consider how frequently I access the “stuff” it is not frequent, but I can imagine myself being frustrated for the times when I do want the stuff and I don’t have it to have. So is the journey of a person pairing down and more down. It certainly sounds attractive enough to try though. I’m already thinking of when I can.

    And I really wanna hear how this goes, every little detail (not just the successes).
    Thanks for a good, hard, attractive challenge, Courtney.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Kristy, I would normally carry face wipes, and a little bottle of make-up remover, but I think I can make due without. I’ll report back with the dirty details!

  14. says

    I was so bad about over-packing when going on a trip…I was the one with the over weight bags and I still don’t mind paying and checking my bags today so that I don’t have to deal with the overheads…talk about being out of sorts! Now I used a soft sided Vera Bradley duffel bag (they do fit great in the overheads) and a matching messenger bag. I prefer messenger bags over back packs because you can put the strap across your body and STILL get into your bags…whereas a a backpack has to be brought off your back in order to find your stuff 😉 I don’t wear much make-up anymore so I pre-mix my moisturizer and make-up in a mini-tupperware container before each trip for quick application and less to carry. My husband always reminds me that if we forget or need something…we can always buy it when we get there…and I finally learned to listen to him. I was always trying to be so “thrifty” and it can sometimes take away from the experience all together. We travel one weekend of every month and then 3-4 weeks a year for vacations. We we drive on vacation I do tend to pack a bit more but that’s because I bring an art journal and art kit along. I swear…I get more art journaling done on vacations because I have NO distractions.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Roberta, I thought about a messenger bag, but I don’t own one. It felt silly to buy something new to avoid packing a suitcase. I’ll give the backpack a try and see how it goes!

      I love that you travel so much and get plenty of distraction free time to do the things you love.

  15. says

    I think travelling lightly for women is a completely different deal for women than for men so I wouldn’t worry about comparisons there.

    Congratulations on all that you’re doing with your new ebook and this photographic project. You are an inspiration.



  16. says

    I love the concept of this blog! We are great defenders of “less is more”, and we find this a beautiful blog to reach selfknowledge.

    Congratulations and will come back soon to ckeck for news!

    laminimal staff

  17. tammy says

    This is an Excellent Post. I travel for a Living and I never thought about what I focus on, when I am on a trip. All you said, is totally what I do when worrying so much about IF I may need something. I rearranged my bag recently and had a trip thinking, I just kept everything, but organized it different. Now that is crazy. Thinking Like I will never have enough or the WHAT IF’s, I may need a lipstick or a band-aid or clipper or file, OR OR OR. You are getting my drift. I pack not so much the clothes it is the smaller things that I dont use most of the time like I said above. It is those JUST IN CASE THINGS. How do you NOT pack those things? I am ready to have FREEDOM from Stuff when I travel. Minimalistic life at home needs to be MORE now for Travel. I think I would feel TONS better about the Experience like you said with yourself. Great to hear these opinions as well.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Tammy, It’s funny how programmed we are to think about stuff first. I’m going to Portland, not a remote rain forest! Why would I even think about bringing more than I need. I’d love to hear back from you if you travel lightly.

  18. says

    Firstly I am so jealous. As soon as I saw the Seattle skyline start to develop on the screen when I opened this post my heart skipped a beat. I lived there for seven years and really miss it. If you want any tips on what to see just send me an email.

    As for light packing. I went to Italy (I live in Australia) for one month last October and the backpack plus its contents only weighed 12 pound. I did go with my husband and he had the electronic gear but we even minimised that this time. No laptop ~ big gasp. Instead we made sure we had some serious camera memory cards, the camera gear and an iPod touch. We carry our passports but all the travel info in on the iPod touch (no paperwork required these days).

    I took in my Rick Steves Backpack…
    5 shirts
    2 pair of light weight travel capris
    1 Light weight travel skirt
    1 dress
    8 pair of panties
    1 bra (spare)
    1 swim suit (never wore)
    1 pair of near worn out shoes that I threw away before I came home
    Toothbrush & toothpaste
    Eyebrow pencil (retractable type no need for sharpener)
    Tinted moisuriser
    Razor (disposable)
    Light weight Rick Steves travel day bag
    Spare glasses (just in case)
    1 small microfibre cloth
    a few zip lock bags

    I worn…
    Light weight long pants
    Light weight travel jacket
    Shoes (Keen Vancouvers ~ light weight Mary-Janes style)
    Fly socks (to stop swollen feet)

    Rick Steves ( has great travel advice on packing and sells great travel gear.

    We find out in advance or go exploring once we reach a destination to work out where the nearest Laundromat is if we are at a stage that we are going to need one. We make sure we have enough closed to get us comfortably (not smelly) through for five days.

    We worry little about how fashionable we look and more about being comfortable and appropriately dress for exploring. Through you vanity out the window unless you want to carry it around on your back. That being said you can still look nice as there is plenty of stylish light weight travel clothes out there to choose from.

    Good luck with the packing and bon voyage!

  19. says

    We traveled last week – a family of four – and took one big suitcase. I was at my mom’s so I knew I had access to laundry facilities. It was so nice to take just a few outfits and wear them a couple times.

    I’m in Portland – it would be lovely to run into you! Enjoy your time – I hope the weather cooperates and you get some lovely photos.

  20. gwoman says

    I second the recommendation to check out the Rick Steves site….you could even visit his travel store located in Edmonds, WA (about 30 minutes north of Seattle). The best tip I’ve ever gotten was to use a money belt. I know how it sounds but it really does free you to only concentrate on being in the moment. No worries about losing ID/money/credit cards and keeps your hands free for your camera. (Link:

    Seattle tends to be still be quite cool and wet this time of year so your raincoat is definitely the way to go. Also consider adding another sweater to the mix. The evenings can be very chilly.

    Have fun.

  21. lotta says

    I love the way you blog, thank you for sharing your journey. I have been a hoarder for a very long time but the demise of my marriage and sale of my house as well as some unexpected news has seen this change. Not as smooth as I had hoped for there are days I feel I have lost a large part of myself (read Me = My STUFF… out of necessity and space restrictions) but I was already preparing myself to downsize. Funnily enough though, I travel really light. I love the feeling of unencumbered freedom. Even with my children we spent a few days in another state and took a backpack each for five days. With room to spare. Love it.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Lotta, It sounds like you are going through some big changes. I’m glad you commented. Sounds like you recognize that you are not your stuff. Be good to yourself as you get used to your new normal.

  22. says

    This is such a delightful discussion, and timely too. Thanks Courtney for letting us in on the details of your backpack and I will be looking out for further details.
    I have been traveling between two countries since I was 12 -between Turkey and the United States, you would think I would have learned a thing or two in the past 33 years. I am embarrassed to admit, no. I start with the best intentions and every time end up with all of the above.
    Last summer we rented a house in Bodrum, (on the Aegean) Turkey, for one month. Bathing suits and shorts were the regulation outfits for everyday. I took one suitcase, an extra duffel bag I stuffed in my bag and had a nice piece of carry on with more stuff. I probably would have been fine with two pairs of sandals but ended up bringing 6 or 7 pairs of shoes, 4 of which never saw the light of day. We are going again this year and I AM DETERMINED this time to travel with less but …
    I am dying to hear the rest of your adventure, I hope you have a wonderful trip steeped in awareness and joy.

    P.S. the thing I do find extremely useful are pashmina scarves, they can add color or dress up any outfit and they are great on the plane(because I am always cold) and when you go out at night.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Sedef, You have had an adventurous life! I absolutely love Pashmina’s but did not build any into my Spring wardrobe for Project333. I love your well wishes for a “wonderful trip steeped in awareness and joy.” Thanks so much for that.

      • says

        When you mentioned Project333 just now, I realized I could probably start by minimizing my wardrobe with this project first and then figure out what to do for my summer trip from there. At least I won’t be overwhelmed with too many choices to pick from.
        Thanks :)

  23. says

    I can relate to this post so much, Courtney! I have a history of terrible packing.
    I am aiming to pack as light as I can for a trip I’m going on this weekend. I’m not sure if I’m ready to step out like Francine (I just love her book) but I hope to be moving in that direction. Baby steps!

    Hope you have a great trip. :-)

  24. says

    Have a great time! Make certain you hit Powells Book store in Portland. It’s historic. Seattle underground tour (I hear) is great. Lived here my whole life and one day will do that tour.

  25. says

    Seattle must sees

    The original Starbucks
    Pike Place Markets (Especially the guy that serves the hot cinnamon donuts)
    The chewing gum wall
    Capitol Hill
    The Olympic Sculpture Park
    The underground tour is good
    The international district
    The boeing plant at Everett
    A Mariners game at Safeco field
    The Ye Old Curiosity Shop on the Wharf
    The Fish ladder and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks)
    The houseboats on Lake Union
    You have got to go up the Space Needle to take photos
    Also take a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island to get great city skyline photos.
    The is a really artsy area at Kirkland

    That ought to keep you busy for a while.

  26. Susan says

    I am SO inspired. I can’t tell you how many times I have flown to Portland (to see my sister) and have taken an EMPTY suitcase for all the STUFF that I just MUST HAVE while visiting consignment and thrift stores! UGH!!! My husband and I will be in Portland for three days the third week of May.
    May I share my NON-MINIMALIST list of things that I always pack? This should begin…HELLO…MY NAME IS SUSAN and I am AN OVER-PACKER…

    Keep in mind that I am working on LIGHTENING my load in every regard….at home…while traveling…etc.

    Shampoo and numerous styling products (my sister is a professional hairdresser)…don’t you ‘spose she might have some products I could use?
    Full array of make-up INCLUDING Coets and Q-Tips (heard those are tough to get in Portland)…
    toothbrush and toothpaste (my sister is MEAN, too…Lord knows, she would NEVER share hers!
    Eye makeup remover
    Tiny scissors (in case I need to perform minor surgery on WHAT?)
    Razor (like I REALLY NEED to shave ANYTHING in a 4-day span?)

    One pair of jeans per day
    One pair yoga pants
    One pair undies for each day
    3 stretchy camisoles
    4 pair of socks
    At least three pair of shoes
    American Eagle Outfitters denim jacket (a staple in my wardrobe)
    4 or 5 grey or black long-sleeved or 3/4 sleeve T-shirts
    Pajama bottoms and sleep tank top

    What I REALLY WEAR while I am with my sister…..

    Keen Shoes
    2 long-sleeved black or grey T-shirts
    One American Eagle outfitters denim jacket
    2 pair underwear
    one stretchy camisole
    usually NO MAKE-UP….(we throw on a baseball cap when our hair looks like hell)

    So….I shall be yet again inspired by your post and this trip…ONE small leather suitcase and just the bare essentials. I always have more fun when I don’t worry about all the stuff I have toted along. I have been known to repack on a daily basis to keep my suitcase neat and tidy, too! What a waste of time!

    Have a great time in Portland and Seattle. Wish we were going to be crossing paths…perhaps someday, Courtney!

    • Susan says

      Colleen…I find myself seeking another pair of Keens! Not as minimalist as I’d like…does it count if I get rid of TWO PAIR of shoes that I already own?

  27. Karen T. says

    In college I went on a 10-week mission trip to England with one suitcase and was fine. A few years later, my first child was born with a reflux problem and spit up two dozen or more times a day. I got used to carrying entire changes of clothes for both her and me (including another bra for when I got really soaked). My diaper bag was duffel-sized and I carried it to the grocery store, the post office, church, my mom’s house. After surgery, my daughter gradually improved, and I’ve been working on traveling lighter for the last 20 years! Now I can go for a week with a couple of pairs of pants, 2 or 3 tops, a bra, a pair of underwear and socks for each day, 1 pair of shoes, nightwear, maybe a sweater or jacket (depending on destination and time of year), and minimal toiletries (my only makeup is mascara and lipstick). I’m not a hiker, though I do take walks, so I don’t need “workout” clothes. And I must always bring my current library book!

    Thanks for an interesting post. Have a lovely and safe trip, and take beautiful and exciting photographs!

  28. says

    Your posts are always uncanny in their timing. I’m traveling next week and am already getting myself worked up over what to take. Part of my issue is that I’m seeing people I haven’t seen in 15 years and I want to look great, so I’m stressing over wardrobe.

    In addition to lessening the amount of stuff I’m taking with me, I’m also trying to fix myself in a mindset where I don’t maximize the things I usually maximize on vacation: Food, drink and shopping.

    For me it’s not always about what I take, but often what I pick up once I get there.

  29. says

    Courtney, I really dislike packing. Now, I pack for my kids and myself and it takes me hours, worrying about what I might forget. I keep a toiletries bag already packed in my closet, but that’s about all I’ve simplified. What a great challenge for the next time I travel.

    As far as Seattle, it is beautiful, mountains, trees, water. I really enjoyed the downtown area, especially Experience Music museum and Pikes Place market. If you have time to travel, check out Lake Quinault, waterfalls, hiking, huge trees, etc… Enjoy!

  30. Kate says

    I’ve always been a light packer. I’m going out of town for 3 days next month and taking 2 comfortable dresses, a bathing suit, a nightgown, a couple of pairs of underwear, and a dress and shoes for a wedding I must attend while there. Then a 1qt plastic bag of my toiletries. This is in addition to the dress, flip flops, and cardigan I’m wearing on the plane. I love traveling in warm weather, it is so easy! The hardest thing to leave behind is my blowdryer and flatiron.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Kate, I’ll miss my flat iron too, but won’t miss taking the time to straighten my hair!

  31. says

    Hi Courtney,

    This is super-timely for me, as I’m traveling to North Carolina tomorrow. I, like you, used to bring an extra bag in order to acquire things, but no more! I also used to do the “what if?” while I was packing, and often brought several pieces of clothing that would never get worn. Over the last year, as I’ve pared way down, I’ve dropped that bad habit, and now I bring what I know I’ll wear; this has required coming to the truth of my lifestyle: I’m a t-shirt and jeans sort of girl and there is nothing wrong with that! The only thing I continue to overpack is socks. I always have cold feet!

    Have a great time in the northwest! sara

  32. Jennifer says

    Great article! I was in Japan this Jan. with my two teenage children who bought so much stuff because they are total otaku (geeks)and I was beyond stressed when it came to packing for home. We were there for 3 weeks and I thought I had planned ahead with not packing too many clothes and having a relatively light bag but I only used half of what I packed anyway. So in the end I had to ship some stuff off through the post and leave behind two pairs of shoes and pack two jackets into a box and send home because we just simply didn’t have enough room. It was unbelievably stressful for me. Then there was the stress at check-in, was I over the weight limit, would I have to pay more? Aaaagh! When I go back next year I am going to travel soooo lightly. I will keep this article and re-read to remind me! That’s why you go on holiday … to not stress! And to enjoy!

  33. says

    For me, the real travel is WITHOUT computer, phone, and watch. Only the camera to open up your eyes to the beauty of street details.
    I sometimes put my phone, watch and computer in a box and go for a walk with my camera.
    Priceless time.

  34. says

    Very well articulated. I particularly like the idea that ridding yourself of excess allows your mind to really be present and enjoy your experiences rather than being distracted by your belongings. The psychology of minimalism is so powerful and really brings a sense of clarity and helps eliminate distraction and stress. Thanks for this post!

  35. Carole says

    Another thing to consider is the extra weight larger size clothes are and the space they take up. If you need to lose a few pounds this is a great motivator to cut back.

  36. Heather says

    We just returned from our trip for Christmas and I ended up NOT using about 8 things I packed. We did a small load of laundry- mostly underclothes, socks and pants, and we survived lovely. We also were able to downsize to 1 duffle bag and we each had a pack back but not overly stuffed. It was awesome!!!

  37. Heidi says

    Welcome to the northwest! You’re going to love it. Layers are good but it sounds as if you will have everything you need. I, however, always, always bring my bathing suit.

  38. EASY TRAVELER says

    Reading through your opening comments reminds me of my efforts to trim down and pack light.

    What I eventually figured out is whatever you use on a daily basis at home on an average day is exactly what you’ll use where you are going. Of course, because you are away, you must take “supplies” of medicines and toilet items as well as “papers”. Maps and e-book guides come in handy too. I got a big Nokia 1520 that does triple duty as a smart phone, guide book and maps. Even so I like paper maps so I take Streetwise Maps of my target city. Transit System maps, if you can get them ahead of time, are very useful.

    I also came to the conclusion that I could wear a pair of just good old jeans a whole week before I washed them! I like Gramicci Rocket Dry G pants. They can be worn on the street and as PJs while my jeans dry. I roll up wet laundry in a hotel towel and stand on it to get as much water out of the clothes as possible. I like those BIG quick dry “camping” towels too. They have many uses! Worth carrying around! My laundry kit consists of four PEX tubing hangers, a sink stopper, four shower curtain hooks and Dylon detergent in a squeeze tube. You can get more Dylon in Europe. Also you can get Rei in der tube which is about the same thing. Look for them in tobacco shops.

    AND bottled water in Europe is cheap and safe. You don’t need to pack a bottle.

    Except for the jeans, all my shirts [2] and other clothing items are super light weight and hand washable. Quick dry. One of the shirts is long sleeve and doubles as a sweater under a nylon shell jacket.

    I stuff all of this into an Adidas Strength Sackpack, It weighs just 8 ounces and is well made and durable. Lots of pockets. This pack is used as a flight bag AND a street pack. And yes it goes under the seat. No struggle to get it IN the overhead and OUT of the overhead! All packed and ready it weighs seven [7] pounds! Ready for a trip I look a little like Indiana Jones!

    When I go to Europe I like to take a CANE. Here’s why: My cane is a Carex aluminum “granny” cane. It’s very light weight, cheap and strong. Besides it’s normal use as a walking aid it can be used to define your territory i.e. you use it to create a zone around you, some more space. Pickpockets don’t like this! They move on to an easier target. I can tell you more about foiling pickpockets!

    I know packing for a trip is different for a woman BUT consider this: If you are on the move who’s going to know you wore the same outfit the day before?? Pile all the stuff you use every day together and pack it! Add extras for the time away and information on your destination. I have more tips but I don’t want to bore you with a book.

    I hope this helps someone to lighten the load and enjoy the trip.


  1. […] no chemicals that are harmful to me or to the water supply. Plus, if you’re looking to do a little minimalist travel, you can’t beat something that’s liquid free, especially if you’re taking your bag through […]

  2. […] Pack ONLY a light carry on. As light as you can. Lugging several bags across the airport is never, ever fun. I’m visiting my dad this winter in Colorado for a week and plan taking just a backpack. Ask if there will be a washing machine available where you are staying to lessen the clothes you pack. When in doubt about whether you’ll use, say, your yoga mat or not, leave it at home. Find more packing lightly travel tips from my friend Courtney Carver of Be More With Less here. […]