The one thing that stresses people out about traveling is packing.
I used to be one of those people.
I eased my stress about packing by bringing everything with me. I was a chronic over-packer. And, if the situation ever came up where I had packed everything and I still had a little space left in my suitcase, I felt like I’d won the lottery. More space = more stuff. I’d run around looking for other things that would fill the empty space. I might need that stuff. You know … just in case.
One time I went to Mexico for less than a week. I brought 5 pairs of shoes plus the ones I was wearing, and then wore flip-flops for the entire trip. What was I thinking?
I love to travel and see the world. Living with less has inspired me to travel with less. Everything I pack fits into a small carry-on suitcase and tote bag or I don’t bring it. That goes for a trip that last several days or several weeks. If you love to travel too and want to see the world with a little less baggage, I hope you’ll enjoy my best minimalist packing tips and resources.
How to Pack: packing tips
Pack for half of your trip. If you are going to be away for a week, ask yourself what you need for 3 or 4 days. Don’t be afraid to outfit-repeat. People barely notice what you wear in your day-to-day life. It’s unlikely anyone will notice or care while you travel.
Create packing lists. Before your next trip, list everything you bring with you. Check each thing off when you use it. At the end of the trip you’ll know you can leave anything home that wasn’t crossed off on that type of trip. Keep your list handy with details about where you went and what time of year, and save so the next time you take a similar trip, you’ll know exactly what to pack.
Understand your laundry opportunities. Will you be staying somewhere with a washing machine? I’ll rent an apartment from Airbnb specifically because it has a washing machine if I am staying somewhere for longer than 2-3 days. Some hotels have laundry rooms for guests. At the very least, you’ll likely have access to your bathroom sink where you can wash and line dry certain items.
Know when to fold ’em. I’ve tried rolling, stacking and folding my clothes for packing and haven’t noticed a big space difference. In a recent article in Real Simple magazine, author Hitha Palepu says, “I roll my bottoms and fold my tops—I find my clothes end up with fewer wrinkles and I can fit more in my bag.” The only way to really know what works best for you is to experiment. I recommend rolling your clothes for the first leg of your trip and then folding or stacking them on the return trip. See which method you prefer.
Create a travel day uniform. Assign one outfit for your travel day. Then you don’t have to think about what to wear on the plane, train or however you are traveling. No matter wear you are going, your travel uniform can be the same. I typically wear a black pair of leggings, short-sleeved shirt or tank, and black zip up sweatshirt with a scarf (on or in my tote bag). Even if I’m traveling to a warm destination, I know I’ll get cold on the plane.
Remember … just in case means never. When you notice you are adding items to your suitcase just in case you might need it, stop. Ask yourself why. Will you really use it or (like I was) do you feel compelled to fill the empty space in your suitcase? Can you get it at your destination if you need it? What’s the worst thing that will happen if you don’t bring it?
Don’t forget what matters. If all of your focus is on your stuff and what to pack, you may miss out on what really matters like connecting with people on your travels or enjoying new locations. More importantly, don’t forget about you. Take care of yourself while traveling.
How to Pack: packing resources
How to Pack: This book includes all things packing. From choosing the right carry-on bag to custom packing lists, How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip is your go-to packing guide.
Pakt One Bag: My friends Joshua and Ryan from The Minimalists are releasing the same bag they use and used in Minimalism, a Documentary about the Important Things. I’ve taken The Pakt One Bag on a couple of trips and am surprised that it holds as much as my hard-shell carry-on. See what I mean here (you may be surprised to find out what a minimalist actually packs too).
Minimalist packing lists:
Good packing articles: