Dusting off old suitcases and getting started with packing can build the anticipation for an upcoming holiday, no doubt, but packing is by far one of the worst bits about traveling and, perhaps, the only one. How many pieces of luggage does the airline allow? What if you exceed the weight limit? Do you really need three pairs of shoes and five extra pairs of clothing “just in case”? How will you squeeze all of that into a tiny little suitcase?
To avoid the stresses that come with packing, following the mantra of minimalism is key. Strip down to the very essentials, pack minimally, and travel light because there are far better things to spend your time and energy on than trying to squeeze your entire wardrobe into a suitcase before a trip.
UPDATE: 2023/04/12 13:47 EST BY KHYATI DAND
More Tips For Minimalist Packing
Minimalist travel is still in; although packing light may seem intimidating at first, when travelers get the hang of it, adventuring with luggage will be easier than ever. This list was updated to include a few more tips for packing for a vacation to help people travel more lightly; give it a try, and packing minimally gets easier with time.
14 Be Smart About Your Clothes
Woman in a store looking through a selection of vibrant-colored shirts
Clothes take up most of the prized real estate inside a suitcase. To hold off from carrying half a wardrobe on holiday, consider picking clothes that are versatile. This is the key to minimal packing in the attire department. Bring lots of basics and go for neutral colors that can be mixed and matched in multiple different ways. While packing minimally for a beach trip or summer vacation is a breeze when light fabrics like cotton and linen squeeze in easily, winters can be a bit more tricky. Rather than packing thick and bulky sweaters, consider packing lighter clothes that can be worn in several layers– multiple pairs of leggings, long-sleeved sweatshirts, and foldable jackets.
13 If You’re Not Sure About It, You Probably Don’t Need It
Teddy bear in a suitcase
Okay, so the Airbnb that you have a booking for probably won’t have your favorite brand of shampoo, but then again, can you get by without it for a few days? If so, leave that bulky bottle of liquid behind. Don’t pack any clothes that you won’t wear at least twice or shoes that you know you probably won’t use. Anything that you hesitate before throwing in your suitcase is probably something that you don’t really need. Pack things that you need and not what you love. If that sounds difficult, learn which items seem essential but are actually a waste of space.
12 Scale Back On The Toiletries
Toiletries on a shelf
Toiletries are mostly liquid, and liquids, unfortunately, are the most troublesome things to travel with. They can’t be squeezed, they take up a lot of space, they weigh a lot, and there’s always the fear of spills. So that bag of toiletries is the department that’s going to need the most scaling back. Only take what you’re absolutely going to need, like minimalist travel toiletries that come in smaller sizes, and even then, transfer what you can into smaller travel-friendly containers. In most cases, you may even be able to buy travel-sized bottles of toiletries at your destination, if not in the airport.
11 Limit The Electronics
Travel kit for travel photos
Electronics can be extremely pesky to pack, especially because they tend to be fragile and need to be packed carefully in even bulkier cases of their own. Lay out all the electronics that you think you might need, and then downsize the pile to the absolute essentials. Will you need that portable coffee maker if you’re traveling to a town that’s lined with cafes? Or a hairdryer if you’re staying at hotels that usually provide their own? Is it paramount that you carry both your laptop and the tablet? If you really think about it, you might just realize that you don’t need half of those smart gadgets.
10 Stick To A List
Blank notebook with pen
It’s easy to get lost in the flow of packing when you’re tossing things as and when you see them without a real game plan. Oftentimes, it’s easier to pack minimally if you sit down and make a list of must-have things to pack for a vacation and pack only items that are on there. Not only are you less likely to forget important things, but making a list with a clear head will help you narrow down your essentials so that you don’t overpack.
9 Share What You Can
Open suitcase with clothes and electronics
When it comes to minimalist packing, having travel buddies can be a real boon. Decide in advance with your companions on who is bringing what – there’s absolutely no reason for there to be one tube of toothpaste per person. While it’s understandable for you to want your own things out of personal preference, there’s no harm in cross-checking your packing lists to look for things that are unnecessary overlaps.
8 Choose A Bag That’s Suitable For Minimalist Packing
Man standing on an airport with a suitcase
Among the minimalist packing tips is to start with the most important part: the bag. To become a truly seasoned minimalist packer, it’s important to consider the bags that you’re traveling with. Look for bags that are easy to carry and don’t weigh a lot. Invest in bags that have lots of different pockets and compartments that you can neatly organize. Luckily, luggage these days can be awfully savvy and shape-shift to meet several different travel needs on the go — there are even suitcases in the market that easily transform into carry-on backpacks with detachable pouches.
7 Pack Smart
Woman packing a suitcase
No packing tips matter if you don’t spend time packing things well. This means it’s important to consider not just what you pack but also how you pack them. Don’t be afraid to stuff things into your shoes, roll up cables into neat bunches, keep a separate bag of toiletries, use packing cubes to keep things organized, and think of what Marie Kondo would do when you go about folding your clothes.
6 If It Doesn’t Fit, Wear It
A suitcase filled with clothes and a hat
It may be a sly trick to use, but it works! What doesn’t fit can be worn. Pick the heaviest and most space-occupying things from your suitcase and simply travel while wearing them. It’s easier to pack light flip-flops than heavy-duty sneakers, after all! If you don’t mind a little bit of discomfort, you can even wear layers of sweaters under bulky coats and pop them off once you’re onboard a flight. It may not technically be minimal packing per se, but it’s an age-old trick that bends the rules a bit.
5 One Size Fits All Is The Mantra For Minimalist Packing
Bottles of toiletries on a window sill
Although most prefer to have dedicated items that are meant to do a specific job, using versatile multipurpose items can cut down on a lot of items – any minimalist travel tips guide will state this, guaranteed. Opt for 2-in-1 items like a body wash that doubles up as a shampoo, lotion that also works as a sunscreen, or laundry detergent that can be used to wash the dishes, which will reduce the number of toiletries and liquids that need to be packed by half. Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap, for example, can be diluted and used for 18 different purposes!
4 Set Aside A Budget For Laundry On The Go
A row of laundry machines
A major reason why minimalist packing doesn’t work for many travelers is that they pack a different outfit for each day of the holiday. While you could get away with it on short weekend trips, it’s a packing menace for longer holidays. Consider setting aside a few dollars for hotel laundry to scale back on the number of clothes that need to be packed. Worn clothes can be washed and repeated several times, and even if you do laundry just once on the whole trip, you could easily stretch five outfits for ten days — that means only packing for half the trip! If laundry isn’t an option, you could even handwash clothes in the bathroom sink.
3 Lose The Paper
A stack of folders
Technology has many boons, so why not use it to your advantage? Long gone are the days when travelers needed to print out tickets before a flight, carry hotel booking confirmations on paper, and have itineraries written in print. These days, pretty much all important documents people need while traveling can be accessed on a phone or, at the very least, scanned on one. Airlines have their own apps that show boarding passes, vaccine certificates can be downloaded on smartphones, and showing an email generally works for all other bookings. It’s very rare for anyone to ask for physical copies, so throw the pesky papers out; there’s no need to lug that fat folder of documents around.
2 Re-Evaluate The Bag Before You Zip It Up
Woman packing a suitcase
Now that your minimalist packing is done, and you’re ready to zip the bags up, give them another careful do-over. Scan through your bags one last time to see if there’s anything that you could do without or something that you’ve changed your mind about. Plus, you want to make sure that there’s enough buffer space for any unique souvenirs from around the world or any shopping that you may want to bring on your way back.
1 Get A Travel Jacket
Packing for a hike: boots, a camera, a jacket, a compass, keys, and a backpack
This last minimalist packing tip is a little less about packing a bag, but more about packing stuff on oneself. Still, it’s a genius way to save space in a bag (or not take a bag at all). Everyone’s been there – packing as minimally as possible, yet the suitcase is still overflowing. Alternatively, some people don’t even want to take a suitcase; some want to go even lighter and simply take a small backpack and not much else. Either way, there’s a solution to help with both cases – terrible pun intended.
Travel jackets are now a thing, as are travel hoodies. These are strategic pieces of clothing that travelers can wear – while also, quite literally, wearing their luggage. They come with intelligent pockets and storage expertly designed to enable travelers to fit as much as possible on their person, but without it being a nuisance or pain. With special pockets for certain items designed for easy access – like passport and document pockets, and even spaces for electronics such as phones and small laptops – travel jackets and hoodies are the ultimate hack for globetrotters who want to carry more baggage (but without the literal baggage).