A Minimalist Guide to Packing like a Pro

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a Minimalist Approach to Packing 

Minimalism is not a style, it is an attitude, a way of being. It is a fundamental reaction against noise, distraction, and disorder. You don’t need more things to make yourself happy. You need less things distracting you from what you already have that makes you happy. After all, we travel to expand our boundaries, learn about new cultures, and leave our day-to-day lives behind, not to drag it around in our luggage! Packing efficiently is not just smart, it’s a way of life.

It’s important to remember that minimalism is not the lack of something, it is simply the perfect amount of something. And that’s what you should strive for when you are packing! I know that it’s easier said than done. Travel is full of unknowns, and it is human nature to want to be prepared for anything. But, how many times have you wasted precious time and energy lugging heavy bags around only to end up using half of what you packed. Don’t worry, I’ve been there too. And that is why I want to share my top tips for packing like a minimalist pro. Like life, packing can actually be very simple if we don’t overthink it! 

Top 10 Tips For Minimalist Packing

Packing Tips Blog

1. Choose the Right Luggage

The most important step in packing for any trip, is to pick the right luggage. For me choosing the right luggage involves four main considerations.

  1. Size Matters - I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter how large my bag is, I’m going to fill it up with stuff. So, the trick here, is to choose the smallest luggage you feel comfortable with. My recommendation for a great carry-on suitcase is the Travelpro Platinum Elite or The Cary-On by AWAY if you prefer a hard case. They are spacious enough to fit everything I need for the vast majority of travel, and it allows me to skip check-in lines, save on expensive luggage fees, and avoid the all too frequent inconvenience of lost or delayed luggage.

  2. Organization - Luggage with plenty of built in pockets and packing compartments will save you time and headaches while traveling. I used to travel with a big duffle bag that I could wear as a backpack. Every time I needed to find something in the bag, it was like searching through a black hole. I would end up removing half my belongings before I found the item I was searching for. When I started using my Platinum® Elite suitcase it helped me stay sane and organized with easy-access accessory pockets, along with a removable, quart-size wet pocket that is TSA compliant and perfect for toiletries.

  3. Easy To Maneuver - After years of traveling with heavy backpacks, it only took one extended trip with a roller that has 360° spinner wheels. I now glide effortlessly through airports even though I’m technically carrying the same amount of gear! Trust me, your back will thank you.

  4. Lightweight - Even with luggage that spins effortlessly on the ground, overall weight is an important consideration. Sooner or later you are going to run into stairs, and you definitely don’t want to be that person struggling to lift their carry-on off the ground to place it in the overhead compartment!

Minimalist Packing Guide

2. Make a List

When we are uncertain about what we will need and use, our default is to over pack. Next time you travel, make a list of everything that you packed. On the flight home, pull that list out and note which items you used, and which ones you didn’t. The next time it’s time to pack for a trip, you can start with the items in your refined list, and leave everything else behind. Go through this process a few times, and before you know it you’ll be a packing ninja! Plus, having a packing list ready to go will help you avoid decision fatigue. 

Minimalist Guide to Packing

3. Plan Your Outfits Ahead of Time

I can’t tell you how many times I have packed a ton of clothes only to get to my destination and realize that nothing goes together! You can avoid this, and reduce the overall amount of items you pack, by thinking in terms of complete outfits, rather than focusing on individual items. 

Minimalist Guide to Packing

4. Pack Neutral Colored Clothing

In addition to packing complete outfits, choosing neutral colored items that all go together is a great way to practice minimalist packing. If all the individual items you pack can be mixed and matched to create unique outfits, then you can diversify your travel wardrobe, without actually packing more stuff. Think of the possibilities! 

Minimalist Guide to Packing

5. Lay Everything Out First

Don’t just throw everything you want to take into your luggage as you go! Instead, before you pack everything away into your bag, lay it out on a flat surface so that you can see it all. Take inventory. For each item ask yourself if it’s something you need, if you are likely to use it, and whether it goes with other items you are packing. Then take a deep breath, and eliminate anything that wasn’t a YES! 

6. Roll Your Clothing

My grandpa taught me that rolling clothing like a burrito is the best way to save space and keep your clothes wrinkle free during transit. There are a ton of different theories out there, but I roll my clothes, and I’m sticking to it!

Minimalist Guide to Packing

7. Use Dedicated Packing Compartments

Like all luggage epiphanies, once you start taking advantage of dedicated packing compartments to organize your belongings, there is no turning back. We’ve all frantically scrambled through the black hole that can be our luggage, just to find that one specific item. Usually the aftermath resembles a terrible natural disaster. But fear not! Dedicated packing compartments, are here to save the day. If your luggage doesn’t have dedicated compartments pick up some packing cubes! They serve the same function and will help keep you organized.

It’s incredibly satisfying to open your luggage and know exactly where everything is. If you are using a duffle bag, or similar bag that does not come with built-in packing compartments, you can use packing cubes to keep your belongings organized and neatly rolled (or folded) in your bag right where you left it! And, as we know, organization is key to a happy minimalist life style.

Minimalist Guide to Packing

8. No Negative Space 

Make sure to fill the negative space in your luggage. This includes placing small items inside shoes and hats. It may seem simple, but it will actually save you a lot of space. Plus, shoes are great at protecting fragile items - not just feet! 

Minimalist Packing Guide

9. Wear Your Bulkiest Items on the Plane

Comfort should be your number one priority for any flight and that generally means planning for extreme temperature changes. If at all feasible, plan on wearing some of your heaviest layers to the airport, rather than packing them away in your carry-on. This includes things like sweaters, jackets and boots. If you get too warm, you can always stash them in your personal item. 

Minimalist Guide to Packing

10. Use a Backpack as Your Personal Item

As much as I love my Platinum® Elite suitcase, as an outdoor adventure traveler and photographer I often need a backpack when I travel as well. That’s where the personal item comes in. Instead of using a messenger bag, duffle or purse, kill two bags with one stone and use a backpack for your personal item. The backpack I bring depends a lot on the trip, but anything from a camera bag to a hiking day-pack will do the trick! 


This post was created in collaboration with Travel Pro. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Jess Wandering18 Comments