Traditional packing methods = a lot of STUFF

How I used to travel turned a fun vacation into an exhausting journey. I would have a different outfit for every day (sometimes 2!), a coat and rain jacket “just in case” and multiple pairs of shoes (to go with all the outfits!) This resulted in checked luggage and fees, and I still had to lug all those heavy bags multiple times around airports, in and out of planes, cars, trains, etc. – not fun!

Now when I plan my packing list, I like to do things a little differently. Instead of grabbing everything I could possibly need and stuffing it into 2 huge suitcases, I take a step back and ask myself a few questions. Considering the following options drastically reduces the amount of clothing I need to bring.

Option 1: Will I have easy access to a laundromat at my destination?

Depending on your preferred mode of travel, access to clothes washer/dryer machines will vary. If the answer is yes, you should plan to do laundry mid-way through your trip. Many larger hotels have laundry facilities, either self-wash or for a fee, staff will do your laundry. With this option, you don’t need to bring an outfit for every single day – just divide the days by half, wear everything once, then take your clothes to the laundry. Consider doing laundry while you enjoy some pool or beach time so you can wash ALL your clothes.

Option 2: Am I willing to hand-wash a small batch of laundry every 1-2 days?

If laundry facilities do not exist, then consider bringing some biodegradable soap and a travel clothes-line. Every day or so, take some time to soak and scrub clothes and let them line-dry the next day. Embracing this concept has forever changed the way I pack and travel. It’s really not that hard, and actually kind of fun to hand-wash during a trip. This option requires more effort, but I can pack half to one-third of the clothing that I would for Option 1.

Caveat: this option does not work well for every type of clothing. I only hand-wash items that will dry quickly, such as sportswear or light-weight clothing.)

Option 3: Do I mind wearing the same thing 2-3 times during a vacation?

If the trip involves a fancy cruise, that’s probably a “no.” My family and I typically travel more self-guided, driving to different cities in the same country. We don’t care if we happen to recycle the same shirt or pants into the rotation a couple times during our trip. And who cares what a stranger you’ll never see again thinks about your outfit? So we wear the same thing at least twice, washing as needed (either with option 1 or 2).

Other tips for my Minimalist Packing Method

  • wear your bulkiest items on the departure day – wear your coat, boots, along with any clothing that doesn’t pack small (like denim or a knit sweater).
  • packing cubes are magic! I’m always amazed at the number of things these will hold.
  • plan to wear each article of clothing at least twice during the trip
  • bring 3 of each type of clothing (wash 2, wear 1)
  • depending on your destination, remember that you can buy nearly anything a traveler needs once you get there. This includes sunscreen, shampoo, umbrella, flip-flops, etc.
  • leave some room for souvenirs and gifts! Bonus points if you bring back only photos and memories.

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