The way I packed a couple of years ago was the following: bring at least one extra pair of each category of clothing. I always put one additional pair of shoes; At least two additional t-shirts on top of the ones I’m already bringing; A shirt, even if knew that I wasn’t going to use it; Bottom part of a tracksuit; And some extra things. When I got home, I realized that I wasn’t wearing half of the things I brought with me. Still, I hadto wash them because they smelled from the journey. Not only did I carry heavier luggage around different continents, but I also had more chores when I got home.
It’s so easy to overpack. You simply need a larger suitcase, free time, and vivid imagination to figure out the best way to put so many things in a cube looking shaped bag with the size of around four large pillows.
I recently published a post about traveling like a minimalist. There, I explain the main reasons we bring a lot of stuff with us and also, the main reasons why we should stop carrying them. The inspiration for the above-mentioned guide was my recent visit to Italy. Me and my girl visited Rome for 3 nights and I was able to pack all of my stuff inside a medium sized backpack. This one:
Below I will share everything I packed, but before that:
Why I packed like crazy BEFORE?
My mom was constantly worrying about my health when I was young. From very little, I was dressed up with layers of clothes. In the winter things got worse. I was barely able to move from clothes.1 Over time I adopted the consumerism mindset and the “just in case way” of thinking.
My mom’s condition transferred to me and I began to plan in details when I was going out or I was about to go somewhere for a few days. I can’t say that it was that bad. At least I learned to plan in advance and to predict possible situation that the average person won’t think about. Like, bringing an extra pair of everything. Still, all of this was at a heavy cost, like literally. My bag always weighed a lot. I never weighed it, but it was surely hard to carry.
“You never know what you might need.” That’s what my mom said when she was helping me pack my bags for summer camps. “Add at least one more t-shirt. Aww, you’re not bringing an extra pair of shoes? What if your feet get wet? You will need at least one more pair of shoes so you can change.” It was hard to argue with her when I was younger. Sometimes, I secretly removed stuff from my luggage when she was sleeping but later, when my mom find out, she added them anyway.
As you can imagine, this way of thinking and way of packing sticked throughout the years till recently.
What I previously packed?
Let’s say I’ll go on a summer vacation for five nights. Previously, I would put the following things in my luggage:
Starting from the lower part of the body:
- At least 3 pairs of shoes without counting the flip-flops.
- 10 pairs of socks.2
- 4 or 5 pairs of jeans.
- 1 pair of shorts.
- 2 pairs of swimsuits.
- 5 pairs of underpants.
- 3 pairs of fancy underpants in case I expect to get lucky that particular night.
- Additional 2 pairs of fancy underpants. “I feel lucky already. I might get laid every night.”
- Probably 3 different belts.
- 10 different color t-shirts.
- 2 sleeping t-shirts.
- 4 or 5 shirts.
- 2 jackets.
- A hoodie.
- Towel for the beach.
- Beach umbrella.
- 2 hats.
- Toiletries: large shampoo, large shower gel, two different sunscreen lotions, large body lotion, a large bottle of perfume, deodorant, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, yellow rubber duck. Ok, I’m kidding for the last.
- Accessories: 3 cheap watches,3, a leather bracelet, one earring,4, 3 different necklaces, bow tie, tie, braces.
- Tech stuff: Phone, laptop, headphones, small speakers to play in the room, chargers.
- Medicines: I’m not sure but I had a small bag full of different type of pills.
That’s pretty much it. I think I’ve listed everything I was carrying when I went on vacation between 15 and 27 years old. I think.
Ok, let’s now see how many of the things from the list above I actually used during these five days:
- 2 pairs of shoes.
- The flip-flops.
- 5 pairs of socks.
- 2 pairs of jeans.
- 1 pair of shorts.
- 1 pair of swimwear.
- 5 pairs of fancy underpants – Not that I was getting laid. I simply wore them because I was hoping to.
- 1 belt.
- 2 t-shirts.
- 1 sleeping t-shirts.
- 3 shirts.
- 1 jacket.
- Towel for the beach.
- Toiletries: shampoo, shower gel, one sunscreen lotion, body lotion, the perfume, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste.
- Accessories: 2 cheap watches, one of the leather bracelets, one earring, 2 of the necklaces.
- Tech stuff: Phone, the phone charger.
As you can see for yourself, I returned home a lot of unused things. I counted 30+ items which I brought extra and I never used during my holidays. The worst part, this was happening for years. I was carrying my heavy suitcase without ever thinking that I was moving things around the country for no obvious reason. Till one day…
One day I was simply sick from all of this. I wasn’t only bringing extra stuff with me, I was also wasting my time.
Here is what I did wrong for so many years. I’ve separated my wrongdoing into a couple of categories:
- Time wasted: Packing heavy means more time for preparing my baggage. More time spent on ironing my clothes. More time searching for my favorite t-shirt when I’m abroad. More time spent to put everything back inside my suitcase when it’s time to go.5 Also, more time spent doing the laundry and putting all of my stuff in their respective drawers once I’m finally home.
- Money wasted: Bigger baggage means expensive ticket. Bigger electricity bill and extra use of washing powder.6
- Nerves and effort wasted: A heavy luggage is, well, heavy. It’s heavy to lift and heavy to maneuver around, everywhere. Especially if you’re a woman and there is no one that can help you. On top of that, you’re always thinking about your stuff: “What if my luggage got lost in the airport?” You will definitely worry if this happens because virtually half of your apartment it’s inside.
Every time I got back home and I unpacked t-shirts that I wasn’t wearing I got angry at myself. Not only that I wasted time ironing, and carefully folding them, but I also had to lash them again because they now smelled.
With each passing year, I became more and more aware that I carry unnecessary things and I slowly started shortening my travel list. Eventually, minimalism showed up and entered my life for good. Then, everything started to become easier. Well, and much lighter.
My Minimalist Travel List – 10 Must-Have Items
Even though the things you will see below aren’t everything I carry when I travel, these are all things that I can’t go without:
1. High-quality backpack: A high-quality backpack, or a suitcase, doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive backpack but you should loosen up your wallet when you’re shopping and make sure the one you’ll purchase will fit for your needs. I’ve seen people with torn backpack strap at the airport and it’s not pretty. Even if you’re going to buy a suitcase, bet one such with 4 wheels. You will be reborn. Trust me. If you’re interested, this is my current backpack. I was able to fit everything I needed for 3 nights when I visited Rome.7
2. Water bottle: Dehydration is a serious thing and you shouldn’t go out without ensuring that you have enough water. I’m kidding. You can find fresh water in every modern city in less than a kilometer radius. Still, carrying your own water bottle will save you money and time searching for that precious shop. In Rome, for instance, there are fountains with fresh water in every corner. Why spend money for water? Basically, any water bottle can do the work. This one is cool because it has a carabiner: LINK.
3. One pair of comfortable shoes: I do everything possible to carry only one pair of shoes with me, the ones I’ll be actually wearing. In order this to happen, I’ve to be sure that all of my clothes will be matching with my shoes. It’s not difficult when you plan ahead. I wear Adidas Originals or Converse.
4. Sunglasses: You can’t leave your house without a pair of sunglasses. Even if you go skiing, you’re still going to need a eye protection.
5. A hat: My head burned from the sun on my last trip. I forgot to pack my hat and I thought that it will be ok eventually. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I use hair clipper to cut my hair and I basically don’t have any hair to protect my head. It was a lesson learned. A simple hat can help you a lot. It can keep you warm if it’s cold or well protected if it’s sunny. Additionally, you can put it on if you didn’t had the time to make your hair.
6. Smartphone: Your smartphone can help you in some many ways. You can even leave your laptop behind since you will be bringing a smartphone. Before I used to carry my printed boarding passes. Now, I install the needed application and simply show it when it’s needed. I download offline maps from Google maps of the area I will be visiting. I also use it to read books and listen to music. My current phone is Xiaomi Mi 4. Old but still works. The battery didn’t last as long as when I initially bought it, that’s why I pack the next thing:
7. External Battery: As I just mentioned, I use my smartphone a lot and this drains the battery. External battery is essential if you don’t want to stay without a phone at a crucial moment. When you need to call a taxi or the police for example. I’m a Xiaomi fan so my external battery is this one: LINK.
8. One jacket: The jacket I will bring matches all of my other clothes and it’s made out of easily foldable fabric – polyester.
9. A book: Even though I can read a good book on my phone, I prefer reading a physical book. I’m more focused when I read a print book. For me, it’s the best way to disconnect from the online world and actually feel something in my hands. I pack a smaller book, in terms of pages, that doesn’t take a lot of my space when I travel.
10. Headphones: The chances of you ending up close to a weeping baby in an airplane is around 50%: either you will end up or not. But there are other factors that might disturb your peace. The solution: headphones. I recently bought over ear wireless headphones and I can’t be happier. They last around 18 hours and perfectly block the outside noise. These are my headphones: LINK.
There is one more thing essential when you travel: a companion. A vacation is nothing without a good friend with whom you can share your experience.
This is my minimalist travel packing list. Before the final lines, let’s briefly share my travel tips:
My Travel Tips
Along with my minimalist packing routine, the one above, I also adopted a couple of habits when I travel these days. The travel tips you will see below will help you become more organized while you travel around the world:
- Buy in advance: Do everything possible to purchase your plane tickets sooner. If you already know the dates that you’re going to fly, start browsing for tickets and buy them, now. Price tickets increase with each passing day. The same applies for the hotels. A good idea will be to check the prices in Airbnb. You can get an additional discount if you book a place from my affiliate link.8 Also, I will suggest checking the flight options from this site: LINK. Thanks to the previously mentioned site, I was able to book the best airplane tickets for my recent visit to Rome.
- Try different browser/computer: Low fare airlines tend to increase their prices if you access their website a couple of times from the same network. If you find a good flight, I will recommend using a different network. For example, check the prices from your phone network and see if there is a difference.
- Create a plan: Sit down and make a quick plan. Think about the places you’re going to visit. Check what will be the weather. Think about what type of clothes you will be bringing. Write everything you will be packing on a piece of paper so you can check once you’re done.
- Front rows: When you check in for a flight, make sure to choose a seat in the front of the plane. Be as near as possible to the door. This way, you can exit faster and you won’t have to waste precious minutes behind slow people who don’t have anything better to do.
- Arrive early: Be on time at the airport to be sure that you will go through the security check without running a sprint. If you’re done early, you packed a good book, remember.
- Enjoy it: Even if you are traveling for business, the person next to you is snoring, or the food is bad, you should find the positive sides. Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight. How often you get the chance to break from the everyday life?
In general, going somewhere, anywhere, should be a pleasant experience full of good vibes and new memorable moments. You can get on top of Eiffel Tower wearing a pair of jeans and a simple t-shirt. You don’t necessarily have to bring your tuxedo.
After traveling to the United States more than 10 times, I realized that the smaller my bag the better. I realized that I don’t need a lot of stuff to feel and look good. To enjoy where I’m going and to talk with different people. This way of thinking allowed me to be more organized and have a nice stay everywhere I go.
I hope the advice I mentioned above will help you travel lighter and have a pleasant visit. It will be great to hear your story in the comments below:
- I was looking like the mascot of Michelin tires.
- You never know what is going to happen. There might be a feet epidemic and I need to be sure my feet are well protected.
- Before, I bought cheap watches all the time only to match my clothes. I never like these watches really and they broke only after a couple of months of wearing.
- only one of my ears is pierced.
- It was close to impossible to arrange my luggage the same way I did the first time that’s why I had to put stuff in an extra bag that I carried around.
- Of course, the last part will cost you pennies but bills add up, you know?
- Here is a list of the things I carried when I visited Rome: 4 t-shirts for going out and 1 t-shirt for sleeping. 5 pairs of underpants and 5 pairs of socks. Gorilla tripod for taking pictures. Small shampoo, body shower, perfume. Chargers. External battery. The rest of the things I already had on: jeans, jacket, watch, phone, and headphones.
- If you book a room from my affiliate link I will also get a small commision. This won’t cost you anything additional, actually is the opposite. You will get an additional discount if you use my link. I want to be absolutely transparent.