You leave tomorrow, so you start packing the day before… why rush, you already know what you need! You grab a couple of T-shirts, some trousers, some toiletries, some running shoes, some sandals, some fancy shoes, those too, why not… Ah, why not this outfit, in case a social event comes up? And that top, oh, and that book, maybe?
You see the point: your suitcase is a mess and it won’t even close. It’s a story that many travellers, even the most experienced ones, sometimes face when they’re about to go on holiday. Here are some tips on how to pack light in the most organized and minimalist way.
Pack in advance
A few days before you leave, start thinking about what you are going to take with you and lay it out on a large surface where you can see it clearly. Sort by category: sweaters, trousers/shorts, underwear, shoes. Then check to see that all the pieces go together: what’s the point of bringing a T-shirt if it doesn’t go with any of the trousers?
Next, work out the number of items you have in front of you, remembering that you only need one jumper per day and one pair of trousers or shorts for every 2 or 3 days. If you have too many items, it’s time to do some pruning! If you’re going for more than two weeks, pack 14 days’ worth of clothes and plan laundry stops. Most places – hotels or apartments – offer this service.
As a rule of thumb, remember that you will never need as many clothes as you think you will. Just like at home, you will probably end up wearing the same outfit most days anyway!
What is the key to successful minimalist travel and to pack light? Preparation. Pack at the very last minute and you run the risk of either forgetting something important or conversely packing frantically out of sheer panic. Seeing these items spread out in front of you will force you to think about their true usefulness… or non-usefulness.
Plan your packing list according to your itinerary
This may seem obvious, but who hasn’t brought a completely useless item on holiday “just in case”? Once you’ve decided what to bring, look at your itinerary and think about outfits based on the activities you’ll be doing. You don’t need to go as far as deciding which jumper goes with which pair of trousers, but matching clothes to plans is a good place to start.
For example, say you’re going away for 5 days. You plan to do at least one hike, one Michelin-starred dinner, maybe a swim if the weather allows and three days exploring the city. Does your suitcase contain a sports outfit, a dressy outfit and a few casual city outfits? If so, great. If not, it’s time to think again! Reasonably, most clothes can be worn more than once and easily refreshed if necessary.
Depending on where you’re going, the weather can change dramatically. However, it’s always a good idea to pack a swimsuit, a raincoat, a warm jumper, a hat/cap and sunglasses.
What about shoes? Three pairs of shoes is usually sufficient. To match the aforementioned outfits, you should plan to pack trainers/sneakers, dressy shoes and comfortable walking shoes. This should be more than enough!
Get your electronics straight
There is another category of items that is taking up more and more space in our luggage – technology. Before packing your laptop, professional camera, tablet, e-reader, smartphone, GoPro, underwater camera and other accessories, ask yourself: will I use them?
Is it a good idea to take your laptop when you’re going away from work? If you know you never take photos when you go hiking, do you need a heavy, bulky camera? Is an underwater camera really necessary if you are planning a trip to the countryside?
The question is the answer, the answer is the question. Do not pack things out of habit or just because you think you need them. Instead, ask yourself: Are these things really useful? Bring only the essentials. Think about a few distractions for your downtime (such as a tablet or books), but leave everything else at home.
All you really is need a power adapter and a cell phone charger!
Prioritize travel sizes
Choosing travel sizes rather than regular sizes for your toiletries and other drugstore products is another way to reduce the weight and size of your suitcase.
The best option is to buy sturdy, sustainably sourced travel-sized bottles that you can fill with products you already have at home in larger sizes, such as shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, moisturiser, and so on. It’s the most sustainable travel tip we know!
While travel-sized toiletries sold in drugstores or available in hotel rooms are convenient, they’re incredibly wasteful. Disposable plastic is a no-no.
Other toiletries that are often considered essential are prescription medication, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, contact lenses, sunscreen and make-up. Once again, stick to the essentials! If you can’t pack anything until the last minute (such as a toothbrush), stick a note on your suitcase to make sure you don’t forget it before you go.
Even hair accessories such as hairdryers or flat irons are available in convenient travel sizes. Many hotels even lend them to their guests free of charge.
While you’re at it, why not try zero-waste travel with solid toiletries?