Minimalist Packing Tips (updated for 2017)

Each year I try to create a list of tips for minimalist packing. Little changes from year to year but technology and convenience does alter the market a bit causing the list to change every so slightly. That said, the tips below may help you travel more lightly and experience more greatly!

CAPSULE WARDROBE. Granted the phrase “capsule wardrobe” is a bit overused and, admittedly, a little annoying, it is the easiest way to explain packing just a few, versatile clothing items that are within the same color scheme and look good together no matter what the combination. Remember, layering and the ability to layer is most important!

PUT THE BOOKS BACK ON THE SHELVES. While a lot of people like to journal their travel experiences, most journals on the market are a bit bulky and prohibitive. Consider finding a small journal that forces you to document the highlights and not just stream of consciousness thinking.

CHECK THE TRAVEL GUIDE AT THE GATE. Fodor’s are as enjoyable as any book. But again, they are bulky and prohibitive. Consider going “back in time” to paper maps or even free maps available at visitor’s centers or welcome centers. They are often filled with points of interest, coupons, and transit sub-maps. NOTE: If you are traveling domestically, Cracker Barrel restaurants have free maps that show ever CB in the United States, which means you will never have to travel without sweet tea!

GO DIGITAL…AND AUDIBLE. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy weighs 2.6 pounds (even in paperback) and measures 6″x 1″ x 9″. If you take that novel, one or two more, and maybe a magazine or two, you are causing quite a bit of weight and size to be added to your luggage. War and Peace on Audible.com takes up only 13.2Kb on an Apple iPod and weighs almost nothing! This is especially good for those who can’t read while in motion due to a weak stomach or fatigued eyes.

WET WIPES AND DR. BRONNER’S. Growing up I hated bathing. I saw no point because I was just going to get dirty again. As I got older I graduated to “bird baths” and other assorted styles of getting clean without having to get into a tub. These days I enjoy a good shower though and feel sub-par when I have to go longer than about 48 hours without showering. That is why a minimalist traveler needs to have a small package or tub of wet wipes (dye and perfume free, if possible) and a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s. There really is nothing you can’t wash – hair, body, clothes, countertop, etc – with Dr. B’s.

WATER AND TRAIL MIX. Life in an airport can be an appetite inducing experience. It can also break the bank if you aren’t careful. Packing should always include a water bottle (Nalgene is a great brand!) and some pre-packaged trail mix or something similar. While you can’t take liquid some places you at least have your bottle with you to refill when possible. The nuts make for a tasty and nutritious snack to provide you energy and keep you moving from destination to destination even when affordable foods aren’t available.

LIMIT THE ELECTRONICS. Unless traveling specifically for work, most of your electronic needs can be met now with something as simple as an iPod Touch. The touch doesn’t need a data plan to work. It can connect to WiFi wherever a signal is available. There seems to be an App for everything now so you can do banking, travel booking, mapping, listening to books, listening to music, and so much more, without having to have a laptop or even a larger handheld device. The iPad can also be used as a camera and/or video device. Cables and adaptors are important too and can be easily stored in a small make-up bag or even a pencil case.

PASS THE ALEVE. Getting sick while traveling is no fun. Diet is important. Sleep is important. Exercise is important. Those three things will keep most things at bay. However, when you are traveling and start feeling a little under the weather, a couple of Ibuprofen or some essential oils go a long way. I personally recommend a small bag (again, a make-up bag or pencil case) with:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Antacid
  • Immodium
  • Your basic essential oils: Lavender, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Melaceula, and Oregano

WHO ARE YOU AGAIN. A passport is needed in a number of travel scenarios. However, having a secondary form of photo ID is also important. It doesn’t have to be a driver’s license or anything more than a picture ID from your local DOT. However, passports can easily be stolen or lost and having that backup can make your transactions a lot smoother.

Did I leave any tips out? Add your minimalist packing tips in the comments below. Also be sure to share this blog post on your favorite social media platform!

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

 

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Kurt - May 17, 2017 Reply

Save your deodorant, toothpaste, soap, etc when there’s just a little bit left, and pack those almost-finished toiletries on your trip. Also, bring a few tossable clothes, ones that are nearly worn out (socks with holes, old tee shirts). These can all be left behind on the last day to make room for things you bought, or just to make your bag lighter.

Elisabeth - May 17, 2017 Reply

Just remember to keep your two forms of ID separate and if you have both a credit card and a debit card…keep them separate also. Another form of cash you can carry is a pre-loaded credit card that you can reload electronically. Keeping your wardrobe to one mix and match color scheme is the essential – also a foldable hat and a thin stretchy piece of fabric that can become a number of garments from head wrap to sarong skirt to a cover up on a plane goes a long way too. And yeah, I like that idea of garments designed to abandon on the road!

Derek - June 5, 2017 Reply

I really liked the article and appreciate the tips. I appreciated the tip about taking audio books with you as I listen to audio books (for free) through the Overdrive app which associates with my local library membership. I do want to caution you, however, that audio books take quite a bit of memory. At 61 hours plus, even at the lowest possible audio quality, War and Peace would still take up 220 MB (not KB) of memory. At the highest quality that Audible offers, War and Peace would take 1.7 GB. Don’t get me wrong, electronic books (text) and audio books are still the way to go. Just make sure that you have a large capacity iPod/iPad/iPhone or a memory card for android based devices. I personally listen to audio books all the time when I am driving and they are fantastic. If you’re a member of your local library checkout the Overdrive app mentioned above and then don’t forget to delete the book off your devise when you’re through listening to it…with the Overdrive app the books are free for 21 days just like any other checked book from a library. Happy travels everyone.

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