Why should you want to minimalist pack like a pro in the first place?
Doesn’t that mean you have less clothing, technology, and toiletry to choose from when you’re traveling? More options is always better right?
Not so fast, old sport.
I’ve been both a traveling hoarder and minimalist, and I’d pick the minimalist lifestyle every time.
Here’s a painful experience that changed my perspective forever.
Back in 2013 as a college student, I had to pack for a six-week trip to the South Pacific island Fiji.
Since I had no experience traveling anywhere for longer than a week, I got a little (very) carried away packing.
No joke, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I packed every single t-shirt, muscle shirt, and pair of shorts I owned. I even added some sweat pants to be safe—this is Fiji we’re talking, where the average temperature is 75°F and the coldest it gets is 70°F.
Yeah, I’m an idiot.
Not to mention I had the biggest suitcase I could find, which also persuaded my monkey brain to bring as much as I could.
I also threw in completely random items like a construction worker’s neon vest, a cowboy hat, and a football—in case I might need them.
Yeah, I know, not so smart.
Well besides having to haul this giant, overflowing suitcase to the airport, I also had to sweat out my luggage making the 50 pound weight limit.
And I shouldn’t have been surprised since I packed like an idiot, but it came out as 52 pounds!
Mind you that I’m a guy. I didn’t bring a straightener, hair dryer, makeup back, or anything else that many girls have to bring. It was 99% all clothes that I drastically overpacked.
The long story short is I had to put on a few extra shirts on top of the shirt I already had on and I took a sweatshirt out to carry it (so not comfortable for 19 hours of flying) to get my luggage under 50 pounds.
But once we landed in Fiji, my problems didn’t end.
I didn’t enjoy carrying this heavy luggage, packing it into the bus, taking it out, and hauling it up the steps. And during the day-to-day trip, it meant I had to do more laundry and manage more clothes each day. I also faced the weight limit on the plane ride back.
The bottom line is I learned my lesson: Overpacking because “I might need something” is not the answer.
And this Fiji experience is just one scenario of many stories from my life where minimalism would have saved me.
Because minimalist packing and traveling light is now a God-send in my life. Here’s what you’ve been missing if you don’t pack light.
Benefits Of Minimalist Packing
Travel comfortably – A clear benefit for traveling lighter is it’s easier and puts less strain on your body when you’re moving to different locations.
For example, when you have to carry luggage to the airport, then to the boat dock, then on the bus to your hostel, do you want a 45-pound beast or a light 12-pound backpack by your side?
If you’re backpacking through the countryside day to day, it’s crucial you pack light for your sanity and lower back.
And you also don’t ever have to worry about the airline losing your luggage if you only bring a small piece of luggage that fits in the overhead compartment or under your feet on the plane, or getting your luggage stolen if it stays on your back the entire time.
Little things like that make traveling lighter all the better. (Read this article to see why you should travel.)
Save money – Practicing minimalism can go longer than you think to save you money.
For example, you will save money on baggage fees by only bringing a carry-on luggage.
You can skip out on storage fee costs.
You can cut taxi fees by having more people fit in the car and splitting the bill.
And you’ll buy less unnecessary clothes, travel items, and toiletries in advance of the trip. That could mean saving thousands of dollars right there.
Plus, if you continue to practice minimalism when you come home, now we’re talking about $100,000 or more of savings over a lifetime.
Manage and keep track of less – This benefit also doesn’t take a genius to understand. The less stuff you bring means you have less to keep track of during the trip.
Specifically, that’s less to pack, less to organize, less to wash, less to dry, less to fold, and less to transport.
It’s truly an underrated benefit to know everything you have and where it’s located.
Plus, you don’t face regret for bringing heavy items that you never use and know you’re not going to in the future.
Feel accomplished – While minimalism makes your trip easier, it’s not easy to pull off at first—especially if you’ve gone through your entire life as an overpacker and hoarder.
That’s why you’ll feel accomplished when you’re efficient with your luggage and traveling.
You stepped up to the challenge, made difficult decisions, and achieved what you set out to.
Feeling good from trying a different way to travel and coming out on the winning side is another benefit of minimalism. For Type A personalities like me, we love this stuff!
Be happy for the right reasons – This is the final and most important reason: When you travel minimalist, you’ll feel content because of where you are, who you’re with, and who you are—not what you have.
This reason exceeds all of the others in my opinion. Because you truly will have a happier trip as a minimalist.
You won’t be mentally or physically tied down by worrying about your belongings.
You won’t be upset about carrying heavy luggage, you’ll feel relieved your luggage is so light.
You will spend less time mentally and physically dealing with your clothes and gear, providing more time to enjoy life.
The idea that minimalism improves your outlook on your trip is powerfully real.
How To Minimalist Pack
Use a travel backpack or hardshell suitcase – Depending on your trip, aim to fit everything you need into a backpack or one hardshell suitcase.
Using only one of these will push you to minimalism based on the limited amount of room.
You can just use a school backpack like I did. Or if you’re a frequent traveler then you may want to invest in a travel-specific backpack.
And I wouldn’t go with softside luggage because it gives you the option to overpack based on how it’s designed to stretch for more room. Hardshell suitcases offer these nice benefits:
- Push you to minimalism because you can’t stretch it for more room
- Waterproof for any environment
- Last long-term
- Easier to navigate with four wheels instead of two
You can go here to get a good idea of a quality hardshell suitcase.
Pack 7 days in advance – If you’re in a rush and packing the night before or the morning of your trip, the odds of you being efficient go down the drain.
Your brain will default into overpacking, because it’s easy to, instead of minimalist packing, which takes some brain power.
I recommend you pack 7 days in advance.
This gives your subconscious brain time to think over anything necessary you might be forgetting. And if you do need something for the trip you don’t have, then you still have a few days to buy it.
Most things in life are better executed through preparation, minimalist packing included.
Only bring essentials – The time has come to decide what clothes, technology, and toiletries make the cut and what ones are left behind.
This is where it gets difficult, especially if you’re new to minimalism. My advice is to not overthink it. Check this out.
For packing clothes, first consider the climate you’re traveling to. Then only bring your regular clothes that you would normally wear in this weather.
Pack items you will 100% wear, you aren’t repeating (like two watches would be bad, only bring one or none), and that add specific value to your trip.
For example, if you’re going to a tropical island, don’t bring the tank tops that you didn’t wear all last summer. Why would anything be different here? Bring the essentials and move on.
And if you have a washer and dryer where you’re staying, you can pack less knowing you can wash your clothes at any time.
With technology, determine if you need to work on this trip or not. If you don’t need to work, then I’d only bring your phone (that doubles as a camera). If you’re working, then bring your laptop and charger but leave the iPad at home.
And to decide your toiletry, again only bring the essentials. A toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, maybe makeup, and sunscreen is about all you need. The rest you can buy on the trip.
You can consider this exercise a free practice in developing your strategic thinking ability.
And this goes hand in hand with the next minimalist tip.
Don’t bring something “you might need” – My mentality that I might need something once I get there is the reason I overpacked for Fiji. Please don’t repeat my mistake.
If you’re trying to prepare for every scenario, you’ll pack a bunch of unnecessary items that weigh you down mentally and physically.
Like I said in the video above, you can always buy something once you’re there. After all, locals live where you’re going and they have their needs met through local shops. Just bring some extra money to account for this.
Or you can borrow something you need from a fellow traveler, which could be the start of a new friendship.
Whether a weekend road trip or 12 months in a foreign country is your destination, I challenge you to pack and travel like a minimalist.
The only hard part is deciding what to bring before you go. But after you do this, the payoff is huge during your adventure:
- You travel easier and lighter
- You save money
- You have fewer materials to manage and keep track of
- You accomplish a more difficult challenge
- You feel more content because of where you are, who you’re with, and who you are—not what you have
Getting more out of the experience is reason enough to practice minimalism.
So throw out those extra shirts that you packed. Don’t bring three hats, narrow it down to one. And, most importantly, leave home everything you consider bringing because you “might need it.”
The argument you might need them is not a legitimate reason. Either you do need it or you don’t, most of the time you don’t. And worst case scenario, you can borrow it from another traveler or buy it when you’re there.
If I can pull this minimalism stunt off on my trip to Hilton Head and already fall in love with the advantages, then you can and will, too.
Minimalism isn’t the normal way to travel. And the results also aren’t normal.
Related: Want Less Stress? Be A Minimalist