Travel Like a Minimalist – Packing

minimalist packingI’ve got a trip coming up soon, I’m heading to Dallas next week on a five day business trip. I’m really excited to get away from the cold Atlantic Canadian weather, and this particular business trip should be less action packed than they typically are.

I tend towards minimalist trip packing on business trips for a lot of reasons. For one thing it’s easier. Having less clothing means a smaller suitcase, a small suitcase is easy for me to maneuver. I’m a small person and lugging a large suitcase in and out of a car, taxi or hotel gets tedious. Packing like a minimalist also allows me to not have to check any bags. This makes customs checking a lot easier and allows me to handle short connection times with ease.

It’s also cheaper, since I rarely need to pay extra fees for travelling with more luggage. I also have less chance of my bag getting lost, since I have it with me at all times. Finally, it’s just simpler. With a little bit of planning and some forethought, I can maintain a simple, functional suitcase with everything I need.

Top Tips for Minimalist Packing

Put Some Thought Into It

Packing for every trip starts with a little bit of research. How long are you going to be gone? What type of events are you going to be attending? What’s the temperature like where you’re headed? I’m going on a five day trip, with mostly business casual or casual settings, and a few formal settings. This will effect what type of clothing I bring.

Dress Like a Minimalist

For business travel, I keep things basic. I don’t bring jewellery, because I won’t end up wearing it. I also don’t pack “statement pieces” and instead stick to interchangeable tops and pants that aren’t loud colors or prints, so that I can make a bunch of different outfits with very few pieces. Any top I bring must be able to be worn in a business setting, but also pass easily in a casual setting. The same goes for bottoms. As cute as that new skirt is, if I can only wear it once or with one specific item, it won’t make it into my suitcase. Bonus points for: dresses that can be worn casually or in a business setting, a whole outfit with only one article of clothing!

Ditch the Bulky Items

I’m an avid runner, but I never take running shoes on my business trips. They take up way too much space in my carry on. Instead, I’ll run barefoot on the hotel treadmill. I also never bring a hair dryer, for the same reason. If there’s one in the hotel room, great, if not, I’ve perfected a few hair styles that don’t require a hair dryer or straightener/curler. Bulky shoes like boots get worn on the plane ride, to take up less space in my bag.

The Contents of My Minimalist Suitcase

I’m forever refining my minimalist suitcase, but this is what I’ll typically end up taking with me:

While Travelling

  • In My Purse: My Nexus 7 tablet (her maiden voyage!), ear plugs, advil, moisturizer, scarf (for cold planes), wallet, passport, head phones, business cards.
  • On My Person: Jeans (suitable for business casual settings), tank top, hoodie, boots.

In My Suitcase

I use a typical carry on style suitcase. Nothing special.

  • Undergarments and socks
  • A “used clothing” fold up bag to keep spent clothing separate
  • Cosmetics case with toiletries, medication, hair products, stain spot remover and single use laundry detergent (you never know)
  • One pajama top, pair of pajama pants, and pajama shorts.
  • Bathing suit
  • One set of work out clothing (will rinse if needed), Garmin running watch + heart rate monitor.
  • Cell phone/tablet charger
  • One pair of formal flats, one pair of sneakers
  • Hair Brush
  • Pants: One pair formal dress pants, one pair dark rinse jeans, one pair leggings.
  • Dress: One all purpose dress for formal or casual wear.
  • Tops: Three tops suitable for formal or casual wear, one for casual wear.
  • Blazers: At least two blazers. Mix up wearing tops and blazers together or just tops alone for many looks. One blazer should pass for casual wear.

Earlier I mentioned factoring in the weather while travelling. For this trip I’ll be spending the majority of my time freezing my butt off in an air conditioned building, so normal attire still applies here. If there’s space, I’ll pack an extra pair of work appropriate shorts just in case any of the events take place outside, or I get a chance to sight see.

For more information about travelling like a minimalist, check out the queen of minimalism and my inspiration, The Everyday Minimalist. Also, check out this cool article from the New York Times of how a flight attendant packs her bag for tips on how to actually fit all of your stuff in a carry on suitcase.

Do you take a lot of stuff with you when you travel? I want to know!

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  • Michelle

    I usually take a TON of stuff. I have been getting better, but I am known to bring 20 dresses and 5 pairs of heels on a 4 day vacation :(

    • Jordann

      That’s what I used to do too! I’d end up wearing about 20% of it. Now, I try not to do that as much as possible!

  • Lauren Bee

    Being a minimalist is my new “kick”, my next free weekend I am going to go all project 333 on my closet!

    • Jordann

      Good luck! I need to give my closet some attention, I haven’t decluttered it in over a year.

  • Pauline

    I love to travel with just a carry on. Now I have brought one suitcase for a year here, which isn’t bad either! I started by not taking back on the next trip things I didn’t use previously, and have been gradually reducing.

    • Jordann

      One suitcase for a whole year is pretty great, that’s very minimalist of you! After every trip, I make a note of something I didn’t get around to using, and I leave it out of my bad for the next trip.

  • reader

    You’re bringing sneakers but not running shoes?? And running barefoot on a hotel treadmill is kinda yucky (my opinion, though!) Also, I’m slightly envious you get to wear leggings and jeans in a work setting, I wouldn’t be allowed to. And when are you going to have time to use a bathing suit… are you adding on days to make it a mini-vacay? And that NYTimes article is pretty cool!

    • Jordann

      I love your questions! My sneakers a very low profile and collapse in on themselves, whereas my running shoes have giant soles and a thick heel, they take up tons of space. My office tends to be pretty casual, and given the nature of this particular trip, I should be able to wear jeans at least one day. The leggings are to wear with the dress, which I’ll pair with boots to make it formal enough. As far as the bathing suit is concerned, I bring one every trip, and have yet to use it, I’ll keep hoping though. And yes, I’ve scheduled a bit of time for sight seeing at the end of the trip, hopefully I won’t be too tired to use it!

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter

    Yay, trip to Dallas! I am weird when it comes to packing. I am either a huge minimalist, or way overpack. Usually, the shorter the trip, the more overpacked I am.

    • Jordann

      I tend to over pack on personal vacations, you never know what you night need!

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    We pack as light as possible. We look to bring interchangeable outfits and try and wear anything that’s bulkier like boots. If I can avoid having to pay a luggage fee then it is definitely worth it.

    • Jordann

      Sounds like you’ve got a plan that works for you!

  • Plunged in Debt

    Can you fit me in your suitcase? I could seriously use some heat!

    • Jordann

      I would take you with me if I could! It’s minus -36C here today, so ready to get outta here.

  • http://Www.Plantingourpennies.Com/ Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies

    I try not to take too much with me when I travel, but I don’t think I could just rinse out workout clothes. Maybe I’m a stinky girl, but I always need to start with a clean pair or I feel gross!

    • Jordann

      It’s not ideal, but I’m only doing shorter runs this week so I shouldn’t get too sweaty.

  • Country Girl

    I try to pack light and usually fail miserably. I think I worry too much about all the different weather possibilities. When I went to the UK, I hauled my rubber boots around for two weeks and it didn’t even rain once!

    • Jordann

      Oh no! It’s situations like that where I love multipurpose clothing, like water resistant merrell boots and the like.

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    I’ve travelled quite a bit before moving to Canada and I always travelled light. I wasn’t so worried because if I really needed something I could always buy it but I never ran into that problem. I’ve always made sure what I brought would be enough to make do for the days I was away and that’s all.

    • Jordann

      I think as people below have mentioned, the hardest thing to pack for is the weather.

  • Drop that Debt

    I do tend to pack a lot, but my trips always involve a car with lots of trunk space. I just get annoyed by having to deal with picking out outfits beforehand but I am getting a lot better at this as I purge all of the stuff I only sort of like from my wardrobe. Have fun!!

    • Jordann

      I tend to way overpack if there’s a vehicle with a trunk involved. Since there’s so much space, I’m a lot less concerned about fitting everything into one suitcase.

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    Fortunately for me I don’t have many clothes, so packing is extremely easy! I’ll wear the same jeans multiple times and therefore I typically only pack 1 pair. I love it!

    • Jordann

      Lucky, as a girl, I don’t have/want that option.

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  • AvgJoeMoney

    Dallas! Sadly, it’s never as warm here in northern Texas you wish it was….(sorry) but you probably won’t have to zip your coat.

  • Student Debt Survivor

    I used to be a really heavy packer (then barely wore half of what I packed), now I stick to a few pairs of pants and a few dresses/tops that I can mix and match. My newest favorite items for traveling are the starfish collection by Lands End, they don’t wrinkle, wash easily in hotel sinks and come it basic colors. I have both pants and tops and love them all.

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  • Miss T

    We are big globetrotters and like to travel light too. We only take a back pack each. I love thin cardigans and camis. They are very versatile and take no space. Scarves are also good for those cold planes. I love not having a ton of stuff to worry about when I am traveling around. It keeps the vacation a worry free time.

  • MakintheBacon$

    This may not really make sense coming from a sort of seasoned traveller, but I tend to only pack light when I go on adventure trips (i.e. backpacking), because I know I only need the essentials. Whereas if I’m going on a more relaxing trip but still full of activity, I tend to pack more, just because I have that luxury of being able to carry a bigger suitcase and leave it in the hotel room. I seem to have that just in case mentality on those types of vacations and then end up kicking myself because I never end up wearing half the stuff.

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