I have been thinking a lot lately about traveling minimally.
I’ve been thinking about it because I have trouble whittling my stuff down. I like that I’ve been able to carry my bags wherever I wanted to go….but now I suffer with a bad back. My doctor says don’t lift anything. Ever. And, as I’m about to return to the U.K., I’m sick of worrying about the weight of my suitcase and taking things that I never wear. So I decided I was going to come up with a minimalist packing list for my trips to the UK.
The thing is, even with a good back, you really don’t want to be hauling around extra stuff. That’s why it’s best to pack minimally…taking only the most essential and basic things you’ll need when you’re on the road.
And having a good, solid list when you go to pack is essential for stress-free packing.
I’ve found that no matter where you are going, most people want to pack everything for anything that can happen. But, really, you only have to pack for a week and then add, based on the weather and the time of year.
To ease the challenge of packing for an international trip there are LOTS of apps & websites that help you when it comes to packing. Websites are good for getting ideas and learning new ways of doing things Apps are generally good for generating the actual list. Here are some general guidelines, apps and websites to get you started, along with a sample packing checklist for women (sorry, guys!!) and a few travel hacks.
General Packing Guidelines
- Travel light. I can’t say this often enough. It sucks to have to carry 5 different bags when you get to a place. I have been traveling to the UK for the last 7+ years to spend 4-6 months with one suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. It’s so freeing to be able to get on a train, a bus or in a taxi with the least amount of stuff. Be minimalist. You want to be able to wander with only a camera and an open mind.
- Remember: when you travel to the UK, you are not going to a developing country. You can pretty much get anything you REALLY need at a local shop. It just might not look like what you’re used to.
- What you pack will be determined by where you are going, what time of year you’re traveling, and how long you’ll be there.
- You only need one set of nice clothes.
- Ask yourself: What are the most important items I should always remember to pack? You should have a list of essentials that you can always refer back to. This list could include contact supplies, prescription meds, or anything that you can’t live without (within reason).
- Decide whether you want to check your bag or not. A lot of people don’t want the cost or the hassle of checking a bag. It’s bad when your luggage gets lost…or damaged. If you have a big bag or don’t want to schlepp it all over the airport ( like with a long layover or something ), then, by all means, check it. On an international flight, you get one 50 kg or 100-pound bag, and two carry-ons.
- Stick to neutral colors: black, white, grey, beige, etc. they will be easier to mix & match. You can add color by using accessories. Remember that darker colors don’t show dirt as much.
- Pack everything and then take out half of it. I know this sounds drastic, but if you keep scrutinizing, it will make your bag lighter (especially if you have a tendency [like me] of taking too much).
Here are two apps with great reviews that help customize your lists for you and help to share your lists with your fellow travelers.
Available for Android & iOS at $2.99
Packing Pro is the ultimate packing app. You can create unlimited 100% user-customized lists with full iCloud support, packing list sharing and back-up and there is an expert list assistant feature with sample lists. You can have a base list and then create sub-lists for your different types of trips…outdoor, wedding, business, etc. Some of the other benefits:
- Master catalog
- Ability to assign bags
- The ability to create new lists from old ones.
- A checklist for when you’re packing up so you don’t miss anything.
This app has a good balance of features and ease of use. The downside? Its many features might be overwhelming. I have to say that I haven’t used this app, but the reviews were outstanding.
Available for Android & iOS and is FREE
Packpoint is exceptionally easy to use. It tells you what you need based on length of travel, weather at your destination and any activities you are planning for your trip. All you have to do is tell it what city you’re traveling to, your departure date and the number of nights you’re staying and voila!! You have a packing list, which you can share with your fellow travelers. And if you upgrade to Premium you can:
- Connect to Tripit and auto-create all your packing lists
- Connect to Evernote and be able to view your packing lists across all your devices
- Customize with your own activities & packing list items
The downside? It’s pretty basic and you can’t store your preferences and packing list items.
These websites are great for getting new ideas and learning about packing minimally.
Go here to find lists that already exist for pretty much any packing you could dream of. It’s geared towards women but I’m sure guys could find a lot here. You can also find packing tips, reviews of travel gear, how to travel solo and much more. Here are some of the categories you can choose from:
- Travel Gear
- Packing Lists
- Packing Tips
- Female Travel
Onebag.com is a very comprehensive site about how to travel lightly (AKA “minimally”). It’s written by Doug Dyment (an engineer and scientist) who has traveled extensively and for fairly long periods of time. He covers:
- What to pack
- What to pack it in
- How to pack it
- A packing list
- And some pretty great resources for traveling minimally.
Here is the list that I use for staying 6 months in the UK to get you started. Remember: you don’t have to take all of this. It’s just a guideline. Just take what you ABSOLUTELY need. Again…sorry, guys…the list is only for women.
2 Tank Tops
3 Tee shirts
1 pair yoga pants or leggings
1 pair jeans
2 long sleeve shirts
1 light sweater
1 fleece pullover
3 pair socks
7 pair underwear
1-2 light dresses or skirts
For Warmer Weather Add…
1 pair shorts
1 bathing suit
1 rain jacket
For Cooler Weather Add…
1 wool cardigan
1 rain jacket
1 winter coat
1 winter scarf
1 pair gloves
1 beanie hat
1 pair walking shoes (sneakers or Tevas)
1 pair ballet flats
1 pair flip flops
Dr. Bronner’s soap
Nail clipper & file
First Aid Items
First Aid Kit
mp3 player & headphones
Laptop & external hard drive
Camera & 2 batteries
Several camera memory cards
2 electrical adaptors
All applicable charger & cards
Travel towel for hostels
Laundry soap sheets
Passport – make sure it’s valid for 6 months out & has plenty of empty pages
Passport sized photos – often needed for visas
Eye mask & ear-plugs – if you’re a light sleeper, buy good ones
Padlock – keep your stuff safe when sharing hostel dorms
ATM & credit card
Small amount of cash
Biz Trip Packing List
Noise Canceling Headphones
On your phone, take high resolution scan of your:
- Driver’s license
- Credit cards
Send a copy of these to someone you trust at home just in case your phone gets lost or stolen.