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.
The thing is, even with a good back, you really don't want to be hauling 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. Web sites are good for getting ideas and learning new ways of doing things and 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.
- 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 4 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 Europe, 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 lb bag, and two carry-ons.
- Stick to neutral colors: black, white, gray, 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 down side? 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 at 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.
For Warmer Weather Add
For Cooler WeatherAdd
On your phone, take a 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.
- Roll it. You want as much space as you can and rolling it gives it to you.
- Pack bubble wrap. It'll save space in your luggage for the souvenirs you'll bring home & you'll have something to wrap them in so they don't break.
- Keep it fresh. Put dryer sheets between your clothing to keep it fresh.
- Stash it. Have a stash of all the things you'll need with you on the plane in a zippered bag - headphones, earplugs, chapstick, phone - so you can quickly and easily stow your bag and get in your seat.
- Grab Bag. Have a bag in your carry on that has things like small samples of your makeup, toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, etc. in case you get stuck in the airport somewhere or your flight gets canceled and you can't get to your bag.
- Wear what you can't fit. Like bulky coats. You aren't limited in how many clothes you wear on a plane so take a couple of layers. You can put it in the overhead or under the seat if you have to.
- Use all the space in your bag. Stuff your toiletries, socks & underwear in your shoes.
- Put your shoes and heavy clothes in first and then move up towards lighter clothes.
- Jewelry Saver - To keep jewelry from tangling, put it through a straw.
- Vacuum Seal - Use space bags that allow you to put your clothes in the bags & then roll the air out of them manually. I can never get the space bags to work, but if you can, this would be a good space saver.