Minimalist Packing: How to Avoid Overpacking

minimalist packing_man lays out items for packingYou’re going on a trip! Honestly, good for you. You’ve already tackled all the thorny logistics: flights are booked, the hotel is reserved, you’ve read three pages of two different travel guide books, and you’ve saved a handful of inspirational Instagram posts. You feel ready. But before you can cross the finish line and enter vacation mode, you have to complete a task that some believe is the worst part of all. You have to pack.

This trip is particularly fraught because last time you went on vacation with your friends you were the only one who checked a bag, and it took so long to retrieve it at baggage claim that you missed the last train from Charles de Gaulle. Then you had to pay for a cab so expensive that your friends are still giving you a hard time about it. All that to say, you’re only packing a carry-on this time, and it’s going to be great.

Contrary to what some people think, it’s possible to pack in a carry-on and still bring everything you need, and it can even make travel easier. You don’t have to cry a little every time you pick up your suitcase, you don’t have to sift through all your earthly possessions when you’re getting dressed, and it won’t take you forever to repack when it’s time to head home. But, of course, there’s a little more strategy involved. So, let’s get to it.

Make a Minimalist Packing List

Before you take every article of clothing you’ve ever loved from your closet and hurl it onto your bed, think critically about what you actually need. If you start to pack with stacks of clothes out, you’ll be tempted to bring all of them instead of sift through them and put some away.

Instead, sit down and think through each day that you’ll be there. Check the weather, and write down any notable clothing essentials (like a fancy dinner outfit, a swimsuit, tap shoes, you know). From there, you can gauge what you’ll actually need. For example, for a four-day trip to Italy in the summer, you really only need one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, two long dresses, five shirts, a swimsuit, two pairs of shoes, and a sweater.

By thinking through the details of your trip, you’ll be sure of what you need instead of just going with your gut. Your gut has never been to Italy. It should not be trusted.

Lay It Out

After you’ve listed the specific items and quantities you need, you can start to pull out items from your closet. Remember, be strategic. If you’re only bringing one pair of pants to Italy, make sure those pants work with your one sweater and probably all five shirts too. Instead of just picking items, put together outfits.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. You may only post your vacation on Instagram once a year, so we understand the importance of your vacation lewks. You don’t have to bring only neutrals; bring your funky pieces! Just maybe skip the high heels that hurt too much or your three-piece tuxedo.

Planning outfits can seem like a lot of work on the front end, but it not only saves you from overpacking shame, it also makes your life very easy while you’re on vacation. Pro tip: keep a list of outfits in your suitcase pocket for easy reference during your trip.

Beware of the “Just-in-Case” Add-Ons

Even the best, most streamlined packer is vulnerable to the last-minute, just-in-case frenzy. The forecast is sunny every day, but you have room for an umbrella so should you just pack it? You’re not planning to do anything fancy, but should you bring a suit just in case you change your mind? You’re going to Chicago in the winter and your hotel doesn’t have a pool, but you should always bring a swimsuit, right? This is especially tempting if you are a chronic over-packer known for having to sit on your suitcase to close it. For you, an easy-to-close suitcase reads like future regret.

But, in the world of minimalist packing, every single thing in your suitcase should have a purpose. If you can’t look at your schedule and plan a time when you’ll wear that shirt or read all six books so you need to pack a seventh, then leave it. It’ll make you stronger, and chances are if you really need something, you can get it once you’re there.

Don’t Go Overboard

You’re feeling strong, culling your list, and resisting temptation to overpack. What could go wrong? You. You could go wrong, you master of self-discipline. While everything in your suitcase should serve a purpose, make sure you don’t leave things off that you’ll actually regret. Sure, you could leave your makeup bag or shave kit at home, save the room, and spend the whole trip fresh-faced or rocking some stubble. You might want to, and that’s great.

But if you’re going to wish you had actually brought that mascara or razor, don’t leave it off just to prove something. Sure, you can probably get away with one pair of shoes for the whole trip, but if that would drive you crazy, then pack another pair. You know what you need and what makes you feel good at home, so make sure you have those things with you.

Tips for Packing Light

To avoid common mistakes and to maximize your suitcase room, here are some general things to consider:

  • Pack things that serve more than one purpose, like two-in-one shampoo and body wash or moisturizer with sunscreen.
  • Pack things you can wear more than once, like sturdy jeans.
  • You can always do laundry when you’re there, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Bring the things you love the most, not the things you can’t figure out how to wear.
  • Make sure everything you pack can be worn with (almost) everything else.
  • Don’t pack things that will wrinkle. Just don’t do it.
  • Know what your hotel will have. You can always call to confirm what will be in your room—like a hairdryer—if you’re not sure.

Follow these tips, and packing everything you need for a week-long trip will be a breeze, just like booking a hotel room at  We think booking travel should be straightforward. That’s why we make it easy to search hotel rooms from all of your favorite chains without the gimmicks that other travel sites put you through. With us, you always come first.