I have always been a heavy packer. I admire people that can get away without checking luggage and just get off the plane and go– but that’s just SO not me. Pre-pandemic, I frequently traveled for work, and now that travel is starting to pick up again, I knew I needed a new approach. I have been making an effort to be more intentional about how I pack for trips - whether they’re for work or just for fun.
Tips For Minimalist Packing
Plan Ahead and Check the Weather
One thing I do to prepare for my trip is to check the weather in advance. I also have a VERY thorough spreadsheet that has everything I might typically need while on the road, which keeps me from forgetting things. I once flew to San Francisco for a tradeshow only to realize that I forgot to bring shoes that were work-appropriate. After several days on my feet in uncomfortable shoes (that I had to borrow from a colleague!), I promised myself I would never make that mistake again.
I’ve been using the Cladwell app to organize my wardrobe and that’s been really helpful for planning and scheduling what I’ll take on trips. It also helps to generate quick outfit ideas that will work with the same pants or jackets, allowing me to make the most of the limited items in my suitcase. I can use this before I leave, or even when I am on the road to help me get dressed in the morning. This way I can focus less on planning outfits and more on business or enjoying myself.
Even if I have checked the weather in advance, so I have a general sense of what it will be like in my destination, I will always check again a day or two before I head out to make sure there won’t be an unexpected rainstorm or heat wave while I am there, as that might change my packing needs.
Also, because I love checking out boutiques I always know that when I’m traveling I can pick something up if I totally miscalculated the weather or forgot something. It helps relieve some of the anxiety that I feel about remembering everything. As a bonus, the next time I wear whatever I purchased in my travels, I know I will have a great story about how I found the special article of clothing.
Even though packing is something I am working hard to get better at, I’ll share some of the things that have helped me avoid overpacking:
Amy’s Tips to Avoid Overpacking
1. Make a packing list
I always make a list before I pack to keep myself organized. You’d be amazed what you can forget without one! You might also end up packing 4 t-shirts and no shorts which also might not be the most helpful once you get to your destination!
2. Pack in advance if you can
This way you can put things in your bag as you think of them. Taking a travel-friendly blouse out of the dryer? Throw it right in your travel bag and check it off on your packing list! If you wait until the last minute to get started it can be tempting to just throw whatever is in front of you into your bag, whether you really need it or not!
3. Pack for only one week
Even if you are going to be gone longer, try to only pack for one week. You can do laundry on the road to keep your suitcase lighter. Check your hotel or AirBNB before heading out, if they don’t have affordable laundry options you might need to find a local laundromat or dry cleaner - for smaller items like socks and easy cotton dresses, you might even be able to hand wash them in the hotel sink. I frequently travel with a small bottle of laundry detergent for laundry emergencies.
4. Wear bulky items on the plane
If you need to take a bulky sweatshirt, jacket or boots with you, try to wear it instead of packing it. That way you’ll have more room in your suitcase. If you’re traveling from a warmer climate to somewhere cold, a big jacket could take up half of your suitcase easily, so don’t pack it but carry it on the plane.
5. Get a set of packing cubes
Packing cubes are critical especially for long trips to ensure that undergarments stay organized, and for keeping tops and bottoms separate and from flopping around in your suitcase. When I’m traveling to amazing shopping destinations like Jaipur I like to fly with an empty suitcase inside my suitcase so that I can pick up some new items and gifts and have enough space.
Another good reason to invest in a set of packing cubes is that if you’re traveling to multiple cities or on a longer trip, you can use the packing cubes to keep clean clothes separate from the dirty stuff.
6. Take lightweight cotton dresses
I love packing lightweight cotton dresses as they are easy to throw on and they pack down pretty well. Try to pick dresses that you can hand launder and dry quickly if you need to do some washing on the road. For trips to cooler climates, choose cotton dresses with long sleeves, or plan to wear a sweater or cute jacket over your dress to keep warm.
7. Keep to two pairs of shoes
It’s easy to get carried away here, but keeping things comfortable and casual is best. Mules and wedge espadrilles are some of my favorites. They can easily go from exploring, to work, to evening events (and they look great too). Depending on your itinerary you might also want a pair of sneakers. Even though flip flops don’t take a lot of space, don’t be tempted to pack multiple pairs. They aren’t great for walking around and you don’t want to end up with sore feet or blisters.
8. Invest in the best quality suitcase you can
I LOVE my RIMOWA suitcase and the company has always been really helpful with repairs when needed. This is important because when suitcases are sent to the landfill, they can take hundreds of years to decompose - and that puts strain on the environment. It's best to invest in a great suitcase and take care of it well.
Another reason to get a great, and more unique suitcase is that it will be easier to identify at baggage claim if you do need to check it. To distinguish your suitcase from all of the others, you can tie a piece of colored ribbon to the handle. Choose a bright color that is easy to identify from a distance so you can grab your bag and go!
For more packing tips from a pro, consider picking up Hitha Palepu’s book, How to Pack. I just learned about this book when putting together this post and haven’t read it yet, but I’m very intrigued! Hitha is a former management consultant who has traveled more than 500,000 miles around the globe. Her website also offers some practical tips for packing - regardless of your itinerary or destination.
Wherever you’re headed, be sure to pack some of our Printfresh pajamas. The short sleep sets or separates don’t take up too much of your precious suitcase space, and your trip will feel that much more special when you slip into fancy pajamas each night.
If you’re packing for an upcoming trip, let us know where you’re headed in the comments. If you have some tried and true packing tips of your own, feel free to share those too!
Photo Credits: Hitha Palepu, RIMOWA, Cladwell App
PF MAG is dedicated to thoughtful, not-so-simple living. Founded by Amy Voloshin as a stationery and sleepwear brand, Printfresh has grown into far more than that. Our articles provide discerning perspectives on all things lifestyle, including fashion, wellness, design, travel and home decor, as well as interviews with some of the people who inspire us most.