explore

Dedicated to bringing you captivating stories, bucket list destinations, and off the beaten track experiences from near and far. 

welcome to the blog

A Minimalist Guide to Packing like a Pro

Resources


How To Pack Like A Travel Pro.

a Minimalist Approach to Packing 

Minimalism is not a style, it is an attitude, a way of being. It is a fundamental reaction against noise, distraction, and disorder. You don’t need more things to make yourself happy. You need less things distracting you from what you already have that makes you happy. After all, we travel to expand our boundaries, learn about new cultures, and leave our day-to-day lives behind, not to drag it around in our luggage! Packing efficiently is not just smart, it’s a way of life.

It’s important to remember that minimalism is not the lack of something, it is simply the perfect amount of something. And that’s what you should strive for when you are packing! I know that it’s easier said than done. Travel is full of unknowns, and it is human nature to want to be prepared for anything. But, how many times have you wasted precious time and energy lugging heavy bags around only to end up using half of what you packed. Don’t worry, I’ve been there too. And that is why I want to share my top tips for packing like a minimalist pro. Like life, packing can actually be very simple if we don’t overthink it! 

Top 10 Tips For Minimalist Packing


How To Pack Like A Travel Professional

1. Choose the Right Luggage

The most important step in packing for any trip, is to pick the right luggage. For me choosing the right luggage involves four main considerations.

  1. Size Matters – I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter how large my bag is, I’m going to fill it up with stuff. So, the trick here, is to choose the smallest luggage you feel comfortable with. My recommendation for a great carry-on suitcase is the Travelpro Platinum Elite or The Cary-On by AWAY if you prefer a hard case. They are spacious enough to fit everything I need for the vast majority of travel, and it allows me to skip check-in lines, save on expensive luggage fees, and avoid the all too frequent inconvenience of lost or delayed luggage.

  2. Organization – Luggage with plenty of built in pockets and packing compartments will save you time and headaches while traveling. I used to travel with a big duffle bag that I could wear as a backpack. Every time I needed to find something in the bag, it was like searching through a black hole. I would end up removing half my belongings before I found the item I was searching for. When I started using my Platinum® Elite suitcase it helped me stay sane and organized with easy-access accessory pockets, along with a removable, quart-size wet pocket that is TSA compliant and perfect for toiletries.

  3. Easy To Maneuver – After years of traveling with heavy backpacks, it only took one extended trip with a roller that has 360° spinner wheels. I now glide effortlessly through airports even though I’m technically carrying the same amount of gear! Trust me, your back will thank you.

  4. Lightweight – Even with luggage that spins effortlessly on the ground, overall weight is an important consideration. Sooner or later you are going to run into stairs, and you definitely don’t want to be that person struggling to lift their carry-on off the ground to place it in the overhead compartment!


How to choose the right luggage.

2. Make a List

When we are uncertain about what we will need and use, our default is to over pack. Next time you travel, make a list of everything that you packed. On the flight home, pull that list out and note which items you used, and which ones you didn’t. The next time it’s time to pack for a trip, you can start with the items in your refined list, and leave everything else behind. Go through this process a few times, and before you know it you’ll be a packing ninja! Plus, having a packing list ready to go will help you avoid decision fatigue. 


Tips for packing

3. Plan Your Outfits Ahead of Time

I can’t tell you how many times I have packed a ton of clothes only to get to my destination and realize that nothing goes together! You can avoid this, and reduce the overall amount of items you pack, by thinking in terms of complete outfits, rather than focusing on individual items. 


Tips for packing - plan your outfits ahead of time.

4. Pack Neutral Colored Clothing

In addition to packing complete outfits, choosing neutral colored items that all go together is a great way to practice minimalist packing. If all the individual items you pack can be mixed and matched to create unique outfits, then you can diversify your travel wardrobe, without actually packing more stuff. Think of the possibilities! 


I like to pack a few items that can be mixed and matched to create separate outfits.

I like to pack a few items that can be mixed and matched to create separate outfits.


Rolling your clothing can save space!

Rolling your clothing can save space!

5. Lay Everything Out First

Don’t just throw everything you want to take into your luggage as you go! Instead, before you pack everything away into your bag, lay it out on a flat surface so that you can see it all. Take inventory. For each item ask yourself if it’s something you need, if you are likely to use it, and whether it goes with other items you are packing. Then take a deep breath, and eliminate anything that wasn’t a YES! 

6. Roll Your Clothing

My grandpa taught me that rolling clothing like a burrito is the best way to save space and keep your clothes wrinkle free during transit. There are a ton of different theories out there, but I roll my clothes, and I’m sticking to it!

7. Use Dedicated Packing Compartments

Like all luggage epiphanies, once you start taking advantage of dedicated packing compartments to organize your belongings, there is no turning back. We’ve all frantically scrambled through the black hole that can be our luggage, just to find that one specific item. Usually the aftermath resembles a terrible natural disaster. But fear not! Dedicated packing compartments, are here to save the day. If your luggage doesn’t have dedicated compartments pick up some packing cubes! They serve the same function and will help keep you organized.

It’s incredibly satisfying to open your luggage and know exactly where everything is. If you are using a duffle bag, or similar bag that does not come with built-in packing compartments, you can use packing cubes to keep your belongings organized and neatly rolled (or folded) in your bag right where you left it! And, as we know, organization is key to a happy minimalist life style.


Minimalist Packing Tips

8. No Negative Space 

Make sure to fill the negative space in your luggage. This includes placing small items inside shoes and hats. It may seem simple, but it will actually save you a lot of space. Plus, shoes are great at protecting fragile items – not just feet! 

9. Wear Your Bulkiest Items on the Plane

Comfort should be your number one priority for any flight and that generally means planning for extreme temperature changes. If at all feasible, plan on wearing some of your heaviest layers to the airport, rather than packing them away in your carry-on. This includes things like sweaters, jackets and boots. If you get too warm, you can always stash them in your personal item. 

10. Use a Backpack as Your Personal Item

As much as I love using a roller suitcase, as an outdoor adventure traveler and photographer I often need a backpack when I travel as well. That’s where the personal item comes in. Instead of using a messenger bag, duffle or purse, kill two bags with one stone and use a backpack for your personal item. The backpack I bring depends a lot on the trip, but anything from a camera bag to a hiking day-pack will do the trick! 


Minimalist Packing Tips

This post was created in collaboration with Travel Pro. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.


You Might Also Enjoy These Blog Posts! 

The Ultimate Backpacking Gear Guide

What’s In My Bag: Photography Gear Guide 

How I Afford To Travel All the Time

Chasing Waterfalls In Costa Rica 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. khairul says:

    Very useful. Thank Jess. How do you pack your gear? What bag you used?

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Khairul. I’m glad you liked the blog! I’m not sure which gear you are referring too, but if you are referring to camera gear, please check out my Photography Gear Guide. It will answer any questions you have. Thanks!!

  2. Kim says:

    Jess,

    What an incredible post. Everything you said was spot on and should be everyones "travel packing bible"! The photos weren’t bad either 🙂 Your admiring follower.

  3. asieh harati says:

    Hi Jess,
    Thanks for this blog. As always beautiful.
    I have the same question as Khairul though I read your response. As a personal item, do you take your day-pack? If so, how do you fit all your photography gears in a day pack? Also, I imagine this post does not address trips where you would go on camping since that would require camping gears as well. A I right?

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Asieh. Thanks for the questions! If you take a look at my Camera Gear blog, you will see that my camera bags are also day packs, so they are designed to carry photography gear as well as other items you might want. If I am going on a trip specifically to camp, then I will pack a backpacking backpack with my camping gear and clothing as my carry-on, instead of a roller bag. Hope that helps!

  4. Katelin Reeser says:

    This article is perfectly timed for my trip to Switzerland in two weeks. It is difficult to pack minimally when you want to explore the city in breezy dresses as well as hike mountains with gear. Thanks for the tips, Jess!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Thanks Katelin!! Really appreciate the feedback. Totally agree, it can be hard to pack for all the fun stuff we like to do! I love dresses for travel though because they are an entire outfit with one item.

  5. Rick Hurvy says:

    Hi Jess,

    Love your blog. Will you be doing an entry on your trip to the Dolomites? Those hikes and hotels looked amazing.

    Thanks,
    Rick

  6. Redwane Irrou says:

    Hi Jess,
    I adore all your adventures, specially your trip to the Dolomites.It’s just wonderful, I am an adventurer to but I am amateur so I started with some little adventures in my country (Morroco) and I really hope that you help me with some advices and guiding about traveling to The Dolomites (because I want to go there in those few months coming ahead)

  7. [object Object] says:

    Hey Jess!

    I always see you in what looks like the perfect basic tee! Sometimes you tie a knot in them sometimes you dont lol.. just wondering where they are from? In this particular post you have an olive one on that has a pocket but in most of your IG pics I see you in a white one! I always want to ask on IG but idk if my comments will get lost lol! You have great style, would you mind sharing with us some of your favorite clothing essentials? You go to tops and bottoms that you find yourself repeatedly replacing, if you do lol! Thank you!

  8. mara says:

    Hi Jess! I was just wondering, have you ever done any solo travel? I tried searching through your blogs and didn’t see much about that and was just curious! I am going to be doing my first solo trip for a few months come fall so just was seeing if you had any information on that!

    • Hi Mara! Thank you so much for the comment. I actually have not done much solo travel. I’m generally with friends or on a job with other photographers. Sorry I can’t be of more help on that topic. You might try The Blonde Abroad’s blog. I know she used to do a lot of solo female travel, and wrote quite a bit about it. Have fun!

Reader Favs

Learn More >

Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

Meet the Writer

see you soon!

Before you go, make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on new blog posts, upcoming events, and other fun travel resources!

Wander with Me