Packing for a trip can be challenging. Packing for long-term, extended travel can be a nightmare.
And while minimalists tend to assume this stuff will be a breeze—”I only have 3 shirts anyway”—it doesn’t always work out that way. Turns out you kind of need things like toiletry containers, outlet adapters, and other random things in order to keep living your life semi-normally on the road.
Luckily, we’re experts in this kind of stuff. Check out the video or read on to discover ten tips from the Pack Hacker team that will help you keep things minimal and pack better for your next trip.
1. Lay it flat.
One of the best ways to figure out what you need to take on a trip is to lay out everything in front of you, either on a table (if you’ve got one big enough) or the floor. To really keep things minimal, we suggest trying to cut everything in half. Don’t literally cut your clothes in half, but try to take half the number of items you initially think you need. You’d be surprised what you can get away with.
2. Compartmentalize your gear.
Storing your stuff—preferably all of it—in packing cubes or pouches keeps your gear organized and lets you to easily find what you’re looking for. We love packing cubes, but even a plastic grocery bag or a Ziploc can work wonders.
Pro tip: We recommend grabbing a few different sizes and colors so you can hold a variety of items and easily remember which cube has which stuff.
3. Consider multi-functional items.
Always be on the lookout for items that can serve multiple purposes. Here are a few common examples: a compressible lightweight jacket can double as a pillow, a buff can double as a scarf/hat/eye-mask, and one multi-use adapter can eliminate a few cords. Versatile items are the key to keeping things minimal and optimizing your travel kit.
4. Get some merino wool.
If you travel often and you’re not rocking some merino wool…you’re doing it wrong. Seriously. Between the anti-microbial properties and multi-climate usage, you really can’t go wrong. If you’re looking to pack light, you pretty much travel perpetually with two of everything (shirts, socks, and underwear), if they’re all merino wool. This way, when you do need to wash your stuff, you can wash/dry one outfit while you wear the other. We love this stuff—that’s why we wrote an entire guide on merino wool.
Pro tip: No one cares if you’re wearing the same clothes! Especially when you’re traveling, most people won’t even notice. They will, however, notice if your clothes stink. So don’t let that happen.
5. Keep everything fresh.
Let’s not beat around the bush—things can get a little grimy when you’re traveling day in and day out. In order to keep your pack—and the contents in it—fresh, we’d recommend throwing a cedar wood chip in. It’ll keep everything smelling nice and keep any bugs away from your stuff! (Shoutout to tip #3.) Dryer sheets, essential oils, or potpourri sachets can work here too, though we tend to prefer the natural cedar scent.
6. Get some solid soap or a shampoo bar.
And to be clear, we mean non-liquid soap. (Yes, you should still get some “solid” soap, as in good soap, but the gist is that bar soap is better for travel.) There are countless benefits here—solid soap doesn’t eat into your TSA liquid restrictions, it takes up barely any room, it lasts a long time, it’ll keep your bag fresh and, if you get the right bar, you can even use it for shampoo, laundry, and dishes. Boom.
7. Bring a compact bag.
If you’re traveling with one backpack, it’s good to have a smaller bag to use when you’re out and about. We prefer packable daypacks or slings, but you could also get by with something as simple as a reusable grocery bag. The point is, you don’t want to be lugging around your huge travel pack as you’re walking around a new city. If you’re going the digital nomad route, we would recommend opting for a legitimate packable daypack as it’ll be able to handle a laptop and all of your gear a lot better than a simple bag. As a bonus, this bag can pull double-duty as your personal bag on the flight home when you realize you’ve somehow acquired more items than what you left with. (We’ve all been there.)
8. Plan your flight.
Having all your necessary in-flight items—like water, snacks, headphones, etc.—close to you during your trip can be the difference between an enjoyable flight and a miserable one. If you’re using packing cubes or pouches, consider grabbing one that can pull double-duty as a sling for your time at the airport and on the plane. At the very least, keep that pouch accessible at the top of your pack so you can grab it as needed.
9. Strategize to save money.
A little bit of planning can save you a small fortune on the road. We’ve found the three biggest areas you can save in are food, electronics, and data. Eating on the road tends to be unhealthy and expensive—so packing some calorically dense food in your carry-on can save you a bunch of cash at the airport. Try to buy all of your electronic cords and adapters beforehand, as buying these things in the middle of your trip can be far more expensive and they’ll likely be of inferior quality. And lastly, make sure to limit your data usage and avoid fees when you’re on the road by downloading content onto your devices before you leave. (That whole “downloading Netflix shows from the app” thing is life-changing.)
10. Practice your trip.
At the end of the day, a lot of this stuff is up to you. That is why we always recommend practicing your trip beforehand by loading up your pack and going about your daily routine using only the items inside. Do this for a couple days or weeks and you’ll quickly figure out what you need, what you don’t need, and how you’d like to configure your pack.