What many packing guides leave out is the fundamental advice to pack with intention. That is, pack based on what you’ll need for the specific trip you’re taking—and ignore those just-in-case items that call to you from your closet but you never end up wearing.
And I get it—it’s easy to throw in a few more pairs of shoes or an extra jacket if you have the suitcase space. But what that does is add to the time you’ll have to spend styling your outfit of the day, when you could be spending that time actually enjoying your day.
Here are four easy steps to take to pack for your next trip like a minimalist.
1. Make a packing list
Before you start tearing your closet apart, sit down and list out what you have planned during your upcoming trip. Fancy dinner with a friend? Morning workout before a conference? Getting clear on your plans and goals will help streamline what you need to bring with you.
Then, make a list of:
- What you’ll need to wear for planned activities
- What you’ll need to dress appropriately for the climate
- What you’ll need to adhere to a dress code or local etiquette
Supplemental reading: How to Pack a Week’s Worth of Clothing in Your Carry-On
2. Create a capsule wardrobe
For those who are unfamiliar, a capsule wardrobe is generally composed of a few essentials that can then be mixed and matched with other (seasonal) clothing items.
To create a capsule wardrobe for an upcoming trip, start by pulling mostly neutral items from your closet. Depending on the length of your trip, you might be able to get away with taking one staple item each—i.e., one pair of pants, one blazer, one pair of shoes—and mixing and matching those neutral staples with various tops and accessories each day.
Creating a capsule wardrobe also helps take the mystery out of what to wear on your trips going forward. Knowing your staples will reduce planning and packing time, and make styling your outfits on the go easy—freeing up your time to focus on what’s most important: spending quality time with your family and friends, taking time for yourself, or preparing for a client meeting (should you be traveling for business).
3. Maximize your suitcase space
Now, to get packing. First, rolling is the new folding—not only does rolling maximize your carry-on space, it also reduces wrinkles by keeping clothes in place. Pack your largest wardrobe items first, bearing in mind what items you may not need until the end of your trip, as those should go in first.
After you’ve packed your capsule wardrobe in your suitcase, place any smaller items into any open pockets of space, such as shoes (a great place to store socks!) and so on. This also serves to add an extra layer of protection for fragile items.
Also, keep your chargers, extra headphones, and any other wires rolled up and placed in a spare sunglasses case. This way, they’re easy to access and small enough to transfer from your suitcase to a purse or backpack once you’re back on the ground.
Finally, be sure to put anything that you need to easily access on top—or better yet, in your personal item—so you don’t have to rummage around mid-flight (if you packed a carry-on bag) or once you reach your destination (if you checked your bag).
Read more: 5 Tips for Packing Toiletries
4. Plan to wash the essentials for maximum re-wearability
So you’ve pared down your wardrobe to the bare essentials—well done! But, you’re going on a two-week trip, and you know you’re going to need to wash (in order to re-wear) some items, like leggings or undergarments.
That’s where a bit of laundry detergent comes in. Pack a travel-size detergent in your suitcase. Then, you can easily hand wash any of the essentials you feel need a little TLC during your trip.
Tip: No laundry detergent? No problem? Leverage TripIt’s Nearby Places feature to locate a convenience store near you to pick up what you need.
Planning to need to wash more than a couple items or booking a longer stay? Look for a vacation rental that offers a washer and dryer in-unit. Many hotels offer laundering services, as well (though the prices aren’t as nice as doing it yourself).