Want to learn how to pack your travel bag to save money and time, but not sure where to begin? Lucky for you, I’ve been trial and error testing for the last 4 years, and have developed a pretty streamlined system in that time.
Why did you start packing minimally for travel?
Believe it or not, my mom was my inspiration and instructor on learning how to pack light, and travel smart. The two of up have been taking trips with 1 backpack a piece since 2014 when we jetted off to Italy for a 9 day backpack excursion. Since that trip, we now backpack every single adventure we go on (no matter how long.)
Through a process of extensive trial and error, we’ve near perfected what to bring, what to leave at home, and what bags to put it all in. Today, I’m going to share my secrets with you, to help you travel lighter, and cheaper!
This post is going to cover…
- What backpack and organization system we use
- How to go about packing for a longer trip (I’ll be using a 2 week adventure as an example)
- How to create a cohesive wardrobe that’s functional and fashionable without overpacking (using the capsule wardrobe technique)
That alone should put you on a great path, however, if you want a complete copy of what I pack for multiple climates, you should join my email list! If you do, I’ll send you over my lovely warm and cold weather packing lists, along with lots of other free goodies! (Who doesn’t love freebies right?)
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!
What backpack/suitcase do I use?
Let me start out by saying I have very quickly become anti any suitcase with wheels, or any other non squishy parts. The great part about a minimalist packing style is the great savings! The backpack that my mom and I use (and have recommended to everyone who has ever traveled with us) is amazing for many reasons. One of those is that (provided you don’t overstuff it) it tucks underneath most airline seats.
Because I can usually get some great deals through them, I fly with Allegiant Airlines a lot. They, like most budget airlines, will charge you extra to put a suitcase in the overhead bin, but not for a personal under the seat item (see where I’m going with this?) If you can fit all of your stuff into an under the seat bag, you can save a lot of money, which means getting to travel more!
Quick Disclaimer: We’ve never had any issues with them letting us tuck our bags under our seats, but I can’t guarantee that that will always be the case. Whether or not your bag is packed small enough is up to the discretion of the airline, and if you get someone who’s in a bad mood, they may try to charge you extra.
Along with its cost effective size, these bags are also excellent because of their ample internal space, compression straps on the sides, and many lovely pockets.
Enough droning on though…
The backpack that I so adore is the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior. It comes in several lovely colors, but I personally have the Blue Yonder color! I also attached several patches to mine so it stands out in a crowd and is irrefutably mine. To be specific, a panda and a Batman logo because I’m a wee animal loving superhero geek.
One more note on the bag, we actually turned the shoulder strap that comes with it into padding for the waist-belt, because the one it comes with is a bit uncomfortable without it.
Okay! So that’s the backpack, what do I use to store my stuff within my bag?
I’m glad you asked lovely reader! If one were to just fold their clothes up and toss them into this backpack, it wouldn’t all fit very nicely, and even if it did, it would be a nightmare to get anything out of. Thus, I introduce to you, packing cubes. The revolution that’s sweeping the nation, they’re bold, their styling, and they’re très functional.
Packing cubes work by allowing you to press all of the excess air out of your clothes, to compact them into their smallest possible form. Ergo, you can pack more clothing into a smaller space! Sounds like a no brainer to me.
We used to use these packing cubes. Which are great as they are and enough for most people. However, we’ve since discovered something even more magical.
The mythical double zippered packing cube!
You want to talk about saving space? These things compress clothes like little magic voids. It’s like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag came to life and turned into a packing cube.
Now unfortunately, I couldn’t find the exact brand that we pack in anywhere online as we purchased ours from TJ Maxx. They were by the brand Sharper Image if you really want to go searching.
However, I was able to find several on amazon that look a lot like the ones we use. I can’t personally vouch for the brands, but they seem to have good reviews and look like the ones I use. The ones I’ve found are these by LeanTravel and these by Hynes Eagle. The Hynes Eagle ones are less expensive and have the same rating, but they don’t “look as nice” which is why I put the other ones too. I’m sure both work well, so it’s really up to your personal taste.
I also own a different style of compression packing cube by the brand BigFoot. I don’t personally like the design of them as much as they seem to hold less clothing, but some people prefer these, so again, it’s really up to personal taste.
If you want to scout around yourself for even better deals, what you’re looking for are compression packing cubes. The key word is compression, because that should mean that they have two layers of zippers, which means double the compression…hence the name.
What else do we use to organize our stuff?
There are 2 other packing bags that we use for our other essentials. My electronic cords, and my non liquid/gel toiletries each go in their own separate mini packing cube for a more organized bag. I use these ones by TravelOn, but anything works.
Finally, we like to pack our extra pair of shoes into their own bag. I take two pairs of shoes on just about every trip I go on. One pair of comfy walking shoes, and then either a pair of small waterproof boots, (like my Rubber Converse) or a pair of sandals (like my Keens), depending on the climate. We put our shoes in little drawstring bags, like the ones that come with TOMS shoes. This way, if they get a little dirty, they won’t ruin everything else. It also keeps them compact and organized.
Now that I’ve got my backpack and packing cubes, what do I put into them?
Another good question. I’m now going to present to you the wonders of the capsule wardrobe!
Capsule wardrobes are a system that lets you maximize your outfit combinations, while minimizing what you pack. There are templates all over Pinterest if you want to learn more, but for now, I’ll use an example of a really minimal one to make my point.
Let’s say we need to pack for a two-week trip to New York City. You’ll need to be able to dress for formal and casual, warm and cool. We can do that with 13 pieces of clothing. That’s right, you heard me! Thirteen!
How do we start?
Well, there are three types of colors in a capsule wardrobe. Your base color, your neutrals, and your accents.
Your base color will be either black, navy, or brown. This is the color that will match everything else in your bag, so you’ll want to use it for the pieces you’re gonna be wearing a lot such as bottoms, jackets, and shoes.
Your neutral colors will be a mix among gray, white, and beige. Generally you’ll pick 2 of them, and again, you’ll use these colors for the pieces you’ll wear a lot, but you’ll also use them for tops and accessories.
Finally, you’ll pick your accent color/colors. These are your rainbow colors, and every shade in between. Some common choices are soft pinks, sea blues, deep reds, and mossy greens. It’s simpler to pick just one accent color, but certain accent colors work really well together too.
Putting it into practice
I personally tend to pack a wardrobe made up of black, white, gray, blush, and a soft blue, as those are the colors already found in my closet.
Now, for the pieces themselves, here are the perfect 13 pieces to use as a jumping off point for your minimalistic packing adventure. Several of the numbers list several options so that you can customize it to fit the climate you’ll be in, and your personal style.
- Nice gym shoes/walking shoes
- Sandals or boots (depending on the climate & activities)
- A dress
- A pair of jeans
- A pair of capris, shorts, or nicer pants
- A skirt
- Another skirt, or a pair of capris, shorts, or nicer pants
- A jacket
- A scarf (preferably in one of your accent colors)
- A button up long or mid sleeved shirt
- A flannel, or a button up long or mid sleeved shirt
- A light sweater
- A plain t-shirt
If you pack those 13 pieces alone, you can create 30 different outfits! That’s way more than you need for 2 weeks. I personally often substitute the sweater, and one of the button ups for 2 more t-shirts, but it’s really all up to individual preference. Those 13 pieces are really just there to be a guideline for how to pack light.
Congratulations, you’re now ready to pack like a pro!
Hopefully I was able to help stter you in the direction of what you were looking for, but if you stll have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Also, if you’re like me and travel gets you excited about growth and exploration, you may want to check out my post on the 10 ways to level up your life.
Until next time, have a lovely rest of your day, and before you go, remember, if you want my full packing list collection,