Minimalist Packing Essentials and Top Tips

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Whether I’m traveling for two days or two weeks, my philosophy is this: carry-on or bust! My refusal to check bags may stem from the fact that ten years ago my checked luggage was lost and never found, but I also just love to travel with a really light load.

Packing everything in a single carry-on means less to pack and organize, less decision fatigue getting dressed, and less to haul around on your trip or vacation. Read on for my favorite travel essentials, packing tips, and your very own printable packing checklist so you lighten your load on your next trip!

My Packing Light Essentials

1. Carry-On with Pocket // 2. Packing Cubes // 3. Travel Case Set// 4. Structured Leather Tote // 5. Daily Sun Screen // 6. Lip Balm // 7. Water Bottle //8. Tinted Moisturizer // 9. Jean Jacket // 10. Black Pouch // 11. White Tee // 12. High Rise Jean

Tip One: Check the Weather

Do a quick weather check before you start packing so you can ensure that you have what you need for the climate you’ll be in. Pull out the seasonal essentials you’ll need for your trip, and consider wearing your bulkiest items such as winter coat and boots or summer hat on the plane so you can maximize the space in your suitcase.

Tip Two: Commit to a Daily Uniform

Public Service Announcement: Nobody really notices, or cares, if you choose to wear a version of the same thing each day. Picking a basic uniform that you can wear on repeat makes it easier to pack less. Depending on where I’m headed, I pick out a simple outfit formula that makes sense for the trip I’m on. On my recent two-week trip back east when my time would be spent hopping from home to home for photoshoots, I decided to wear jeans and a casual top each day since I wanted to be comfortable. I also packed one pair of high heel booties for dinners out, and basically wore my white sneakers every day including morning walks. You can also create variety by changing up your shoes and accessories, or even your hair, nails, or makeup if you’ve got skills in that department.

Tip Three: Embrace Monochrome

I love to keep it super simple and wear outfits that are all black, all white, or all denim, but you can get creative wearing head to toe of any color you like! Monochromatic outfits are chic and timeless, and you can also mix and match separate pieces to create brand new outfits. Pick a simple color palette (2-3 colors) for your trip and have fun mixing and matching.

Tip Four: Prep Like a Pro

If you want to feel as cool as a cucumber when it’s time to hit the road, start by doing your laundry well ahead of time and pulling out all of the clothes and accessories you want to pack on your trip. I like lay out everything and compose outfits on my bed to make sure I have enough tops, socks, and underwear for each day. I’ll be honest with you – to minimize stress around my departure date, I like to be completely packed up about one full week before taking off on a big trip. I can generally pack everything in advance with the exception of cosmetics, toiletries and electronics, and I leave a sticky-note on top of my bag with a list of reminders for things that can’t be packed until the last minute. Pro Tip: If you’re tight on space, pack a flat tote in your suitcase in case you pick up gifts or bulky items that can’t fit comfortably into your suitcase on the way home.

Tip Five: Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes help maximize your space by compressing your clothes. I use a small packing cube for packing up socks, bras, and underwear, and a larger one for all of my blouses and tops. I like to group items by type so it’s easy to find what I need when I arrive at my destination. I also use narrow packing cubes for my shoes so they don’t touch my clothes.

Tip Six: Trim Your Toiletries

When it comes to makeup and toiletries I like to keep it super minimal when I travel and focus on packing dual-purpose products like a cheek and lip tint and a tinted moisturizer with SPF. I also like to use up any random samples I have like face wash, moisturizer, or eye cream so I can avoid packing entire bottles or tubs. I generally like to stay at nice hotels, or with friends, so I don’t pack soap shampoo, or conditioner since it is typically provided. I use a leather toiletry bag with a ziplock inside of it for transporting toothpaste, hand cream, SPF, face wash, and makeup.

Tip Seven: Prep Your Handbag

In addition to my carry-on suitcase, I prep my tote or handbag with all of my critical and important items. This includes my passport, vaccine card, copies of my boarding pass, itinerary, or other important docs, masks, hand sanitizer, and any medications. Before my trip I’ll pop in my wallet, cosmetic bag, stain stick, phone, snacks, water bottle, laptop, charging cords, and reading materials. I love using a structured black pouch for these essentials, which can fit neatly in my handbag but also be used as a chic clutch on it’s own once I’ve arrived at my destination.

What I Packed for Two Weeks

Here’s the full break down of exactly what I packed for my last two-week trip to the east coast:

On the Plane

On the plane I wore a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, my bulkiest sweater, and my high top sneakers. I also carried my jean jacket since it wouldn’t fit in my carry-on bag.

In the Carry-on Suitcase

14x pairs of socks and underwear, 3x bras, 1x sports bra, 1x workout legging, 2x sweatshirts, 2x jeans (one black and one white), 12x blouses, t-shirts, and tops, 1x pair of booties, stocked toiletry bag with eyelash curler, mascara, brow cream, lip-cheek duo, tinted sunscreen, travel face wash, travel night cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and deodorant. I also like to pack a cloth laundry bag so I can separate out clothes that need to be washed.

In My Handbag

A warm scarf and beanie, my wallet and passport, my travel docs including vaccine card, and boarding pass, and copies of important docs, charging cords, laptop, book, water bottle, gum, mints, hand sanitizer, and mask.

My Printable Packing Checklist

Want to see if you can lighten your load for your next trip? I’ve got goodies for you! CLICK HERE to download my free printable packing list and CLICK HERE for my favorite capsule wardrobe essentials.

Safe travels, everyone!

P.S. Want more where this came from? Get the book. CLICK HERE to order Minimalista!

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson

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