In response to my Traveling Light post last week, I received several requests that I list the contents of my carry-on. I’m happy to oblige, as I think we’d all be happier travelers with much less stuff.
Furthermore, my minimalist packing system is no secret—in fact, there’s a certain security official at London Heathrow who could have written this post for me, given the 20 minutes he spent unpacking and inspecting the entire contents while I was trying to make a connecting flight to Venice. (Note: if you don’t want to treat airport security, and dozens of strangers, to an intimate look inside your perfectly packed bag, don’t bring a spork on an international flight.)
The list below covers what I pack for a trip of about 10-14 days (the typical length of my overseas travel). However, I’d pack the exact same stuff if I were traveling for 3 months (I’d just wash more often). For shorter trips and domestic travel, I pack less; and for overnight or two-day trips, I often take nothing more than a large purse.
Because I don’t like to have loose items in my suitcase, I pack almost everything into two “holders”: clothes in a packing cube, and toiletries and miscellaneous items in a large rectangular toiletry bag:
So here you have it—the contents of my minimalist suitcase:
What I’m wearing on flight/travel day:
Black pants (lightweight, straight leg pair that can be dressed up or down)
Lightweight silk cardigan
(This is all I need for an overnight trip, along with some toiletries in my purse—I have no qualms about wearing the same thing the next day.)
In the packing cube:
Black pants (so that makes two pairs total, counting the ones I’m wearing)
Black nylon skirt (long or short, depending on season and itinerary—I’ll often skip this if we’re unlikely to go to a “fancy” restaurant during the trip)
Two or three tops in different colors (in lightweight, packable materials)
5 pairs of underwear
2 pairs of socks
lightweight silk scarf (this folds to practically nothing, and dresses up any outfit)
For winter travel/colder climates: If I’m going somewhere cold, I’ll also include silk long johns—they’re extremely lightweight, take up next to no space, and eliminate the need for bulkier clothing. I’ll also pack one heavier sweater or jacket, and either wear it or lay it across the top of my packing cube and toiletry bag.
A note on shoes: Most of the time I travel with only the shoes I’m wearing (my pair of choice is comfortable for walking, but also appropriate for a nice restaurant). But if I’m bringing a skirt (which means a more formal dinner or activity is on the agenda), I’ll slip in a little pair of ballet flats or dressy sandals.
In toiletry bag:
Small plastic bottle of facial cleanser
Moisturizer (with SPF)
Tiny tube of blush
Small travel brush
Travel-size pump hairspray
One or two travel packets of laundry detergent (the key to traveling light!)
Lightweight, super-absorbent towel
A handful of band-aids
A few ziplock bags
For foreign travel: Small packs/bottles of Immodium, Pepto Bismol (caplets), and Advil (you can’t buy ibuprofen off the shelf in some countries). Though they take up some space, I find it’s easier to have these things on hand than try to request them from a foreign pharmacy, or decipher labels in a foreign language.
Titanium cup (not every hotel provides mugs for coffee/tea)
A couple of tea bags
Spork (great for picnics and eating grocery store fare) (Warning: for domestic flights only—my last one was confiscated by the above-mentioned security official.)
Note: I don’t travel with soap, shampoo, or conditioner; I use whatever’s provided at the hotels in which I’m staying. First, because I *hate* worrying about liquids spilling in my bag, and second, because the hotel provisions are usually more luxurious than whatever I would bring.
Paper confirmations of flight, hotel, train, museum reservations (better to have them than not—my husband spent a morning in Rome looking for somewhere to print off our Vatican reservations)
Photocopy of passport (for foreign travel)
Lightweight nylon purse (used as a day bag), holding the following:
A couple of power bars
Small hand sanitizer or wipes
Small foldable rain poncho (for unexpected downpours)
Passport, drivers license, credit card, debit card, cash
Money belt (for foreign travel)
Book (for long flights or train rides)
Ipod and earbuds (for long flights or train rides)
Camera and extra battery
Maps and *pages* (I tear them out) of guidebooks that relate to where I’m going
You can see from my clothes list that I’ll wear the same outfit multiple times during the trip. Of course, nobody knows (or notices) this other than my husband—and it’s perfectly fine with him.
Everyone has different needs and preferences—this is simply what works for me. I wouldn’t call this ultra-minimalist, as I could certainly get by with less. I’ve included some things that would be considered luxuries or “just-in-cases” (like medicines, titanium cup, iPod, etc). But from my experience, this is the stuff that meets all my anticipated needs, and provides me with a nice level of comfort during my trip.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!