Aside from actually planning a vacation, packing for a vacation is one of the most time-consuming tasks. As soon as you open that empty suitcase, your mind suddenly becomes full of ‘what-ifs’. What if I stain all of my shirts? What if I get bored and don’t have an entire book series to read? What if I happen to need a bathing suit in the Alaskan wilderness? Needless to say, we’re not always rational when packing. If you’re looking to lighten up your load, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll walk you through some tips to help you downsize your packing so you can leave your bags roomy and (more importantly) be able to stuff plenty of souvenirs in for the trip back.

1. Plan Ahead & Check the Weather

Last-minute packing means you’re more prone to impulsively bringing unnecessary items. Save space in your luggage—and save your sanity—by creating a minimal packing list ahead of time, and sticking to it. Regardless of how long you’ll be on the road, as a general guideline you should pack around the following:

  • Five tops
  • Four bottoms
  • Five pairs of socks and underwear
  • Two pairs of shoes
  • A jacket/cardigan
  • A lightweight rain jacket

Research the prospective weather of where you’re staying to determine how cool or warm you’ll need your clothing to be, and whether you need to account for rain or other issues.

2. Buy Toiletries On Location

Many travelers seem to forget that basic toiletries are universal. While your destination may not have your favorite brand of toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, razor, etc., you’re bound to find products that will do the job. Go toiletry shopping at a local store once you arrive, which is an excellent way to save room and downsize your packing—you may find that prices are cheaper, too. If you absolutely can’t part with a specific item, try to buy it in a travel or sample size.

3. Roll More, Fold Less

This is probably one of the most common travel tips, but it’s popular for a good reason: rolling your clothes takes up far less space than folding and allows you pack them more accessibly. If done correctly, it can also help your clothes avoid wrinkles. Rolling is ideal for t-shirts, pants, swimwear, and other casual items. Bulkier items like sweaters, button-up shirts, and formal wear are better suited for folding.

4. Use Packing Cubes or Storage Bags

Believe it or not, you can compress your rolled or folded clothing even more! Buy packing cubes to separate and organize your shirts from your pants and zip them compactly into place. They easily stack on top of each other and are available in a range of sizes for all your packing needs. For a cheaper alternative, you can slip clothes into an airtight zip bag and squeeze out the air.

5. Go for Versatility

One of the very best tips to downsize your packing: instead of bringing specific clothes for individual outfits, pack versatile pieces that will work for multiple outfits. Neutral colors are your best bet when it comes to mixing and matching clothes, and of course it’s always good to include at least one or two more colorful items to add some fun. You should also aim to bring sturdy, closed toe and open toe shoes that you can easily dress up or down.

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6. Bulk Up for Travel

If you’re planning a trip to a cold destination and can’t part without your parka, consider wearing it on the plane instead of packing it. Even when you try to cram them into zip bags or cubes, large jackets, sweaters, and shoes can take up valuable space in your luggage. Wearing them or stowing them away in a nearby storage compartment on your plane, bus, train, or car is a good solution. Besides, you may appreciate the warmth in a frigid plane cabin!

7. Wash While Abroad

Are you wondering how you’re going to survive a month-long trip with so few clothes? Worry not: if you pack a little laundry detergent (or buy some on location), you can refresh your clothes whenever you wish. Check into your accommodation to see whether they offer washing machines, or if there’s a laundromat nearby. You also can bring along a sink stopper and wash your clothes right in the sink. You may also want to consider a travel drying line to dry your clothes cheaply afterwards.

About the Author

As the managing director of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at!
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