How to Pack 2 Months of Life Efficiently & Minimally
Jordan and I love efficiency to a fault. Before Christmas we went to an Operation Christmas Child packing center to volunteer with our church. The objective was easy, pack boxes to get them prepared to ship around the world to bring a smile to children. We both got placed on the taping station. We taped the box shut, that was it.
It all started docile enough chatting with our group and getting the hang of the process. But soon enough we were flying through boxes in the challenge to find the most efficient way to get them to the next step. At one point we were foaming at the mouth, with a tape hurricane surrounding us, making use of every second possible. We had an absolute blast because we love working together, creating effective processes and accomplishing tasks (no matter how simple the task is)
Suffice it to say: We LOVE a challenge.
So when it comes to traveling we accepted the challenge of packing as light as possible and not checking bags.
Let’s face it, is it efficient to lug around extra weight, hang around the luggage turnstyles between flights, and have 50 pairs of shirts? Nope! And neither Jordan nor I have checked a bag since we’ve been together. We always stick to just a carry-on whether it be a 2-day, 2-week, or in this case, a 2-month trip.
So this post is a compilation of what we’ve learned in our travels on how to pack efficiently and minimally! And trust me, the more prepared you are in the front end the more enjoyable your trip will be. We’ve seen this time and again and so far we haven’t forgotten anything we couldn’t go pick up at a 7/11.
1) Pack with security in mind
If you are going on a road trip or train trip this piece of advice won’t be especially helpful. But if you are flying you HAVE to pack in anticipation of the hassle of making it through airport security. Laptops & liquids get places of honor in your bag. The even trickier part is that every time you go through security the rules are slightly different. In the JFK airport we had to take off our shoes but didn’t have to pull out our laptop chargers. Beijing had us keep our shoes on but take all our laptop chargers out. It’s always a challenge figuring out on the fly what the rules are. Your best bet is to keep anything other than clothing close to the top of your bag or in an easy to reach pocket.
2) Don’t bring your favorite clothes
Pack things you know you’ll actually wear but don’t pack your absolute favorite pieces! Chances are you’re going to leave it under a hotel bed, spill pad thai on it, or need to leave it behind to make space for all the new treasures you bought. I already have a few items that i’m thinking about leaving behind to make more space.
3) Don’t worry about the little things
Shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent, these things can be found just about anywhere. If you are traveling to a jungle you’ll have to worry about these items but everywhere around the world people get dry skin. So save your back and buy these things when you arrive at your destination. My only exception to this rule is sunscreen. I keep a small container of it with me at all times. I learned my lesson when we traveled to Cancun because the sunscreen was 20 dollars a pop!
4) Versatile wardrobe
This is an oldy but a goody, don’t pack highlighter green shirts and olive green pants. Bring neutrals and make sure everything you pack can mix and match and work together. As a woman I like to pack dresses since they are a whole outfit in one, how can you beat that?!
5) Sturdy wardrobe
What you wear on vacation goes through a lot more than your average day in the office so make sure you’re bringing clothing that will be able to stand the test of time. You may be tempted to pack only pretty/cute things for Insta pics but make sure they won’t tear or stain easily or you’ll be replacing clothing as you go.
6) Buy a vest with a million pockets
This idea was Jordan’s and I’ve never been more proud. Jordan bought a vest with about 20 zipper pockets on it and we used it to keep our passports, phones, money, and boarding passes. Everything that was super important had a place within the vest. Whenever we get to the other side of security mission number one is to ‘grab the vest!’ This way we know we aren’t forgetting any super important items.
You can get his vest right here on Amazon (aff. link)
7) Bring one book
Bring one book and leave it behind after you finish reading it. I love reading while traveling because I always remember the special place I was when I was reading it. We have already scoped out a used book store in Chiang Mai that we plan on frequenting to pick up a new book when we finish what we brought. Books are like oranges and after you squeeze out all the juice in the first read through it’s time to move on.
8) Bring one comfy cozy
It’s easy to over correct and end up bringing nothing that reminds you of home or is a creature comfort. This isn’t wise because there will be days when you’re feeling homesick and times on the plane when you wish you had packed sweatpants. I brought a soft scarf with me to use as a pillow/blanket in the plane and something to cuddle with whenever I need an emotional boost. Do I really need a scarf in Thailand in January? No, but it will still come in handy and is worth carrying around for a couple months.
9) Have a trial packing run a few days prior to the trip
Jordan and I had a good time gathering everything we were going to pack and making sure it all fit into our backpacks at a non-crucial time (a few days before we left). That gave us time to reconsider items and make changes if we needed to. The added bonus was that we got to make sure we didn’t forget anything on our packing list. This is a great tip for long trips especially, since you don’t want to be scrambling 20 minutes before you have to leave.
10) When in doubt leave it behind
Chances are you’ll be having so much fun on your trip you won’t notice that you don’t have a matching pair of earrings for every outfit, or your lucky socks. The important part is that you pack the essentials. In our situation we would’ve been in BIG trouble if we forgot our laptops or laptop chargers so we started with those and worked down to lesser priorities. Honestly if worst comes to worst and you forgot something important you’ll probably get an amusing story out of how you made it without for your trip.
Experiences are currency impossible to leave behind.
In the end we brought two small backpacks and a purse for this two-month adventure. And truth be told we had some extra space to play with! It has already paid dividends packing minimally and I’m already visualizing how to pack lighter for our next trip. Keep these tips in mind when packing for your next adventure!