Unless you’ve been living under a
In the show, people drastically and painstakingly declutter years of junk from their homes. And, in the end, they feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. They feel free. And everything they’ve kept “sparks joy” in their life.
There is a good lesson here that can be easily applied to travel. Specifically, we challenge you to apply the Marie Kondo method to how you pack.
The Goal: Limit yourself to a single carry-on sized backpack or suitcase when you travel.
It doesn’t matter how long you plan on traveling — it can be three days or three weeks. The challenge is fitting everything you need in one carry-on sized piece of luggage.
It’s not as tough as you might think — it just requires a different mindset. But don’t worry because we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step process to turn you into a bonafide one-bag traveler.
And before you know it, you’ll be breezing through Europe (or wherever else your travels take you) while all the other schmucks schlep their 50 lbs suitcases around.
The Zen of One-Bag Travel
(And How It Will Change Your Life)
One-bag travel forces you to cut back to the essentials.
We’re talking one, or maybe two, pairs of shoes.
One or two pairs of pants.
A couple shirts.
A minimal amount of underwear and socks.
A heavy laptop? You might want to just stick to your smartphone or maybe an iPad.
An extra jacket? Ehh, maybe not.
Books? Those things are heavy and bulky.
Shampoo, conditioner, soap, makeup, moisturizer, shaving stuff, skincare products, deodorant… all that stuff is heavy (And you’re not disciplined enough to pack light then the TSA will have no issues throwing away all the liquids that don’t fit in a quart sized bag).
The process of cutting back to the essentials isn’t easy. You’ll struggle. You’ll repack your bag multiple times until you’ve perfected it.
But something happens once you’re on the road without tons of stuff weighing you down. You start to realize that you don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy.
There is no “out of sight, out of mind” because your shoulders become very attuned to every ounce you’re hauling around. You might even start leaving things behind because you don’t want to lug it around.
But, through this process, you start to actually enjoy not “owning” a lot of stuff. Yes, there will be some
And, once your travels are over, you might just find that this new “minimalist” lifestyle starts transferring back to your everyday life.
Do you need all this stuff? Does it, as Marie Kondo says, “spark joy?” Probably not.
Personally, after living out of a backpack for months, I had a bit of an extensional crisis once I returned home. I had so much stuff. I had boxes of things stuffed with crap I hadn’t seen in years. I had more clothes than I knew what to do with. I had random junk stuffed anywhere junk could be stuffed.
This triggered a
And now, after every trip we take, I find myself with the urge to clear out all the junk I’ve unconsciously collected.
Step-By-Step Guide To One-Bag Travel
Perfecting one-bag travel takes a bit of trial and error but don’t worry because we’ve listed a lot of practical tips below to help as you embark on this journey.
Step One: Get A Carry-On Sized Backpack or Suitcase
To truly grasp one-bag travel you need to get your hand on some luggage that’s small enough to be considered carry-on size. Each airline has slightly different size requirements but it’s usually around 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches.
We prefer traveling with backpacks because its hands-free nature lets you navigate things like cobblestones, stairs, and crowded train stations much easier than a suitcase. But no worries if you prefer a suitcase.
There are a number of travel backpacks made specifically to adhere to carry-on size restrictions.
We suggest checking out any of the following travel backpacks:
- Osprey Farpoint 40 ($160)
- Osprey Porter 46 ($140)
- Tortuga Outbreaker 35L & 45L ($269 & $299)
- Tortuga Setout ($199)
- Aer Travel Pack 2 ($230)
Related: Read Our Guide To the Best Travel Backpacks
Step Two: Get Organized
Marie Kondo loves using containers to make sure everything has its designated space. This same concept can also be applied to travel packing.
Packing Cubes are lightweight zippered cloth pouches allow you to easily compartmentalize clothing and other items in your bag. We put socks in one bag, underwear in another, t-shirts in another, etc. Everything has a home so you know exactly where to find everything (and how to repack it all again).
Packing Folders follow the same idea but they’re made for bigger items like shirts and pants.
Related: Read Our Guide To The Best Packing Cubes
Step Three: Choosing Your Clothes
Gather everything you think you’ll need and throw them on the bed.
Next, if you’re like most people, you’ll need to cut at least half the stuff you just pulled out.
Really think about what you need.
Do you really need more than two pairs of pants?
Can you get by with only two pairs of shoes? Absolutely. You can honestly get by with one pair but that might not be for everyone.
Related: See Our Guide To The Best Travel Shoes
You only really need a few shirts. You just need enough underwear for a few days.
Our point is that you need way less than you think because people forget that they can do laundry while traveling.
Consider picking up clothing made from fabrics that lend themselves to travel (durable, wrinkle-resistant, odor-resistant, stain-resistant, quick-drying, etc.). Some of our favorite brands are Bluffworks, ExOfficio, Wool & Prince, & Western Rise.
Step Four: Toiletries
One of the quickest ways to weigh down your bag is with toiletries. It’s easy to add 2-3 pound of stuff without even thinking.
Only pack the things you 100% know you’ll use. If you think you might use something then you’re better off buying it on the road if/when the occasion arises.
Personally, we limit ourselves to shampoo, conditioner, body-wash, basic cosmetics, chapstick, toothpaste, deodorant, and a few other odds and ends. Most everything else we’ll buy while we’re traveling.
Step Five: Electronics
Luckily, your smartphone has basically replaced your computer and camera. Personally, we travel with an iPad Pro and we also use our compact Sony RX100 digital camera but we end up using our iPhone 95% of the time.
Step Six: Get Packing
The moment of truth. Can you fit everything in your bag?
Test it out.
Try wearing your backpack for 20 minutes. How does it feel? Too heavy? Do your shoulders hurt? If so, consider cutting back a bit.
Don’t worry if it takes a few tries to really hone it in.
Step Seven: Enjoy The Trip
Have fun 🙂
No Funny Business
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Thanks For Reading! — Susan and James