What Work Travel Has Taught Us About Minimalism and Life

this friday is our one year blogiversary! come back then to see our rundown on year one of our next life, and to give us some feedback on how we can keep improving in year two. and now on to today’s post…

we are definitely not what you would call minimalists. coming into our home, you would find plenty of things on our shelves, almost no empty surfaces generally, and books… books everywhere. (i think on some level, i’ve always been skeptical of any approach to living that includes getting rid of most of your books.) rather than proclaiming to be minimalists, we would say that we are more about living simply, which to us means being super careful about acquiring anything new, being choosy about what we take on in terms of time, and doing as many things as we can ourselves, instead of outsourcing the labor.

related: living simply with plenty of stuff // why we never plan to downsize radically

but even though we don’t consider ourselves to be minimalists, we’ve learned a lot about minimalism — and life generally — from one particular thing that we do a lot: travel for work.

work travel has become an ever-present force in my life, especially. i do it virtually every week, sometimes more than once in a week (like this week and next!), and even though we work from home, i think of the drive from our house to the airport in the nearest city as “my commute.” i know everything about my travel routines in detail — how long it takes to drive from our garage to the airport parking garage, how long i need to get through tsa precheck and to the gates at my home airport, which stand makes the best almond milk latte, which water fountain shoots up the highest jet of water for filling my water bottle after security, which gate agents are the nicest, which seats i prefer on which aircraft, and almost all of that same info at the airports i most commonly connect through and fly into. it would be easy to see all of this as too much info cramming my brain, but i’ve come to see it as making travel easier, because it removes the decisions.

related: how to make work travel more like real travel

for years, when i was traveling gradually more and more for work, i was all about adding. adding better luggage. adding travel gadgets and gizmos to make things “easier.” even adding a second set of luggage so i had one for longer trips, and one for shorter trips (but all still carry-on size). but now that travel has become a force in my life more like weather — closer to an everyday occurrence — all i want to do is subtract. to find the essential in the things i bring and the things i do, and get rid of absolutely everything else. and through that desire, i’ve connected powerfully with the notion of minimalism: omit needless things.

bring less

the most obvious aspect of minimalism and travel is to lighten one’s load. for years i have been a proponent of bringing only what you can carry on, for a lot of reasons: less luggage to have to manage at your destination and on public transportation, the flexibility to stand by on other flights, avoiding checked bag fees, avoiding time spent arriving at the airport early to check bags and time spent waiting at baggage claim, etc. but it was only when i switched from a rolling bag to a backpack that i truly embraced the principle of bringing less rather than more, hearkening back to eat the financial elephant’s guest post on the weight of your decisions.

literally carrying the weight of everything i bring, and not just once in a while, but in multiple hikes up and down long airport corridors each week has made me question before each trip, did i use that thing last time? is that something i could take out of the backpack? there’s now a bin of things under our bed that i once bought for travel, and have since decided they aren’t worth their weight. things like a lint roller, an immersion coil heater, a travel hair dryer, a small power strip, an extra pair of reading glasses.

a minimal packing list. the things that do make the cut now are only the most obvious: as few clothes for meetings as possible (with a bias toward things i can wear multiple times), a shirt and pants that as pajamas and workout clothes, a pair of folding ballet flats, underwear, a cloth bag for dirty clothes, a small bag of toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, argan oil, mascara, deodorant), eye mask and earplugs, an insulated water bottle (for coffee and water), my laptop and power cord, my kindle, my phone, charging cords, a backup power brick, reusable bamboo utensils, a pen and notebook, sunglasses, lip balm, house keys, wallet, jacket and/or umbrella only if necessary. that is everything.

i now frequently have cabbies and hotel bellman ask, “where’s your actual luggage?” because i usually have just a small backpack and a small purse. and yet i feel perfectly well equipped by what i bring with me, even though it’s less than i used to carry, and far less than the giant bags i see people struggling with frequently at the airports.

do less

it’s easy to let travel become a time suck outside of the actual travel time, and as i’ve done it more, i’ve tried to streamline this too. i just got tired of spending so much time packing and unpacking and repacking, picking the perfect outfits, and basically thinking about every trip from scratch. so i minimized that routine too.

never unpack. this is my best tip for you, if you want to travel with greater efficiency. when a trip is done, don’t unpack. the entirety of my routine when i get home a trip is to pull my laptop and any dirty clothes out of my travel backpack, and then put the pack under the bed (don’t worry — i’m diligent about checking my hotel rooms for bed bugs, and i never put my backpack on upholstered surfaces). then, when it’s time to pack for the next trip, all i have to do is add some clothes and underwear, and put my laptop back in. and i never get stressed anymore that i forgot something.

adopt a minimalist wardrobe. while i haven’t gone for a full-on minimalist wardrobe at home like des has, i have adopted a tiny capsule wardrobe for travel. this cuts down on “outfit planning” time, and makes it easy to manage laundry. plus, it has helped affirm the idea that most people really don’t notice what you wear, so long as you are presentable. now i bring only a pair of yoga pants from athleta that pass for work pants and are wrinkle-proof, two black tops, a black knit blazer that is work-passable, a nicer printed blazer only when necessary, a reversible shift dress that can be either black or gray, and a cardigan that can go with any of the other items. if i’ll be somewhere for a whole week, i might add one more top. packing all of this up takes at most two minutes per trip, and i’m grateful to get that time back.

do less at the destination. while i’m a huge fan of multipurposing work trips as fun trips, for places where i go often, i am much happier doing as little as possible so that i don’t add time stress. this is a big one for me: to avoid having to figure out multiple meals out, i’ll hit up a local whole foods or coop once, and buy food i can eat for the whole trip. (bonus: much healthier too. most business travelers rapidly become unhealthy from so much restaurant food.) whenever i see other chances to do less, i take them.

be less

just like with lifestyle inflation (and blog comment inflation), travel ego inflation is a real thing. the airlines and the hotels get a whole lot nicer to you, the more you travel, at least in terms of benefits they throw at you. checking into my hotel last night, they gave me a free breakfast voucher just for my loyalty and a whole bottle of wine (i turned it down), in addition to upgrading me to one of the nicest rooms in the hotel. when i fly, i get upgraded more than half the time. it’s easy to start feeling like you deserve this stuff. like there’s something about you that’s more worthy of the perks than the infrequent travelers around you. so this one is more of an aspiration and resolution for me: i’m determined not to let any of this stuff go to my head. mostly because traveling a lot doesn’t change anything fundamental about me, but also because this is temporary. once we quit our jobs in two years or less, we will lose all of preferential treatment. we’ll have to ride in the back of the plane like everyone else, and settle for the most basic hotel rooms.

one of my early career mentors is an incredible woman who treats everyone with respect and dignity. i recently traveled with her — it had been many years — and saw that she leaves not only a tip for housekeeping every time she stays at a hotel, but she actually writes them a note thanking them for preparing her room and making her stay special. she is an astonishingly successful woman, the type for whom housekeepers would often be invisible, and yet she takes the time to write that thoughtful note whenever she travels. i decided to adopt that habit, and it strengthened my resolve to thank everyone i encounter with the hotels and airlines. because i want to appreciate people, not take them for granted, and part of that means never getting too big a head about whatever travel status i might have.

what i’ve learned

after the longer trips especially, when i’ve functioned just fine with a small bag of clothes and not much else, i often get home and think, we don’t need all this stuff. and that’s true. and maybe one day we’ll downsize a lot of it. traveling has absolutely helped me connect in a very real way to the principles of minimalism, and i now see it as an entirely realistic philosophy that isn’t actually about getting rid of all your books. through it i’ve learned that i can almost always make due without something, and that subtract is usually a better answer than add.

any traveling readers want to weigh in? any other tips you’ve adopted in your travel routine that you want to share? or on minimalism generally — any great lessons you’ve learned other ways? think you’ll try any of the tips we mention here? please share in the comments!

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Categories: goals

56 replies »

  1. I am definitely one of those minimal packers. In fact, I feel like a personal failure when I have to check a bag, even if it’s due to something completely outside of my control. The less stuff that I bring with me on a trip, the better.

    Yes, I’ve been known to wash a shirt or two in the hotel room sink with soap – it actually works really, really well for what it is. I don’t bring bath soap or shampoo – the hotel will have that. I don’t need anything special besides the very basics of everyday life that I use at home. If I can’t fit it in my personal carry-on, I *usually* don’t need it bad enough and leave it home.

    I might be traveling a bit more in the very near future for another assignment at work, so I’m sure that I will come up with a few additional techniques to keep my profile low. :)

    • I’ve definitely washed a thing or two in a hotel sink — no shame! ;-) I bring a big bar of soap just to avoid wasting the small bars (since I never finish them at the hotel), but that’s my own preference — I definitely get people wanting to lighten their travel load and not bring stuff the hotels provide! And if you do amp up your travel, please share any tips you learn! I’m always looking to optimize. :-)

  2. I only travel once or twice a year for work – and I am a backpack kind of girl. My co-workers are amazed – especially when they realize I’ve packed workout clothes and sneakers. Even when my son and I go on adventure trips – I pack a big backpack and he has a little tiny one with toys and his snacks. I just like keeping it simple!

    But – it isn’t always that simple – family vacations with the whole lot of us usually require an actual suitcase. Sometimes I wonder if that is the benefit of being a woman – our clothes and shoes are smaller… easier to travel light!

    • I LOVE hearing when other women pack light, too! To be honest, I think I see more women than men with backpacks these days — the old boys are still attached to their rolling bags. And yeah, as Maggie also pointed out, it makes total sense that traveling with the family would require more stuff.

  3. Minimal packing, paired with dedicated gear, is the way to go, all right. I too learned that from work-travel, and have held onto it for family-travel.

    Much easier to help the wife and daughters (even strangers) with their luggage (emphasis on LUG!) when I have free hands and little weight on me. My older daughter took up on minimal packing early, which helps as she tours as part of her professional dance training.

    • Sounds like you have a good system down! That’s terrific. And how great that your older daughter has a similar approach — plus her dance training sounds amazing!

  4. If only traveling with kids was the same! We get treated with no respect at all. :) My favorite thoughts here are carrying the weight of everything. I try to teach this to my kids who are in charge of their own carry-on backpacks. But it doesn’t seem to matter. They lug their super heavy backpacks through the airport just so they have every book, activity, and toy they want on the airplane! I also love the thought of writing notes to the housekeeping staff. I don’t do that, which is odd because I was a custodian for a few years in college and I used to imagine how great it would be to open an office door and have there be a candy bar and a big thank you note on the floor for me. Never happened. :) But I should certainly be doing that for others!

    • Oh to have a child’s resilient body! Kids can manage those heavy packs without being in pain the next day. :-) For sure traveling with kids requires more stuff, so I think it’s the same old thing of finding the right balance. And you’ve totally given me an idea — maybe I’ll leave an occasional candy bar, too. :-)

      • I always kept thinking “When I have an office, I’m totally going to do that for the night custodians!” – I’ve never had an office. :)

      • Once, while lifeguarding in college, in the rain, a guy come up and gave me $20 for my dedication. Pretty much made my year. So yeah, I can definitely share more love.

  5. I travel about once per month, and am usually only gone for one night per trip, so I’m just perfecting my routines. But I definitely am getting better about keeping it simple! I find that the one crucial item is sneakers, because I feel so much better when I work out when traveling. Like you, my sleep clothes double as workout clothes. I have a kindle app synced on my laptop and phone, so no need for a heavy book or Kindle.

    Decluttering to me is part of the whole process of identifying what is valuable and what is not, so I fully appreciate the concept of minimalism. But I also don’t see myself downsizing for the next 15 years, so my goal for now is to just value what I have and not add to it. Travel certainly helps me, especially traveling alone. I understand what is essential for keeping my mood up (exercise, healthy food, plenty of sleep, and connecting with my family) and what is not (just about everything that lives in my basement!).

    Fascinating to get some insight into your life, ONL. I can see how you would be eager to move on to the next phase–I find value in my travel as it puts my life in perspective, but I have no desire to travel more than I do!

    • That’s great you’ve already trimmed back what you bring when traveling — I bet it will keep reducing over time. :-) Good for you for prioritizing your workouts when traveling. I used to bring sneakers, but now do more barefoot forms of exercise when traveling — either yoga or a kickboxing video in my room. LOVE not schlepping sneakers, but I totally get that others want to be able to get out and run or use cardio equipment.

      We’re in just about the same place as you — we’re not focused on downsizing, but ARE focusing on acquiring very little.

      And we’ll have more details on our life this Friday when we mark our blogiversary. :-)

  6. I almost always only bring enough that can fit under the seat in front of me. I hate waiting for luggage. I generally put everything into a bag that used to be a breast-pump bag. Then I have my messenger bag for papers and pens and so on.

  7. That was great. You are in control of how minimalistic you choose to be. It doesn’t control you. And your travel tips are fabulous! I’m not a flyer, but hubby, “junior”, and I like to move. A lot! So I’m at a point now that at any time we can fill up the minivan with everything we own (except for furniture) and we’re good to go. That gives me a feeling of freedom. I do like that.

    • Thanks, Kay! Wow — everything in a minivan! That’s pretty amazing. We are definitely not hoarders or major acquirers, but we have ::cough cough:: a *little* more stuff than would fill a van. :-)

  8. I am definitely the person who packs 3 bags of stuff “just in case”. Of course, I haven’t actually travelled anywhere in probably 2 years, so we’ll see how I do next time with my recently acquired minimalist mindset.
    I laughed at your suspicion of getting rid of your books; that was totally me for years (ever since my mom donated my books as a child :( traumatized.) but what clicked for me was that the books I have should be books I really love and would read over and over, not just books for the sake of having books. Besides, it’s a nice feeling to donate the books to a school. :)

    • Haha — I’ve been there, too! I bet you’ll bring less next time. :-) And I love the idea of donating books to a school. We trimmed back our books a ton during our last move, and haven’t acquired many since then, so most we have now are really the most beloved ones. :-)

  9. Anytime I travel domestically, i limit my self to one duffle-bag! Having minimal items makes the trip less stressful, Im able to fit clothes, laptop, and toiletries into my small duffle-bag and thats all I need when I travel!

  10. Impressive! I don’t think about a lot of these things because of very little travel in the past few years (paying off that debt). However, your attitude about focusing on simple necessities instead of bringing along everything you might need, applies to many other areas of life. I too have adopted a basic wardrobe rotation and no longer feel pressure to be trendy or meet some different-outfit quota. It’s so refreshing to read posts from bloggers who no longer feel the need to occupy their days with the stressors of the mainstream. Nearly everyone in real life seems so preoccupied with satisfying the perceived requirements of “living the American dream.”

    • Thanks, Harmony! I hadn’t thought about it that way — no longer filling time with the stressors of the mainstream — since I have plenty of other stressors. :-) But it’s *definitely* true that I’ve stopped worrying about looking a certain way (like a “business traveler”) or having to impress people with my incredible array of outfits and shoes! It’s probably equal parts deliberate choice and just being beaten down by all the travel, but I’ll take it either way! :-)

  11. I love love love the thank-you note idea. And I’m a big fan of backpacks, especially for personal travel when I just need jeans and a few tshirts/underwear/toiletries. I’ve literally spent two weeks in Europe with just a hiking daypack and it’s bliss: so easy to get around.

    • I know — I was so inspired by the thank you notes! I am trying to get in the habit of doing it every time (still forget sometimes). And yes — “bliss” is a great word for it, especially when you see other people struggling to manage their huge bags. So nice to handle stairs with ease and never struggle with big bags!

  12. Wow, I LOVE the anecdote about your mentor who leaves a tip and note for the housekeepers. That’s very inspiring. I will try to remember to do that next time I stay in a hotel. Also love the Strunk & White reference. :)

    What an interesting perspective on minimalism. I love that you’ve really thought about your travel routine in a philosophical way. Airline travel has never sounded so zen-like to me before. My sense is that a lot of people who travel for work easily fall into complaining about the travel, so it’s cool that you’re choosing to take a different approach.

    Wonder what you will think of my upcoming (maybe next month) post about why I got rid of around 80% of my books. :)

    • I love me some Strunk & White, but I can’t figure out what reference I (accidentally) made! :-) Mind filling me in??

      It is so true that most frequent travelers complain about everything. For a long time, I did it, too. But then I realized: Complaining wasn’t making me happier, it wasn’t making travel easier, and it was disrespecting the employees who work hard at their jobs but can’t control everything. So I stopped. Now I try hard to keep a sense of humor about all of it, and trust that people are doing their best. Travel comes with delays, it comes with hiccups. We shouldn’t all act surprised when it happens!

      I can’t wait to read you books post! I am not opposed to the concept in general of getting rid of books, I’m just attached to mine! :-) And, in truth, we’ve gotten rid of TONS of books over the years, so I’m probably overstating my aversion.

      • Oh, haha, I meant “omit needless things” — it sounds so similar to Strunk & White’s “omit needless words!” (also great advice) that I assumed it was a clever reference to that. Probably it’s just because I read Strunk & White during my formative years and so some of the memorable sentences really stuck. Maybe you made the reference subconsciously. :)

      • Well… You know I don’t exactly follow that rule. Hello, 3000+ words this week! ;-) But I’m sure you’re right that the rule is in my brain somewhere.

  13. My situation is similar except that I travel a lot via my car for work and typically I’m gone for 2-3 weeks at a time. When I first started this job it was all about trying to pack more stuff into my car that I “needed” to make things easier while at work. However, the longer I do this and the more that I travel the less I want to take with me. It gets to the point that for the days that I am home I don’t even get my car fully cleaned out because I know that I’ll just have to load it back up. That means we take my wife’s car everywhere whenever I’m home, although hers is much nicer than mine anyways. Our house is far from minimalist but there’s plenty of things that I want to get rid of pertaining to my work stuff. Aside from the basics that I need in terms of work clothes, regular clothes, my laptop and some books to read there really isn’t a whole lot more that I need to get by. I’ve started trimming down the things that I take with me and trying to take less and less each time I head to work. It just makes everything so much simpler.

    • Wow, I think that’s super impressive that you’ve streamlined your stuff so much given that you travel by car. With a car you’re not having to physically carry anything, so it’s a lot more tempting to throw more stuff in. (Like when we camp, we’re ruthless about weight when we go backpacking, but we’ll throw every old thing in for car camping!) Thanks for sharing that perspective — I think your example is super interesting!

  14. I love this post and definitely relate. I travel for work almost every week. Your approach to travel definitely changes and improves the more you do it! I am fortune right now to be traveling to the same destination each week. Therefore, I am able to leave clothing etc. at my location. I no longer even take a carry-on. This makes the frequent work travel so much easier, but I am also afraid I am becoming spoiled! While I have embraced a more natural/minimalist routine and appearance on a personal level, I struggle with this in the professional world. For example, I feel that the female arriving at work meetings wearing the expensive suit, full make-up, and heels is automatically extended a higher level of respect than the female coming in with the business casual outfit/ballet flats regardless of knowledge and/or competence. I feel that at least in my industry I can’t break through this perception. It is beyond frustrating! I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Also, I am curious if you are reimbursed at cost for meals, etc. or do you receive a per diem when you travel? I am compensated by per diem and because I travel so much, this really makes an impact on our budget. The per diem I receive basically covers our grocery/food expense for the month. While the constant travel can be a pain, I would hate to give that up!

    • Hi, travel twin! :-) Man, you are living the dream if you get to leave your bag at your travel destination… I wish! I think the wardrobe thing is super sector-specific and also region-specific. If I went into my meetings in heels and a crisp suit, I would be written off as “too slick,” but I definitely know I’d come across as too sloppy in plenty of other fields. And I get reimbursed for cost on meals and such, which has the plus-side of letting me get pricier meals sometimes without worrying about whether it exceeds per diem. So while I can’t pocket any overage, I can try places while traveling that we wouldn’t pay for with our own money. :-) But it DOES help our budget that I’m gone so much and have meals covered — that still helps our grocery budget either way!

  15. Sounds like you’ve got this travel thing down. :) I don’t travel much for business, but when I do for business or pleasure I do try and pack as light as possible. Just saw a piece of luggage with a scale built into the handle to make sure it was under weight. Handwritten note to the cleaning staff at the hotel? No that’s a people person. I can see why she’s successful.

    • I tried to guesstimate, and think I’ve been on about 1000 flights in my life… so it’s been a very gradual evolution to get such a good system down. Hmm… luggage with a scale in the handle seems like one of those things you only need if you’re a MAJOR overpacker. ;-) Otherwise the question should be, “Can I easily carry this if I have to run to catch a connection, and can I easily lift this overhead into the bin?” And yeah, my mentor is crazy good at that people stuff, and is much beloved for it! I feel really lucky to have learned from her, though I am not nearly as naturally socially gifted!

  16. This is so great you guys – and thank you so much for the shout out!

    I love soooo much about this post, from the “get rid of my books? YOU GET RID OF YOUR BOOKS this is the worst” feeling about minimalism to the wonderful example your career mentor set – I’m going to start doing that in hotel rooms! (But back to the books – I literally skipped that section when I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.)

    And it sounds like your packing approach is honestly more minimal than mine at this point! While I’ve also trimmed it down to a carry on, thanks in large part to the uniform, I still pack that carry on as tight as humanely possible – unless, because I am the marketing sherpa, I have to check a bag full of trade show supplies anyways. Then, all bets are off. But above all, I love that you’ve taken such an intentional approach to optimizing and appreciating your frequent travel for work, and I loved reading about it!

    • Haha — I did actually read the books chapter, but I’m sure I was imagining shaking my fist the whole time. The joy that books spark isn’t captured by taking each book individually — sometimes they spark joy as a whole collection. :-) I’m totally willing to bet that you will gradually streamline how much you pack as you travel more — it’s just a natural evolution. But yeah, sometimes you have to lug that marketing stuff, and that just is what it is! :-)

  17. I was shocked the first time I traveled with Mrs. SSC. We were interns going on a 2 night trip to Houston, and I had a small roller bag, because it’s just what I had, the other guy, the same, the other 2 girls had huge luggage that had to be checked and Mrs. SSC had a small backpack and a purse…
    My current job, I don’t travel much, but my last trip was 2.5 days and I got everything into a messenger bag, even workout shoes. It felt pretty awesome!
    Generally, I try to be minimalist, but Mrs. SSC says no way I succeed. I think there is something to be said in that women have way less bulk in shoes, underwear, and even being able to pull off yoga pants for work. It’s amazing how much pure bulk is taken up with just socks, underwear and God forbid, if you have to pack a pair of full size shoes as a guy. :)

    • Roller bags are still pretty ubiquitous in first class and the front of economy sections, so you weren’t an outlier for having one! But how cool that you managed to have just a messenger bag for your last trip! I definitely understand on shoes for men — and Mr. ONL never gets his stuff down as small as mine. :-) But minimizing shoes is itself a strategy. I’m a huge fan of shoes that look like a business casual shoe but are actually sneakers. If you have a pair of those, and don’t have a business formal meeting, you often can just wear those shoes the whole time with no other shoes needed. Or if you wear a suit multiple days, just change the shirt or tie, instead of packing another suit. :-)

  18. This sounds so familiar. For about 2 years I had a job where I travelled each week to work on the client site. I left on Monday Morning and usually came back Friday evening. I went carry on, but needed something to have works and regular cloths for the week.
    I understand the do not unpack. I did not unpack in the hotel. At home I removed the dirty cloths but kept everything else in there… One worry less for the Sunday evening.

    Food wise I was more a go-eat-out type… No hassle, fun with colleagues. IT is like that I got to discover sushi… best discovery ever

    • That’s pretty great that work travel helped you discover sushi! That’s worth it for sure. Wow — that sounds like quite a grind that you had for those two years. Did you have to stay in a hotel during the weekdays, or did you have an apartment?

      • Most of the time it was 4 nights in a hotel. In some occasions I took an apparthotel for the longer term. This made the travel even lighter as I could leave some items in the hotel.
        It was fun, to do, but also difficult on relationships… So, all the kudos to you as couple to pull this off!

      • Wow — that sounds intense! Though I’m sure it was better, as you said, when you could leave some things at the hotel. And yeah, it’s for sure tough for relationships, but easier for us than for people with children!

  19. I love the idea of never unpacking. I think I will do that for our annual vacation and leave all of the items that I pack for that trip in the suitcase since we rarely use it throughout the year. I anticipate this new strategy will drastically reduce the stress that builds the day before our departure. Excellent post on travel minimalism!

    • I definitely recommend that approach, especially if — as you say — you don’t use that stuff the rest of the time when you’re not traveling. It has definitely lessened the time and stress of packing for me!

  20. Wait…there’s a pair of Athleta pants you have that can serve as work pants, too?! Please fill me in – I am always down to learn about staple wardrobe items that have multi-purpose functions (vs. having to incorporate more, pare down to less like the theme of this post!). These ideas are amazing, and although I don’t travel via airplane often we often travel up North to Portland almost on an every other weekend basis. I’ve adopted a lot of these habits but incorporate a weekender bag instead. I have one toiletry travel bag (TSA approved!) that has all the items necessary (toothbrush, contact solution, extra pair of contacts, toothpaste, etc.). It’s always ready to go for whichever trip I go on that stays consistently packed. I never buy additional items to fill this bag until they’ve completely run out. Also – that handwritten note idea is amazing. No matter who you give a handwritten note to it is always so much more rich & personal. I am happy to hear you’ve incorporated that into your travel routine! :)

    • Yes! The pants I basically live in are the Bettona Classic pant (http://athleta.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=1&pid=819227002). They *never* go on sale, so you have to wait until they have a rare sitewide sale to get them down to a less sickening price. But I can definitely say that they keep looking good and crisp after MANY washings — I’m sure I’m at least 40 washes into my current pair, and they have barely faded. You for sure have to wash them way more than jeans, but they don’t wrinkle, and are comfy on the plane — big plusses for traveling!

      That’s cool that you’ve figured out a good system for travel packing! It sounds like you can get out the door fast, which is the absolute best. And YES, I *love* leaving the handwritten notes now. I almost feel bad for all the years I didn’t do it, but better late than never, right? ;-)

  21. Bookmarking this post.
    For me, the more I bring, the more physically stressed I feel. I feel like I am trying to keep track of each individual item I have packed.
    When I pack light, I stress less. I have fewer items to worry about, and I know that they are replaceable.
    I have also done this with my wallet. I used to carry a big wallet with every card I possess. Now I just bring my ID, a few cards, and a little bit of cash.
    It’s amazing how simplifying can reduce stress…

    • So, so true! It’s been a multi-year process of getting my bags as light as they are, but it’s SO worth it. Traveling light is the absolute best, for a thousand reasons. :-)

  22. I would totally do what you do in airports if I flew as much as you. I already think about which car I want to get on the subway so I get exit the station II’ travelling to quickest and how to get my groceries in the most efficient manner at the store.