If choosing what to bring on a trip was easy, we’d all follow one of the many available online packing lists, and voila! Everyone would instantly be a lightweight packing expert.
Unfortunately, the pressure to pack correctly can instead strike fear in the heart of even an experienced traveler. With so much potential anxiety – from not wanting to be unprepared, to being nervous about how other travelers will judge us – it sometimes feels like packing comes with constant stress of how to get it right.
The problem with a predefined packing list is that while it may be good for inspiration, it is unlikely to exactly match your unique needs. And as you stray from the list and add extra things to your bag, you’re likely to find yourself where you started: agonizing over everything you bring.
Luckily, there is another way.
We’re here to help you feel good about what you pack, and, most importantly, bring exactly what you need. Our goal is to take the stress out of packing while setting you up to have a great trip. That may mean traveling light, but certainly traveling right – for you.
This is Part 1 – the beginning of our guidance on how to pack, which is followed by detailed steps on how to choose what to bring (Part 2), and how to bring it (Part 3). If you’re still stuck by the time you reach Part 4, maybe some encouraging words will get you on track.
Our Philosophy: How to Pack
Our approach to packing is simple, and it goes like this:
Focus on the Must Haves
Our system begins by identifying the highest priority items you need for your trip. Whatever these things are – a formal outfit, outdoor gear, etc. – only you know, and they are key pieces.
It turns out that this is the easiest part of packing your bag, and you’ll stress if they aren’t right. So we start there and build the rest of what you bring around your highest priorities.
Right not Light
The second aspect of our approach is to not fall victim to anyone else’s packing standard.
Here’s a confession: I often check a bag. Why? Because I’m carrying outdoor gear and activities for my son. Some members of the Bluffworks team are digital nomads (meaning they travel full time while working remotely), and while one may go as light as possible, another carries extra comforts so they always feel at home.
However you like to travel, once you feel confident about what you’re packing, a side effect might be that you begin to pack lighter, because you’ll forego all of the “maybe” items that you aren’t sure you need. Most importantly, you’ll have the confidence that you are bringing what you need… and can resist what everyone else thinks.
Reuse and Laundry are Key
A liberating way to approach your packing is to leverage the magical combination of laundry plus reuse.
I started Bluffworks because I got tired of the hassle of caring for my clothes, but I still needed to look good for work and life in NYC. After years of trying different options, I finally started to make the products for myself, starting with a pair of pants that was work appropriate but machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant. I’m all about efficient clothing.
When we travel, we all want to be comfortable and wrinkle-free, looking good and feeling confident. If we can wear our travel clothes more than once, we can reduce what we carry. Our approach will help you determine just how far you can go with a versatile travel wardrobe, especially with garments intended for reuse.
The second tool is laundry. For a 15 day trip, you could bring 15 pairs of underwear. But doing laundry just once means you only need eight pairs, twice means five; that reductionism also applies to all the things you carry.
Once you get a little experience doing laundry while traveling, you’ll find it's not so bad (I personally find it’s a nice break to relax), and rewearing clothes designed for that purpose can be as comfortable and stylish as any other option.
Must Haves vs. Maybes
When agonizing over an item you’re not sure is worth a place in your bag, your decision will come down to this: do I need it?
Once on a trip that included time in Paris but also a stay at a high mountain resort in the French Alps, I bought a warm hat, but intentionally left out gloves. It was a calculated move to stay streamlined. But, when the opportunity to take a high elevation bike ride presented itself, I knew my hands would be cold.
So I bought a pair of gloves, which then became a memento of my trip, and are a favorite pair to this day. But I could have decided not to buy a pair, either borrowing what I needed or doing without for the day. Either way, it was fine that I didn’t bring them initially.
The point is that nearly wherever you go, people survive there. We can help you develop a perspective rooted in the idea that with all the resources available in the world, travel usually works out just fine in the end.
The beauty of travel is that we are usually pursuing experiences over things. Focusing on this can help us relax and open our eyes to the adventure, where part of the challenge is surviving with less than we think we need.
Everything we’re about to share, veteran packers do in their head. But, I assume you're here because packing is presenting you with a challenge and you need some help and recommendations on how to make it easier. Soon it’ll be second nature for you, too.
So next up: our step-by-step approach on what to pack for a trip.