When your family decides to pack up all of their possessions and move across the world, you learn a thing or two about how to pack a suitcase. My packing skills were honed very young since my parents’ idea of traveling almost always meant international travel. At one point, we rented a 20-foot shipping container to move everything we owned, from furniture and clothing to kitchen appliances and books, from the United States to Australia. If there is one thing I know how to do well: it’s how to pack like a minimalist.

Choose the Right Suitcase

Scout know how to pack a suitcase.

Scout is ready for our next adventure. She’s posing next to our Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0. (Photo courtesy of Megy Karydes, Foodie TravelingMom.)

Many people are averse to using hard-sided suitcases. I think that’s a big mistake. Their rationale is that a soft case is more flexible, thereby allowing one to shove more things into every nook and crevice.

A hard suitcase that conveniently opens in the middle is ideal for a packing minimalist. It allows one to pack and see things better than if they were all shoved in a case. Left side could be for your shoes, socks and toiletries, for example, while the right side could be for your clothing. A mesh zippered barrier keeps things from straying too far and the hard case is a better guarantee of your contents not getting destroyed.

Suitcase Must-Have

Another suitcase must for a minimalist: four wheels instead of two. When moving from Point A to Point B at a large airport, those two additional tiny wheels are a game changer.


Most recently I had the opportunity to test-drive the Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury 2.0 (21 inch). Within one month, my daughter, husband and I all used it on separate trips, on two road trips and two flights. It received rave reviews by everyone for being easy to pack, lightweight, and, most importantly, easy to navigate.

Only Two Pairs of Shoes

Shoes seem to be the biggest packing issue for both men and women since most of us wear more than one pair in any given week. If you’re a runner, you need to pack your running shoes. Suits will require dress shoes while after hours might require sandals. For some destinations or seasons, boots are necessary. I try to limit myself to only two pairs of shoes when traveling and one of those pairs is on my feet (meaning I’m only packing one pair). If I’m going to be somewhere for more than a day or so and want to pack my running shoes, they’ll go in, too, but that’s the most I’ll take.

Photo credit: Lorraine Robertson / Marathon TravelingMom

Photo credit: Lorraine Robertson / Marathon TravelingMom

(You’re lucky I’m saying two pairs because Kamryn Adams, Life Coach TravelingMom, thinks one pair of shoes is more than enough (at least for business trips. But then there’s Road Trip TravelingMom Karyn Locke, who packed 14 pairs of shoes into her Ricardo Roxbury 2.0! That’s right. 14 pairs. Definitely not a packing minimalist.)

The trick here is to be thoughtful about the clothes you pack (which Adams also covers in her piece). If you’re going to be walking a lot and need good walking shoes, wear those and make sure the clothes you’re packing go well with those shoes. Pack your running shoes and, viola, you’re done!

I realize this won’t work for everyone because different circumstances often dictate the types of shoes required. My point is that sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be. I’m not the kind of person who needs a different pair of shoes for every single outfit I pack.

Watch Those Liquids

With regulations around liquids so strict at airports, my goal is to limit the amount of liquids I need to pack. As an added plus, if you bring only as much as you’ll need, rather than entire containers, your bag weighs less. For example, make-up remover doesn’t come in a bottle for me. I prefer wipes and only take as many as I need in a zipped baggie. Ideally, I’ll have only taken the exact amount that I need so I don’t return with any.

Same goes with items like deodorant. Rather than packing an entire bar and only using a bit, I prefer to pack a new item called Swipe, a pocket-sized, bio-degradable, single-use deodorant wipe that provides protection and smells nice. Bonus is that I can carry those in my handbag, too, in case I need to use them in the middle of the day.

Packing well is an art form and I realize some people don’t have a problem packing everything in their suitcase. However, packing like a minimalist and taking with you only what you need makes it easier to pack, to carry your suitcase around, and, frankly, to get ready for the day, which leads to more time to do: enjoy the trip!

Are you an overpacker, underpacker or just-right packer? Tell us in the comment section below.