I have over packed, over stuffed, and over prepared for nearly all of my travels.
In the fear that I might need an extra jacket, shirt, pair of pants, or that I’d just so happen to find myself in a restaurant with a formal dress code, I would pack two weeks worth of clothing for a trip lasting four days.
I’ve finally come to admit it: That kind of overpacking is ridiculous. My original desire to travel never included lugging a huge suitcase across a city, worrying about what outfit I was going to wear, and internally debating myself on whether my shoes match or not.
Traveling is the ultimate avenue towards experiencing the newness, wonder, and sanctity of culture. It’s a moment of perspective, stepping back from your own life, and understanding that the way you live could be dramatically different. Our luggage and the way we pack should not come in between those precious paradigm shifts.
Thus, I made my goal simple and straight-forward. Pack everything I need for a 10 day trip to Costa Rica into one backpack (with a 36 liter gear capacity, to be exact).
This backpack is perfect carry-on size, meaning I don’t have to check any luggage, and it fits right under my seat on the plane. It’s light, has hip and chest straps to distribute the weight, and has a laptop compartment. I’ve had it in my closet for years, so I didn’t spend any time looking for a “perfect” traveling pack. There may be more efficient packs out there, but this one has served me well so far.
To fit everything in the backpack and keep it organized, I rolled my clothes and put them into two separate packing cubes. I also put my loose electronics into zippered bags to keep things neat.
Here’s everything I packed, broken down in list form:
I do a lot of digital work, so I pretty much brought my entire set up so I could work on my projects during my down time. I also read a lot, so the Kindle has become a great companion.
- 2014 MacBook Pro
- Apple MacBook charger
- USB wall charger
- Type-C charging cord (to charge my Google Pixel 2)
- Micro USB cord (to charge my camera and Kindle)
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Foldable headphones
For clothing, I decided to travel with neutral tones, specifically emphasizing the color navy. I packed three bottoms (one pair of shorts, two pairs of fast drying, stretchy pants), two pairs of underwear, six tops, and two dresses. This allowed me to mix and match my outfits for my needs. I wanted my clothing to assist me in my travels, rather than get in the way or cause discomfort. With the clothes I packed, I was able to comfortably work out, hike, swim, sleep, go out to dinner, and explore Costa Rica without any qualms or setbacks.
- Two swimsuits
- Athletic shorts
- Simple floral dress (doubles as a swimsuit coverup)
- Simple midi dress (also doubles as a swimsuit coverup)
- Grey athletic tank top with moisture wicking material
- Grey athletic v-neck with moisture wicking material
- Cotton tank top
- Linen crop top
- Striped crop top
- UPF white button-down sun shirt
- Reef flip flops
- Cotton high waisted shorts
- 2 pairs of fast drying Exofficio undies
- Reusable Baggu shopping bag
- Red bandana
- Cargo pants
Every kind of liquid I brought was under 3.4oz, which is the maximum TSA amount allowed. On my next trip, I’ll likely skip the makeup. I didn’t end up wanting it or using it the entire trip.
- Contact solution
- Cetaphil face wash
- Neutrogena sunblock
- Benzoyl peroxide acne medication
- Miniature conditioner bottles
- Clinique makeup
- Wide toothed comb
- Soft brush
- Eyelash curler
- Fast drying travel towel
And finally, here’s what I wore on my body:
- Rain coat
- Merino wool sweater
- White crop top
- Fast drying Exofficio bra
- Fanny pack
- Athleta travel pants
- Google Pixel 2
I am incredibly grateful to be able to enjoy Costa Rica without thinking twice about my luggage or my clothing. Goodness is whatever lessens our barriers between experiencing new joys and exploring the earth.
Though clothing and luggage are minor parts of a trip abroad, they can be subtle tools that get us closer to what we had in mind when we booked the trip months ago.
On my next go-around, my goal is to pack even lighter.
For other minimalist packing lists, check out here and here.