The JJC’s Guide to Minimalist Packing Like a Pro

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When I showed up in Morocco with a 60L backpack strapped to my back and another 10L baby bump of a day pack to my front, I couldn’t have been prouder. I had packed all I needed for a 16-day trip into these two bags. They were both full to the brim and almost bursting out in their seams but I had packed just two bags and I felt proud.


Then I walked out of immigration and saw Mark. And his (single) backpack. It was smaller than mine, but still equipped with all he needed for the entire duration of our trip.  Needless to say, I discovered I still had a few things to learn about packing lightly for a trip. So here’s a list of some things I took away from that trip to help JJC’s like me pack like pros.

JJC – Johnny Just Come. Nigerian slang used to refer to a newbie or novice.

Choose a small bag…

The smaller your bag is, the less tempted you’ll be to pack every single item you own. And trust me, the temptation is real. I find myself packing items I think I might need but then, I end up not using them. Having the right bag forces you to cut down to the bare necessities.

For a while, I struggled to find the right sizes of backpacks in Nigeria I needed. Eventually, I got a Deuter backpack – for longer trips and a Jansport laptop backpack which I now use for shorter ones.

Both feel great and come with a lot of advantages. For one thing, I get to skip long waits at baggage claim and I also get to move freely as I hop from one destination to another.

Another tip is to research your destination…

grand popo
It makes sense to put in as much effort into checking out your destination as you would when searching for cheap flights. There’s no point packing a giant coat for a trip to a place with really hot weather. If you know what to expect, you can save space in your luggage by packing only what you need. And that bring me to tip #3;

Pack multi-use clothing

A key to minimalist packing is to pack versatile items or pieces you can wear in different ways. Items like Jeans, blacks and neutrals colored clothes are always a good idea. You can mix and match few pieces of clothing to generate multiple outfits.

Plan out your activities

Planning out what you intend to do during your holiday can also affect what and how you pack. I mean, do you really need those heavy hiking boots when we all know you’re not going to hike anything?! Having an idea of the different activities you want to partake can help to streamline what you pack. And remember, these places we’re visiting also have stores. So, worst case scenario, you can get what you need when you arrive 🙂

Share the responsibilities

benin republic grand popoFinally, sharing is caring! If you’re travelling with someone, you can always optimize the spaces in each other’s bags.

What are some of the things you do to make sure you don’t pack more than you need to for a trip? or is minimalist packing just a myth to you? 🙂

JansportTravelwithaPenThis post was written in collaboration with Travelstart Nigeria. Travelstart offers cheap flights from Lagos to New York and other destinations around the world.

26 Comments

  1. Wow!!! this is short and powerful, Nice tip, so helpful, will put this to use in my next trip.

  2. Amazing tip. “No more Ghana must go bags” again. Travelling light with things you really need is the way men. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thanks a lot for sharing! I always want to pack extra(just because..) Its time to start packing like a pro!

  4. Nice read.! I actually have a fear of not packing enough and fear of missing out (FOMO) lol so I might end up packing 2 full boxes for a weekend trip. But moving around becomes difficult when you have to drag two boxes around. I agree sharing items with anyone you are travelling with is very important and also packing multi-use clothes is another great tip to cut down on excessive packing. Awesome post, I am going to come back when I am planning my trip this year

    • Lol, I know the FOMO feeling all too well. I fear leaving something behind and realizing that I need it at my destination. But we have to let that go. At the end of the day, it’s not like it really makes or breaks the trip.

  5. Nice piece. I agree with you …packing light makes the trip less of a hassle. I particularly like the multi-use clothing part and planning out your activities to sync with your clothing outlay. I typically travel with one or two things in mind and I play the others activities by ear…will try out the planning bit a lil more…thanks 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Dotun. These days, I tend to plan out my daily outfits. So vain, haha but it helps me pack light. So I’ll keep up with it. But of course, it pays to be a bit more spontaneous too..

  6. Good tips for people like me that pack as if the world is about to end 🙂

  7. Very helpful post dear. I think women just pack more because we use way more for personal grooming, always want to look good and always pack extra “Just in case”. Ha!

    Madeline
    http://www.madelinewilsojo.com

  8. wwornheels

    I’ve gotten a lot better at it. Currently travelling for five weeks with a medium suitcase and a daypack and I had to pack for cold weather which took a bunch of space. For trips of 1 week or less I take only carry on – Europe size carry on o because American size carry one is too big. Now that I’m on the road I’m finding ways I could’ve travelled lighter plus I’ve bought some things…oops.

    • Dee, I thought we agreed that I’ll be part of this trip. You didn’t even tell me you’re already on it. I have to find out on the streets? Cancelled!

  9. Hmmm…din’t know packing really light had a name😃 … I really love minimalist packing so much that all I took for my 3weeks NYSC camp was a back pack!(Still don’t know how I got all my stuff to fit in 🙈 )… can’t stand having to wonder where all my different bags are or dragging a very heavy box around …I just kent!😩. Thank you so much for this writeup learnt how to even pack way less than I presently do. Yippee!💃

    • … or having one bag missing in transit. Less is more really. By the way, you’re the real MVP. I think I might have taken a medium sized box for NYSC, lol. Why though?, I don’t know. We were practically wearing the same thing day in, day out.

  10. Amazing, how come you didn’t start this mini-packing tips with me? Anyway, it is never too late to learn. Beautiful write-up.

  11. Zero Myths!! I’m all about minimalist packing because dragging a suitcase around is SO not the move. Also I have a lot more control over the whereabouts of my luggage. I’ve been trying to perfect my light packing for a year or two now and I even think it can still be better. Have the same issue with packing what I think I might need. That’s a killer. Once I hear my brain saying might, I know it’s not necessary to pack it. 😄Versatile pieces are definitely a key.

    • You couldn’t have said it any better, Tiese. PS: That dragging box life, haha.. especially when you’re moving from city to city, not the move at all!

  12. Adebimpe

    This is really enlightening because even for a weekend I can carry two bags just because I am indecisive about clothes and shoes

  13. I just pack everything, especially when I know that I might change my mind when I get to my destination but reading this article has made me rethink. I also think minimalist packing is just a myth but hey, we learn everyday, I would let you know how it goes.

    • Haha, I used to be this way. Packing my entire wardrobe for a trip. Not anymore. Now, I take just enough clothes that I really like and one or two extras for days where I change my mind on what to wear 🙂

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