Minimalist Packing for Vacation

Before I even start this post I just have to say I am an aspiring minimalist. There are many definitions out there on minimalism. I like how minimalist author Joshua Becker (The More of Less) defines it : “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that bring you joy and the removal of those that do not.” I like to think of it as the pursuit of simplicity and freedom. So these ideas have been floating around in my brain the last few years and as I approached this 19 day vacation in California with my hubby and 4 kids, it was my hope to pack minimally.

I told the kids they could each bring 1 carry-on suitcase/duffle bag and a backpack. Jeremy and I were doing the same. I suggested to them to pack only 5-7 days worth of clothes because most places we stayed at washer/dryer.

I will share what I packed. During the trip I realized that I still packed too much. It was too much because I realized I did not even wear the limited wardrobe I packed. It was also too much because it left almost no room to bring back goodies I bought along the way. For me, minimalism does not mean skipping souvenir shopping. I am far more selective what I bring home so no ashtrays that say San Francisco. I try to choose things that I love and think I will find delight in them beyond the trip.

Here’s what I packed in my carry-on:

  • 2 dresses (think summer dresses, nothing fancy. I could have done with just one)
  • 6 shirts/tops (could have brought 3 or 4 since I rarely wore a few of them)
  • 2 black tank tops (not sure my thought process with bringing two)
  • 3 pairs of shorts (I seriously would have been just fine with my fav jean cut off shorts)
  • 2 bathing suits (one piece and bikini. 1 would have been fine)
  • swimsuit dress cover-up
  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 pair of jeans (so glad I had this up in chilly San Francisco)
  • 1 active wear zip up (I think I only wore this on the flight there)
  • 1 pair of yoga pants
  • 1 pair of exercise shorts
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 pair of walking shoes
  • 2 comfy tees for bedtime (1 would have been fine. Every time my family freaks about me wearing the same thing a few days in a row, I just remind them that much of the world only has 1-2 outfits and their lives are good and happy. Check out global rich list Our family of 6 that lives on 1 income of $70,000 a year is richer than 89% of the world!!!! It puts things in perspective. In America there is a crazy fruitless pursuit to keep up with each other. Perspective changes everything.
  • Bible
  • gratitude journal
  • journal
  • prayer journal (can you tell Iike to journal?)
  • 3 books (finished 2 of them so that was a good call but next time I will bring Kindle but I was mid way with the 2 books I finished so I wanted to bring those)
  • sports bra (seriously thought I might exercise but didn’t need this)
  • 2 pairs of earrings (wore both)
  • 3 necklaces

Here’s what I packed in my backpack:

  • watercolors set and brush (great idea if I was heading to a silence/solitude retreat but useless with a busy 5 yr. old)
  • watercolors pad
  • adult coloring book (also useless since I spent much of our flight escorting our little one to the bathroom. I am always amazed at these bathrooms. If I struggle fitting in them and I am the size of a hobbit then how do average adults do this?)
  • neck pillow (seriously what was I thinking? I packed like I was flying to Italy with hubby. On that flight I actually got to watch movies, sleep and read.)
  • manila folder (this was very useful. I drew roads on this and it became an instant toy for youngest and his cars)
  • 1/2 of a white flat sheet (used this alot too. Before the trip I drew with colorful sharpies some of the various places we would visit like the Golden Gate bridge with roads. This folded up compactly for traveling)
  • way too many toiletries ( I forgot that most Air BNBs provide shampoo etc)
  • snacks (a must to occupy busy kiddo)
  • several dollar tree toys (These were good but like most things only occupied his attention for 5 minutes of the flight)
  • hippy/natural melatonin drops (I totally should have used this on the flight out there. After a crazy meltdown in the airport, I certainly used them on the last flight home. During this 1 hour of glorious silence I watched a house flipping episode).

Here’s the additional things I returned with:

  • a heart shaped rock that I found a Pfiefer State Beach. I have a thing for finding hearts in the world around me. It reminds me of God’s great love for me. This is by far the biggest one I have found. Probably about 5 lbs but since I checked this bag- I was fine with the extra weight. I don’t save most of what I find. I thought this would be a cute bookend.
  • 2 more books (I am a sucker for books especially used books and books on clearance. This area is hardest to grow in minimalism)
  • twin sheets set (found a new set at a Goodwill in the OC. It was the fanciest Goodwill I’ve been too;). My daughter was needing some and it was a sweet deal. During this trip we went and bought a $7 riding toy for our very busy boy. Best $7 spent on this trip. We also bought $11 cooler for all our day trips. Then at the end of our trip we found another Goodwill and donated them.
  • an otter ornament that said “Big Sur”. I love to get ornaments to remind us of these epic trips. Gives us a chance to retell stories at Christmas time.
  • hoodie from our alma mater (Biola). We took our oldest to tour the school and their bookstore was having an insane clearance and I got my fav color hoodie for $7!! I think I only owned 1 other hoodie from our university because they were always like a billion dollars for this poor college kid.
  • 3 cute little gifts for our youngest son’s birth mom
  • dog pee pads (so I had packed a pee pad to use at every place we went to for our youngest who wears pull-ups at bedtime and I forgot it at the hotel so I went cheap and laid out dog pee pads under his fitted sheet. I knew I would use the rest of the pack for our chihuahua at home who is basically like a cat. I put out a pee pad on a plastic tub lid several times a day. It’s kinda like a litter box. This cringes out my daughter but it works for us. He would be hawk food if we let him wander alone outside to go potty.
  • 2 cute little souvenirs for my girls (future stocking stuffers)


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