Decluttered Travel

A hideous photo of me ready for my last trip with my uncluttered backpack and day bag.

As promised a while back here is the post about how I pack for travelling ~ the uncluttered way of course. I have a couple of golden rules that are the basis to how I pack.

Rule 1 ~ If you don’t need it don’t bring it.

Rule 2 ~ If you don’t need it don’t bring it.

Rule 3 ~ If you can’t stick to rule 1 & 2 then limit the unnecessary items to only those you “can’t live without”.

With those rules in mind I have made a list below of what I would typically pack keeping in mind that we usually prefer to travel in Spring or Fall. This list is also typical whether we are away for one week or two months or more.


In addition to the clothes I am wearing when I leave which for me is ~ Long lightweight comfortable pants, a T-shirt (long or short sleeve depending on the weather at destination), my lightweight travel jacket, bra, panties, a pair of socks and comfortable walking shoes ~ this is typical of what I bring…

  • Enough clothes for five days ~ I mix this up a bit with one dress, a skirt, 2 pair of pants, a cardigan or  light sweater (depending on weather expected) 5 tops of various types.
  • Enough underwear for a week ~ For me that is 1 extra bra, 8 pair of panties,
  • Footwear ~ 2 pair of socks (only 1 if warmer climate) and maybe a pair of sandals.

We scout each location or make sure we know ahead of time where we will have access to laundering so we can wash every five days.

Pack clothes that mix and match and can be layered to suit the weather. This way your are never left out in the cold and no matter how few clean clothes you have left they will match and you will stay looking sharp.


  • Deodorant ~ Stick or roll-on (my hubby and I will share a unisex fragrance)
  • Toothbrush, floss and a small tube of toothpaste (once again sharing the floss and toothpaste)
  • Minimal make-up ~ Powder foundation, a small tube moisturiser, brow pencil, mascara, lipstick.
  • Shampoo (maybe) depending on where we are going. Shampoo is usually easily enough acquired on arrival and left behind on departure and sometimes it is supplied so we often don’t bother to bring our own.
  • Sunscreen *~ travel size.
  • Nail clippers
  • Razor


  • Any prescribed medications ~ enough for the entire trip (for us this doesn’t amount to much). I sometimes carry a script for antibiotics due to a recurring issue but there is no guarantee that foreign countries will fill these.
  • Pain killers *~ Just what I would normally carry in my handbag. More is easily acquired if necessary in the places we usually travel to.


  • Cell phone and charger *~ we acquire a sim card at destination.
  • Coin purse *~ for cash and debit/credit card* and drivers licence.*
  • Passport
  • A written list of emergency phone numbers ~ just in case cell phone dies or is stollen.
  • 1 microfibre cloth* in a small Snaplock bag for easy clean up.
  • 2 medium vacuum seal bags for dirty laundry.
  • A small puzzle book and a pen~ for entertainment on flights and during down time.
  • Day bag ~ We have a lightweight Rick Steves Shoulder Bag which we carry while sightseeing most days that contains the items with an * mentioned above.
  • A tiny sewing kit ~ You would be surprised that we have made use of this on nearly every trip.

My husband carries a similar amount for clothing plus the following

  • Camera gear ~ Camera, lenses, battery charger and spare memory card and batteries.
  • iPad and charger
  • iPod with all our travel details

That is pretty much the total of what we take on vacation. On our last trip to the USA for three weeks my Rick Steves Backpack weighed a mere 5.5kg or 12lb. My day bag with everything in for the flight weighed 680g or 1.5 lb. As you can appreciate this takes very little effort to lug around. We have no problems fitting the backpacks into the overhead lockers in the plane. Therefore we never check our baggage, so no waiting at  baggage carousels at the other end, we just walk off the plane and head straight to our accommodation.

So there you have it. No wheeling heavy suitcases along ancient cobble stoned streets. No struggling up the aisles of crowded trains. No problems if our accommodation is up three flights of stairs. No chance that we have left something in our checked baggage that we needed on the plane. No lost baggage.

Today’s Mini Mission

Take a load of items you have decluttered to the thrift store. I do this once a week when I go to my thrift store to do my volunteer shift. I haven’t been able to drive there for the last four weeks so there was a bit of a backlog.

Today’s Declutter Item

This is one of the things I took to the thrift store last week for decluttering. Over time it had been emptied of its contents and is no longer needed. My plan is to have nothing under beds eventually so I have sent this on its way tout suite so the temptation to use it again is futile.

Iris Split Lid Under Bed Storage Box

Something I Am Grateful For Today

A wonderful lunch celebrating a friends birthday. She was so grateful just to have friends who would want to  celebrate with her. It brought home to me once again what the important things are in life.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Thursday 21Dec2017 Declutter your fridge of out of date items or by using up as much as possible before adding more. With the holiday season here you will likely need every inch of spare space.
  • Mini Mission ~ Wednesday 20Dec2017 Declutter by recycling some items. That mound ofused takeout containers, old newspapers and magazines, paperwork that needs shredding, glass jars you set aside in case you have a use for […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I have the very same box in my decluttered pile (originally dumpster dived), but I think it will be diverted to being a small backyard water spot for my littles for the rest of the summer first.

    • That sounds like a clever use for a box like that. The kids will love it.

      • I used a box similar to that for a sensory toy called a rice box. I bought a large bag of rice and divided it into several gallon bags. I put food coloring in the bags and squished it around. I dumped the colored rice, plain rice, and a bunch of little junky toys that always seem to be around a house with little kids into the box. It made a great, indoor sandbox like toy.

  2. Colleen, you are like me. I travel light. I have a small roll-a-board but am looking for a back pack when I can afford one. I used to take my laptop but can now get my email and surf the net on my Kindle so won’t need to do that. I’m all for taking the least I can.

    • Good for you Deb J. The more we have travelled the less we have learned to travel with. And with technology getting smaller and smaller the weight has decreased greatly over time. We used to carry a lap top to download our photos as we travelled but now memory cards have such a huge capacity that we no longer need to do this. Sometimes I think it would be better if you took one less memory card too, it wouldn’t lighten the load but it might stop us from taking sooooo many photos.

      • I know what you mean about the pictures. I realized that my problem was that I thought having so many pictures would help me remember. I found that wasn’t the case. If I took a few well thought out pictures and just snaps of unplanned things I was good. I’m getting to where I take fewer and fewer pictures. Say I go to Sedona. If I have a few pictures of the area around it, one long view of the town and a few of the special places that meant something to me then I don’t need much else. If I go to a party for someone I take one of the honoree and a couple of the “crowd” and I’m good. For many things I take none. I’m getting very minimalist about pictures too.

        • I have to confess I haven’t even looked at the pictures of our last three overseas trips. Been there, done that, haven’t forgotten it, don’t need to look at photos.

          • I like the photos on google images or Flickr that people take of different places when they travel. So I will leave my camera at home. Cheers

  3. I have over-packed for many trips in the past and I have learned from those experiences. I am not perfect yet, but much better than I used to be and try not to pack unnecessary items. I loved your grateful comment today. Spending your time with someone and truly enjoying that time is what is important. While on vacation two weeks ago, I was able to surprise a friend (the day before her birthday) with a visit. I had not seen my dear friend for a year. Normally, I would have shown up with a gift, but rather than trying to pick out something that she may not need or want, I knew that my visit would be gift enough.

    • Rick Steves our European travel guru has a saying ~ You’ll never meet a traveller who, after five trips, brags: “Every year I pack heavier.” This quote never fails to amuse me.
      I bet your friend much preferred seeing you in person than some unneeded gift.

  4. Colleen, Not only is your photo not hideous you also look like you’re about 20 years old. I think I’m jealous!

  5. Colleen, you look very chic and minimalist in that photo; it’s lovely!

    Have also learnt from my mistakes over the years (I think I’ve mentioned before that I took a huge suitcase ‘backpacking’ around Europe for 6 weeks. And yes, I did have to carry it up 6 flights of stairs at our Spanish accommodation. My only excuse was that I was spending 3 months in Yugoslavia afterwards with family, but in hindsight should have just sent it on ahead of me).

    Have just spent 5 days away in Qld with my new cabin-sized wheeled bag and it was bliss. I packed almost the same way you did, but I always take a book and lots of snacks (nuts, seeds, apple, energy bar, reusable water bottle) and my Keep Cup coffee cup.

    PS Would LOVE to come to see you in Sydney, have a great day with your readers (it’s my daughter’s 12th birthday so It Will be a good day!)

    • I dare say you have learned your lesson Loretta.

      I am off to Qld soon myself. I don’t bother to bring snacks because it only takes and hour to fly there from here. A skinny cappuccino at the airport will see me through. I like the Keep Cup idea but I rarely take my coffee away from where I buy it and since most Aussie places use proper cups I don’t feel the need to carry a one.

      Happy birthday to your daughter wish her a lovely day from me.

      • Now I’m in the ‘bool it takes all day to get to Queensland! 3 1/2 hrs to Melb by rain, usually a couple of hrs wait at the airport THEN the 2+ hr plane ride. I refuse to buy airport/airline food and I’m constantly hungry so need lots of food 🙂

        • That is why we love living in Newcastle. I can fly to Brisbane and visit family for as low as $49 and never more than $79.Granted it takes about 35 minutes to drive to the airport but if I time it right my husband can drop me off on his way to work which is right next door. His work and the airlines share the runway.

  6. I have posted this link before but it just tickles me:

  7. My favorite pair of pants for packing light are my convertible pants. I initially bought them for hiking, but they’re really useful for the city, too. They roll up and button into capri pants, or you can zip off the bottoms, and they become shorts. They’re lightweight and dry quickly. I know – I sound like an ad. 🙂

    I recently went on a trip with two friends. They each brought a large bag that had to be checked. I brought a small wheeled carry on bag. Of course, I still had to wait for their luggage when we got off the plane.

    • Hi Anita, I am with you on the pants thing. I two use pants made for travel/hiking that are light weigh and roll up and button to capris. I also have two pair of capris and a skirt similarly made. These go with me on every trip. The best part is they dry quickly and are made to wick moisture so they are cool in the warm weather.

      Did your friends learn anything from your example?

  8. I sent my daughter solo while still 14 to Australia to stay with my mum for a visit back in April. Of course she over packed and learnt the hard way.

    We have been looking out for good deals for her to go back, but the restrictions here for luggage to go into overhead compartment is 7kg – but you are also allowed a small handbag or laptop bag. If you don’t mind me asking, does your backpack come in under 7kg-ish?

    • Hi Moni,
      my bag when packed for our three week US trip weighed 5.5kg.
      Where does your mother live and do you use Jet Star? I don’t know if you can get Jet Star flights for the sort of money we pay but if you can they certainly are cheap. They have a Friday Fair Frenzy every week where they offer cheap flights between 4 & 8pm. I sign up for the email notifications so I don’t miss their great deals.

      • Hi Colleen – my mother lives in Robina, Gold Coast. I have used Jet Star but wasn’t a great experience. Most of the airlines only fly out of the three major centres and I don’t live in one of those, I live 3 hours from Auckland International Airport.

        So I either need to catch a domestic flight to Auckland to connect with the international flight, in which case it would be more convenient to book with Air NZ to ensure connections etc as they do domestic and international.

        Or I need to book an international flight that leaves ideally around the middle of the day from Auckland ie an early flight would mean I needed to go up the day before and find accommodation near to the airport to make the check in time. And an evening flight means whoever drove me up would then have a trip home at night. That also limits me to Air NZ, Qantas and Virgin to Gold Coast.

        Two closer cities also fly to Oz, but Rotorua only flies to Sydney and Hamilton only flies to Brisbane, so it limits me to an Auckland departure.

        We sent my daughter across back in April as an unacommpanied minor, she was being met by her grandmother at the other end, and each airline has a different arrangement for these situations. Because she was flying out with Virgin they were able to talk us thru the options at check in and we altered it to “meet and assist” so she had some independence, but on the return flight on Air NZ, her grandmother wasn’t able to change it from “unaccompanied minor” (given she wasn’t a legal guardian) and so my daughter was given a colouring book and crayons and not allowed any onflight entertainment deemed suitable for 12+ and this was on her 15th birday. 🙂

        Unfortunately I haven’t travelled nearly as much I planned to when I was younger, but plan to rectify that now that the kids are older. As much as I love seeing my mother and sister, I’d like to go some other places too.

        • Hi Moni Auckland is about an hour away from it’s own airport. I thought we were never going to get to our hotel when we went there last year.
          That does sound mighty complicated just to get to the Gold Coast which is why Newcastle is such a convenient place to live for me and my family. It has all the convenience without being crazy busy and difficult to get around.

  9. Wow, that is inspirational! I went to Brisbane for a weekend with a carry on suitcase – admittedly there were three outfit choices for the school reunion. And it wasn’t ‘crammed’ as it might be for long haul.

    I think I overpack (in comparison to you), cause I don’t get as many opportunities to wash – or I’d like to do it less frequently. But I look at my wardrobe and know I own more clothes BECAUSE of holidays (cause I wear a uniform for work… and water polo – two more nights a week). And there’s a lot of ‘justin case’ in the carryon suitcase :p

    I do make a rule with myself, if it’s not worn, it’s not coming home (this is for my 3-4week holidays, not weekends) Helps me see what I don’t like/want to wear! And of course I always buy new clothes whilst OS.

    • I am going to Qld in a couple of weeks so I will need warmer clothes than what I usually take on vacation so they will take up more room but I will still try hard to keep the numbers down. If all else fails, when I am at my mother’s I can always borrow clothes from my sister as we are much the same size.

      • Haha I borrow my mum’s – just the other day when I dropped in, I realised I had too little on for the wind, so borrow a top. Was lovely to be ‘warm’ enough for the train&walk home

  10. what a timely post. I am packing my backpack for a one week trip to france, starting tomorrow morning. yay.
    my biggest problem is that I go camping in normandy for 3 days in a little place without electricity, that means I need to bring my mat, my sleeping bag, a good fleece jacket, warm socks and shoes and of course the head-lamp. just in case the weather gets nice enough, I will bring the swimming gear as I am close to the beach.
    and then I spend 4 days in Paris (yaweeeeeeeeee – I am so excited to see Paris for the first time) meaning I need to bring a extra handbag, the camera, shorts (in case the weather gets good again) and sandals.
    that results in bringing quite a full backpack, but I dont mind that much, as I can stay with a friend and wont carry this thing around all the time.
    I decided while packing today that this will be one of the last trips of my backpack. its too old, too big, too inflexible and far too heavy. but I dont have the time to research what I want and need. and I dont have the money currently. I will also get myself a few functional shirts and convertible trousers as soon as I am rich. 😉

    • Hi Lena, sometimes even the least you will need is a lot but so be it. With the variety of places and situations you will experience you are doing well to fit it all in a backpack so well done. Now lets just hope you win the lottery so that back pack and sleeping bag doesn’t become your permanent accommodation. 😉

      • it needs to fit all into one bag. otherwise I go absolutely mad (you know those people who are carrying more than 3 bags around? – I think its madness, because you never have your hands free for important things).

        I want to win the lottery in order to buy good camping gear, but sleeping bag and backpack are my preferred mode of travelling, even with a lot of money. for me its the most flexible way of coming around…

  11. I was pretty proud of Clara. She just packed for a trip to California for 9 days in an overhead size rolling suitcase and one backpack. I think she did very well, although you’ve got her licked by far.

  12. Colleen, as a frequent traveller I need to know since when you have your “classic back door backpack”. Will it survive a year if you use it almost every second week?
    By the way – oversized luggage is result of what you called some days/week ago “just in case” 😉
    When I started travelling more – related to new job, I was prepared for anything with my luggage.
    Meanwhile I tell myself: In worst case I have credit card with me. But in 3 years of travelling almost every second week such situation never occured.

    • Hi Chrissie,
      we bought the backpacks in 2003. They have travelled to London from America for a week. America to four countries in Europe for a month. Then Australia for two weeks and back to America. America through six countries in Europe then on to Australia over a four week period. They have been back to Italy from Australia and back for a month. To America for three weeks this year to New Zealand last year and several destinations in Australia over and over again. They go on every trip we take and they are still as good as new. Not one broken zip not one scuff mark not one snapped strap not even a lost zip pull.


  1. […] travel, motorcycles and work. Now if I can just convince Colleen to reduce everything to fit into one carry-on bag each then we can start vagabonding across the […]