Last week as Crystal and I looked at the calendar thinking about what we had coming up in the next few months (including the birth of our daughter) we ended up talking about how one day we were gonna take a vacation. A REAL VACATION. This vacation would not involved extended family. It would be at a place other than a state park. We would save up in order to go. While there we would have cold, adult beverages and eat copious amounts of local foods. The only alarm for us would be our eyes gently opening to a new day. The conversation got more grand as we talked more and more. But after about ten minutes we came back to reality and realized that our next vacation would probably be to a kid-friendly destination that was heavier on the pool time and costumed characters than the relaxing sounds of an ocean breeze.

As I laid in bed that night two posts came to mind that I felt I had to share. One involved taking a vacation as only a minimalist can. I came up with a 5 tips idea that was low on budget and high on multi-purpose. Still unable to sleep and filled with vacation excitement as if I actually was going to be dusting off my passport in the near future I developed a more metaphorical post on how to take a vacation each day of your life. By morning I couldn’t decide which was more important so I have decided to include them both!

How to take a minimalist trip

Pack with Strategy. I cannot just put things into a bag. I must have organization. I find that this way I know what I have, what I need, and where it all is. I can also see what I have to much of and what I don’t have enough of. I prefer to use the Pack-It System from Eagle Creek which I was turned on to by a friend who lives out of hotels and travels internationally each month. Specializing in Luggage, Packs, and Duffels, the system consists of sacks, cubes, and folders that keep things wrinkle free and protected.

Multi-use is the only use. I recently traded in my Droid cellphone for an iPhone. It took me three years to make the transition but I am so happy I did. With one device I have my phone, my laptop, my iPod, my eBooks, my news, my GPS, and even my movies, all at the touch of a button. It isn’t so much about having just one device as much as it is having one device with one power adapter/charger.

Man cannot live on bread alone. Several months ago I had to briefly travel for work. I found myself at the Atlanta airport in a terminal that was being renovated. Because of this there were no coffee shops, magazine stands, snack kiosks, etc. I was starving and had at least another 1.5 hours before takeoff. I tweeted about my predicament and received a barrage of encouragement and recommendation. One friend suggested that from now on I travel with a Nalgene bottle and some sort of health bar. I couldn’t figure out why but after giving it some thought I realized that I could carry the Nalgene empty through security and then fill from a water fountain for instant hydration. As for the health bar. If I chose wisely I could have a tasty treat, something that would give me energy, and something healthy. I extended the idea to include a Ziploc bag of trail mix (affordable when you buy in bulk as we do) and one of those Crystal Light on-the-go flavoring packages to add a little “zest” to my water. Convenience and accessibility is key to eating on vacation!

Don’t be “clothes” minded.  I have a lot to say about this topic as I traveled the 50 states in 50 weeks in 2005 with only a Kelty backpack. The trick was to pack for all occasions but to pack neutral. Consider packing a pair of wrinkle-free khaki pants for more formal events and a pair of blue jeans for everyday wear. I actually like polyester or nylon zipper pants like these. They can act as shorts or pants. They dry quickly. They don’t wrinkle. For shirts I like to wear neutral tees that fit comfortably, pack easily, and match anything. I also think a windbreaker or a fleece vest is good unless the weather is going to be especially cold. As for shoes I typically wear my sneakers and carry a pair of flip flops/shower shoes. Two other things help to maximize the minimalist as well. The first is to take a multi-functional soap like Dr Bronner’s organic fair-trade liquid soap. You can wash your body with it, wash your clothes with it, and even brush your teeth with it. The second is to pack a keychain duffel bag. They are perfect should you need an extra tote for all of those travel gifts purchased while on vacation!

Start with Day 1. Almost everyone of my travel experiences has started with the phrase, “When we get there….“. What was I waiting for all those times? Is the process not as important as the product? Does vacation not start from the very first minute of the very first day? Who cares if you have to wait a few extra minutes in line. Use the time to meet someone new, engage in conversation, or catch up on a recently downloaded song. When you wake up in the morning don’t rush around to get your itinerary kicked off. Bask in that first cup of coffee while staring out the window at a view you don’t have everyday. You vacation is as much about your state of mind as your state of travel!

SPOILER ALERT: I have decided I really want to hear your comments on packing light, traveling like a minimalist, and taking a simple vacation. Therefore, Part II of this post will go live later in the week. Only then can you find out how to have a simple vacation each moment of your life!