Or how packing for every eventuality can put an exhaustion-fueled dampener on your whole holiday)
I have a confession to make. I, like many others out there, am an over packer.
Even when going away for the weekend you may find my luggage filled with four different tops, two pairs of jeans, a dress, a light jacket, a warm jacket, three pairs of shoes, my laptop, tablet, a couple of books, not to mention a hair and make-up case that I carry separately because there’s no way that stuff is also going to fit in my bag. I will be away for 3 days and 2 nights, but I am packed for all eventualities. I mean, how am I supposed to know what I’ll need?
If this is one weekend, you can imagine what my packing looked like when I was preparing for two years abroad, which was to include 3 solid months of traveling including: a Greek Island tour and Mediterranean cruise and a road trip, followed by working. And then of course, there’s all those climates and seasons (Greece in the summertime! Scotland during winter!)
I needed summer clothes, winter clothes, casual clothes, going out clothes and work clothes. I needed my hair straightener and products not so much for the wind-blown summer paradise of Santorini, but for the office where, more than wanting to look presentable, I needed to.
So here’s what I took: (Brace yourselves now…)
- 8 tops
- 3 cardigans
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair black office pants
- 1 pair summery white pants
- 1 pair leggings
- Swim suit
- Board shorts
- Going out dress
- Winter jacket
- Leather jacket
- Hooded sweatshirt
- 2 white singlets (tank tops)
- 3 black singlets
- 1 pair of winter pajama bottoms
- 1 pair of summer pajama bottoms
- 10 pack of socks
- 10 pack underwear
- 3 bras
- Thongs (or flip flops, depending on where you are)
- Summer hat
- Favourite necklace
- 2 scarves
- Face wash
- Heat Protection Spray
- Lip stick
- Lip gloss
- BB Cream x 3 tubes (I was going away for ages!)
- Razor + 3 replacement blades (Ditto)
- Eye liner
- Eye shadow
- Hair straightener
- Hair elastics
- Bobby pins
- Lap top and charger
- Tablet and charger
- Phone and charger
- 2x universal power converters
- Power board
- Laundry detergent
- Mesh washing bag
- Clothes line
- 3 packs of tissues
- 1 Pack of lady products
- Swiss army knife
- Universal sink plug
- Ear plugs
- Ear phones
- Chewing gum
- Hand sanitiser
- 6 months worth of medications plus prescriptions
- First aid kit
- Spare glasses (just in case)
- Contact lenses
- 2 books
- Travel pillow
- Sleep sheet
- Protein shake shaker (what are those called, again?)
- 10 pack plastic zip lock bags for in case.
- 3 notebooks (I am a writer, so…)
- Kitchen sink. Almost.
I know what you’re thinking.
As you can imagine, I became very skilled at organising my suitcase or just sitting on it until it would zip. I was prepared for ANYTHING! But lugging it all around made me miserable.
Nearing the end of my first week (of two years!) of travelling, when I arrived finally at my hotel after lots of huffing and puffing, I couldn’t stop myself from crying at the sight of a small flight of stairs to reach reception. Repeatedly getting lost while hauling a suitcase, a day-size backpack, and handbag through kilometres of subway systems and heaving them up stairs to the streets of Tokyo, had added up to too much.
Trust me, you don’t want to be that person that cries at the sight of ten stairs.
Over packing can put a serious dent in your enjoyment of your holiday. To help you avoid over packing misery, here are some things you can comfortably leave at home:
Half your clothing
I love clothes and have a lot of favourites. Sometimes you just feel like wearing a specific top and I wanted to have them all available to me; I wanted the convenience of home.
But when you’re traveling, you’re not home. Plus, I didn’t even wear much of what I lugged around the world with me.
Tip Rinse and Repeat. Or, well, Repeat and Repeat.
When traveling, it is actually A-OK to wear the same clothes again and again, because 1) no one’s going to see you again anyway, and 2) you start to value comfort over fashion and gravitate toward climate appropriate apparel for wherever you are. Even if that’s what you wore yesterday (and maybe the day before that).
Tip Bring a couple of neutral tops that you can layer and wear differently.
If you like fashion, the truth is you are going to buy new clothes when you spot stuff you can’t get at home. Leave room for that!
Also, wouldn’t it be easier to buy winter clothes when the weather turned rather than drag those extra kilos with you for months beforehand? In hindsight, yes. Yes, it would.
Most people bring travel sized bottles of toiletries. But you might not even need those.
I stayed in capsule hotels; business hotels; regular hotels; hostels; B&Bs; resorts; and a cruise ship — and almost every single one of them had toiletries available, including towels and hair dryers. And if they don’t? Toiletries are cheap and readily available, especially in areas that see regular tourists.
Tip When it comes to toiletries, buy as you go.
Even if you’re backpacking. I could buy a single sachet of laundry detergent and lay clothing on the backs of hotel room chairs and over radiators every time I needed to do a load. So did I really need to take detergent, a clothes line or universal sink plug? I could buy new razors and tissues as needed, and I didn’t use my Swiss Army Knife once. They may be small items, but it all adds up.
Recovery as an over packer is a process. Even as I write this blog, I look up at that absurdly long list of luggage and still feel like I can justify a lot of it. I know why I brought all that stuff. I wanted to be prepared for anything.
I was prepared.
And it was horrible.