Five Secrets to Avoid Overpacking For Your Next Trip

October 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Do you have any articles about overpacking?”

I was chatting with my friend Jackie Bledsoe a few days ago. Jackie, a well-known marriage and family writer and speaker (he recently reviewed a piece of Travelpro luggage), was referring to a recent trip he and his wife Stephana took to speak at a marriage conference when he commented “We really overpacked this time, and I’m a little frustrated.”

We were talking about this blog, and he asked whether we had any articles on how to avoid overpacking.

Overpacking is a common problem among travelers, even veterans. I know some frequent travelers who still take too much when they travel, and it’s all I can do not to shout whenever they tell me how they pack.

So for my friend, Jackie, and other over-packers, here are five steps to take to help you avoid taking too much on your next trip.

If you overpack for your next trip, you'll find yourself waiting in a lot more lines.

1. Remind yourself: Flying with large luggage is like setting a $50 bill on fire

That’s what you’re doing if you check a large-size suitcase on your flight. Unless you’re flying Southwest, or you’re already a Premier member of one of the big four airlines, you’re going to needlessly spend $50, when you didn’t have to.

So get rid of this idea of packing a bag larger than carry-on size. They’re great for long, long trips, or trips where you drive (or if you have lots of $50 bills laying around!). Otherwise, you need to pack a carry-on bag like the Atlantic Compass Unite 2 21″ Spinner. I’ve seen people pack for 10 days in a carry-on, so if you still think you need a large piece of luggage, you’re definitely overpacking.

2. Pack 1 pair of pants for every 3 days, 1 shirt for every 2

Chances are, you’re not going to be outside every day, running and getting dirty. If you’re like me, going on a speaking trip or to a conference, you’re going to be indoors, staying clean. Which means you don’t have to take one pair of pants and one shirt for each day.

Just take coordinating clothing, so you can create interchangeable outfits. Wear the blue pants with the yellow shirt one day, and the blue pants and gray shirt on another, and so on. If you’re going to be gone for a week, you can get by with three pair of pants and four shirts, and be just fine.

If you need a lot of outfits because you’re going to be gone for a couple weeks, you should either rent an AirBNB home with a washer and dryer, or send your laundry out at the hotel. And if you’re in a pinch, you can always wash your undergarments and socks in the sink, then air dry them.

3. Roll or bundle your clothes

One of the most efficient packing methods is rolling your clothes. Each t-shirt, dress shirt, and pair of pants is rolled up into an individual bundle. If you do it carefully, you can avoid wrinkles, although you may need a quick spot check with an iron. This is even a technique flight attendants like Heather Poole use to pack for 10 days.

The other method, bundling, is a little more complicated. It involves wrapping shirts, and then pants, around a small core bundle of underwear and socks. It’s a great method if you’re staying in one place for several days; you can fit a LOT of clothing items into a small space, and they come out fairly wrinkle-free. The downside is you may have to unpack everything to get to one item so it’s not ideal if you’re bouncing around to different places day after day.

Finally, avoid bulky items. If you’re traveling to a cold weather climate, pack thin layers, and wear two or three layers to keep warm. You should be layering up anyway, rather than wearing bulky sweaters and parkas. (Helpful tip: Wear your parka on the plane, and you don’t even have to pack it.)

4. Pack only travel size toiletries

I know some people who will check a suitcase because they want to take their special bottle of shampoo or mouthwash. And I do understand.

But ask yourself, is that shampoo worth $50? For that much, you can probably buy a new bottle when you reach your destination, and leave it behind when you depart.

Instead, buy travel sizes of your favorite products. And if you can’t find any, buy some empty plastic or aluminum refillable travel bottles and put your favorite products in them. If you need to take more, use more travel bottles.

Better yet, if you’re not picky about your shampoo, mouthwash, or toothpaste, use whatever the hotel has to offer. I can skip the TSA’s 3-1-1 bag because I get my toiletries at the hotel.

5. Don’t take your own pillow

I’ve had several veteran travel friends who suggested taking their own pillow from home. While having comforts from home can be a nice touch when traveling, it’s not the most efficient way to go.

People who take their pillows tend to pack them, which requires a big suitcase. Is your pillow worth $50? They generally have nice pillows at the hotel, and you can fold them, squeeze them, pinch them, and punch them to your heart’s desire until you get the right shape and size.

People sometimes say they can’t sleep without their pillow. Maybe so, but for me, I’ve never lost a night’s sleep because of a pillow.

I’ll lose sleep over that 50 bucks though.

In short, just remember, you’re not moving out, so you don’t need to pack every possession and comfort of home. Pack only what you need, and then see if you can remove some of it. Pack efficiently using the bundle or roll method, wear your clothing more than once, and use travel size toiletries. If you can do that, you should be able to avoid overpacking.

How do you pack for a trip? How do you manage to keep your packing to a minimum? Or what kinds of questions do you have? Share your thoughts and questions with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Katy Warner (Flickr, Creative Commons)


Erik Deckers is a travel writer, as well as a content marketer and book author. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years

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