Confessions of an Over-Packer

Image & Design:  Laura Messersmith

Image & Design: Laura Messersmith

It’s official! We leave for our 10-day excursion to Vienna, Austria and Dubrovnik, Croatia on Friday, which means it’s time for me to get serious about packing. Specifically, packing LIGHT. The ultimate test for me is whether my suitcase is light enough to carry it up an unexpected flight of stairs or over uneven pavement. I’m looking at you subway stations, and you too charming cobblestone streets.

I always have the best intentions, but my imagination runs away with me and I convince myself that I need XYZ item “just in case we….” Here’s a classic example: my wardrobe for a three-day trip to northern Florida as seen above.

First of all, this is far too much clothing for three days, second of all, the temperatures weren’t supposed to be above 72F, but guess who packed a sundress and multiple pairs of shorts…. And, guess what items never made it into the rotation…. I could have eliminated a quarter of what I packed if I had been disciplined and been no worse off when it came time to get dressed in the morning.

For our trip to Europe I’m determined to pack only what is practical, appropriate, and re-wearable. So, I’ve been preparing by reading lots of advice posts and gathering tips from experienced travelers who also pack light.

Here’s what I’ve found helpful so far:

1. Consider your trip. What’s on the itinerary – hiking, wine tasting, wedding reception, museum exploration? What will the climate/weather be – beach, mountains, desert? Is your destination formal or informal – will you need to ‘dress up’ or will jeans and sneakers more than suffice?

2. Plan outfit combinations in advance. Select items in similar color schemes that can be mixed and matched (ie. neutrals!), or do double duty. Use accessories (scarf, jewelry, belt) to jazz up your basics. Two great examples of what this looks like in practice from Travelista and A Pair and A Spare.

3. Minimize shoes. Hitha on the Go says three pairs in different combinations depending on destination. (See point #1) I'm hoping I can make do with ballet flats, tall boots, and a pair of cute kicks...

4. Downsize beauty products. I love these multi-colored stacking pill boxes for gels and creams I just need a dab of, and I will always snag extra hotel shampoos like these babies for the next trip.

5. Make a checklist. Include your clothing, grooming, and travel accessory needs (chargers, camera, books, passport, etc.) and stick to it so you don't forget something crucial! Real Simple has several for different travel scenarios, or there’s this classic packing list from The Container Store.

I’m hoping that if I follow all these tips and reign in my active imagination I’ll have all the things I actually need (and no more!) with room for fun souvenirs along the way. Wish me luck!