Project Description

I knew it. It hit me right after boarding a train in Venice. I had packed for the 3-week trip to Italy entirely wrong. My oversized suitcase was way too big and heavy for me, a very short person, to heave onto the luggage rack above our seats. Try as I might I just couldn’t do it.

Fortunately, a young backpacker took pity on me – or maybe he just feared I would accidentally drop the suitcase on his head. Nevertheless he hoisted the bag onto the rack and wryly asked if I was moving to Italy. I ignored the comment but thanked him for his help.

All the way to Florence I thought about how I had packed. I wondered if I would need everything in that heavy bag. Always the answer was, “No!”

Do you over pack?

What about you? Do you over pack? That question becomes more important with airlines now more than ever watching the scales at check-in and charging extra for those heavy bags. Now my wife and I travel most of the time with one 22-inch carry-on sized suitcase each.

How do we do that? We don’t pack for the worst-case scenario. And we don’t pack a full change of clothes for each day of the trip. The exception to that rule for me is underwear and socks. On most trips we found you can wear clothes more than one day and on occasion. There are no fashion police handing out demerits.

Most cities and even some small towns have laundries. You can drop off a bag of dirty clothes in the morning, enjoy a day of touring, and pick up clean folded clothes in the afternoon. And what a surprise we had when a 4-star hotel in Sydney, Australia delivered the dirty clothes to a laundry for us and delivered clean clothes back to our room that afternoon.

What to pack

Now, what should you pack in your bag? Never full sized bottles of cosmetics or toiletries. Buy the small, travel sized versions or repackage favorite brands into small, empty bottles you can buy at Walmart or Target. If you run out of something be adventuresome, buy a local brand.

Pack liquids in a sealable plastic bag and place a piece of plastic wrap over the mouth of the bottle before tightening the cap. This can prevent leakage.

Be careful with shoes. They are usually the heaviest items you pack. Two pair, three at the most, will suffice. Take one dresser pair and one comfortable pair for walking. Wear the bulkiest pair on the plane.

Some travelers like to roll clothing for packing. Many find it conserves space and minimizes wrinkles. Always pack heavier items on the bottom, lighter items on top.

When to pack

Pack your suitcase at least a day before travel. That cuts down on impulse packing. Weigh your suitcase. Take into consideration not only US carrier weight restrictions but also those of carriers in the countries you will be visiting. You can buy luggage scales for as little as $12. One final rule to avoid over packing… when in doubt, leave it out.