overstuffed bag w sink
Read any travel site and the first packing tip will inevitably be “Pack Light.” With good reason. Traveling with an over-packed suitcase is cumbersome and in some circumstances it can put you in a humiliating situation. A few examples and suggestions.

Nothing is more frustrating the first few mornings of an adventure than spending time pawing through a bulging suitcase looking for stuff and trying to decide what to wear. It starts the day off on the wrong foot and, more importantly it could lead to making you late which is an unforgivable sin if you are on a group tour.

And then there’s the potential for personal humiliation….checking in with an overweight bag. I’m not referring to an international flight where you’ve so over-packed that you have exceeded the 50 lb limit and must hand over cash to get your bag on board. I’m reflecting on the much more embarrassing scenario where – in a small – very small – regional airport with everyone watching – you have to unpack and dump those extra belongings because your bag has been rejected. You’ve exceeded the strictly enforced 20 lb limit on the domestic puddle-jumper. Of course, it is not as mortifying as having to get on the scale yourself and have the attendant yell out your weight so all can hear – but let’s not go there.

This is about how to improve your packing skills.

I learned years ago that the only way I will leave home without the kitchen sink is to pack two weeks in advance and then unpack – repack and unpack and repack again. This works well because with time you are much more inclined to pack with your head rather than with your emotions. But, I highly recommend keeping a list of the final pack so that you don’t spend the first few mornings of the trip rummaging through your suitcase trying to locate the item you clearly remember packing, but which is actually back home in the discard pile.

Many people like to use compression bags to organize their belongings. However, I discovered that these bags encouraged me over pack because I could fit more in. Fortunately, a friend introduced me to packing cubes. These light-weight bags have become an essential organizational tool. (e-bags are the brand I use). I purchased a few sets of different colors and pack my belongings by category in different color bags. It’s a simple system but when traveling and nothing is routine, simple is definitely better.

Waking up in a foreign place with a full day of exploration ahead, it’s exhilarating to hop out of bed and jump into one of the three pairs of pants that are in the blue cube and grab one of the five tee shirts in the purple cube. I’m usually the first one at breakfast and I never ever keep the others waiting.