Do you struggle to make it through the airport with your unusually large suitcase? Do baggage fees dominate your credit card statements? Does your luggage frequently come apart at the seams?
If you’re giving a somber nod, you’re packing too much and it’s time to lose the dead weight. To alleviate your packing troubles, let’s uncover the root of your problem. Here are 10 factors that could be the cause of your overpacking ills, along with some handy tips for lightening your load.
Reasons You’re Packing Too Much
You’re Packing for the Worst-Case Scenario
When in doubt, leave it out. Will you really need a bathing suit on your business trip to Cleveland? Realistically, will you have an occasion to wear long jeans on your Caribbean cruise? Yes, unexpected things will happen on your trip. But contingency planning—from trip-insurance policies to backup copies of identification—shouldn’t extend to the entire contents of your bag. Pack the essentials for the things that are by and large certain: the activities you have planned, the predicted weather, the prescribed length of your trip. In the event that a cataclysmic pole shift causes the weather in your destination to drastically change, you can always buy warmer clothes while there.
Your Bag Is Too Big
If your bag is enormous, you’ll be hard-pressed not to fill it to the brim. The solution is to use a smaller bag to impose reasonable limits on yourself. Once you’ve bound yourself to the confines of a 22-inch vessel, you’ll be compelled to pack a lot less. Plus, a lightweight, good-quality piece of baggage that is well within major airlines’ baggage-size requirements is a worthy investment. (See some of our favorite carry-on bags here.)
You’re Under the Tyranny of the Weather
Trips through multiple climates or during transitional seasons may lead you to overcompensate and overpack. An April afternoon in Europe could yield anything from wind and ice-cold rain to balmy sunshine. So does that mean you should pack a complete outfit for each possible weather scenario? Not exactly. The trick is to bring lightweight pieces that layer well. For example, a thin sweater packs the same warming punch of bulky outwear when layered over a warm long-sleeved waffle tee and topped with a cozy scarf. For more tips, read A Guide to Packing for Every Season.
You’re a Procrastinator
It’s essential to create a packing list before leaving for a long journey. For procrastinators, though, this comes as a challenge. You can’t pull together a smart list of things to bring when you’re throwing the contents of your closet into a suitcase several hours before your flight takes off. Eliminate the temptation to put off packing until the eleventh hour by focusing on the negative consequences of your procrastination. If you don’t think ahead and come up with a good plan, you’re going to be stuck with an overpacked bag and thereby spend your trip lugging around pounds of unnecessary supplies and paying overweight- and oversized-bag fees.
You Don’t Have the Right Stuff
Invest in travel products that will ease your packing for years to come. With the right gear, you can pack less by including lighter, multifunctional travel products in your bag. Some of our favorites include foldable shoes, compression bags, and ultralightweight clothes, such as this Helium II Waterproof Jacket.
You’re Not Being Honest with Yourself
Sometimes we find ourselves stuffing our suitcases full of hope. You pack your running shoes and your travel yoga mat because you’ll definitely keep up with your workout routine while on your trip. This time it’ll be different! Or maybe you throw that slinky, glittery dress you never wear into your bag because you think the adventure of traveling will incite you to sport the kind of attire you normally wouldn’t put on at home. Think hard about what you’ll use on your trip, in actuality, and take note of which items you’ve used on your former travels. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
You Lack a Laundry Strategy
For trips longer than a week, plan to do laundry on the road. Bring laundry soap and wash your clothes in the hotel sink. Buy a Scrubba Wash Bag. Look up the locations of Laundromats near your accommodations, or investigate prices for laundry services on your cruise or at your hotel. (Hotel laundry services tend to be a rip-off, so choose the do-it-yourself method for maximum savings.) Another option is to consider arranging an apartment rental as they commonly have laundry facilities.
You Don’t Color Coordinate
The secret to pulling together an interesting and diverse assortment of outfits with only a small number of pieces packed in a tiny little bag is color coordination. First, opt for mostly neutrals. Next, when you add in color, keep your choices within the same family, such as blues and blacks, or soft coral and peach tones. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll find that you can pack in such a way that all of your tops coordinate with all of your bottoms, yielding exponential outfit options. Read more about how to color coordinate your clothes for a trip in How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-on Bag.
You’re a Newbie
You’ve underestimated the importance of packing light because you haven’t yet experienced the hell on earth that is dragging three vending-machine-sized bags onto the Paris Metro. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” Don’t be foolish. Take the advice of the umpteen travelers who have gone before you and pack the absolute bare minimum.
You’re Addicted to Gadgets
Gadgets and gizmos can prove useful on a trip. (We love us a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.) But they can also take up a lot of space and add weight to your bag, especially when each electronic item must be paired with its own proprietary charger. Universal chargers, such as this rechargeable external battery, are gold—we highly recommend picking one up if you normally travel with an armload of tangled cords and power accessories.
Then there’s the problem of packing the necessary converters and adapters for the countries you’re visiting. Our advice? Call your concierge in advance. Hotels commonly keep chargers, adapters, and converters behind the front desk for complimentary guest use.
More from SmarterTravel:
- How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-on Bag
- A Guide to Packing for Every Season
- 7 Small Ways to Boost Your Travel Wardrobe
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.