Top Packing Faux Pas & How to Overcome Them


We all want to be packing professionals when we travel, but that bit of know-how doesn’t always come naturally. Sadly, the learned behavior of packing efficiently and effectively is usually only acquired after several not-so-great packing attempts across several trips. Trust me. I used to think that packing for a trip meant the same number of tops, bottoms, and undergarments as there were days in the itinerary.  Not so!

After several years of travel, and on very extended holidays, I now consider myself a bit of a packing expert. To help others out, I’ve compiled a list of some of the top packing faux pas with some tips for how to overcome them.

Packing Too Much

When I went on a 10-day trip to Italy in high school, our class guide stressed repeatedly to not overpack.  Instead, almost every student ended up lugging around the biggest and heaviest suitcase they could manage. I was one of them.  Essentially, I had enough clothing to keep me comfortable in Italy for a month.  I ended up wearing half of what I packed.

Overpacking is the biggest faux pas of them all. Not only is it unreasonable, it can cause checked baggage fees, be a pain to carry, and contribute to an unhealthier environment (heavier planes use more fuel!).

How to Overcome: Whittle down your clothing to what you think you’ll need.  Then, cut that in half!  I know… it’s not the easiest task.  Also, try planning your trip outfits in advance. Use clothing that mixes and matches so your few pieces can equal more options.

Packing Too Little

I’m the girl who always tries to test how little she can pack, but there are travels where this might not be the best option. Like when I planned a holiday taking part in an archaeological dig and needed dig clothes and gear – and then didn’t have enough.  Packing too little might be a problem for people going on theme holidays or business trips, where having certain items is essential and might be a bit more difficult to pick up when there (unlike toothpaste and shampoo).

How to Overcome: Create a packing list and stick to it.  Be sure to address the specific needs of your upcoming trip in the process.

Packing for the Wrong Weather

Even the most beautiful of destinations have winters, wet seasons and strange weather from time to time. So, assuming it is always hot in Sydney might mean you’re packing shorts when you should be packing a heavy jacket.  I’ve heard this story before!

How to Overcome: Check your weather a week or two in advance to get an idea of what to start packing.  Also, check seasonal weather patterns even before booking your initial plane ticket. Yes, you might be getting a cheap airfare, but will you enjoy your destination as much in the off-season?

Packing Too Many Liquids

Packing too many liquids is a no-no in your carry-on bags, but it can lead to issues in your checked baggage as well.  Leaks, spills, and stained and smelly clothing can arise when packed liquids go wrong. And, let’s not forget that taking them carry-on can lead them directly to the trash can if they don’t comply with the liquids rule.

How to Overcome: Buy some small Nalgene bottles and transfer your shampoos, lotions, soaps, and facial washes to them. Nalgene bottles are excellent options as they don’t leak.  Take only the amount that you will actually need on your holiday as it helps you to comply with liquid restrictions as well as carry a lighter bag. Win!

Packing Too Heavy

Being able to fit it in your suitcase doesn’t always mean you should pack it.  Just like carrying too much stuff can be a nuisance (and trouble to keep track of), packing items that are just plain heavy can have their downsides as well. Firstly, it can affect your ability to take a bag as carry-on, and it can cause you to pay excess checked baggage fees. Secondly, taking a heavy bag around with you can mean you’re inconvenienced on trains and transport (trying to put them on the luggage racks, for example) and forced to rely on the help of others to get by. It’s a nuisance you just don’t need.

How to Overcome: Pack travel-sized items, like travel-sized blow dryers and toiletries. Wear your heavier items of clothing in transit. Don’t take anything that isn’t absolutely essential!

Packing Valuables and Breakables in Checked Baggage

How many times have we heard about bags getting lost when flying? Too many to count, right? For that reason, it is always important to have your valuables in your carry-on bag. And, do I need to mention breakables, too? If you’ve ever watched baggage handlers at work, you will know that special care often means little to nothing in the grand scheme of their daily, gruelling work.

How to Overcome: Include valuables and breakables in your carry-on bags.  Or, avoid taking them altogether.


About the Author: Brooke Schoenman is the founder and editor of Her Packing List – a resource on packing and gear for female travelers. Brooke is a seasoned traveler, having acquired stamps in her passport from destinations such as Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Russia, Malaysia, and Guatemala to name a few. She blogs and writes for a living, and you can follow the Her Packing List related side of her life on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Written by Brooke Schoenman of Her Packing List

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