7 Deadly Sins of Travel Packing

Travel Luggage: Suitcase or backpack?
Travel Luggage: Suitcase or Backpack?

We struggled miserably up the five flights of stairs to our pensione in Vernazza as a result of hand-carrying the two extra bags we had purchased along the way through France.  Both of our backpacks were backsprain-inducing heavy and I couldn’t understand why we had so much stuff after only three weeks of travelling.  Our initial load of one medium sized backpack each should have sufficed for our trip.

Deciding what to take with you on your dream trip can be challenging.  Every person is different in terms of the activities they intend to indulge in.  Here are the seven deadly sins of travel packing…

1.   Clothing Mismatches

When you pack for your vacation you need to look at the weather for your destination.  Remember that if you intend to visit alpine area in summer that it can still be cold after dark.  If you are flying long haul you also need to remember that you will need long clothing to stay warm at altitude.

Also consider the types of activities you intend to participate in.  If they are adventurous then you will need different clothes than if you are on an escorted bus tour or planning a fashionista shopping spree in Paris.

Don’t plan to take every clothing possibility with you. Just plan for the basics and plan to purchase additional clothing if required.  Plan to launder your clothes approximately once per week.

2.   Luggage Mismatches

One of the most important decisions you will make is the size and style of luggage to take with you.  The first decision is suitcase or backpack?  Then you need to decide whether you will take carry-on luggage only or plan to check your bag into the aircraft hold.

Once you have decided on your luggage option you then need to ensure that the items you take with you will easily fit into the bag with some space to spare.

3.   Too Many Travel Gadgets

How many travel gadgets do you really need to take with you?  It is easy to end up with a notebook computer, a tablet computer, an e-book reader, a smartphone, an iPod and a camera if you are not careful.  And heavy chargers for each device.

The first step is to decide how you intend to manage your photos along the way.  If your camera has onboard wifi you may not need an extra device to download photos.  Consider how you intend to use your travel gadgets while you are travelling and you may find that a smartphone will suffice for calls, blogging, looking up information on the internet and listening to music.  If you really need to take a computer aim for a netbook or ultrabook which is lightweight and compact.

A tablet computer can be useful if you use it to watch pre-loaded movies in flight but after that it may become additional weight in your luggage.

4.   Too Much Other Travel Gear

Walk into any travel store and see the rack of travel equipment which you can purchase.  Unless you intend to visit a remote location then remember that there will be shops at your destination.  Stick to the basics and don’t get caught up in a shopping frenzy!

Useful travel stuff includes padlocks, secure document holders, stuff bags, washing gadgets, first aid kit, sewing kit, inflatable travel pillow, small torch, multi-tool, earplugs and a sheathed small kitchen knife.

5.   Not Enough Entertainment

Travelling regularly involves time where you are waiting.  Waiting for your airplane, bus, boat or train to depart, and spending time in transit as you move from place to place.  While some of these experiences can be interesting often there are many boring moments.  Therefore to pass the time don’t underestimate how much entertainment you may need to either take with you or be able to purchase along the way.

Every person is different, so consider what your preferred form of entertainment is and plan how you will have some available as you need it.  In the modern age and with wifi available in many places you can quickly download new material.

6.   Not Doing a Trial Pack

The night before you are due to travel you finally pack all of your gear into your travel bag.  Shock horror it doesn’t all fit, and when you weigh it you are over the weight limit for your airline ticket…  As a result you hastily remove some items in hope.  And end up taking an additional bag for the overflow, thus encumbering yourself with the hassle of carrying additional luggage for the whole trip.

It is better to do a trial pack at least one week before you are due to depart.  As a result you can take a more relaxed approach to reconsidering what items you really need to take.  You should have time to make an additional shopping trip if changes are required.

7.   Keeping Too Much As You Travel

An insidious issue is how many souvenirs you keep as you travel.  There are specific souvenirs you purchase, and other souvenirs you accumulate such as travel brochures and tickets.

Before you depart each place I recommend you review what you have collected and plan to keep only a few more meaningful items and throw the rest into the bin.

If you are purchasing multiple items also consider whether you can get the item shipped directly home, either by the store or visit a post office and do it yourself.  Using this approach may cost some additional money but it means that you don’t have to carry the items for the rest of your trip.

Why Were We Overloaded?

I didn’t find out the reason why our Europe trip luggage was overloaded until after we arrived home.  My husband opened his backpack and I was very surprised when I looked and realised that his entire bag was almost full with brochures!  I had been trying to not be a ‘nagging wife’, so when he had asked me to carry some of his personal items in my backpack and the overflow bags I had not questioned him.

Along the way I had been sorting our travel brochures into ‘keep’ and ‘throw’ piles.  He had decided to keep the ‘throw’ piles without mentioning it to me…  It was his first big overseas trip and he hasn’t made the same mistake again 🙂 .

Have you committed any of the 7 Deadly Sins of Travel Packing?  What was the end result?  Please share your story in the comments below.

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9 thoughts on “7 Deadly Sins of Travel Packing”

  1. My backpack is tiny, it only fits 10kilos worth of stuff, but packing is still a nightmare. I have so many plugs and my cosmetics weigh the most. I think having too many cosmetics is definitely the most sinful thing you can do- you can buy most of it overseas and nobody I know wears much makeup while travelling anyway!

    • Thanks for your comment Samuel. It is certainly easy to pack too much, which is why planning to travel with only a carry on size bag is a great idea to force you to constrain how much you take.

  2. Hi Anne,

    Love this headline. I’m just starting a packing series over on my blog but you sound like a pro:) My sin is adding extras at the last minute that I don’t really need because I did a good job packing and there was some spare room. Not good!

  3. regarding point 1: what is happening when you travel in January from Europe to NYC and then you fly directly to Cancun?! You have to pretty much pack ALL kinds of clothes! 🙂 That was my dilemma last year!

    • It is a challenge to change between significantly different climates. I think some lightweight but warm outer layers are in order, plus your summer gear for Cancun…

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