Travel Blunder #19: Overpacking

Posted on October 2, 2011


After all of the shopping she had done in Istanbul, Noelle had to sit on her suitcase in order to zip up what had barely made it onto the RyanAir flight on the way there. At her airport, her suitcase didn’t fit the required weight and height restrictions, and she was asked to check it for €40. Her plane ticket had only cost €18.

Noelle made a common travel mistake:

Packing too much.

When traveling for the weekend, a general travel rule of thumb is to pack light. Traveling light will save you money that you’d otherwise spend on checking a bag or paying fees for overweight luggage. A budget airline ticket won’t feel so “budget” if it involves paying to check bags (as much as €20 each way) or getting slapped with a fee for an overweight bag (€40).

If you’re the kind of person who can’t resist great shopping, like the kind you’ll find in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, you will most likely always come back with some type of goodies or souvenirs. Those take up space and add extra weight. A proactive way to work around your taste of souveniers is to plan ahead and leave room in your bag — or to simply buy a bag wherever you are (€10 or less) and check it on the way back (€20, one time).

Here’s more advice on how to avoid this mistake:

  • Use a backpack.
    The appropriate backpack can fit everything you need during your travels, whether it’s a weekend getaway, your mid-semester break, or a month long trip. To fit into overhead compartments (or to be used as pillows) ackpacks can even be rolled up and tightened to become smaller. The majority of backpacks will fit standard carry-on restrictions. By avoiding checking baggage or restriction fees (and by not worrying about breaking a luggage wheel on a cobblestone street) a backpack will pay for itself in just a few trips.
  • Make a list.
    Regardless of the anticipation of a great weekend getaway, it is common for people to wait until a few hours before their 7 am flight to pack what they’re bringing. This causes overpacking, because things that are unnecessary are thrown in, and stuff that is needed is sometimes left behind (which could cause more spending while away). To avoid this, make a list prior to packing, to ensure that you have everything you need and no more. One rule of packing advice is to lay out everything you think you need and eliminate it by a third — and eliminate that by a third again.
  • Less is more.
    Don’t bring two pair of jeans. Wear one pair of jeans through the airport, and wear them more than once. Wear your jackets and any heavier items or boots. This will save room for shirts, dresses, or other items that you can roll up and fit tightly into your backpack. Pack one pair of shoes and one pair of flip-flops for the shower in hostels. Be prepared to wash items you want to wear more than once — bringing traveler’s detergent and hand-wash delicate items in the sink, and hang them to dry overnight. As for toiletries, try to avoid bringing your Costco sized bottle of Aussie Shampoo + Conditioner, and fill up the little travel sized bottles that are sold dirt-cheap at most convenience stores.

Bon voyage!

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