Travel Diary: Lightening My Load

My name is Jennie, and I’m an over-packer.

I’m the person in the line at the airline check-in desk sweating bullets, hoping beyond hope that the airline scale is the same as mine at home and that my suitcase doesn’t weigh more than 50 pounds. I’m a mess when it comes to packing. I just can’t say no to anything that jumps in my suitcase. I’m also the person who had to pay $75 in excess baggage fees to bring my treasures home from France.

I’m determined to send my over-packer-self packing.

Soooo – let’s cut to the chase. For our recent trip from Chicago to Portland, Oregon, I tried to pack smarter and lighter. I have a very light-weight 24-inch wheelie bag, but it’s still about seven pounds. I was resolute that I would get my bag below forty pounds. That’s not light enough, according to the travel experts, but it was a baby-step start.

As an over-packer, the thought of leaving the perfect outfit or pair of shoes behind can be enough to freeze me in my tracks. I decided that I needed an intervention, so I went directly to the internet for my packing therapy. I keep a couple of Pinterest boards going where I post articles about packing for travel, but my favorite source is the Rick Steves web site. Rick and his tour guides are pretty hard core about packing lightly and the site has several packing lists for men and women as well as videos on how to pack. I used this video by tour guide Sarah Murdoch as my personal therapist. I watched it three times, took notes, and kept it running on my iPad WHILE I was actually packing just to keep me honest. (It’s over an hour long — watch it next time you are on the treadmill!)

Kind of following instructions, I managed to only have four packing cubes full of clothing and accessories. I took four pairs of shoes (a minor miracle unto itself), and left most of my toiletries at home. I was staying in the same hotel for the whole week, and I knew that I could hand wash stuff at night and do a load of laundry at some point if needed. As I zipped up my suitcase, there was actually room remaining in it and I didn’t have to open the extra zipper because my bag wasn’t overstuffed. I was pretty darn proud of myself.

At the airport, my husband lifted our bags and commented that his was heavier than mine. Hah! That has never happened before. Then I put the bag on the scale for check-in and it was only thirty-four pounds. Life is full of lovely events, but I have to say, this little thing made me want to do a happy dance right there.

Of course, I still took more than I needed, and I didn’t end up wearing everything I took. Traveling in a more pared-down style did make me understand the beauty of the solid-color separate that goes with everything, however, and for our next trip I’ll be ditching some of the prints that I usually pack. I’ll also be looking for – or possibly sewing myself – cotton blend trousers that hang well and can be worn with all styles of shoes.

When I got home, I had to check. Did my pared-down packing actually fit in my smaller carry-on wheelie bag? Could I possibly travel to Europe with just a 20-inch bag like many seasoned travelers do?

The answer, sadly, is that it didn’t quite fit. There would be no room for bringing home souvenirs if I took the same amount of stuff in the smaller bag. But it did give me hope for my future. I have a ways to go, but I may stop being the over-packer that porters (and my long-suffering husband) hate to see coming through the door.

My name is Jennie, and I am determined to break the thirty-pound barrier next time.

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