The Cure for Overpacking Addiction


Hi. My name is Nicole, and I’m an overpacker. When it was time for me to pack for a trip my heart would race thinking about all the wardrobe possibilities. Suddenly every other item in my closet was perfect for my trip. Before I knew it, my suitcase was overflowing with clothes, shoes, accessories, and toiletries–and guess what, I almost never used 50 percent of what I took with me!

So after dragging a huge bag all over the world and having it get lost too many times to count, I got hip to scaling back to what ever could fit in a carry-on. I’m proud to say I’ve been on the wagon for five years. I only have a bag whose combined length, width and depth doesn’t exceed 60 inches (152.4 centimeters)–the maximum size that most airlines allow for carry-ons. I only stow in overhead storage bins now, unless the airline insists that I check my bag. I can now pack for a two week vacation with just a carry-on and I’m going to share with you how I do it.

1. Learn to Let Go

The first hurdle is getting over your anxiety about not having something you’ll need while your away–this anxiety is the driving force behind your overpacking. What did it for me? Honestly, loosing my bag helped me see that I could, in theory, do without everything I had packed. Almost everything was replaceable. But I was also tired of lugging a huge bag and being forced to check it when I didn’t use the majority of the stuff I brought with me. And now, with the huge fees they charge for checked bags, it’s high time you let go of this addiction.

2. Make a Packing Checklist

One thing that will also help you get over your fear of forgetting something, is having a checklist. I use this one that I downloaded from TravelSmith.

Packing Checklist

Packing Checklist

I highlight everything on this list that I absolutely need, and then I gather those items and line them up on my bed–minus my clothes and shoes–which I pack last.

3. Baggies Are Your Friends

I’m a fan of using resealable, Ziplock plastic baggies to pack my accessories. In one gallon-sized bag I pack my non-liquid toiletries, including my comb and brush, toothbrush, cotton balls, ear swabs, soap, meds, etc.

In another gallon-sized bag I pack my liquid items. I pour my shampoo, conditioner, facial cleaner, etc. into 3 oz. containers. If I need more then one container of shampoo I’ll bring two. I buy travel-sized toothpaste, sunblock, lotion, bug repellant, etc. I’ll include one small bottle of perfume. All this goes into one baggie.

4. Electronics

In another baggie I pack my chargers, my foreign plug adapter, extra batteries for my camera, and anything else tech-related. This baggie gets packed in my shoulder bag along with my Kindle, laptop, and stuff that will keep me entertained on the plane. I toss into the same bag my guides and travel documents–not including my passport and plane tickets which I keep on my person in a waist pouch, along with my money. The pouch fits snugly against my body and the zipper sits right above my pants. When I reach in it for my money or passport, it kind of looks like I’m digging in my underwear but I don’t care!

5. Clothes

To select what clothes I’m going to pack, first I take a look at the weather forecast at my destination. This eases that feeling that I’ll need a sweater or jacket when it’s going to be 85 degrees and sunny everyday! Then I pull out a piece of paper and jot down the days of the week I’ll be traveling across the top and day and night along the side (I will usually come home after the day’s activities, shower, and change for the evening, which is why I split my list by night and day), like this:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday

Next, I consult my itinerary to see what I’m doing each day and night and I jot down comfortable and appropriate outfits. If my final list has five pants, five shorts, 10 shirts, and six pairs of shoes, for example, I will pull out a pair of pants that can be worn multiple times, same for shorts, same for shoes, etc. The trick is to pair clothes that have many possible matches. So instead of 26 items, I can cut that down to 11.

6. Packing

Finally, the last step! I’m a fan of bundling–wrapping clothes around a core object such as a folding board. It’s pretty simple, but easier to show than tell:

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 9.17.35 PM

This method is suppose to reduce wrinkling. I can’t attest to that because I typically travel with clothes that don’t easily wrinkle, but I can attest to the space that this saves.

Now, go forth and conquer your over-packing addiction with this six step plan! Let me know how it goes.


8 responses to “The Cure for Overpacking Addiction

  1. Now NikNik were you simply talking to me when you wrote this post? lololol This is right on the money and one I am certain to reference for an upcoming trip. I am a HUGE overpacker!!! THANK YOU!!

  2. Nicole,
    Thanks for the tips. I am a overpacked as well. I will using this info for my next trip.

  3. I’m about to embark on a mother/daughter two week trip to Europe with one small carryon bag (and a purse, but both combined are less than the carryon restriction for European airlines). I just did a practice pack the other day, and surprisingly it all fits!

    My mom is definitely an overpacker though… She’s got one carryon that fits the US requirements, but has to be a checked bag on European airlines. It was like pulling teeth trying to get her to stick to the one bag, until she realized she would have to lug it around the alleyways of Venice or through train stations!

  4. Years. And I mean, YEARS ago. I interviewed Danny Kaye’s daughter who wrote a book about traveling light. Your tips, Nicole are spot on. Now if I can just “Let go.” – Thanks for the advice.

  5. Pingback: Murphy’s Law: My 10 Family Vacation Disasters | nicole marie richardson·

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