Packing Like a Pro: Things I Always Overpacked (& How I Fixed It!)

suitcase overpacked with travel map

Isn’t it amazing how packing for a trip can sometimes feel like an adventure in itself?

The excitement of planning your journey, choosing your destinations, and imagining all the incredible experiences you’ll have can often be accompanied by the sometimes-stressful task of packing your suitcase.

Trust me, I’ve been there too.

I used to approach packing with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation, wondering how on earth I’d manage to fit everything I thought I needed into my luggage.

From the early days of stuffing my suitcase to the brim with an assortment of items, ranging from hair products to art supplies, it became clear that I was a prime candidate for the “overpacking club.” But here’s the thing – I learned from my experiences and, more importantly, I found ways to rein it in a bit.

I realized that overpacking not only made my luggage heavier and more cumbersome but also caused unnecessary stress and hassle during my travels.

So, if you’re like me and have ever found yourself wrestling with a suitcase that just won’t close or wondering why you packed that extra pair of shoes you never wore, join me in unraveling the secrets to packing smart and traveling with ease.

Table of Contents

1. Hair Care Products

1. Hair Care Products

girl with long hair at waterfall australia

When you find that perfect shampoo-conditioner-hair oil routine, it can be incredibly hard to give it up–especially when you want to make sure you get those perfect, instagram-worthy vacation pics.

And when I finally figured out my perfect product routine, I made sure to carry those specific bottles of shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, and leave-in conditioner with me everywhere–just to make sure I wouldn’t run out. And didn’t even include any styling creams, dry shmapoo, or hair spray.

But all of those bottles added up to a lot of extra weight in my suitcase.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce that weight, including:

  • Using prefilled travel-sized bottles
  • Filling refillable travel-sized bottled with your specific products
  • Buying shampoos and conditioners at your destination to avoiding carrying anything at all
  • Investing in lightweight shampoo and conditioner bars

For me, my routine is very important to me, so I’m transitioning to refillable travel-sized bottles where I can (even though my tendency for over-preparedness worries that I may run out!), but it’s definitely a work in progress!

2. Clothes

2. Clothes

girl in romper queen victoria building australia

Overpacking clothes is a problem for a lot of people, and I’m no exception.

I tend to just pick a bunch of shirts, skirts, shorts, pants, and dresses I think will match the aesthetic of my destination, and pack as many into my suitcase as I can fit. And while I never run out of things to wear, I tend to run out of suitcase space more often than not.

To help fix this overpacking tendency, I’ve started to build travel capsule wardrobes instead. This helps me to be more mindful about the pieces I pick so I can make sure every item I have works with multiple different outfits.

What is a Travel Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is like your travel fashion BFF – it’s a compact collection of versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits.

The key is to select pieces that work well together, ensuring that you can effortlessly transition from casual daytime exploration to elegant evening outings.

When building a capsule wardrobe for travel, start with essentials like neutral-colored tops and bottoms that can be dressed up or down. Add a few statement pieces for flair, and don’t forget comfortable and functional footwear.

Make sure you consider the climate of your destination and pack accordingly!

3. Shoes

3. Shoes

girl hiking shoes with mountains picnic blue ridge mountains

Shoes can eat up a ton of weight in your suitcase, so it’s super important to streamline your footwear down to a few key pairs.

And while your specific footwear needs will vary greatly depending on your destination, there are a few key tips you can keep in mind:

  • Always wear your heaviest pair of shoes while traveling to avoid the extra suitcase weight
  • Don’t pack pairs of shoes that only serve on purpose unless absolutely necessary
  • Try to pack shoes that work with multiple outfits

Generally, I tend to bring three pairs of shoes on vacation:

  • Hiking boots for athletic and outdoor activities (These I wear in the airport to avoid taking up too much packing room)
  • White Keds (These are my go-to shoe for 90% of my outfits)
  • Neutral sandals that work for the beach or a dressier outfit

Want to pack the perfect winter wardrobe?
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4. Books

4. Books

bookstore kauai hawaii plants shelf

I absolutely love reading, and I tend to bring at least two or three books with me every time I travel.

But like many best-laid plans, my intention to spend a ton of time reading on vacation is often forgotten in favor of exploring new islands, hiking beautiful trails, and taking cat-naps on the beach.

And while I far prefer reading paperbacks to e-books most of the time, they’re usually not worth the suitcase weight–especially on shorter trips.

So, if you’re trying to save room, opt for digital alternatives like e-books or audiobooks, which can be conveniently stored in a single device. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite reads without the extra weight. It’s a smart way to satisfy any reading cravings while maintaining a light and practical travel load. 

5. Unnecessary Gadgets

5. Unnecessary Gadgets

hair tools hair dryer straightener

Unnecessary gadgets can easily become the bane of your packing experience.

It’s tempting to bring every electronic device from your curling iron to your blow dryer, but the truth is, many of these items can be left behind.

Most accommodations provide hairdryers, and if you’re traveling internationally, the voltage and plug types might not match your gadgets, rendering them useless without adapters and converters.

And instead of packing bulky, power-hungry devices, consider lightweight alternatives or embrace low-tech solutions.

I’ve started ditching my straightener and curling irons in favor of using light-weight sock curlers to style my hair on the go (especially after I burnt out my straightener by plugging it into an outlet with the wrong voltage!)

6. Travel Guides

6. Travel Guides

hawaii hanalei bay helicoptor aerial view ocean kauai

Travel guides have long been a trusty companion for wanderlust-filled adventurers, offering a wealth of information about destinations far and wide.

However, in today’s digital age, the way we access travel information has transformed dramatically.

While traditional guidebooks still hold value for some, an array of digital resources and travel apps have emerged, providing real-time insights, interactive maps, and personalized recommendations.

These tech-savvy alternatives not only reduce the weight and space occupied by bulky books but also allow travelers to tailor their experiences on the go.

So, whether you prefer the tactile sensation of flipping through pages or the convenience of swiping through your smartphone, there’s no shortage of options to help you navigate and make the most of your suitcase space.

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7. Jewelry

7. Jewelry

girl with earrings sydney opera house australia

I may not be the biggest fan of necklaces or bracelets, but I absolutely adore a cute pair of earrings. So much so, that I tend to pack at least two pair of earrings for each outfit I pack. And that may not seem like much, but the weight can certainly add up. Plus, I only ever end up wearing a few of the pairs I pack.

To break this habit, I’m trying to adopt the same capsule wardrobe mindset by selecting a few versatile pieces that can complement various outfits.

Opting for neutral or classic jewelry items that can seamlessly transition from day to night tends to work best for me, but I still make sure to pack at least a few fun pairs!

Pack Smarter & Enjoy Your Trip More!

The art of packing is a delicate balance between preparation and practicality, and it evolves with the times.

While some traditional habits like overpacking clothes and lugging around excessive gadgets die hard, the digital age has ushered in a new era of travel where minimalist and tech-savvy approaches prevail.

Ultimately, the key to smoother and more enjoyable journeys lies in assessing our true needs, shedding the unnecessary, and adopting a more mindful and adaptable approach to travel.

So, as we embark on our future adventures, may we all find that sweet spot between preparedness and simplicity, allowing us to explore the world with ease and grace.

Happy travels!

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