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Are you a chronic worrier who finds it hard to avoid overpacking for a trip? As a frequent traveller, here are my tips to avoid overpacking and still stay comfortable!
By Aparna Vedapuri Singh
When you’re packing your bags for a trip, it doesn’t feel like your bags are too heavy. But as you near the end of the vacation, after you’ve stayed at that budget hotel and carried your bag up two floors, hauled heavy suitcases on and off airport baggage carousels, struggled to lift your carry-on bag onto the overhead rack – you realize what folly it was to bring along that pair of boots you thought would look great with the new knee length dress you bought to wear on vacation.
If nothing else, your groaning back and shoulders chide you for including all that stuff you barely used on your vacation, and could have well done without!
In the last ten years, I have been travelling on short and long holidays (mostly within India), and I find that a big part of the art of packing is about learning to avoid overpacking! Of course, if you are the kind of person who must be perfectly accessorized when traveling, this may not work for you, but otherwise, here are my top tips on how to avoid overpacking for a trip and save yourself a world of worry!
Pack clothes that are hardy, can be worn twice without ironing/washing, show less dirt (dark colours!) and in general require less upkeep. My three indispensables are a super-comfortable pair of jeans, 2-3 kurtis or shirts in crepe/wrinkle free material that take up very little space in my bag, and an all-purpose pair of sandals that go well with different outfits. It’s easy to get different looks out of fewer clothes by accessorizing with scarves, a nice pair of long ear-rings or even just tying a bandanna over your head – keeps the wind out of your hair when you travel and gives you an entirely new look for the day. Accessories don’t take up much space either!
Even on a long vacation, I can’t be bothered to carry two different kinds of footwear, but if you need to attend more formal events during your travel, wear your bulkiest footwear when you travel and pack a lighter, more elegant pair of sandals to go with formal outfits.
If you travel abroad, another way to save space on carrying too many clothes is to use the local laundromat rather than carrying many changes. Even in India, homestays may allow you to use their washing machine if you are staying for a while – check in advance.
Books and magazines take up size as well as add bulk to our bags. This is something I haven’t yet done myself, but have on my radar – going digital with a good tablet and using that to read is a big space saver. For voracious readers like me who carry a minimum of two books even for short trips, a Kindle or other tablet cuts bag weight by quite a bit. Unless you’re traveling for work, it also cuts out the need to carry along a laptop.
As someone who loves traveling to the hills, I find that woollens, while usually not heavy, are very bulky and end up hogging a big part of a small bag. When traveling to cold places, it isn’t really possible to skip warm clothing, but a few things can help. Investing in a high-quality, yet lightweight woollen shawl gives you at least one piece that is less bulky and yet keeps you warm. I’ve also realized that sometimes, I feel cold even when I’m wearing a bulky sweater, simply because my hands are exposed. Carrying along a pair of gloves or mittens that hardly takes up any space and weighs very little, makes me feel so much warmer especially when I’m outdoors in the hills. Keeping your ears covered to keep the wind out helps too.
In India, whenever we travel to meet friends and relatives, we have the tradition or habit of bringing along a gift – usually bulky packs of sweets, chocolates or other eatables. Throw out bulky gifts and try to replace them with something small, yet thoughtful that your host may like. This of course assumes you know something about the preferences of your hosts, but if you are unsure, perhaps even a gift card from a well-known store?
Instead of bulky 200ml shampoo and conditioners, carry along as many sachets as you need. If you must carry books, make it paperback. If you’re travelling in rainy weather, carry a foldable umbrella instead of a large one. You get the drift – it all adds up.
The one thing that I would suggest definitely making space for is a well-stocked medicine kit with any common medicines that you need and basic first aid such as dettol and band-aid. The last thing you need is having to hunt around your hotel for a painkiller in the middle of the night. Plus, in some foreign countries, you can’t really buy medication without a prescription.
Are you a chronic overpacker? Or do you carry just what you need? Share your best tips on how to avoid overpacking for a trip!
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Pic credit: dlisbona (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Founder, Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas and conversations
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