Please sign in to post.

How Not to Pack

As someone who knows the right things to do — due to hours spent here on the Packing page of the Forum as well as deeper drives into packing advice from specialists cited here — I feel the need to confess my poor behavior on my just-completed trip.

I went for a week to Brittany — I took the train from Gare du Montparnasse to Lorient, where I rented a car; then stayed for a week in a gite I had rented a bit east of Audierne in the Finistère.

Just as CWSocial said in the other thread about her/his ideal length of stay somewhere being one day longer than s/he thinks s/he will need, i always, always take just a little bit more luggage than I can comfortably carry.

I can always handle it on my own, and never ask for help, but i always have just a little too much.

Yesterday coming back I knew it was bad. When i arrived back to Gare du Montparnasse I had to find a way home (thank you CityMapper) that was double the length of time I could have gotten home on the metro, as I knew I could not handle ANY stairs down into or back up from a metro station, no matter how minimal they be.

So I took a bus south and then took a tram about a quarter of the way around the city - step-free and that is what I could handle.

When I got home, I thought this is ridiculous even for me, so I got out my little thingy that weighs luggage and weighed all five pieces I had with me (ok you already have an idea this is bad).

All together they weighed 75 pounds!!!!!!!!

That is all. I am insane and obviously should refrain from commenting on packing matters !!!!!

What's your worst packing faux pas?

Posted by
1416 posts

Oh gosh, Kim, I hope your knees and back are OK!

This may not be the "worst" packing faux pas ever, but still....

I'm finalizing packing for my trip, leaving in a few days. The forecast is showing a fair amount of rain, so I was double-checking my raincoat and putting more of my clothes into big Ziploc and compression bags to avoid them getting wet inside my luggage. My Dad asked if I wanted to borrow his Rick Steves umbrella, from when he went on his tour. I decided to compare it to the one I already had packed. Good thing I did! Mine opens in the upside-down umbrella shape. Glad I didn't drag that thing all the way to Europe!

I'm taking the Rick Steves umbrella.

Posted by
7628 posts

Oh, Kim! You made me laugh! I'm glad you got home safely and yes, so funny you weighed things afterward.

Before I discovered light packing and before airlines had a charge for overweight luggage, I had a large samsonite suitcase that opened like a steamer trunk. I'd wheel that sucker up to the Delta check in desk and the staff member would already have the bright pink tag ready that said "heavy" - as if the baggage handlers couldn't tell just by looking at it. No, I never needed 3/4 of the stuff. One time I was headed to see a friend and actually packed a wrought iron horse as a gift for her! Good grief! IT weighed more than my current packed bag does now!

In the midst of packing....off to check my umbrella because yes, it looks rainy next week!

Posted by
2433 posts

75 pounds for a one week trip? OMG. No wonder you wanted to avoid the stairs! I freely admit to packing heavy by RS standards. But I've gotten it down to 40 pounds for long trips and cruises- 30 pounds for the suitcase and 10 pounds for my carry on bag. I know I could go lighter. But I choose not to- I like having a choice of wardrobe and shoes.

Posted by
16729 posts

I once arrived at the Reno airport for my return flight home and was told my large suitcase was overweight. This was in the 70-lb.-limit days, and the bag weighed 81 lb. In my defense, I had been on a rock-collecting holiday. But still.

Europe is obviously easier, but still I am a serial offender. I pack way too much paper. I never manage to get all my travel literature distilled into typed notes (which is my goal). That situation seems unlikely to improve as long as my trips are so focused on places I haven't been before.

But thanks to Kim I can feel virtuous for never having more than one 23"-24" suitcase, a packable tote and a purse,

Posted by
5395 posts

the bag weighed 81 lb. In my defense, I had been on a rock-collecting holiday.

Acraven, this is priceless!!

Posted by
338 posts

For my 17 trip we had carry on sized bags (one each) that stacked on top of each other to be the size of a typical rolling suitcase. And we had a smallish backpacks. That trip we had 5 train trips involved.

For our 18 trip we had 2 trains. With no changes of train and spent most the trip either traveling by car or in a given hotel and traveling about from it. With a couple long stays of 5 or more nights. So we packed heavier with two large suitcases. And except for the one train we had no issues. And on that one train I still managed without much problem to handle both my suitcase and my fathers.

But looking back on it our one hotel (3. Ights). Had a very inconvenient elevator so I had to carry the bags up basically two flights of stairs. So I may have been better off with the smaller suitcases. Even though I chose hotels that had elevators and such to avoid this problem.

Posted by
959 posts

Oh Kim!
I am almost speechless... and I hope that you had a wonderful week in Brittany.
City-Mapper is the best, and how great that you were able to navigate home without stairs or excessive walking.
Will you do it differently next time? (No judgement, just curious.)
And Pam, you have made me laugh out loud as usual! (Looking forward to lunch next Sunday!)
I had to buy an extra tote in Paris a couple of years ago to get all my stuff home. I was okay going over but had enjoyed more shopping than usual.
And thanks to a cPap, I now have to pack heavier than I used to.

Posted by
9406 posts

The bottle of grappa that was in my backpack all day yesterday nearly toppled me over. 😁 Once it was in my rolling bag, not so bad. Hubby’s fave is, sadly, only available in Italy.

Posted by
3973 posts

OK, Kim, you now must tell us how on earth you managed to pack 75 pounds worth of stuff. I mean, did you pack the refrigerator?? Or were you also on a rock hunting trip?

I wish I knew how much my luggage weighed the first time I went to Europe. It as a big Samsonite bag, but not a steamer trunk type, and this was in the pre-wheelie days. I'm going to guess it weighed about 40 pounds. I left most of the stuff behind in Kiev, as I recall.

Actually, I had to. For some reason the flight plans for our leaving Ukraine were changed, and everyone on our group (a summer studying in the Soviet Union) had to dump at least 1/2 our stuff. Which pretty much meant we kept one outfit, and any souvenirs we had accumulated. Most of us had balalaikas!

Posted by
5395 posts

Ok, a few more details. A part of the problem was that I had taken almost a full (small!!) suitcase of scrapbooking stuff, album, photos, paper ephemera, and tools — in case the weather in Brittany was rainy and cool. Two problems with this: 1) by the time I left Paris last Saturday, the forecast looking out for a week looked pretty darned good (thus the likelihood of being stuck inside with only my books and my project was looking pretty small) and 2) from the photos I had of the gite, I pretty much knew there wasn’t any alternative to the dining table — I.e, there wasn't anywhere I could work on that stuff and just leave it out. So I simply should have left that whole kit and caboodle home.

For the rest — I don’t really think I packed excessively, but I did have a bottle of cider and some galettes and caramels Bretons that I was bringing back to share at the office; some food from the fridge. as far as clothes, I think I packed pretty well — except for the two long-sleeved t-shirts that I never wore because it was nice. (A third one I wore sometimes in the evenings , it was more of a “pj” t-shirt, not for going out in, and it was kind of big and heavy.) and I wore my jeans on the train down there but then realized during the week it was really too warm for them — so they were also in the suitcase for the return.

As far as shoes — I had a pair of light Skechers on my feet; I took a pair of house slippers and a pair of cheapy Decathlon sport sandals for wearing on the beach; and I brought a pair of more substantial (but still not full hiking) Mephisto shoes with a more rugged sole and build. And I took a Turkish beach towel which I definitely used on the beach, so wasn't extraneous.

I had two heavy print guidebooks which I wouldn’t have traded for anything, they were so rich with info and really helped me understand what there was around me so I could enjoy what the area (which I didn't know at all) had to offer. Plus another printed novel and my kindle. Should have left the printed novel at home.

And I took my work iPad with its heavy cover and light keyboard in addition to my personal iPad. That was probably overkill but there was a time Sunday night when I was very glad to have it due to some things I had forgotten about before leaving the office on Friday.

Oh well I would say live and learn, but I am 49, soon to be 50 — so maybe not!!!

Posted by
5395 posts

Laurel, it was probably completely dumb to bring back the bottle of cider that I had — I am sure it or something reasonably similar is available here. So unlike your husband's favorite grappa, this was definitely overkill for me to have brought back.

But I ran into reasoning errors at every turn — I would say, for example, *what's one bottle of cider? It's the only glass bottle I am bringing . . . *

Posted by
1412 posts

Oh Kim, I feel your anguish. Even though we have gotten down to carry on size for a few trips, the suitcases still weigh in at a 35lbs each. It’s doable, but the large totes we each carry adds more weight and having to haul around 2 pieces each. My goal for our next trip is to bring a 24” each and no large totes. We will be gone for 3 weeks but only 2 hotels in 2 cities (London and Dublin). I want to only bring a much smaller foldable tote as a carry on and use a small wristlet or hippack for my wallet, etc. I plan on doing some clothes shopping in both cities so i will leave room in the suitcases. Will this work? We shall see. I haven’t been able to find the perfect match yet, each trip has been different. Also, each trip i say to my hubby that i am not shopping and things just magically appear when it comes time to pack to return home. I have gotten better and better each trip buying less and less. Another, we shall see.

Posted by
2649 posts

1986, my first land travel in Europe, I took 2 Samsonite suitcases....the one with a strap on the side and tiny wheels on the long side. Arrived in Belgium to a train/subway strike. My sister who was living there had traveled the world with a pack. We had to drag those bags all around Belgium and Netherlands on buses. It only got worse as I kept buying wooden toys to bring home to my toddler son. Just on principle I have never given away those darn toys, but it is where I learned the lesson to pack much lighter in the future.

Posted by
7628 posts

"I had taken almost a full (small!!) suitcase of scrapbooking stuff, album, photos, paper ephemera, and tools —"

Aha!! Now we know the secret....you are a CRAFTER! All is forgiven! I am a low level cross-stitcher and every. single. time. I look at my XS stuff and am SO tempted to take it but fortunately have talked myself out of it.

SharYn! Yes! So looking forward to next Sunday!

Posted by
2433 posts

I had taken almost a full (small!!) suitcase of scrapbooking stuff,

Ahah!! The culprit, for sure. I used a carryon suitcase to haul all my supplies to our scrapbooking group, and it's amazing how heavy that thing was.

Posted by
11 posts

Also being a crafter (cross-stitch, quilting, ...) I'm planning ahead for when I can travel more by learning to knit. Much easier on the packing!

Posted by
3974 posts

For a beach holiday, my husband and I always take one checked bag between us (EasyJet's limit is 23 kgs, but we try to keep it to 20 kgs) including beach towels and lots of suntan lotion etc. Plus his camera bag as hand luggage weights 15 kgs if he includes his drone and lap top. My hand luggage contains binoculars and the rest of his camera kit plus iPads, phones, kindles etc and usually weights between 8 - 10 kgs, so our total weight is around 45 kgs or 99 pounds. We can easily manage this luggage with wheels as we always hire a car at the arrival airport. We usually go away for 3-4 weeks each trip and I try to do as little washing whilst away as possible.

I can't recall any packing faux pas, as I take a sensible sized bag, so I can add an extra pair of trousers or tops etc, as I don't try to squeeze a quart into a pint pot as most on this forum do! Better to take too many clothes than too few.

Posted by
2649 posts

As a crafter, I go through withdrawl even contemplating not having a project on hand 'just in case'. However, after several trips of never making a stitch, I have learned to be realistic....but if no mini quilt project, then I at least take a pocket sketch pad and a pencil as my creative lifeline.
If I know I will have stitch time, like on a cruise, I do keep it within my self imposed luggage amounts, however. If a 25 inch suitcase, I take knitting; if carry on only then miniature quilt with all supplies in a pencil case. It definitely means planning ahead. If a road trip, I pack like Kim, but never if public transport.

Posted by
9406 posts

LOL only one glass bottle! Liquids are killer! I despise abandoning shelf stable items so the half container of oregano from our apartment in Ortisei plus a half bag of dried beans are nestled in my second pair of shoes along with two tiny jam jars and a pepper grinder. None of which were in my case leaving Oregon. But I will use them up in Lauterbrunnen next week,

I don’t have enough long sleeved tees, though. It is 7 degrees Celsius here this morning!

Posted by
923 posts

To the crafters out there: I knit and always take a project. To Italy it was fingerless gloves and an extra skin of alpaca/silk yarn for another pair. It all fits in a large make up bag so takes less room than a guide book. I didn’t even take them out of my carryon but had them handy if I had knitting withdrawals. I just got home from a 4 week road trip to the NW and knit a quarter of my afghan project while on straight roads and in hotels.

As for over packing, when I went horseback riding in Ireland years ago, I took my tall riding boots. The short paddock boots and 1/2 chaps I also took would have sufficed, especially after the tall boots got wet and I burned out my hair dryer trying to dry them. Plus we bought so many souvenirs that we picked up a box from the curb to pack it all, hauled our “pet box” 1/2 way through Ireland and added it to our checked big suitcases, back in the days when suitcases had a wheel on each corner.

Posted by
6 posts

My worst faux pas was on my first trip to England in 2000. First, I looked at the weather beforehand and it said in the 50's so I brought a light jacket. Originally being a Jersey Girl, 50's was spring weather. However, I'd been living in FL for several years so 50's, which ended up being actually 40's, was freezing! I wore every layer imaginable and looked like the Michelin Man. As for packing, I had packed my little Travel Pro like a Swiss Watch and left no room for purchases. I learned A LOT on that trip and lots more lurking on this Forum for many years and gleaning lots of great tips!!

Posted by
64 posts

My worst faux pas was when my husband and I went to Aruba in 2006 for an anniversary trip. We were staying at a small resort on a secluded beach, and I planned to do lots of reading. I packed seven books in my suitcase - mostly hardcover! When they weighed the suitcase at the airport, it was 53 pounds (for a 6 day trip), and overweight. The check-in people stopped us to ask what in the world was in a rather small bag to make it that heavy.

When we returned from our trip, my husband took matters into his own hands, and bought me the original edition of the Kindle as an anniversary gift. When I tried to demur, saying that the Kindle was too expensive, he replied that it would pay for itself in reduced overweight baggage fees. I've been a Kindle-lover ever since. :)

Posted by
922 posts

Hahaha Kim, I was shocked reading your post to see 75 lbs until you explained your scrapbook supplies and computer. Heavy stuff! I'd have trouble trying to tote 75 lbs. around on a trip whether I was avoiding stairs or not. I think the BO ( Brass Ovaries) award goes to you for persistence and success in finding your way home stair free with all that luggage. Me? I would have given up and taken a taxi. lolol

As for my packing faux pas, back around 2000 I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Santa Barbara, CA. Having never been to the west coast before I was quite interested in the cliff side beaches. Trying to shell though was problematic as I could find no seashells on the beach other than little angels wings. But there was something better than shells - rocks that had broken loose from the cliff above! Rainwater had dripped on them until holes were carved out of some of the rocks. I even got a heart shaped rock with a hole in it, just perfect to hold a candle. I spent a foggy, freezing mid July day at Haskell's beach collecting rocks in my suit and sweatshirt. The radio had announced, "It's gonna be a hot one folks, better head to the beach!" - the forecast was for 82 lol. I could go on and on about the rocks I collected (one is shaped just like a mini baguette!), but the main point of this story is the fact I had to get these rocks home to Florida. My one small bag was already quite full of clothes so I was forced to buy another bag just to carry the rocks in. I had to shield the rocks from bumping each other on the way home so I wrapped them in some of my dirty clothes. Both bags were checked and hubby waited patiently with me for them to come down the conveyor belt. I grabbed my light bag and left him the new bag. Hoisting it up he exclaimed, "Dang Nance, what have you got in here, rocks?" I just grinned. But the joke was on me for when I unpacked the rock bag my clothes had been beaten to death. "My new red shorts", I wailed. They were full of holes, and every piece of clothing in with those rocks had at least one tear or puncture. All ruined. Rocks hounds can relate and probably know better. Now I don't bring home more than will work in a carry on.

Posted by
2649 posts

@Nance, that made me laugh. Growing up in a rockhounding family, I can relate, but I rarely did this on flight holidays. Sure I would pick a few shells, one white rock and maybe some sand, but given the new international 'rules' about not removing natural resources, I limit it all to photos now.
Now, if you had added your jeans only for padding, you would have come away with distressed jeans with no effort. I hope you use that rock candle holder every day. It was hard won.

Posted by
622 posts

Oh, Nance, what a story! Loved it.

I've been a fast learner about packing in the last dozen years. My worst over-packing happened back in the mid to late 90's. For a few years back then, I'd travel to London with a friend for a short winter "theater break" - usually in February. I had a huge hardside Samsonite bag with wheels. But not the tippy design with wheels at one end and a strap at the other. This monster was square-ish with wheels in the center and a retractable handle. I collected books. And was a big reader of Brit crime fiction and general fiction. Charing Cross had all those lovely bookstores. Heaven! I still remember checking in for the flight home and seeing the "Heavy" sticker getting slapped on that bag, full of my precious new book finds.

Back then I packed more clothes than I would even think about now. However, I did manage to not buy more stuff than I could pack in my bag to go home. Not so much my friend, who loved to travel and loved to shop when traveling. Not just for herself; I swear, she bought gifts for all her family and friends and colleagues . . . I'm not kidding, the woman was (in)famous for bringing back prezzies from her many trips. So there was that one trip where on our last night before flying home, we packed our bags. Except - she couldn't fit everything she'd bought into her suitcase. No way, nohow. Not even close! I had pretty much no extra room in my own bag, but squeezed in a few items of her clothes. The next morning when we got to Victoria to check in for our flight home and board the train to Gatwick, she had to buy a small suitcase at a luggage store in Victoria Station for all her extra stuff.

TBH, I still overpack for road trips. Having a car makes it just too easy to put in that one more thing. I'm not a crafter, but my hobby of photography is heavy on gear. But as I said, I've gotten much better at reasonable packing for trips by air.

And now I know, be wary of falling in love with interesting rocks . . .

Posted by
3973 posts

My brother has been known to take a suitcase full of cans of diet Mountain Dew on his annual trip to Mexico.

Posted by
3973 posts

Suz mentioned road trips - now, for us, that's a totally different story. We take books -- Lots of books. Reference books, mostly. Archeology, geology, plant and animal guides, travel guides... And then a book of essays or something like that for light reading. We usually have a milk crate double stacked with books; the extras end up wandering around the car.

And my DH is a former rock hound, and still likes to pick up interesting bits here and there. And some of the interesting bits are about the size of a concrete block.

Note to rock hounds: There is a state park in New Mexico where specimen gathering is not only legal, but encouraged. Rock Hound State Park, in the southern part of the state. Check it out!

Posted by
1517 posts

I think I can one up just about everyone here, including acraven and her rocks! Picture a group of scuba divers (lots of heavy gear there as we all bring our own) and underwater photographers who bring cameras, housing etc. Our only saving grace is we do not need much in the way of clothes as we are underwater most of the time!

Posted by
2649 posts

@Jane, how does the Mountain Dew survive the pressure changes in checked luggage? Clearly they don't all fit the 3-1-1 compliancy for carry on.....

Posted by
5395 posts

I think I was also a bit deluded that I was on a road trip — conveniently forgettIng I needed to metro and train TO the car.

The rocks beating up clothes, the Diet Mountain Dew filling up a suitcase . . .

Those Samsonites that were the firs“wheeled” luggage — I will always remember taking that and I don’t know how many more varieties of bags when I moved to Hungary for a year in the early 1990s to teach English. The principal of my school and his wife came to pick me up at the Budapest airport to take me back to Kecskemet — I have literally no idea how all that luggage fit into that Trabant!!! Can you imagine??!!

Then I started doing my weekend travels from my town, meeting my fellow teachers in their town or in budapest — and i was carrying my weekend stuff in a cloth Vera Bradley duffel.

The girl who ended up being my best friend got me to a camping store and got me sorted with a big backpack and regular backpack. On the big trips I would wear the big one on my back and the small one on my front. I remember it was some Hungarian brand that had as its logo a hedgehog. Those backpacks long ago bit the dust, but I wish I had snipped off the name and logo for memory’s sake.

Posted by
5395 posts

As for BO,I knew a taxi would cost 30€ or more (having taken a taxi to/from Montparnasse just two weeks before), and I am cheap. And I figured it might be more on Saturday due to the climate march and who knows what all. But there were moments when I was almost there .

Posted by
7628 posts

Really enjoying this thread!

Road Trips? Oh...all bets are off. My favorite US destination is Yellowstone and it's a 9 hour drive. While my clothes can mostly fit in my regular RS 21" wheelie, I've got a bag of outerwear, a crate of reference books, spotting scope and tripod, chair, cooler, boxes of food. It's a good thing I travel there by myself because there is NO ROOM in my car for another person, lol!! Sometimes I feel kind of bad because the college kids who work in the park will hitchhike from location to location. I'd gladly pick them up but...no room....

Posted by
3973 posts

MariaF, I never thought to ask. But I know he's done it more than once. His wife tells me he does it every year.

Pam, I wasn't even thinking about food. When we travel in the States, we always take plenty of food. Usually a big bag of fruit - (oranges, apples, and grapefruit,) a cooler with salads and sandwich fixings, a couple of loaves of homemade bread, and a snack box, with nuts, dried fruit, and (my guilty pleasure) chips. Oh, and some pots and pans which fit in a duffel bag. A shoulder bag with cooking and eating utensils.

Then there are the tent and sleeping bags, when we go camping.

You're right; we fill up a vehicle, whether it's a VW Bug (in the old days) or my Saturn Vue now. And we've had the same regrets about passing up hitchhikers when from outside the vehicle it looks like there's plenty of room...

Posted by
3352 posts

Kim, I think I saw some of your relatives on the train to Nice! ; )

Posted by
5395 posts

Jean — hahahahahahaha!!

Speaking of relatives — my mother is like me and always packs a little too much. My husband too. My dad and brother meanwhile — and my sister-in-law and nieces — are disciplined efficient packers, never lugging too much!!

Posted by
626 posts

It’s far too embarrassing to tell how much I packed for my first flight ever, even though I was moving internationally at the time (40 years ago). However in 2012, my hubby and I spent a week in Italy, followed by a week in Switzerland in July. I had been excitedly watching the consistent weather report of 35 degrees in Lauterbrunnen and brought along a coat specifically for those few days. Imagine when we arrived to a heat wave of 80 degrees, after a sweltering few days in Venice in July. I think I actually cried. Come to find out, the weather was for the Jungfrau - but thank goodness it cooled off nicely the following day! However I sure didn’t need the coat.

Posted by
3216 posts

MariaF, the luggage hold on a plane is pressurized to the same level the rest of the cabin is. How do you think dogs (or other pets) survive a trip in there when they are too large for the cabin?

Posted by
2649 posts

@Mark, given what happens to shampoos and bottles, I had to ask. Not being a pet owner, they didn't cross my mind.

Posted by
1063 posts

Well, I wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone on my last trip to the U.K. I don’t subscribe to the super competitive light packing Rick Steves method. But, I began to realise when packing for the trip that I’d probably over scheduled myself and squeezing in laundry was going to be rough. I usually use one of those pick up and drop off services since laundrettes are almost impossible to find in city centres these days. But I will always make sure that I’m in a city for 3 full days before I’ll use a pick up service, even if they say it’ll be a 24 hour turnaround, I like one extra day for a cushion.

So, anyway, I basically had to bring almost enough clothes for the entire trip. I have no problem checking my bag, but it did suck having most of the bag full of clothes, even with rolling clothes and packing cubes. The only ‘good’ thing was that the weather was indeed cold enough to justify the two hoodies I had brought.

It just taught me the same advice I give on these forums, slow down and see fewer cities and minimise not only one night stays but two night stays as well.

Posted by
9406 posts

Nothing can be as bad as the "steamer trunks" people haved dragged onto the Swiss train we riding today. I think the girl across from me weighs less than her suitcase. It is large enough for her to sleep in.

Someone needs to start a "packing light" blog for tourists who come from outside of Europe.