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Packing panic

I almost never do a practice pack but I just did one today for my upcoming trip to England. I have a Travelpro Maxlite 21" spinner bag that I have used five times on trips there. This year, I bought a 25" Maxlite spinner. I had such a terrible time last year with my luggage and I'm determined not to repeat it.
Here is what I packed: one pair of silk pants, one pair of tencel pants, one J Jill Tencel, linen and spandex cardigan, two LL Bean 3/4 sleeve T-shirts, two J Jill 3/4 sleeve T-shirts, one silk blouse, five pairs of underwear, nine pairs of socks (I need two different styles due to my different shoe needs; I might be able to wrangle this so that it's one type of sock and I'll bring five pairs), one bra, toiletry kit (Tom Bihn Spiff Kit--I did a mockup of the stuff I'll be taking as I didn't want to have to pack and unpack my usual stuff. I've really pared down in this area). My backup shoes, which are Reebok slip-ins. Long sleeve light tee for sleeping plus 32 degrees lightweight sleep pants. Hair turban (made of toweling) and wash cloth.
There is more stuff to be packed in my checked bag (journaling supplies, spare eyeglasses, for e.g.)
As you might have guessed, it all fit pretty well in the larger bag. I rolled it down the hall and then carried it downstairs and upstairs. I had to bump it going both ways.
Then I put everything in my smaller spinner. It was much more manageable. However, the above stuff is about ALL I can fit in that bag.
I am thinking of returning the larger bag b/c I feel like I can't manage it. I have a tough enough time on the train and the Tube with the smaller one.
I don't know if I can pack less. I've really pared down. Should I try compression cubes? I realize that won't solve the size problem.
I will be staying at a B&B for five days, then going to my Air BnB, where I will have a washing machine.
Last year I felt like I sweated so much in my travel clothes that I was disgusted. I did hand laundry at the B&B which worked out OK.
I just do not know what to do. Does it sound like I'm taking too much?
Please help!
EDITED TO ADD: This is my LL Bean travel tote. I've considered getting a smaller spinner bag to stack on top of my Maxlite bag. Also edited the fabric content of my J Jill cardigan. My other cardigan (which I'll wear on the plane) is similar to this one.

Posted by
7575 posts

You’re taking more socks than I do, but how much extra space do 3 pairs of socks take up? Looks like a reasonable amount of clothing.

I exclusively use Eagle Creek packing cubes. The zip-compressible verzions do actually cut down on overall space needed inside your spinner bag, and allow for some additional items.

If your excess is journaling supplies, glasses, and a few additional odds and ends, are you bringing any larger purse, crossbody bag, or smallish rucksack, or day bag? With that slung over your shoulder(s), does that permit you to pack everything else in your 21” spinner, and have your essential items in that second bag?

Posted by
100 posts

I am practice packing now, too! Two things I maybe see are (for sticking with the smaller bag):
1) Your toiletries bag- are you also taking some kind of plane tote? Although I have pre check I still pack any liquids in a zippered clear 3-1-1 bag. Toothbrush, little solid deodorant, floss (I tear off enough for the trip) I store with my sleep outfit and unders in a small packing cube. Anyway, you could keep liquid toiletries in the plane under seat bag and skip packing the designated kit since you aren't moving, except once.
2) The shirts- if one gets uncomfortable after a day out, I could see wanting to change. But it's still 4? It seems like once you have the washing machine you're all set, so it's really just the 4-5 days prior?
When I traveled to Australia some years ago it was 2 seasons and I just couldn't pull off a carry on. While it felt like a luxury to have so much room in a 25" bag I hated schlepping it! OTOH, you are mostly staying put so maybe it's just the hassle to and from your lodging?
Good luck!

Posted by
14175 posts

I think that looks pretty good. I’m assuming this list includes your transit outfit? You may save space with compression cubes particularly with the sweater which may be bulkier or are you wearing that on the plane? Also more socks than I take. Ut you’ve got to keep your feet happy and…as said a ove a few more socks isn’t a deal breaker in a suitcase!

Personally I’d go with the smaller bag since you are taking public transit into town BUT I know you’ve done this route a number of times before and know if you’ll encounter any stairs or areas that are difficult to transit thru.

Posted by
692 posts

I should have mentioned that I will have my LL Bean tote and my Stowaway Backpack. I will put my 3-1-1 in the tote. I didn't include my travel outfit in the list.
I know I'll encounter stairs in my B&B, at least going down as they help me on the way up. I've been seriously considering avoiding public transport. As much as I can!

Posted by
14175 posts

If your transit outfit isn’t included, I’d probably cut back on one of the shirts.

Are you wearing a cardie on the plane?

I do understand what you are saying about your travel oufit feeling grungy after a day of travel. Honestly, one of the first things I do when I get into my hotel is take a shower and put my outfit into my ziplock wash bag. Not the LS layer I have for the plane, but jeans, tee shirt and unders.

Posted by
692 posts

I have a different cardie for the plane, yes.
Certainly one of shirts could go. Maybe one of the tees.

Posted by
996 posts

I just spent 49 days in Europe with five pairs of socks. Mine are a merino cotton mix and they dried overnight after handwashing in a hotel sink. I could have managed with only three pairs as I found I could wear one pair of socks for two days before they needed washing.

Posted by
7404 posts

I had more trouble deciding what to bring this trip than ever before, and I have a list that stays pretty much the same.

It is so helpful to get out the kitchen scale and weigh each potential item. Write down the numbers, and then you can decide how much you want the hair turban, for instance, compared to a shirt if one must go.

I brought a 32 degree top because it’s so lightweight, and that’s what I layer with my raincoat if I’m cold.

Hope it goes well for you!

Posted by
9787 posts

If you have a tough enough time with your smaller bag, and everything will fit in the smaller bag, why would you go to the bigger bag ?? You have already said yourself that “I feel like I can’t manage it” and that things were “much more manageable” in your smaller bag. Those are red alerts to pay attention to while you are still at home and can make good decisions that will help on your trip !

I think the compression cubes would help (and I’m not one who uses them). They’re not going to make anything any lighter, but they will help kind of “mash” everything so that things will fit in your smaller bag more neatly. (And maybe make room for a few more little things to tuck in like extra glasses.)

And after five days, you will have a washing machine !!

Your packing list sounds pretty good and reduced. Maybe reduce the socks but as Cyn and Pam said it’s not like two or three pair of socks is going to make a big difference. But maybe three or four would make enough of a difference to be worth it. And socks are the single easiest things (next to undies) to sink wash and rotate more often. I understand you need different types due to different shoes, but maybe take out half and socks are something you have to wash in the sink every night or every other night until you get to the washing machine.

Finally, be proud of yourself that you are facing this question now when you can still make some decisions that will help you on your trip. You are already ahead of the game ! Have a great time.

P.s. edit to add - what kind of trouble do you mean that you had on the last trip that you are determined not to repeat? It sounds like this is what led you to buy a bigger bag, but I am not quite sure.

. I had such a terrible time last year with my luggage and I'm determined not to repeat it.

Posted by
371 posts

I always pack my kit in my underseat bag (I usually use an Adidas or an Embark backpack - the Embark is roomier, but still smushes under the seat), as well as a ziploc with a pair of underwear and maybe PJs, and all my electronic stuff, etc. Just in case my carry-on gets checked, but also frees up space in the carry-on. I don't think your list is that huge, so I'm not sure why things aren't fitting...and compression cubes would work for space, just wouldn't reduce the weight.

Posted by
345 posts

I think I would think more in terms about the ability to use the washer and dryer after five days. That’s a luxury to have. If you can wash the travel outfit and maybe one other set of pants, top and socks when you get to the air bnb you can maybe eliminate a couple of things since you can fully wash it all. Just a thought.

Posted by
787 posts

Sounds good to me, but I would only take one cardigan, or in my place an extremely light weight Costco packable down jacket, it squishes down into a tiny sack. Then I like to add a scarf or even 2, much lighter weight than a second sweater. That would save a bit of space. Good for you trying it all out ahead of time!

Reported workminex above as spam.

Posted by
731 posts

I like the idea of not using public transportation. From what you say you have only 4 times you need to transport luggage...once to the first location second to train or however you are going to the city the air bnb is third to the air bnb and then to airport. Do ubers or taxis. Makes life less stressful . Dad and I have switched to this as we age. We figure it as part of the cost of a more enjoyable trip

Posted by
371 posts

So it looks to me like you’re going to have three pieces of luggage. You’re checking your roller board whichever size you go with. you’ve got a carry-on and a backpack.

I think that’s probably why you’re struggling, I know it would be for me. So pack your suitcase and your other 2 bags and then go walk around the block. If that’s a problem, Come back and figure out what you can leave at home. You need to get it down to two pieces if it all possible and it is possible.

honestly, I would try to get away with just one sweater. Yes I know you have decided you will never wear your travel clothes again, but that just may not be realistic if you want to do smaller luggage.

Posted by
27362 posts

I'd definitely cut 4 pairs of socks and the second cardigan. And I agree at least one compression cube (probably two) would help. I suspect that would be enough to allow you to go back to the smaller bag--unless you're packing full-size bottles of toiletries?

Posted by
735 posts

Your packing list sounds very similar to mine, and I can fit everything into my 21-inch suitcase. If you are like me and find you wear a cardigan almost every day, I'd keep the cardigan if you can (depending on the weather forecast), but drop 3 pairs of socks and perhaps add one compression cube--I don't think your bag will weigh too much. Mine with a similar list weighed 20 lbs fully packed on our recent trip.

Posted by
2565 posts

Are you rolling your clothes? I have taken more than you have easily in same size bag but used packing cubes. (Not compression ones). But if you are staying in one or two places, you could just roll your clothes. They take up less space that way.

Posted by
100 posts

Or- how my mother packed (Happy Mother's Day!) that I've started doing- if a clamshell style of backpack or suitcase lay your pants/skirt-dress slightly overlapping across the bottom unfolded.
Under that I have a flattened compression bag to use as I accumulate laundry. Then I put in the filled packing cube(s), making sure to first totally flatten the flapped over items so they don't wrinkle. I can usually smoosh in a few more things likepajama bottoms, rolled, around the edges. Then carefully fold in/over the pants to enclose the packing cube.
This sock situation - don't forget you can stuff your packed pair of shoes with them. And I find keeping them not rolled takes less space.

Posted by
692 posts

Hi, all: Thanks for your input!
To answer a few questions: No, I am folding my clothes and not rolling them. I'm doing the Marie Kondo fold.
The backpack I am bringing has virtually nothing in it on the way over. It's my daybag when I get to my destination. On the plane there are only a couple of things in it, things I might want on the flight (gum, tissues, my reading glasses etc.)
Regarding the "terrible experience" last year, here it is: my tale of woe

I am getting rid of the Pakt travel duffel and going back to my trusty LL Bean tote, which someone on this forum recommended several years ago. It has a trolley sleeve and I can put it on top of my suitcase.
I never take full size bottles of toiletries. Everything liquid is 3 oz. or smaller. This year I am not even taking shampoo or conditioner.
I will definitely get some compression cubes. I know I will need one if I'm putting "emergency clothes" in my carry-on.
I should experiment with some different packing methods. Thanks for the suggestions! Had not occurred to me to pack socks flat.

Posted by
332 posts

What a lovely conversation - I’ve just read through the whole sequence and and it’s been a pleasure to read the to-ing and fro-ing of the comments and advice, all written in a helpful and positive spirit. This is what makes this forum so special, thank you!

Posted by
4441 posts

I read some of your last packing report. I assume you are bringing a foldable duffle for purchases? I know I wouldn't be able to manage a 25" bag is I had to lug it up any steps. I usually use a pair of leggings and one of my t-shrts for pjs. The leggings could also go under slacks if its cold. I don't advise doing this, but I have done it on more than one occasion without a problem-only take the shoes on your feet-or just flip flops to wear in hotel room. Clearly I don't care how I look(I lived in tennis shoes in college because my life was spent in labs)-just that my clothes don't smell! And you know to put a laundry fabric softener sheet in your packing cubes?

Posted by
82 posts

Compression cubes will really help and you can fold inside the cube or roll if you prefer. Also, take 2 pair of merino wool socks as you can wear them for 3 or 4 days without washing. Are any of your tops made of merino wool? You can wear them without washing for a few day even if you sweat as they will not get stinky--that way you could take 3 tops instead of 5. I wear merino wool year round even in the heat and humidity of the mid-south (Tennessee). Merino layers very nicely, too. Also, as to the poster who said take 2 bags instead of 3--I agree with that suggestion--I would not want to juggle 3 bags. Have fun and safe travels!

Posted by
692 posts

No, I don't take a foldable duffel for purchases. I use this
for my dirty laundry, which I squash down flat. That way I'm able to fit any purchases in my 21" spinner. I only took a foldable duffel once, in 2016, on Icelandair. I have been flying Virgin Atlantic and since I check my main bag, I don't want to pay extra to check a duffel.

I don't own anything made of merino wool. I've been known to find wool very itchy so I've never even tried it.

As I mentioned above, I don't really count the backpack as "a bag" since there's so very little in it during transit. I use it on the plane for items I want to have easy access to so that I don't have to go into my carryon bag.

Posted by
101 posts

Honestly, I'm really having trouble figuring out why your list fills that bag, it really doesn't seem excessive in numbers, except the socks:) I have the 22" 2 wheeled Maxlite and while it is 6liters larger inside I can pack WAY more clothes than you list. Last summer for a hotter climate I packed 2 pr shorts, 3 pr pants, 1 dress, 1 hat, 5 short sleeve tops, 6 sleeveless tops in that 22" case along with various snacks, makeup bag, 5 pr panties, 1 bra, 5-6 socks, backup shoes, sandals and microfiber towel! All the clothes were rolled and sweater and raincoat were in my backpack. Many of those items were very small packed- sleeveless cotton lawn, silk, tencel jersey knit. 3 of those rolled would probably equal one of your cotton Ts.

I think it is the cotton that is your enemy. In addition to weight you need to fold and look at the bulkyness of the individual items. Some items are heavy taking little volume, other are light but take lots of space up. I'm guessing your cardigan is bulky and I if you are talking about the Pima Cotton LLbean T shirts they are made with quality thick cotton so they are bulky compared to lighter fabric tops- they are well made but not really travel friendly.

I tend to put my extra fleece/cardigan in a packing cube and then put that at the bottom of my backpack. It is light so It doesn't add much weight, and the packing cube protects it from getting damaged/pulled. Linen/Cotten in a compression cube will wrinkle like mad, so I'd say if you can't fit it using a normal cube without compression try to find a less bulky cardigan or drop it.

Can you swap some T shirts for other tops in a light woven fabric, or maybe T shirts in Tencel?

Definitely try rolling your Ts and putting in a packing cube- I use the medium eagle creek cubes for tops. They will stay rolled up tighter and take far less space than folded. It really does work, also less wrinkles.

Socks- even with two types- you can fit 1-2 pr in each of your packed shoes. Either take 4 pair for your main shoe and 2 for the "extra" or 3 and 3 at most.

I thought the same about wool. Hated it, too itchy! The new high quality merino wool (usually marketed as NZ wool) is a completely different product. I have sweaty feet can rewear merino socks 2/3 times, I NEVER re wore cotton or synthetic socks. Merino T shirts are great too. They sink wash easy and dry fast and don't wrinkle much- perfect for travel. On a recent trip I washed my merino T, rolled it in a towel and hung to dry- it was dry in 3-4 hours! I also find Tencel knits very travel friendly, less bulky, easy wash, less wrinkles than cotton. I only recently converted to the merino Ts, I would not take nearly as many tops now as I did last year.

Posted by
692 posts

Can you recommend somewhere to find tencel knits?
In waiting for a lightweight rayon shirt to arrive this week
I don't think the LL bean shirts are Pima but I can check. The J Jill ones are very lightweight. I'm not certain of the fabric content.
I mentioned in another reply that I've never rolled my clothes, and that may be a significant issue.
I'm a little worried because if I need to buy something new I've got to do it ASAP.

Posted by
692 posts

P. S. To Syd, are you a Syd Barrett fan by any chance?

Posted by
7575 posts

SandraL, I think you just came up with a solution. Pack 3 Pink Floyd t-shirts and forget about any other shirts.

Posted by
692 posts

I'm liking that idea! I have two Syd shirts and one Floyd shirt so I'm all set 😁

Posted by
101 posts

Sandra L and Cyn you crack me up😆 While I appreciate Pink Floyd I can't say I"m a particular Syd Barrett fan😀

Hopefully your Rayon top will work. I bet that if you just buy 2 medium packing cubes and use those for rolling your tops and PJs you will be pleasantly surprised how much they help. Yes, you really don't want to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes at this point.

Posted by
395 posts

SandraL--I know you say you've never rolled your clothes, but you might want to try it and see how much space the shirts take up when you roll them vs the Marie Kondo fold you plan to use. I never rolled my clothes before my last trip to visit the grandkids. I needed 6 t-shirts (can't depend on keeping clothes clean for another wear around the kids) and my favorites are all cotton. The folded stack (not using the MK fold) was 5"x6"x12". The rolled stack was 5"x6"x9"--25% smaller. I think I had fewer wrinkles with the rolling, too. Worth a try anyway and you don't need to buy anything new.

Posted by
1136 posts

I use compression cubes and they really do work. I just got a set of cheap ones from Amazon and they do the job. I nearly always travel EasyJet and their included luggage size is now very small but using compression cubes I can find a huge amount into a small backpack.

Posted by
9787 posts

Sandra I am wondering if your issue isn't at all your rollaboard - especially if you stick with the 21-inch one-- but with your "carry-on" bags. Last time you took the 23-L duffle plus the stowaway backpack, and this time you mention the LL Bean tote. Do you mean one of those heavy canvas totes ? That would get me down !!!

Posted by
692 posts

Kim, I've edited my post to show which LL Bean tote I'm using.
I have ordered some inexpensive compression cubes from Amazon, which should be here tomorrow.

Posted by
100 posts

Yet another thought as I am wrestling my own stuff to meet Lufthansa's 18lb carryon limit- I couldn't do it without full use of the maximum size under seat "personal item".
It sounds like you have developed a system that theoretically works for you, but doesn't seem to be working now! To be clear, you carry on your 21" bag with everything on your list, and have a mostly empty backpack? Or, you check it?
Were you to carry a packing cube with a change of clothes and also some of your other items in the backpack maybe you'd have the small amount of extra space you need in the 21"?
Lastly, it's likely too late for this trip but merino wool can be a game changer. And I am super sensitive to anything itchy, labels, etc. You might try it!

Posted by
692 posts

Bon voyage--I don't check my backpack or my LL Bean tote. The tote contains my tech stuff (cords & cables, plus my Samsung tablet), my travel journal, 3-1-1 bag, medication, and eyeglasses. I haven't ever checked my backpack or my tote. Just the spinner.

Posted by
14175 posts

Regarding Merino wool....don't try it before you go. IF you decide to try Merino wait until you come home. I say this as someone who has an itch problem with wool. I tried Merino for years - some really nice pieces with a lovely sheen to them. I tried to convince myself that they were not itchy but had to listen to my body which was saying this does not feel good. I can wear Smartwool socks one day but not 2 days in a row without itching.

I gave away the really nice Icebreaker Tees. I will say they are excellent for not getting smelly. My test was in a Paris heatwave in an August where it was getting up to 97F. I was traveling solo so no one to offend buy myself and word the Icebreaker tee for 6 days with no smell. I washed it at the end of 6 days because it was grossing ME out, lol.

I tried a Marie Kondo fold last year on my annual trip to Yellowstone. I was staying in a shared bath cabin for 6 nights before moving to an ensuite cabin for 6. I did not want to do laundry in the shower cabin so took more shirts than I usually take. The Kondo fold drove me nuts and I reverted back to compression packing cubes for my international trip in August. If you have time try the roll method before your final pack. That didn't work for me but I know others like it.

I'm guessing you've not had a chance to weigh any of your clothing? I weigh everything on a digital kitchen scale and keep it on a spread sheet as I tend to take the same clothing every trip. If I've got 2 shirts that vary as much as 1/2 an ounce I'll take the lighter one. 1/2 ounce over 8 articles of clothing adds up to another shirt, lol!!

Posted by
692 posts

Last night I weighed five shirts including one I've always taken and some other candidates. They all weighed the same save for a tencel blend that was an ounce or two more than the other ones.
Yes, if I try merino I will wait till after I get back.