Avoid an Over-Packing Relapse and Intervention

Packing. For many of us, it’s our favorite part of the pre-trip because the vacation is officially a reality. You have everything to bring right in front of you and you can already smell the ocean air and feel the cobblestone streets beneath your feet while some beautiful foreign language hums in the background. It’s exciting. Don’t deny it.

The problem is, in this pre-trip daydream we think about every part of the trip and over plan with a “thing” for everything that is coming. Soon enough, 2….no, 3….or, heck, 4 bags becomes ok. And you know it’s wrong. But, this credit card you have gives you 2 free checked bags and you already have everything you need in your carry-on, so why not take advantage?!

Photo by Rob Fualkner

Because, those bags are chains holding you back, that’s why! So, lets rid ourselves of those chains and take a review of these best practices. If this is news to you, than this is an intervention.Here’s how to travel with one carry-on and one personal bag.

What Your Packing List Should Look Like

The Critical Items

These are what you absolutely must have and they all fit in your personal bag.

  • Passport
  • Money/Currency
  • 2 Credit Cards  –one travels with you and one stays in the room’s safe if it has one as a personal insurance policy
  • Travel Tickets
  • The Itinerary
  • Critical Medications –you can buy ibuprofen
  • Travel and Medical Insurance
  • A Camera
  • A Cell Phone –maybe, this is kind of when you should take a break from that
  • Toiletries
    • Toothbrush and Paste
    • Face wash
    • Deodorant
    • Razor
    • Lip Balm
    • Shampoo, Bodywash, Shaving Cream, and Lotion etc. (if you can live without yours) can be purchased there.

If all else fails, what you don’t have you can buy and everything will be ok.


Lets say were traveling for a week or even a month, the clothing ration remains the same: 3 tops, 3 bottoms, enough socks and under garments for a week, and maybe 2 pairs of shoes. 1 pair of sandals for warmer climates, and 1 pair of shoes you’ll take a light hike in, shop till you drop with, and wear out to dinner in same day –they do exist. They come in the form of leather (usually), they’re business casual-esk, naturally colored, comfortable and yes, stylish.

If you’re traveling to a colder climate then you can make room for layers, but layers only. Arctic expeditions are a different thing all together, so no North Face winter jackets please.


These are arguably necessary and shouldn’t interfere with our 1 carry on, 1 personal bag rule.

  • A belt
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat
  • Lonely Planet and the like
  • A tablet
  • Memory Cards
  • Tide Cleaning Stick
  • Extra Zip-Lock Bags
  • Nalgene Water Bottle


How to Do It

 The Bags

A quality bag is not a waste of money and is the best purchase a traveler can make. We recommend TUMI, Travelpro, or Rimowa. They will last a lifetime, come with TSA approved locks, and are stylish.

The Art of Packing

Role, don’t fold. If you’re going to have the resource of a vacuum, you can utilize vacuum seal bags for more space or to squeeze an extra outfit or two in with. And speaking of space, make use of extra room by stuffing your shoes and water bottle with socks and shirts. Also, make sure you have a scale at home and weigh your bags prior to leaving to know what wiggle room you have with weight and to avoid silly fees.

Remember your critical items should be in your personal bag with an extra outfit and toiletry bag. Nothing is worse than a door check that doesn’t make its way to the carousel, so be prepared for that!

Capitalize on Technology

Most publications, such as Lonley Plant have ebooks. Instead of hard copies, download them to your tablet or ebook. You can also do this with any other guidebook or map by snapping photos of it and saving it to an album in your phone or tablet.



Photo by Transformer18

Follow this list, and remember these best practices before you let that pre-trip packing daydream of snow cones on the beach chain you down. You may find all you’ll need is a surf board and 1 personal bag.

“On a long journey even a straw weighs heavy.” –Spanish Proverb


Thanks for reading, Happy Travels!


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