Confessions of an Overpacker


(Photo: Thinkstock)

I want to be honest with you today: My name is Laura, and I am an overpacker.

I never thought I would say those words in print. But there — I did it. It feels good.

Here’s the thing: I used to be a good packer. Back in my twenties, I had a tiny Samsonite wheelie that I never checked. I was one of those cocky travelers who wheeled her petite bag on the plane. No baggage carousel for me.

Related: Don’t Feel Like Carrying Your Bag? Ship It

Then something happened: I went on a crazy trip on the Oregon Trail in June. And it snowed. In June! I’d brought cute warm-weather dresses and sandals. I felt like a member of the Donner party, hungry for cashmere. What kind of shopping do you find on the Oregon Trail? How about …

Pioneer prairie bonnet kits:

Oregon Trail sweatshirts:

So I skipped the bonnets, layered on the sweats, and vowed never to be a packing loser again.

It started slowly: a couple of extra sweaters. A bathing suit, just in case I stumbled across a pool or a hot tub. An extra pair of sunglasses — who wants to replace lost sunglasses on the road? Extra flats, extra heels. Options! The next thing you knew, I was checking my bag. A big bag. A very big bag.

I still wince when I think back on a trip to India, with a porter in the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station in Mumbai carrying my big bag — on his head. Or the trip to Thailand, when my very big bag almost sunk a little dugout canoe leaving Ko Phi Phi. Or the safari in Kenya, when I was good and stuck to the max — 27 pounds. Only I didn’t leave room for purchases along the way.

I’m trying to get better. I got Tumi’s amazing Alpha2 carry-on a few months ago that keeps me somewhat honest (particularly important in the era of #CarryOnShame). Though I will admit, it has a zipper that allows the bag to expand. I try really hard not to cheat at the beginning of a trip.

Related: The Luggage Police are Watching

So I’ve got a new method: since hindsight is 20/20, I carefully police what I’ve brought — and what I actually used — on a trip. And then I try to replicate this on my next trip.

Take a look at this recent packing list for the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Costa Rica:

This is what I actually wore at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Costa Rica. (Photo: Laura Begley Bloom)

3 flowy wrinkle-free dresses for evening (one printed Tory Burch, one blue Meg, one black Trina Turk)

3 kaftan tops (one printed Roberta Roller Rabbit, one white Figue, one black)

2 tanks (one white, one black)

1 pair white cropped J.Crew pants

1 white button-down Patagonia shirt with SPF-50 and wicking

1 pair gray Clothing Arts pants with wicking

2 bathing suit coverups that I bought in Cambodia

1 Calvin Klein bathing suit

1 Gap pajamas

1 pair Havaianas flip-flops

1 pair Merrell hybrid mary-jane sneakers

1 pair dress sandals

1 pair casual sandals

The rejects. (Photo: Laura Begley Bloom)

And here’s what I didn’t use:

1 lace Rebecca Taylor top

1 dressy kaftan top by Milly

2 pairs white pants (one dressy from C. Wonder, one casual from J.Crew)

1 pair white J.Crew shorts

1 black Michael Kors kaftan top

1 silk Joie top

1 brown Gap T-shirt

1 white Patagonia T-shirt

Not so bad. But clearly, there’s still work to be done. Some day, I’ll be that perfect packer again, with my one little streamlined bag — everything put to use, no options.

For information on Yahoo’s travel policy, click here.

Want more like this? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so that we can inspire you every day.