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Confessions of an Overpacker

Laura Begley Bloom

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

Calvin Klein bathing suit

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.

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