How I learned the importance of packing light

Not all of us learn the hard way, but I’m one of those people that do. That being said, lessons learned the hard way are NEVER forgotten. Packing for travel abroad is one such lesson, so here’s the story of how I learned the importance of packing light.

As I’ve said before, I’ve always loved to travel! Europe, in particular, had captured my heart, but until 2008, it was a destination that just wasn’t on the itinerary. My senior year of high school, my mom had made me a deal: if I graduated with a 4.0 GPA we would go to Europe. The best part was that I would get to plan the whole thing! So naturally, I worked my ass off in school, and every other day during study hall, I planned. And when I say “planned”, I mean down to the very last admission price on the very last day…and then converted everything to American dollars. I had 3 weeks to fill and so many things I wanted to do and see! I narrowed it down to my top 4 countries: Ireland, England, France, and Italy. I didn’t have a budget, but I knew that raising a daughter on her own, my mom wasn’t raking in the “big bucks” by any stretch of the imagination. Researching hostels, budget car rentals, and student discounts was something that I consciously thought of on my own.

Midway through my second semester, I know that 4.0 was firmly in my grip and I wasn’t gonna let it go anywhere. So tickets were purchased, passports were applied for, and hostels and rental cars were reserved! Prom was great, finals sucked, and graduation was meh…the day I really cared about was yet to come! But before it could come, packing had to happen.

My mom had honeymooned, once upon a time, in London and Paris, so we knew outlet converters were necessary, but we really didn’t know what else we needed to plan for for a 3 week Mother/daughter European Extravaganza (as it will forever be known). So we packed everything…

Our luggage was so big, I could fit in it! I packed 8…count them, EIGHT…pairs of shoes! Me. Just me. And I’m pretty sure I only ever wore 5 of the pairs. We also bought a travel-sized iron for the occasion…the kind for clothes…it was really just smaller than a regular sized iron, but still weighed the same (which was about 5 lbs.)! I think we used it once. And of course, being a teenage girl, I never went anywhere without my hair straightener. Likewise, my mom didn’t go anywhere without her blow dryer. Looking back on it, I picture the scene from Spaceballs with Princess Vespa’s matched luggage and one of her “essentials” being her giant industrial strength hair dryer…

We also had a carry-on luggage, a rolling laptop bag, backpack, and our purses. Now for those of you who have never been to Europe, let me tell you, you do a lot of walking! There are lots of cobblestone streets and the true bane of an over-packer’s existence: stairs. Picture if you will, 2 women, heavily laden with luggage, hauling them up flights of stairs to get topside from the underground. This was us in London AND Paris. Even with wheels, a 50 lb. luggage is be quite the workout, never mind adding another rolling bag and purse. I’m pretty sure we lost weight from all the strength training and cardio! It was especially difficult when we got to Italy. Remember those cobblestone streets? Yeah, they’re everywhere. What’s worse is we only stayed one night in some cities, which meant lugging our massive cache twice a day!

I hope you’re all reading this and thinking “why?!” On the other hand, if this sounds like you, and you’ve been wondering why your vacations haven’t been more enjoyable, re-asses your packing habits. Consider this your over-packer intervention!

I’ve learned a lot about packing and have earned Expert Packer status. Read my post on Packing tips for budget travelers to learn my tricks!

Much Love,

Heather ~ The Bargain Bin Traveler

P.S. ~ If this sounds like someone you know, share my story with them and then tell them to learn from my tips! The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem!

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