Travel Lessons Learned: All Things Packing

One of the primary reasons that travel never gets old is that I learn something new on every single trip. No matter where in the world I go, there are no shortage of new experiences to have, new places to visit or new people to meet. And no matter where in the world I go, there is no shortage of struggle experienced while figuring out what to pack.

When I look back on the packing mistakes I’ve made over the years, I have to laugh. Some of those mistakes have been brutal. Some of them have been primarily comical. At the end of the day, all that any of us can do is try not to make the same packing mistake twice… and to that end, I want to share some of the packing mistakes I’ve made with you (so that hopefully you can avoid making them yourself!)

Argentina with one maxi dress and no makeup

Having luggage lost or delayed is a fact of travel life that most (if not all) of my traveling friends have experienced at one time or another. Despite the prevalence of this unfortunate occurrence, even the smartest of us may occasionally decide against packing a change of clothes and essential items that we can’t live without in our carry on baggage. We may decide to do this for a variety of reasons: lack of space in our carry on bag, wanting to avoid the extra weight in our carry on bag and/or the fact that we just plain made a bet that our luggage wouldn’t get lost.

The problem with that bet is that at some point your number will be up… and that point came for me in Argentina. I’d worn a maxi dress with a jacket on the plane, had no change of clothes packed in my carry on and had all my makeup essentials packed in my checked luggage… which was delayed for about two days. I had to shell out some money for drugstore makeup, soap, toothpaste and a change of underwear… and I haven’t made that particular mistake again since. So overall, I’ll count it as a win!

London with a suitcase over half my size

Ah, overpacking… while I can look back fondly at the times when I overpacked at this particular stage of the game, at the time, it sucked. My personal worst experience with overpacking occurred when I studied abroad in London. I brought a HUGE rolling suitcase that was literally big enough for me to fit inside of if I curled up. I then proceeded to drag said suitcase onto the train at Heathrow airport, off the train at my tube stop, up the tube stairs, and over a mile of sidewalk with cars turning at me from the opposite direction… in the middle of London’s morning rush hour.

Good times.

At the end of my semester, I took a cab back to Heathrow from central London. And I never packed a checked-baggage sized rolling suitcase for an international trip EVER AGAIN (now, I travel with my backpack or a carry-on sized rolling suitcase). Lesson learned.

France without Packing a plug converter

What is it about plug converters? I have lost my United States-to-United Kingdom plug converter three times (and I’ve been to the U.K. a total of five times, so my average isn’t very good overall). On my most recent trip to London in October of 2016, I brought the correct plug converter for the U.K. and I did NOT lose it while I was there (major win). Unfortunately, I was also traveling to France… and didn’t spare a single thought to the fact that France has completely different plugs than the U.K. (major oops).

I am telling this particular missing-plug-converter story because I want to make an important point: we all make mistakes. I’ve been traveling for 10 years now and have visited 16 countries… and I still do things like forget to check the plugs before I go. And you know what? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter at all. Yes, I had to shell out a bit of cash at my hostel in France to pay for that particular mistake. But the point is that most of the things you may worry about regarding what to pack or what not to pack can be figured out once you arrive.

The main idea is that you make the choice to go.

Packing horror stories? Feel free to share in the comments!

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