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It’s Not a Sin to Check a Bag

Why I Struggle to Pack Light...and I'm OK with that

My teeny tiny entryway closet is overflowing. Despite my various racks, shoes spill out. They take up space in my spare room closet. They lurk under my desk at work. Sometimes they stowaway in my car. There may even be a pair or two hiding in my suitcase. Each pair serves a purpose. Sensible, flat boots for walking on icy parking lots. Sky-high patent heels for fancy dinners out. Hiking boots for wooded trails. Red Mary Janes for the office and Converse sneakers for the weekend. For me, shoes are more than just sensible things to protect my feet from the elements. They’re a way for me to show my personality. They can instantly change the vibe of a whole outfit. I love little more than a unique, fun pair of shoes.

When I was younger my dad used to call me Imelda. Despite that, my shoe addiction didn't really get going until university when I came to terms with the fact that I was 5’9, was always going to be 5’9, and that was ok. I didn't have to restrict myself to only flat shoes because I was taller than my classmates. Boys started to catch up in height and I discovered high heels. It was like a whole new world.

As a travel blogger I read a lot about travel. Every week there’s some new article about packing. The joys of fitting your life into a 40L sack. Being able to travel the world with just a tiny backpack is seen as the holy grail. I'm a packing failure when I can’t pare down my selection to fewer than 6 pairs for a 10 day trip. Flat boots, TOMS, black flats, nude heels, hiking sneakers and flip flops. Shoes are a pain to pack. They can be bulky and awkward (especially heels) and sometimes heavy.

People will tell you to just take one or two pairs. I routinely disregard this advice. On my first trip to New York City I packed the way I thought I was supposed to: a small selection of t-shirts, a couple pairs of jeans and the brown Sketchers on my feet. It wasn't how I normally dress and just wasn't me. I felt frumpy and unstylish. After a week in nothing but those shoes I never wanted to see them again. I just can't seem to pack light. And that's ok.

The wonderful thing is that we don’t all have to be the same. There’s room for all packing types. I grumble about it but I'm never so budget-conscious that I won't pay $25 to check my full-sized suitcase. And I'm never in such a hurry that having to wait 15 or 20 minutes to pick up my suitcase ruins my day. Sure, sometimes it can go missing, but I've learned to prepare for those situations too.

I'd love to have less stuff to schlep from airport to hotel but I've learned by now that being a minimalist packer is just not how I roll. I think the main thing, when you’re packing for a trip, is to pack in a way that will make you happy at your destination, whatever that means for you. If that means bringing 10 bikinis for your week down south or if it’s half a dozen books for your road trip or bringing along your stuffed bear Oris. On the other end, if you get joy out of moving from suitcase to backpack to day bag, more power to you.

My goal now is to only pack the things I really like and feel good in. I include enough variety so that I don’t get bored. I make sure that all tops and bottoms go with multiple items. I layer, accessorize and find items that will do double duty. I also do my best to leave some room in the suitcase for inevitable vacation shopping...and half a dozen of my 70 pairs of shoes.

How do you pack? Minimal or pushing the weight limit?

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12 Responses to “It’s Not a Sin to Check a Bag”

  1. Haha, my dad called me Imelda, too – and still does! I agree with this completely. Pack so you’re comfortable. I tend to go with the carry-on only, if possible, just because I have had my luggage lost a few times and it sucks. Unfortunately shoes usually take up half my luggage. There’s just no getting around that!

  2. YES! I absolutely love this. I’m not a light packer and never will be. I like to look nice when traveling and have options. I’d rather wait at baggage claim and be able to use my face wash while traveling. If you want to live for a year in 40L carryon fine, but I don’t!

  3. Kristin says:

    Preaching to the choir! It’s one thing if you’re a backpacker on a RTW trip, it’s quite another if you’re going on vacation! Most checked bags to Europe are free anyway. I see people struggling with their overstuffed carry on and then carrying three extra small bags. I so much prefer to put everything in my super light suitcase (key!). I like to have several cute outfit options and even shop just for me trip (quelle horreur!) I wrote about it as well. : )

    • I almost always shop when I travel. I’d say a good portion of my wardrobe is from away. That being said, I often have a hard time not picking a few things *for* a trip too. A good lightweight suitcase is key.

  4. Hahaha awesome article! Yes indeed, it’s not always about packing light, it really is about packing YOU. Making sure who you are is represented everywhere you go. I tend to pack light simply because I tend to plan long and ahead the different outfits I want and so can minimize easily (no “oh what about this!” items).

    That being said though, I came back from New York City with two check in bags filled to the brim as well as my carry on bag -_-”

    • I once went to NYC for a week and packed my carry-on *inside* my checked suitcase so that I’d have two bags for the trip home (checked them both). I sometimes now include a folding duffle bag just in case I do some shopping and didn’t leave enough space. I have a problem. lol

  5. Everyone can pack a carry on for a trip no matter what the length of the trip is. It’s not about if you can pack a carry on, it’s about if you want to pack a carry on.

    The women I’ve met on my travels who carry full size luggage are usually the ones with 5 pairs of shoes, 20 tops, 3 pairs of jeans, etc. So unnecessary!

    Sure, it’s a little easier for guys but that being said it CAN be done and you can still look just as fashionable doing so.

    Why bother lugging a giant case behind you when you can pick and choose a few great outfits and roll your clothes in order to make them fit without any issues? Nevermind the risk of losing your luggage, waiting at the baggage carousel and more. Screw that!

    Anyway, just thought I’d leave a little comment from a guys perspective. I know, I know. It’s easier for us! ;-)

  6. Alan says:

    What I’ve learned through my own travel;

    1) 1/3 of my suitcase always ends up being useless crap to lug around
    2) forgetting some small and important things is inevitable

  7. I’m usually the over-packer too, I just know that I’ll want to wear different shoes! In a couple weeks I’m going on a 3 week trip through Bolivia and I’m going to try to pack lightly. This is the first time I’m ever attempting to pack lightly, so we’ll see how it goes!

    • Best of luck! I’ve gotten better at packing less stuff than I used to but it’s still going to be a full-sized suitcase if I’m gone longer than a couple of days. I’ve made peace with it. lol

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