The Problem of Over Packing for Family Travel

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Who hasn’t lain awake the night before a family vacation, thinking of extra things “you might need” that you’re going to shove in your bag? “Another pair of socks, back up swim goggles, that cute white V-neck t-shirt, sunscreen stick, and I think there might be room for that floating volley ball net!? Wait, what?” Inevitably you get to where you’re going and ask yourself, “Why did I bring so much stuff?” Over packing is clutter that gets in the way of relaxing, liberating family travel. Let’s unpack the problem of over packing!

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I was talking to a friend about “packing light” for an upcoming family vacation overseas. Just bring 10 clothing items, that’s it! The idea of this almost made her break out in hives. We are attached to our stuff, I certainly am, and even my kids are. My son’s back pack is SO heavy. He’ll bring a bin of Legos™ and as many books and stuffed animals as he can squeeze in. It doesn’t matter that he may never even take them out. Just having the stuff makes him feel better. When I suggest he leaves something home he will fight me for it! When my husband suggests I cut one pair of shoes I’ve packed, I fight him for it. What is it about packing extras, and back-ups and choices that gives us comfort?

Over packing is clutter that gets in the way of relaxing, liberating family travel. Click To Tweet

We are used to over packing in everyday life. It’s kind of a habit. Our closets are over packed, our drawers, the dishwasher, the toy chest is stuffed, my schedule is over packed, even my kid’s after schedule is over packed. Clutter and too much stuff is a way of life. But doesn’t it feel good when we clean it out? When we get rid of things we don’t need? What if we let our travels be a time to simplify? Just take what we need. Not what we “might” need.

Over packing gives comfort in the moment, but once travel begins, it’s a hindrance. Whether you’re on the road, or lugging bags to the ticket counter, you’re probably lamenting the excess or wondering what you forgot. Especially if you packed so much stuff, you’re not sure exactly what you have in that 50lb bag! When you arrive at your destination unpacking an over packed bag is such a chore, most people don’t do it. We just ruffle through the suitcase looking for what we need. Everything becomes a big mess and all that stuff never fits back in the bag on the way home.

The joy comes from learning and experiencing the place, the people, the culture, the food. Click To Tweet

During our family vacation, we waste time wondering what to wear because we have too many options. We make our family wait while we try to decide what to bring for the day. I don’t know how many times I’ve over packed my day bag when going out exploring for the day. I end up regretting having so much to carry! When we finally get to the museum, or the beach, or the café, it doesn’t really matter what I’m wearing or what stuff I brought. The joy comes from learning and experiencing the place, the people, the culture, the food. The more I leave behind, the more available I am to just be present and enjoy the moment.

Now don’t get me wrong. Packing the right things is very important. Comfortable shoes, a warm jacket, a wide brimmed hat can make all the difference in your experience. But packing the right things is totally different than over packing. Remember, we want to let go of extras, back-ups, and choices. I love reading blogs about what to bring when traveling anywhere; Italy, or Thailand, or the Caribbean. The danger is when they say to bring a scarf…we bring three. Pack the kids a pair of shorts and long pants? We bring one for each day. Just in case they spill something.

Here’s the truth. If you get where you’re going, and you don’t have enough stuff, you’ll be ok. You’ll wear that black dress as a cover up all day; and then again at night with a cute necklace. You might have to wash socks in the sink and let them dry in the bathroom. Kids don’t mind wearing the same thing more than once. Maybe you’ll sit and enjoy the scenery instead of being entertained by things you packed.

Packing for Travel, luggage packing, family travel, family vacation, backpack packing, packing cubesPacing light, packing cubes, family vacation, family trip, family travel

Over packing is a weight (literally) that bogs us down and steals the joy of family travel. It’s time to lighten your load. Leave the extras at home. Intentionally and thoughtfully pack light so you’re free to enjoy the trip!



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