An over-packing update

Before my recent solo trip, I posted about my plans to travel with just one small 35-liter suitcase. It was a convertible one: it had wheels, but could also be used as a backpack. I chose what I brought along very carefully, and it all fit into that 35-liter bag, except for a small daypack holding my tablet and other things for in the plane.

The bag in wheeled mode. The backpack straps fold out of that outer pocket.

Lots of people have been asking me lately how that turned out.

Here’s my answer: I over-packed!

8 ways I over-packed

Even with such frugal packing, there were things I brought along that I didn’t end up needing at all.

  1. A pretty little pair of pink sandals that I brought for the TBEX conference in Spain. I never wore them. They aren’t nearly as comfortable as my walking sandals, and I really don’t think anyone was looking at my feet.
  2. A beach robe. This is a big beach cover-up that I love to use for a day on the beach. However, I didn’t end up going to the beach for more than an hour or two at a time in Guadeloupe or Martinique. I just felt too restless because I wanted to see everything. I could just as well have used my shorts to cover up.
  3. A “SeatSnoozer.” This is a device to hold your head upright when you want to sleep on a plane. It’s a great idea, but my neck hernia was not amused. (Disclosure: I was given it for free.)
  4. A rain poncho. Despite the rain in Guadeloupe, it was just too warm to even think of putting on a poncho. I’d rather just get wet, or wait out any downpours. Traveling solo, I’m not in a hurry anyway.

    items that should not have been included in the packing
    The beach robe on the left, the poncho, the SeatSnoozer, and the sandals

  5. A snorkel and mask and wetsuit booties. I thought I would do a lot more snorkeling than I did in the end.
  6. A sweatshirt. I used it on the planes, and even there I didn’t really need it. And I used it for about five minutes at the top of a volcano. Again, I would have been fine without it. Since I wore it on the flight at the beginning of my trip, it didn’t fit into the bag, so I had to wear it each time I traveled, even when it was warm. It came in handy in New York, though, which was having unseasonably cold weather.
  7. My sneakers. I did use these when I went on longer walks, but they were heavy and hot, so mostly I just used them on planes because they were too big to pack. My walking sandals are just as comfortable.
  8. I brought four pairs of socks. One or two would have been plenty, since I was only wearing them with the sneakers and I could wash them easily in a sink.

Packing for my next trip

Next month I’m leaving again, this time for two months in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. I’ll still use the same suitcase, but I’ll leave those things listed above out and pack a bit differently too:

  1. I might bring a small umbrella on the next trip to see if that is useful.
  2. I’ll wear my walking sandals and bring a small pair of canvas Converse-type sneakers in the suitcase.
  3. Only two pairs of socks.
  4. No sweatshirt or sweater. The one long-sleeved shirt I brought was perfect for evenings in a hot climate.
  5. I had about five sleeveless shirts with me. I might bring one extra.

Using the suitcase

An advantage that I didn’t expect with packing this way was that I could use the suitcase as a carry-on. Officially, if you measure it, it’s not within the carry-on limits, but for each flight, I asked if it was okay and was told it was fine. One airline, JetBlue, weighed it before agreeing, but that was it. It fit in the overhead compartments with no problem, and, with the straps zipped inside, it looked like any other wheeled bag.

Also, by forcing myself to pack light, I kept it to about 11 kilos. That meant I was able to lift it up to the overhead compartment by myself. And next time it’ll be even lighter: I’m aiming for under 10 kilos.

So for those of you who’ve asked, or those of you who made comments (live, on Facebook, or via Twitter) of amazement at packing so light for a month-long trip:

  • My tentative answer to whether I can pack light is yes.
  • My tentative answer to whether I can pack even lighter for my next trip is yes.
  • Was it a problem to pack so little? Absolutely not.
  • Was there anything I left behind that I wished I’d brought? Nope. Except maybe my family…

I’ll post again about this after the summer to let you know how my two-month solo trip went.

If you have any tips for packing extra light, please add them below!

Added later: I never wrote the follow up post about how it went, but I can tell you very briefly: I still over-packed. I ended up sending the converse-type sneakers, all the socks, and a short-sleeved sweater home a couple of weeks into the trip. I just wasn’t using them and didn’t need the extra weight. I didn’t bring (or need) a small umbrella. It was under 10 kilos and I lacked for nothing.


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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments!  Read more…
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