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[003] Learning from a Costly Packing Mistake

The HPL Podcast, Episode 003, Learning from a Costly Packing Mistake

Long time Her Packing List reader, Julie, admits to a costly packing mistake after her first big adventure overseas. She’s never told anyone this story, until today…

So why did she agree to share this story after all this time?

Because the experience was pretty travel-life-changing for her, and what she learned can also help others become smarter packers and more confident travelers!

I don’t think I can ever go back to not being able to manage my luggage on my own.

Julie was my very first interview for The HPL Podcast, and I chose her story because I love how she turned lemons into lemonade. Show her some love for being so brave and sharing today by commenting below!

Stay tuned for the next episode coming weekly on Wednesdays!

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Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm producing episodes of The UnPacking List or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Gear We Use


Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.

Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.

Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

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Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


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Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


    • Brooke says

      Hi Beck- No transcripts at this point. You can listen to the episodes right here in this post, and you can download directly to your computer by clicking the down arrow in the player. Thanks for your interest!

  1. Jordan says

    This was so relatable! I studied in France and put a smaller bag inside my large suitcase (like Russian dolls) to bring back souvenirs. I also had a small roll-aboard bag and a purse. BIG mistake. I brought way too much home with me, and looked like a fool struggling with my bags. I had to bring them down four flights of stairs, one by one, and had to call a taxi at 4am because I couldn’t fathom bringing this mess of bags on the subway. I missed my train because I hadn’t planned on such a long struggle with the luggage, and had to take another way to Paris with a weird connection. Of course, I couldn’t manage my bags on the train either, so I sat with them in a sort of waiting area near the train’s bathroom the entire 2-hour ride. Thankfully some strangers took pity on me and helped me carry them down the stairs. I got to the airport late and sweaty, just as they were finishing checking luggage for the flight. (Of course I had a fee for the extra bag, but I think they waived what might have been an overweight bag fee.) They rushed me through security and I barely made it onto the plane. When I opened my bags back up at home, I realized that I’d brought so much that wasn’t worth the struggle. I’m much more selective about what I bring on trips now. I’ve learned to pack light, and to only bring back what’s important. As young, inexperienced travelers I think we’re prone to the “Just In Case” mindset — I’ll bring this just in case I need it, even for the wildest scenarios. As I’ve gained experience I’ve learned what I can do without; the most important of which is struggling with way too much luggage.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Jordan! Sounds like a VERY similar experience, and that you’ve also learned a lot since then. You’re so right… that “just in case” mindset is what usually does it!

  2. Bethany says

    I had a very similar experience myself coming back from a UK exchange! I flew from Birmingham, and I had made sure both of my checked bags (I was allowed two) were juuuuust under the line. However, I had done this by packing everything heavy into my carryon, and my personal item–a backpack–was overstuffed enough to count as a second full size carryon. The woman at the desk saw me struggling with the wheeled carryon and made me throw it up for a weight and it was far over–probably thirty plus pounds. She said I’d have to check it and quoted the price as three hundred fifty dollars. I guess she saw my blind panic and took mercy, though–she told me she’d let it go but I might have to check it at the gate anyway. I took the few minutes before the gate to cull what I could–a lot of my less-crucial school things were abandoned in the food court trash. But they didn’t check me at the gate, and I slipped by. My oversized backpack didn’t fit under the seat in front of me, but i set my feet on top of it and no one said anything. I’ve never been so glad to be short as that long flight home!

  3. Karina says

    Most ridiculous time for me was arriving in the Falkland Islands in an icebreaker during a huge storm. Instead of being able to berth at the jetty so we could walk off – we were told we would have to do a 30 min zodiac ride to the jetty. So we all unpack our luggage and drag out our waterproof pants and jackets and boots to put on for the ride – then use our bodies to kinda lean all over our luggage in the zodiac for the 30 minutes of torrential rain and huge waves.

    When we got to shore we were thrown straight into muddy (the inside was filthy!!!) old coaches for an hours bumpy ride to the airforce base. Once we get there were all kinda did the same thing. Peeled off our sopping wet muddy bulky gear, pulled out plastic bags or similar – I had a small flattened sports bag – and put all the wet gear in it. Assuming we could just carry that on.

    But as we then joined the queue for the once per week flight off the island – we could hear passengers getting angry. It seems carryon was gaining to only be valuables – carried loosely. So we had to pull our cameras and laptops out.
    I managed to wrap my carryon bag in plastic and shove it into the bag with the wet gear to at least reduce my amount of bags.

    Every single person in the queue got pinged 120 pounds sterling for excess. The poor documentary crew who had special cards for all airports regarding their camera gear – got pinged badly.

    That lady at that counter that day improved her countries national deficit tenfold out of us poor suckers.

    I provide polar travel advice these days and I always tell people to make sure their trip ends in Ushuaia Argentina – not Falklands.

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