The following guest post on downsizing was submitted by Mary Gross.
I have always been a chronic overpacker. I have never been very good at anticipating what things I may or may not need on a trip and usually end up packing at least two pairs of shoes that I never wear.
When I got married, my packing game got even more dangerous and I began to use my husband’s suitcase to overpack, shoving a hair dryer here and an extra dress there. Things were really starting to get out of hand.
Admitting the Problem
We recently took a weekend trip to New Orleans and I knew that we had to pack differently. Time didn’t need to be spent in NoLa dragging heavy luggage around on the streetcar.
For one thing I was certain: I knew we couldn’t pack the way we had for our month-long trip to England last summer.
We had had three bags between the two of us – a secondhand backpack, a hard-sided suitcase, and a daypack. We ended up packing each bag full and we felt bogged down because of it. We struggled to find places on trains for our luggage and our stuff, despite our best efforts, got jumbled around between both bags.
Given this was an extended trip, I had packed certain items for insurance – gear like sunscreen just for the nose, a mini spray bottle, and a whole pack of batteries. But we never used any of these items. I didn’t have any more excuses.
Making a Change
For our wedding, my husband and I received two beautiful Osprey 36L packs. We’ve used both bags twice, once for our honeymoon throughout Florida and another time on our 28-day road trip from our home in Arizona to Québec City this last July. For both trips, my nasty packing habit reared its ugly overstuffed head, its zipper-like teeth smiling back at me and saying, “Look at you, you’ve done it again.”
The desire to pack lighter came from an urge to prove something to myself, to act in a way that was drastically different than what I was used to.
In New Orleans we would pack just what we needed for four days and we would do it in one bag.
Blending Luggage the Right Way
Several days before our trip I became anxious because I didn’t think we could pull it off, but I was wrong. Luckily, the weather in New Orleans would be mild, so packing less was simple.
My husband packed four combinations of t-shirts and shorts, undergarments, socks, and a toothbrush.
I contacted our Airbnb host ahead of time to make sure there would be a hair dryer on site so I wouldn’t need to pack one. I carried a jacket and purse with me on the plane and my husband carried the book he was reading. We bought all of our toiletries from a CVS when we arrived to save on space and weight and didn’t pack any extra shoes besides the ones on our feet.
>>Read more about packing less and buying things at your destination.
My husband and I were both surprised that we had successfully done it! We left our apartment in an Uber to the airport with our single pack snug between the two of us in the back seat. We had everything we needed and smiles on our faces.
It Isn’t Rocket Science
I’ve stressed about packing more times than I can count, but packing our stuff in one bag was actually the easiest packing experience I’ve ever had. Here’s why:
- Compartmentalize – I packed all of my clothes in oversized Ziploc baggies (cheap packing cubes!) so they could be distinguished from my husband’s with ease. This makes unpacking simple and keeps clothes contained once you get to your accommodation.
- Pack what you need, lose what you don’t – I’m always afraid I’ll need some random item when I’m traveling (usually it’s high heels) that I never end up using that takes up a stupid amount of space in my luggage. Make a list of what you know for certain that you will wear or use. Pack these items and then take one thing out.
- Work with a great partner – If you plan on blending luggage, make sure both parties are fully 100% on board. Have a conversation with your partner about what you both are packing and lay everything out as a visual beforehand. You may have to make some compromises – I know we did! I had to ditch a second scarf and my husband left behind behind flip flops and a pair of shorts. It all comes down to packing the essentials.
For us, this method of packing worked great. We were both hands-free and were able to share carrying duties. On the last day of our trip we were even able to take a cruise on the Steamboat Natchez after our room checkout without having to worry about superfluous luggage. We had less stuff, so we had more time to enjoy each other.
>>Check out our tips for sharing items with a travel partner.
Less Luggage, More Fun
My husband and I both agree that this is the smartest we’ve ever packed for a trip. Our bag was small enough that we didn’t have to check it and was light enough that it never became a bother while moving around the city. I’d love to pack this way for a longer trip and see how we fare!
Have you ever packed in one bag with a friend or significant other? Did it feel cramped or freeing?
About the Author: Mary Gross is a travel-obsessed teacher and writer just breaking into the travel blogging scene. She loves traveling by train, narrative storytelling, cats, and all things UK. Follow her adventures on her blog Track Happenings and on Instagram @track_happenings.