You had every intention of packing well and light, and at some point in the process, you DID have a well-packed bag.
But then the voice set in.
“What if I spill red wine all over my one nice dress and I have nothing else to wear to the Russian ballet?”
Add another dress.
“What if the weather turns unseasonably cold and it snows when I have my walking tour?”
Boots, hat, gloves. Check.
“What if I find the perfect set of trees overlooking a beach that screams for a loungy day of reading?”
Sure, you have room for a hammock in your backpack.
We all want to be prepared, like a Girl Scout, for anything that might get thrown at us on the road. But that little “What-If” voice can do some serious damage to a well-thought-out packing list.
It’s actually one of the most common responses I get from people who struggle to pack light.
They simply can’t do it because they worry about not having everything they could ever need, for any situation. This leads to them adding items to their bag at the last minute in a panic.
This “inner worried mom voice,” as we like to call it, tries to make sure life goes off without a hitch, and without skinned knees and bruised bums to boot.
This type of being-prepared-for-everything thinking is only beneficial up to a certain point, and after that, it’s like a bell curve with a very slippery slope.
The Packing Preparedness Bell Curve
There is a fine line between being prepared for every outcome and being overpacked.
Here are some examples:
Say you’re going to Vietnam in September. The last of the summer rains may still be occurring and yes it’s technically autumn but the temperature ranges between 22-30°C (72-86°F) during the day. You would be prepared by bringing a raincoat, however, you would be overpacking by bringing a bulky winter jacket just because it’s technically Autumn.
Maybe you’re going on a tropical island getaway somewhere like Rarotonga, an island in the Cook Islands. Here you would be justified in bringing a large, full-sized bottle of sunscreen because you will be going through heaps AND it’s super expensive on the island because everything is imported.
However, if you’re going to Spain in Spring, while yes you might also be using a lot of sunscreen, there are shops all over where you can buy a refill if you run low. Bringing a travel-sized version is the right choice.
If you’re going to Berlin in the fall, you’ll definitely need to pack comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing around the city. However, packing specialty hiking boots just in case you end up going on a hike is overkill. If you’re really worried make sure your everyday walking shoes will be suitable for a hike as well.
Also, take into account how long you are traveling. If you’re going for a long weekend is it really necessary to bring 10 different tops?
“But what if I need a different shirt each day, one each night, two extras in case I spill, and a long sleeve in case it gets unseasonably cold? Actually, make that two long sleeves just in case.”
This is going overboard. The likelihood that you will need all those tops is close to zero and more likely you’re going to get decision fatigue and waste time deciding what to wear each morning (and evening too).
Sound familiar? If yes, your “inner worried-mom voice” has probably gotten out of control.
So what’s my advice for those suffering from the “what-if” packing affliction? Read on, and calm that inner worried mother who is frantic at the possibility of you leaving home with wet hair.
How to Calm That Inner Worried-Mom Voice
1. Remind yourself that people live where you’re going
Of course, no one wants to have to purchase things they could have packed while on vacation. It’s good to know, however, that it’s possible. There are stores and pharmacies all across the globe. People sell and wear clothing, and they use things like soap and toothpaste.
I don’t know about you, but less worry makes the whole packing and travel experience better!
2. Know that re-wearing an outfit is not the end of the world
Granted you have clean underwear of course! If you don’t have easy access (or time) to get to a laundromat, you can hand-wash key items as you go and hang them to dry. It might not be ideal, but it works.
Our rule of thumb is to pack no more than a week’s worth of clothes and plan to wash, then re-wear. If you happen to wear the same top multiple times in the process – no dramas!
3. Look at plausibility before adding extra items to your luggage
In regards to the comments our inner worried mom voice was making in the intro of this post, think about the actual likelihood of those events happening:
- How likely is it that the weather will drop to unseasonably cold temperatures in the middle of May at your destination? Do some research in advance.
- How often do you tend to drink red wine while on holiday? Are you really going to spill it all over yourself if you tend to favor gin and tonics instead?
- Is lounging with a book actually your preferred method of relaxation, or do you tend to forgo the book? Chances are if you’re not a reader in normal life, you might not be so much on holiday either.
4. Go back to the beginning
It’s likely that at the beginning of your packing journey, you made a packing list. That packing list has been long forgotten in your panic packing frenzy. Go back to that list and compare what you’ve packed against what you intended to pack.
If you’re worried that your packing list wasn’t comprehensive enough, check blogs and websites, like Her Packing List, to reaffirm your previously decided packing list. Don’t let yourself get tempted to pack extras at the last minute. You’ve got this.
If you need help creating a packing list, check out our Travel DIY: Create Your Own Packing Lists blog post.
5. Point out contingency plans
Smart packing is knowing how to make the most of what you have. For example:
- If it does happen to get unseasonably cold on your trip, do you have a handful of layerable items that you can wear all at once to provide the proper warmth for a short time?
- Do you have a pashmina or scarf that can be wrapped around your head in place of a hat?
- If you do decide to go to a fancy restaurant, do you have something (like a simple maxi dress) that you can dress up with accessories and lipstick?
Most of the time, we can get by with what we have packed. It might not be the perfect thing you wanted, but at the end of the day, your experience probably won’t be affected much, if at all.
6. Ask yourself, “Will my trip be ruined if I don’t have x, y, or z?”
And when you verify that is not the case, you can bypass the last-minute toss-ins and keep your luggage light light light!
Yes, it’s probably easier said than done. Stay strong and don’t let the inner worried mom voice get the best of your packing.
7. Understand the benefits of packing light
There are SO MANY benefits to packing light. Understanding these will help you to ditch all the extras you thought were making you more prepared.
Here are just 5 of the many reasons we love packing light at HPL:
- You never have to worry about excess or overweight baggage fees and you’ll never have to do that dreaded repack at the check-in counter again.
- It’s easier to keep tabs on your belongings since you have fewer to manage.
- Your back and feet will hurt less! Dragging a heavy suitcase or overpacked backpack can lead to luggage-related injuries. That’s really not something you want to deal with while you’re traveling.
- It’s easier to pick out outfits since you have fewer choices. Don’t waste time on clothes when you should be out experiencing a new place.
- You’re better able to lock up everything in hostel lockers.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For even more benefits, check out our blog post, 20 Reasons Packing Light Rocks.
8. Get inspiration from other people
If you understand the benefits of packing light and know your travels would be easier for it, but think it’s just not possible for you…what you need is some inspiration.
We have so many downsizing success stories from women just like you. If it’s possible for them, it’s possible for you.
Check out some of their stories in our blog post, Downsizing Stories: Life After Overpacking.
We Are Here to Help at HPL
Calming that “inner worried mom voice” and helping you pack light is what we specialize in at HPL. We have so many resources to help you.
Take the Carry-On-Only Crash Course, a 5-part training that will give you the guidance and motivation to finally make carry-on-only packing possible. With this course, you’ll learn to pack carry-on-only in an afternoon!
If you want to take things one step further, then our ultralight packing class, the HPL Packing Method, is for you. A proven 4-week program from Brooke Schoenman (Founder of Her Packing List), where you will learn to pack so light, confidently, that you could travel for a week in a personal-item-sized bag.
We also have over 200 packing lists on the blog. So wherever you’re going, there is bound to be a packing list to help you calm that “what-if” voice.
Should I Pack This Item?
This is probably the question you’re asking yourself the most when packing your luggage. Resist the temptation to throw anything (and everything) in your bag at the last moment with our helpful flow chart. This chart will help you decide whether or not you should actually pack that last-minute addition.
Do you have an inner worried mom voice that comes out when packing? Do you have any other tips for keeping her calm?