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Eliminating Packing Nightmares: The Dreaded Repack at the Check-in Counter

eliminate packing nightmares: the dreaded repack at check-in

Travel days, while being joyous occasions when we get to set off into an adventure or relaxing getaway, more often than not can also be days of utter stress and confusion. The whole getting to the airport on-time when traffic is at a stand-still, or your train is running 30 minutes late, can be enough to make your blood pressure rise and the adrenaline start pumping.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the last thing you want to hear when you finally get to the check-in counter is that your bag(s) is (are) overweight and you need to either:

1) repack and reorganize to make it all work, or
2) pay an extensive overweight fee, or
3) both!

Yes, you’ve seen them. The girls (and guys) who are frantically opening their luggage on the airport floor, shifting this and that from one bag to another and hoping it all pays off in the end.

In fact, you might even be one of them. According to our recent Her Packing List survey, dozens of ladies have had to open up backpacks and suitcases at the check-in counter for all to see, and it’s never a fun experience.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s Embarrassing

To take things out of my bags…
“Having to take things out of my bags at the check in counter and give them to my parents to bring home to avoid baggage fees! Pretty embarrassing.” -Emily Hanks

Opening my suitcase at the check in line…
“This resulted in opening my suitcase in the check in line and rebalancing things from carry on to check in. This is just embarrassing!” -Stephanie Tolin

In full view of a line of people…
“When I flew back to the UK from Auckland in June my suitcase was overweight and if I hadn’t been able to take my winter coat out of it and put it into my almost empty hand luggage I would have had to pay $200NZD to take my bag as it was! Thankfully I rolled up the coat and packed it in my carry on instead, although having to unlock and rummage through my suitcase in full view of a line of people wasn’t a great experience!” -Beverley Reinemann

Transferring my underwear from one bag to…
“On the way home from a high school summer study program in England, my bag weighed too much. I kept asking the woman who weighed my bag how many pounds it was – obviously she kept telling me how much it cost in pounds to get my overweight bag on the flight. Imagine my 16-year-old embarrassment transferring my underwear from one bag to another in front of the rest of my high school group. I’ve never had an overweight bag again though!” -Leidy Wagener

It’s Stressful

Last minute re-distribution of weight…
“Overweight baggage requiring stressful last-minute re-distribution of weight between other bags! This has happened more than once!” -Meaghan Dunn

You Lose Stuff

I cried as I pulled out boots…
“I was moving to France for a year and packed accordingly…my bag was several kilos overweight. I cried as I pulled out boots, a leather jacket, and a couple jars of peanut butter (not available in France, and vital to an American). Barely made it to the gate!” -Jess Mullen

Lost a brand new $10 tube of self-tanning lotion…
“3-4 lbs. overweight at check-in. Had to take out something. Lost a brand new $10 tube of self-tanning lotion! On another trip had an antique wine glass from a set broken after checking luggage, because the airline was “begging” people to check their luggage, on the second leg of our trip.” -Shelley

Had to unload so much stuff…
“Coming back to Australia leaving Heathrow Airport. Had to unload so much stuff. My poor parents went back home with more goodies than I brought back to Melbourne!” -Sharon

Had to throw things in the garbage…
“Yes, overweight luggage on the way to Malta, had to throw things in garbage.” -Anonymous

It’s Possibly Still Expensive

Each bag was still overweight…
“I was on my way back home from a year in Scotland. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate while being stationary for a long period of time. Even though I had purged quite a bit before I packed up, BOTH of my suitcases were overweight. So much so that they wouldn’t even accept them on the flight. So I had to open them up and start throwing away whatever I decided I could part with right then. And then each bag was still overweight and I had to pay $400 dollars to get them on the plane. It was very embarrassing and hard on my bank account!” -Ashley Curd

I still had to pay the fine…
“I was once ‘that guy’ with not one but two massive suitcases, one totaling over 50lbs. I sat at the check in area trying to reorganize my luggage to disperse the weight. In the end I still had to pay the fine for overweight luggage! Never again!” -Chey Pribel


How to Make Repacking at Check-in Less of an Issue

If you’re the type of person that finds they are constantly repacking their luggage at the check-in counter, and you don’t think that will change in the near future, alleviate your stress by making a few adjustments.

First, pack all your items into packing cubes and organizational units (pouches, sacks, etc.). That way, if you do need to shift things around in front of every other person in the airport, you will at least be able to do so without your underwear strewn across the floor.

Second, bring a collapsible duffel bag. If you literally can’t fit your shifted items into your suitcase or carry-on, perhaps putting it all into a duffel with extra space to kill will do the trick. This is assuming you are limited on space and not weight of one of your items.

Third, always have extra cash on you to pay for your excess baggage fees. Not every repack will solve the problem, and you might not be able to part with what you have at the last minute. In that case, excess fees are usually necessary.

How to Eliminate This Packing Nightmare Completely

Of course, we don’t want you to have to deal with this packing nightmare at all! Yes, Her Packing List can help.

In just a few short weeks, we’ll be releasing our very first packing ebook that can take you from packing disaster to packing master in no time. The stress and embarrassment of needing to repack at the check-in counter is just one of the packing nightmares you’ll be able to leave behind.

UPDATE: We have since released our packing ebook!

It’s our goal at Her Packing List to have you packing and traveling stress-free on your next holiday.

* * * * *

Do YOU have any good repack-at-the-check-in-counter stories to share? Is this a packing nightmare you struggle with constantly on your travels?

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 planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Travel Resources

HPL Learnables

Handbag Packing Masterclass – Learn to pack your lightest bag ever in this revolutionary packing class run by HPL founder, Brooke.

Creative Ways to Minimize Your Toiletry & Beauty Kit – Practical tips alongside DIY recipes designed to help you pack lighter, smaller & with fewer liquids. (Also included as a bonus to Handbag Packing Masterclass.)

Book Your Trip

Viator – Enhance your trip experience by booking from thousands of tours across the globe. – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

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

Reader Interactions


  1. Stormy says

    I’ve solved the problem by simply downsizing. The first suitcase that I travelled with allowed me to pack so much into it that I was always overweight. I now have a rolling duffel bag with backpack straps that physically limits the amount of things I can stuff into it. It’s large enough for me to bring what I need, but small enough for me to stay under the weight limits, provided I don’t pack it with hard cover books (yes I actually did it once and will never do it again).

  2. Katie says

    At 18 I moved from Australia to Canada and only had one carry on and one checked bag. I was 1kg over and ended up having to take my $900 figure skates out. Fortunately my now fiancé had just enough space that they let us put them in his bag and come through. Of course naturally I spent the first three weeks here (winter of course) with no suitcase! Because it wasn’t put on the plane.

  3. Karina says

    Learned my lesson my first time to Europe, flying home with FOUR bags and still frantically shoving things into my mother’s suitcase at the counter. Never again. Since then, I have pledged to carry-on only except when my equipment doesn’t permit it. (Thanks SCUBA fins). My last trip was a scientific expedition to Belize, and my checked bag was so light, I ended up taking several of my classmate’s belongings, AND a bunch of class equipment. Going from being the one frantically unpacking at the counter to the one proudly offering up the extra space/weight is incredibly satisfying. Learn to travel as light as possible, so when you do end up checking a bag, you don’t have to think twice about the weight.

  4. Cynthia J Pace says

    Love reading all of your stories, reviews and lists. I am no longer able to travel but my 21 year old daughter is and loves it! Thank you.

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