Tips for Dealing with Overpacking

I have a confession to make: by nature, I am a chronic over-packer. On past trips, I would pack something for every conceivable situation. Going out to dinner one night, maybe two? Better have two outfits for dinner. What if I feel like working out? Should take my running shoes, just in case. Weather is questionable? I need to bring pants and skirts for every day. And so on. This led to many issues during my first year of travel, including carrying too many bags, having to check my bag, and everything just taking much longer than it needed to. It took a while, but I developed a number of strategies to calm my nervous packing down. Because that’s what I believe it was rooted in—being nervous about business travel in general, and a bit of a control freak to boot.  Here are my tricks for controlling the over-packing impulse:

  • Determine exactly what situations will arise during a trip. Make a list of all of the possible activities you will be doing. Travel, meetings, dinner, downtime, working out, and sleeping are usually on my list.
  • Figure out which items can multi-task. You can lounge around your hotel room in your PJs, and often go to dinner in your work attire. No need to bring separate outfits for all activities.
  • Don’t be afraid to wear items twice! Most people truly only need one pair of pants or skirt for every two days. Bring a different shirt for each day, as they don’t take up much room.
  • Go easy on the shoes. This is one of the hardest things for me. I love shoes so much, and want to have a different pair for every day. But there is really no reason. I follow the three-pair rule: only three pairs, including the one on your feet.
  • Be honest with yourself. Are you really going to find time to work out in your two-day, jam-packed with meetings trip? If so, great, bring the stuff. If not, leave it at home.
  • Reduce toiletries. Toiletries take up SO much room. Try to condense to as few as possible, and divide them up into multiple bags so they can squeeze into tight places more easily. And as far as makeup goes—you probably don’t need your entire makeup collection. Just bring your everyday items that you know you need.
  • Keep a list of everything you take. After your trip, go back and see how you did. Did you bring enough? Too much? The right clothing items? Only by consistently keeping track of what you need and don’t need can you hone your packing list down to only necessities.

It will take time, and practice, but with work you can control your over-packing tendencies. It is such a great feeling to walk into an airport with your rollaboard and purse/briefcase, knowing you are as efficient as can be. Packing effectively will save you time, money, and stress, and allow you to focus on the actual business of your trip. Good luck!


  1. Since I travel so often to developing countries, what often trips me up are necessities like chargers and adapters, medical stuff, and office supplies.

  2. I have found, after years of travel, that the one thing I always need are some sweats or yoga clothing, a top and a bottom. Great for changing into after a long flight, ordering room service, going for a stroll to the deli, or for just plain sleeping. And another cure for overpacking is to take a lot of interesting jewelry. People notice that more than the fact you’re wearing the same shirt over again.

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