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Are You a Chronic Over Packer? Tips to Travel Light

tips to travel light

by Barbara Khan

Packing isn’t easy

As an avid traveler, the long pandemic enforced hiatus really cramped my style. I’m beyond excited to resume traveling and already have several trips for the fall to Europe and North Africa planned. Though I’m a frequent flyer with 30 years of international travel experience, I was always an over packer.

Are you an over packer?

If you are tend to bring too much with you on trips, you are not alone. Packing isn’t easy. Over packers come in several different guises:

  • The Procrastinator

The procrastinator is someone who just never plans ahead. They wait until the night before to pack, then throw things in their bags without much thought. They often arrive at their destination with something important missing from their suitcase, such as a bathing suit.

  • The Soup to Nuts

The Soup to Nuts packer is the person who wants to bring all the options and packs five of everything. Usually they end up wearing a third of what they brought.

  • The Contingency

The Contingency packer packs for every eventuality as they do not want to be on the road without everything they need. What if it rains? What if the strap on the sandal breaks? What if there’s an unscheduled cocktail party? You get the picture.

  • The Emotional

Emotional packers are those who have strong attachments to their things. They tend to have a favorite of everything which they need to pack. Traveling without these favorites causes great stress for this type of packer.

I was a Contingency packer for years. I considered every potential activity and all weather possibilities. A wide selection of shoes went into my suitcase in case of blisters. Why do the cutest shoes have to cause blisters?

Which type of packer are you?


How to become a streamlined packer

Whether going away for a weekend or a month long trip, you can learn to pack well for any trip. All that’s required is a little bit of time, planning and careful selections.

Over the years, I honed my packing skills and with the help of the capsule style travel wardrobe I am now a streamlined packer.  

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a group of versatile clothing pieces that can be worn in different combinations to create a variety of outfits. The items are harmonized by color. In a word, it is the perfect way to travel light. To make travel prep even easier, you can save the basic list of items and change up what you pack based on destination, weather, and potential activities


Basic Capsule Travel Wardrobe Necessities, add or subtract as needed:

  • 2-3 pairs of pants (jeans, chinos, dress pants, cargo, palazzo)
  • 1 skirt (solid color is best)
  • 1-2 dresses
  • 2-3 camisoles
  • 3-4 t-shirts (short-sleeved, long-sleeved, or combination of both)
  • 3-4 lightweight tops or blouses (button down, tunic, denim/chambray)
  • 1 lightweight sweater, fleece or kimono/ruana
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 rain jacket with hood
  • 2-3 bras
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • 5-7 pairs of underwear or panties
  • 1-2 hats (baseball cap, straw hat, beanie)
  • 4-5 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of shoes (sneakers, sandals, one other comfy yet stylish option)
  • Purses and a tote bag
  • Accessories (scarves, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, sunglasses)

tips to travel light

How I travel for a week or more with these pieces

I can easily travel for a week or more with these pieces. The reason I like button-down shirts is their versatility. If long enough, it can work as a bathing suit coverup, or you can wear it as a layering piece with a cami or t-shirt underneath. To create different looks, I bring a few tops that go with each of the bottoms.

If I am traveling to a colder climate, I always wear my bulkiest pieces on the plane, so I would wear a thicker sweater over a long-sleeve t-shirt, wear my heavier shoes or booties, and wear my warmer coat. I can easily remove things onboard the plane and store in the overhead bin. Also, lightweight packable down coats are perfect for travel as most can be squished into a zippered bag or even folded into the coat’s pocket, taking no more room than paperback book in your luggage. My hooded rain jacket is also just roomy enough to accommodate a fleece or sweater underneath ensuring I stay warm and dry.

Regarding undergarments, there are some excellent microfiber panties available from several retailers and brands (Jockey Elance, Hanes Cool Comfort and Soma Vanishing Edge to name a few). I do not mind taking fewer and handwashing a pair or two in the sink. The microfiber fabric is quick drying overnight. I utilize the pants hangers with clips found in virtually any hotel as a perfect place to dry them and any other things I might handwash.

Plan ahead: Smart shopping with travel in mind

While stuck at home during the pandemic, I did some strategic and savvy shopping. I found fantastic sales online at my favorite stores, watched YouTube videos on style and read the pile of magazines I accumulated in 2019 when I was too busy with work.  I found some really great additions to my closet as a result.

At this stage in life, I know what styles work with my body type and which fabrics are comfortable, wash well, and travel easily. I weeded out my closet and gave away items that did not work for me, which were usually impulse purchases. Some I never wore because they were too small, too big, the wrong fit or itchy. Eliminating these items allowed me to identify pieces I needed to buy for my upcoming trips.

The bottom line

Being a savvy shopper and traveler is something we can all aspire to. Remember, if you forgot to pack something, your strap breaks, or the weather changes you can always buy what you need, even if you are on a cruise ship in Antarctica! I enjoy exploring local department stores and boutiques when I travel. It is interesting to see what’s stylish and fashionable in Morocco or Greece and it is an opportunity to pick up a unique clothing item that none of your friends will have. Remember to plan ahead, use your capsule wardrobe, pack light and enjoy a sense of wanderlust.

About Barbara Khan and JOURNEYS BY THE BOOK

barbara kahnBarbara Khan created Journeys by the Book in 2017 by Barbara Khan to marry her two passions, books and travel. Barbara is a lifelong book lover and a professional travel advisor since 1989. In 2011, she joined Goodreads and got serious about reviewing books. By 2013 Goodreads recognized her as being in the top 1% of reviewers on their site. She started a blog in 2014, followed by a Facebook group and page, Baer Books, where she promotes authors, posts reviews, and hosts giveaways. Barbara’s Facebook group and page continues to grow, now including many bestselling authors. A champion of authors, Barbara enjoys making connections for authors, book sellers, and readers to promote books, bookstores, and author signings. She was mentioned in the acknowledgements of several bestselling books and had a character based on her in Camille Pagan’s novel, Woman Last Seen in her Thirties. Barbara was published herself in Women Under Scrutiny and An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories & Art compiled by international bestselling author Randy Susan Myers. Barbara believes strongly that authors are the reader’s rock stars!

2 thoughts on “Are You a Chronic Over Packer? Tips to Travel Light

  1. Thank you Barbara for your packing advice. I do a pre list of items before packing.

    1. Appreciate your feedback – thank you, will share with Barbara! Creating a pre-list is a great idea before packing!

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