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Thread: Traveling with overpackers

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    Registered User snowbot's Avatar
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    Traveling with overpackers

    I recently returned from a conference trip with my two graduate students. We were gone almost a week. While leaving my house with my luggage, I had my usual panicked moment where I was convinced I had overpacked. (I'm not the only person who has irrational moments in regards to packing, right?) I had packed, in addition to toiletries, 2 pairs of pants, 1 skirt, several shirts, and (the reason I couldn't take my TriStar) 3 jackets and 1 pair of dress shoes. I also had my reviled Timbuktu laptop bag because my presentation wasn't finished and I had to lug my 15" MBP with me. So, I had a soft-sided carry-on and a computer bag "personal item". My Absolute Strap made the laptop bag a little less horrible.

    The first two times student #1 and I went to a meeting together, he had a medium-sized roll-aboard that had to be checked. This trip he had a small (<20") roll-aboard and a small laptop bag. He was so happy that he'd packed less than me. (I was happy, too.)

    Student #2 had a GIANT suitcase. It was larger than the other two bags put together. On the way back, I saw that it weighed 48.5 lbs. How does one manage to pack 48.5 lbs for a 1 week conference? I'll admit that I'm nowhere near as fashionable as student #2, but I still don't understand.

    I didn't make any comments about her bag other than that we could check it as mine for free because of frequent flyer status, but I do hope that she tries traveling with a smaller bag on our next trip.
    Last edited by snowbot; 01-31-2012 at 06:01 AM. Reason: Asterisks appeared in cut and paste

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    My better half uses one of those giant plastic suitcases on trips. I do try to quietly point out how life would be easier if she didn't have that bag. But she can't let go of extra large items like shoes, sweaters, jackets and such. She did comment that her last packing effort was really bad so maybe she is warming up to my way of thinking.

    However there is one advantage to having the large suitcase. We are able to bring back some items we cannot carry on the plane. We do enjoy sampling beers from different breweries and we bring some back to a tasting club. A few zip lock bags and some careful packing allows us to do this.

    Having said that, last trip our worst suitcase was 43 pounds. I think that included 7 large bottles of beer. Not sure how you can hit 48 pounds with just clothing.
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    Registered User jannilee's Avatar
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    The most incredible overpacking ( and purchasing) I have ever seen was on a recent trip to China. By the third stop this person had 80lb of checked baggage. She was able to get away with it because of people like me who had 15lb of luggage. At the end of the trip she had to check her bags (she had bought a THIRD humungous bag) individually. She was irate that she had to pay excess baggage! She thought they had added other people's excess baggage onto hers (obviously not good at estimating). I stood there grinning with my 21 lb bag which I carried on! (I had bought a LOT!)

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    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Wow Jannilee, that's a real overpacker! Here I was reading Snowbot's original post and thinking, "Wow, three jackets! That's a lot!" and then I saw your post. Hehe.

    Snowbot -- I assume you needed three jackets because you were giving presentations. Have you considered some of the travel-friendly reversible jackets you can get from places like Travelsmith? They're a little harder to find, but they are typically plain on one side, and with a design on the other side. I also try to create a really different look by using different scarves, too. Of course, these days I rarely ever go to a conference where I have to dress nice.
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    My loverly, and otherwise perfect, wife tends toward being an over-packer but she has agreed to one-bag it for a trip to Italy we are taking in late March!

    This site: Travelista.com is one of the places that convinced her she could do it...she also leans heavily on Lani's excellent scarf suggestion.

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    Registered User snowbot's Avatar
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    I'll admit the three jackets was a bit overboard, but I get so cold in conference centers and this is the dressiest meeting that I regularly attend. Also, since one of the jackets is burgundy and there aren't many women in my meetings, I figured people might notice if I wore the same over-the-top jacket four days in a row. (Not that I have a problem with wearing the same jacket four days in a row, I just don't want it to be remarked on.) The funny thing is that my computer bag was heavier than my clothes bag.

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowbot View Post
    (Not that I have a problem with wearing the same jacket four days in a row, I just don't want it to be remarked on.)
    I wonder if this very concern is what led your grad student to way, way overpack. I took more stuff to my first national conference than I did to any other conference since. Or on my honeymoon, for that matter. I think that grad students are particularly vulnerable to feeling that their every move, down to their sartorial choices, will be scrutinized--and it very well might be true, given that they are trying to impress potential future employers/colleagues. And whether or not faculty notice, other grad students definitely pick up on who amongst them is dressed poorly. When I was in grad school, the person in the shiny, ill-fitting suit was always judged. I spent days curating my outfits and polishing my glasses so I wouldn't stand out in that way. Now that I have a real job I'm much less self-conscious about what I wear at conferences.

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffmac View Post
    My loverly, and otherwise perfect, wife tends toward being an over-packer but she has agreed to one-bag it for a trip to Italy we are taking in late March!

    This site: Travelista.com is one of the places that convinced her she could do it...she also leans heavily on Lani's excellent scarf suggestion.
    You're going to have to start a new thread and tell us all about where you're going! Hint: scarves are ubiquitous and CHEAP in Italy, so there's always an excuse to buy a new one.

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    Registered User snowbot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    I wonder if this very concern is what led your grad student to way, way overpack.
    Badger, you're probably on the right track. This student is much more fashionable than most of the students in my department and was mostly socializing with students rather than the more senior scientists. I was on one of the meeting organizing committees and spent a lot of time with "the suits".

    The flight out of conference-land was packed (literally, there were no empty seats) with attendees. Over half the passengers had elite status and overhead bin space disappeared early. When the bins were opened after landing, poster tubes spilled out onto unsuspecting passengers.

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    Registered User daisy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowbot View Post

    Student #2 had a GIANT suitcase. It was larger than the other two bags put together. On the way back, I saw that it weighed 48.5 lbs. How does one manage to pack 48.5 lbs for a 1 week conference? I'll admit that I'm nowhere near as fashionable as student #2, but I still don't understand.

    I didn't make any comments about her bag other than that we could check it as mine for free because of frequent flyer status, but I do hope that she tries traveling with a smaller bag on our next trip.
    Hey! I resemble that remark! :-)

    We of the checked roller bag brigade are freeing up overhead locker space for the underpackers!

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    6 weeks in europe in late autumn - the brown bag standing in for the Western Flyer I don't have yet :-(
    (many TB cubes and pouches inside all three bags)

    What I don't get is why travellers gripe about paying for checked baggage. It seems only fair that one pays extra for taking extra and the airlines have to cut somewhere to compensate for the fare wars.
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    Registered User Maria's Avatar
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    Having flown to places that were new to me in many ways - the location, the event, uncertain as to what may be "really" required to wear once there...I can relate to that comment by Snowbot and Badger in terms of wearing the same thing over and over in the eyes of others and wanting to make an impression of the right sort. As the saying goes, you have that one chance to make a first impression so make it a good one.

    Nothing wrong with checking a bag if required. If coming back with something unique / unobtainable at home - check a bag and pay the price. I'd rather risk checking that bag than forgoing that bottle of beer, or whatever.

    Now the above are my own personal "excuses" to check a bag. But I'm often gobsmacked to see what other people (women especially) think they cannot live without for a week away. Does one really need to pack the entire contents of a wardrobe? Do you really need all those shoes?

    Also, when I first started to travel on my own, I was clueless in terms of what was ahead of me: lugging that heavy suitcase by myself, the stress of keeping track of it all, really not knowing what I may or may not find when I arrived or not having the proper research in advance, etc etc. So I try to pretend others may be in that situation as I once was. Of course, the more I travelled, the more I learned and also got organized. What to pack, using my silk scarves as the colour in a neutral wardrobe, the freedom of being able to carry all I travel with in one bag and be able to move with ease. I know, preaching to the choir here.

    Now I try to show by example, as most of my family / friends are tired of the broken record of my packing light mantra. (And yes, I admit, I've actually packed less than I should have and regretted it!)

    Cheers!
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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maria View Post
    (And yes, I admit, I've actually packed less than I should have and regretted it!)
    Ugh, me too. I always seem to spill food on myself whenever I don't have a spare shirt.
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    Registered User jannilee's Avatar
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    I must confess to overpacking on my recent trip to Cuba for 2 weeks of sun and snorkelling. Basics such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo and clothing are in such short supply in Cuba that I took a bunch to hand out as gifts/tips. Also I was taking my snorkelling gear ( note to self to buy more compact flippers or use the ones from the resort). Because I had this HUGE checked bag (my 22" rollaboard teehee!) I also took 2prs shoes and 2prs sandals - definitely too much as well as packing a bunch of stuff for the friend who went with me. I also broke my rule of 3 packing (took6 tops and4 bottoms and 2 dresses). All my clothes and 4 small knitting projects fit in my western flyer. Now that I have the WF my original carry on only bag ( the 22") seems really excessive. Now to work on my packing list for 2 1/2 weeks in southern Spain in the spring (yes Badger I will eat vast quantities of jamon iberico in your honour!)

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jannilee View Post
    I must confess to overpacking on my recent trip to Cuba for 2 weeks of sun and snorkelling. Basics such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo and clothing are in such short supply in Cuba that I took a bunch to hand out as gifts/tips. Also I was taking my snorkelling gear ( note to self to buy more compact flippers or use the ones from the resort). Because I had this HUGE checked bag (my 22" rollaboard teehee!) I also took 2prs shoes and 2prs sandals - definitely too much as well as packing a bunch of stuff for the friend who went with me. I also broke my rule of 3 packing (took6 tops and4 bottoms and 2 dresses). All my clothes and 4 small knitting projects fit in my western flyer. Now that I have the WF my original carry on only bag ( the 22") seems really excessive. Now to work on my packing list for 2 1/2 weeks in southern Spain in the spring (yes Badger I will eat vast quantities of jamon iberico in your honour!)
    IDK, jannilee. I'm not sure what you describe counts as overpacking. I think there's a big difference between packing stuff for others (like the gift toiletries) or because they're simply not available where you are going and packing, say, 18 T-shirts for a five day trip because you're going to Wauwatosa and they might not have a Gap. And six shirts for 14 days doesn't sound super crazy.

    I'm tickled that you will be eating ham in my honor (that sounds really, really weird). Care to share that packing list sometime, you know, so we can live vicariously through you?

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    Registered User Lani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    Hint: scarves are ubiquitous and CHEAP in Italy, so there's always an excuse to buy a new one.
    They also make awesome souvenirs. And gifts to your friends back home.
    Lani Teshima: A Dyneema diva with a closetful of Tom Bihn products!
    Publisher, The Travelite FAQ: Don't get saddled with baggage—free yourself & your mind by packing lightly!
    Editor, MousePlanet: Detailed park guides, daily news & stories from all over the Disney kingdom | Technical writer | Marathoner

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