I tend to over-pack. The number of blog posts, articles, and videos that offer tips on packing more efficiently indicate that I’m not the only traveler with this problem. However, I found that many of those resources didn’t help me, because each person has different priorities when packing. There is not a single ideal set of things to pack for any given trip.
Instead, I began to teach myself how to customize my packing in a way that works better for me. Each time I unpacked, I made a list of things that I did not use at all during the trip. I also noted the location I visited and the type of trip it was (for example, a skiing trip in Vermont, or a hiking trip in California). If there was something I had forgotten and missed during the trip (often sunglasses), I would jot that down too. To be honest, I didn’t do this very many times. By the time I thought of writing it down, I realized I had been doing this mentally for a long time.
A few examples of things I’ve learned to leave behind are:
I love to read, and I always tell myself that a vacation is the perfect time to make some progress on my reading list. I used to regularly pack 3 or 4 books to give myself reading options during the trip. The problem with this (besides the fact that books are heavy) is that I spend so much time doing other things when I travel that I have little time to read. In addition, I usually travel with my husband and don’t find as much time to myself as I do at home. Instead of bringing so many books, I now tend to pack card games so we are both entertained. I still travel with a book or two, but am now much more realistic about the amount that I will read.
Ever since childhood, I almost always traveled with a notebook. In the back of my mind, I wanted to be prepared in case I got inspired to write the great American novel in my spare time. Decades have passed, and I have yet to write that book. Pretty much the only use my notebooks got were keeping score for games or making small notes. Therefore, I now tend to pack a much smaller notebook or notepad.
Layers are important to have while traveling, but I had a habit of packing sweatshirts. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that I also packed jackets. I typically wore those, since I can more easily put them on or take them off depending on the temperature. I often returned home with untouched sweatshirts folded in my luggage. This has been a harder habit to change, but I am working on packing fewer sweatshirts, especially when visiting warm or moderate destinations.
One of my favorite activities is swimming, but I’m not really a fan of most hotel swimming pools. I often packed a suit so I would at least have the option of swimming, but after so many experiences of having the option and passing it up, I’ve realized it’s unnecessary to keep packing swimsuits for every trip.
These are just a few examples of things I’ve started leaving home after taking a good look at my packing habits. Perhaps your list would be similar, or maybe it would be entirely different. Either way, taking a look at unused items at the end of one trip may help you pack smarter next time.