Less Baggage Makes for More Room, More Fun


As I write this column, my mind is in two places: my print deadline and my packing deadline. I’m pausing every few minutes to add things to a list for a nearly two-week vacation we are taking: chargers for all the things, water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, aftersun, first aid, neck fan, neck pillow, dramamine, binoculars, laundry bags, ponchos, three pairs of shoes, casual and dressy outfits for 12 days. There is no way this will all fit in a carry-on bag.

As a chronic overpacker, I have a theory that the greater our anxiety about leaving behind our routines and the conveniences of home to travel to parts unknown, the heavier our baggage. 

Overpackers consider every worst case scenario: maybe this screwdriver will come in handy? I should definitely take my French Press. And some shoeshine. And a snakebite kit. I’m definitely going to need my cast iron pan. I know we’ll be in a mediterranean climate, but on the off-chance, I should pack my long johns.

I’m sure this is what the Girl Scouts meant when they taught me to “be prepared.”

Packing experts advise gathering what you think you need for a trip and eliminating half of it. As much as I resist this wisdom, I know it’s valid. Schlepping through an airport or hotel with a Samsonite straining at the seams with every comfort from home is a drag. 

But what if I forget something? Something important!

Anytime I’m faced with the challenge of packing I remember the story my friend told about dropping her son, a ruddy and active 10-year-old, off at summer camp. I’ll call him Joey. Upon helping little Joey unpack, his mother discovered he failed to bring any undershorts. 

Being the good mom she is, she ran to town and bought back some brand new breeches. With a hug and a kiss, she left Joey there to enjoy swimming in the creek, field games and late night campfires. 

When she picked up little Joey a week later, he regaled her with his adventures: the hikes, the wildlife, the ropes course. She opened his luggage in the laundry room, expecting to find the evidence of his grand time — clothes covered in grime and wafting a fragrance no one wants to bottle. All par for the course with a 10-year-old boy.

It was what she found in the bottom of the suitcase that shocked her: two unopened packages of boys’ skivvies. He’d gone the entire week “commando,” running around camp in jubilant freedom. 

There aren’t many adults who would intentionally forgo their drawers. My usual calculation goes something like: number of days traveling multiplied by three equals the necessary number of unmentionables. It’s exactly three times what I usually require. 

Joey’s Huckleberry Finn approach to packing is both a cautionary tale and a liberating one. For him, less was more: he had one less thing to worry about which left more time for fun. 

I’m wrapping up this column and still refining my packing list. Maybe I don’t need the whole medicine cabinet? I bet I can get away with two pairs of shoes. One thing I’m certain I can leave behind? My laptop. Jubilant freedom, here I come. Bon voyage, dear neighbors. 

Contact Maggie Beamguard at maggie@thepilot.com.