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How *Not to Pack for a Trip

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

You can't wait to start your vacation! Your work's finished, the frig is cleaned out, the cat is fed and the mail's been stopped. The Only Thing Left is to Pack.

You put it off until the last possible moment because it's your least favorite chore. Frankly, you'd rather have a root canal. It never fails. Every trip, you end up frustrated. You arrive at your destination with the wrong clothes in your bag and the right clothes sitting at home on your bed. What's wrong with you?

Nothing! It's not your level of efficiency, degree of competency or lack of planning. It's your expectations! They are, in a word, unrealistic. Standing in front of your closet pre-trip, your brain floods with images of upcoming trips to the museum, art galleries, antique shops and maybe half a dozen restaurants. Or maybe you'll have time to go hiking. Or snorkeling. Or . . . fill in the blank. You imagine yourself in a million different Instagram-worthy settings, smiling, having the BEST TRIP EVER.

News flash: you aren't traveling with Rick Steves, you're traveling on a fixed schedule and your Instagram meter is broken. You're doing what I call fantasy packing: stuffing way too many expectations (and clothes) into your bag. Inevitably, what you'll unpack is a whole lot of disappointment and the wrong shoes. Dr. Gina Barreca, author of Psychology Today's "15 Ways to Ruin the Very Best of Vacations" writes, "Unless your destination is Lourdes, don’t expect miracles."

There is a way to make sure you have a great trip (and end up packing the right underwear). Here are a few tips:

1) Adjust your expectations. A lot. Well in advance of your trip, make a list of Things you Want to Do and When. Add 20% more time and energy to your schedule to account for Weather, People Behaving Badly and ordinary, run-of-the-mill Unforeseen Circumstances. Stuff happens. Give it space in your itinerary.

2) Decide you're going to go with the flow. There's no possible way your fantasy trip can live up to your expectations, so lower them before you pack. Decide to embrace each day, each moment as it comes, and you'll be surprised what a difference that makes in your experience and in your memories. In other words, tattoo "Carpe Diem" on your arm.

3) Don't compare! You're not a social media icon with a following and a staff. Let go of the idea that you have to be camera-ready out of the gate at breakfast. Allow yourself to be relaxed, real, and hey, maybe even frumpy. Consider taking a hiatus from blow-outs/waxing/straightening/whitening/toning and stressing over looking perfect every minute.

4) Shift your focus away from yourself. Strike up conversations with fellow travelers, people in your midst, the locals. Ask questions, LISTEN, be open to new experiences and be prepared to forget about the things you were worried about yesterday.

5) Remember, perfect is the enemy of good--applies to packing and applies to life.

6) Lighten up. Life's a Trip!

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