Do This at the End of Every Trip

A month into my latest trip to Europe I realized I’d seriously overpacked. I can always tell how much I've overpacked by the number of curse words coming out of my mouth as I haul my carry-on bag, laptop case, backpack and purse up and down stairs twice in one day in order to switch trains. Or as I drag two cases over cobble-stoned streets in search of my Airbnb accommodation. I really hope the French and Spanish folks nearby didn’t understand English. At least not those words.


On every trip, I vow to pack less and yet, some how a whole mess of unnecessary items make their way into my suitcase. How does that happen? I now realize that making a packing list before you leave is the wrong time to do it, because you’ll want to put everything on your list, and in your suitcase. The time to make a packing list, or edit the one you have, is when you return home.

A mid-November day along the Vilaine River in Brain sur Vilaine, France.

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As soon as you get home — or even before — EDIT YOUR PACKING LIST.


1) Cross off anything you didn’t need or use

Here’s a few items I knocked off my list. I shipped most of these home from France, along with a few gifts.

  • Anker portable cell phone charger: I thought this would be a handy gismo in case my battery ran out. But since I only have a small data plan while traveling, I keep my phone on airplane mode except when I have WiFi. And while traveling there are USB plugs available in the airport, on the plane, in my rent a car, and even outlets in cafes. Although use these with caution or you could have your data stolen and/or install malware.

  • Small eBags electronics cord organizer: Even though it was small, it took up a lot of space. A large Ziplock bag organizes all my cords and electronic gismos and takes far less room in my suitcase.

  • Belt: Never used it as I wore most of my shirts over my pants.

  • White t-shirt: It turned a nasty shade of grey the first time I machine washed it with my other clothes.

  • Light-weight binoculars: What was I thinking? Okay, they are nice to have, but it’s one more thing to weigh down my dayback, so I never brought them on day trips.

  • Portable hair straighter: It’s only a half inch wide and six inches long and has dual voltage 110v/240v and it’s so cute. But I don’t take time to style my hair at home; what made me think I’d do it while traveling?

  • Large tube of body cream: It has natural ingredients and it’s my favorite scent and I went through the whole tube in the first two months of travel, but I could have saved myself the extra weight and space by bringing a smaller tube and buying more as I traveled.

  • Liquid eye makeup remover and cotton balls: Makeup remover cleansing towelettes work just as well and don’t take up as much room. And when you run out, you can find them in most European supermarkets.

  • 9 oz. S’well water bottle: This one I’m a bit torn about. I love a bottle that keeps your water cold in hot weather and can also keep your coffee hot. And I use this bottle all the time when I'm home. But even the tiny 9 oz bottle weighs half a pound when empty. And every little bit of weight adds up.

2) Add in anything you wish you had packed, but didn’t

There were a few items:

  • Tide to Go Pen: Although many Airbnb accommodations provide laundry detergent, it’s rare to find stain remover.

  • Eyeglass cleaner spray: I brought a few individually-wrapped eyeglass-cleaning wipes, but I quickly ran out. The spray works much better.

  • A refillable, travel bottle of hand sanitizer: Although there is often hand sanitizer in stores, it's nice to have own bottle attached to my purse.

  • Long-sleeved sweater: I only brought a three-quarter-length cardigan and once the weather went from 90 degrees to the low 50s, I needed more layers. Luckily, I found a jacket I love in Sitges, Spain and an inexpensive sweater at H & M.

  • A sleep eye mask: On my first trip back to Europe in several years, my Airbnb apartment in Milan was lit up like a Christmas tree from the illuminated building next door. Wish I'd had a sleep mask. Now I can't sleep without one.

3) List and review the things you purchased abroad

What items did you need to buy because you ran out, or the weather changed, or you simple forgot to pack it? Decide if you want to include these for next time. I found that I only needed to bring small amounts of many of my toiletries because I could easily replenish them abroad.


Things I purchased abroad:

  • Body cream

  • Makeup remover cleansing towelettes

  • Toothpaste

  • T-shirt

  • Jacket

  • Sweater

4) Rethink your luggage and bags

Evaluate how well your luggage worked for you. Was your suitcase easy to pull? Do you need a lighter suitcase or a hard-sided suitcase or an expandable one?


On my quest to lighten my load — both at home and abroad — I have completely rethought my carry-on bag. Although I love having a small bag on wheels for my laptop, I won't be doing that again if I am traveling by public transportation. It's no fun carrying two bags along cobblestone streets, up flights of stairs and on to buses and trains. The two bag system works fine when I'm taveling by car, but for train travel I'll stick to one suitcase and a backpack.


Are there items you packed for your last trip that you wish you'd left at home? Comment below.

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Hi, I’m Lori Cronwell. As a writer and frequent traveler, I admire the values most Europeans embrace: choosing quality over quantity; residing in smaller, more sustainable homes; working less and spending more time with friends and family.
 

Those values were key in my decision to drastically downsize to a 700 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with the goal of creating a simpler, more sumptuous life with time for travel.
 

Slow travel, that is. Spending more time in one place — even if it’s just a week. You'll not only spend less, you'll discover a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

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