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You Know You Overpacked When…

Just this morning, I said bye to my Mom, Gram and a close family friend, who all came to San Francisco for a five-night visit. The length of their visit is very significant to my point of this blog, which is simply that they overpacked. Big time. Each arrived with a large suitcase (one weighed in at 61 pounds), a carry-on duffel and a purse. Between the three of them, I’m pretty sure we could have opened a beauty supply store that would put Sally’s out of business. Among their items were various hair apparatuses, Febreeze, air freshener and an electrical make-up mirror with lights.

Yes, you read that right, an electrical make-up mirror with lights.

I once went on a 10-day trip to Toronto and New York City with only a carry-on bag, so it wouldn’t even cross my mind to travel with an item such as an electrical make-up mirror with lights. The funny thing is, they didn’t seem to think that they had overpacked. (In fact, I’ll probably catch flak for calling them out on this one!)

To help travelers gauge when enough is enough, I pulled together a few hints that let you know when you’ve surpassed the reasonable packing limit.

You know you overpacked when….

  • you have to sit on the suitcase to get it zipped.
  • you can’t lift the bag without help.
  • you have a baggage malfunction.
  • you have to buy a new bag at your destination because of aforementioned baggage malfunction.
  • you have a different pair of shoes for every outfit.
  • you don’t have any room for souvenirs.
  • you have to leave items behind just to get back home.
  • you take your very own electrical make-up mirror with lights.

Please help me add to this list! Leave a comment with your best “you know you overpacked when…” hint for the packing challenged.


My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.

(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)

Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!

Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.

View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!



Unless you’re off to the wilderness somewhere, I say it’s far better to deliberately underpack. This way you’ll be forced to buy a couple of things when you’re out there, be it shoes or another coat or whatever. This way you know that you’ll definitely be coming back with a couple of local souvenirs that you might find more useful than a mere ornament.


You also know you overpacked when…

you have to release the expandable zipper on your suitcase.

you cringe when you find out your hotel doesn’t have an elevator.

you pack an outfit you don’t see for the duration of your trip because it’s lost inside your suitcase.

you can offer to let another traveler borrow your extra book.


You know you overpacked when…

you exceed the maximum weight allowence for checked bags

you have a curling iron

you wear clothing items only once (or not at all!)


You know you’ve overpacked when you spend two hours weighing and rearranging your two suitcases in London so you can fly to Paris. You were OK flying to and from Europe, but overweight intra-Europe. My opinion, take the train and stay out later enjoying the sites!

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