We are all guilty of overpacking. There are a ton of items that we think we all need, but the reality is that they are probably completely unnecessary. Chances are, you have probably arrived at your destination, opened your suitcase, and thought: why on EARTH did I pack THAT (after you face some hefty overweight luggage fees). Then, you come home to find that you haven't touched half of the items in your suitcase, and have recycled the same three outfits and one bikini. Then, you make a mental note to never pack these things again. Until your next vacation comes around and you intimately forget and make the same mistakes all over again.
You probably already have a list compiled of the things you are going to pack on vacation, but what about the things that you aren’t going to pack? These items are just important to take note of. It's important to plan carefully and thoughtfully before travel on what you will actually need, and avoid packing unnecessary items that will never get any use.
A good way to start is to organise your items into 'yes' and 'maybe', and then ditch the maybes. However, when that strategy ultimately fails (although, we do have faith in you), we have compiled a detailed guideline for you to reference whilst packing. Here's hoping that this list of 20 items that you will probably regret packing will save you from the overpacking nightmare on your next trip. No guarantees, though.
20 Hair styling tools
While we all want our hairdos to be looking top notch, there is no reason you need to bring an entire hair salon with you on vacation. While you may bring certain styling tools if you are needing to look presentable for a business trip or weekend with the girls in Las Vegas, you likely won’t need them for beach getaway to Mexico. And if you do, most hotels have a hair dryer provided in your room, and some even provide styling tools to borrow if you ask.
Also, by opting to use the tools that a hotel provides, you will avoid having to purchase an expensive converter or adapter if you are visiting a country overseas that has a different outlet.
19 Every toiletry in your medicine cabinet
While certain personalised medications and toiletries are needed, a majority of items can either be bought in the destination you are travelling to or are provided by the hotel. Items such as shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, floss, and hand cream (the list goes on), are built into the cost you paid for your hotel room—so take advantage of that!
If you are staying in a hostel or Airbnb that may not provide these items, it is still probably your best option to buy them in the location you are going to in order to avoid any overweight baggage fees, and overall a lighter travel experience. If you really want to plan ahead, buy travel sized items, or use plastic containers to put a small amount of your product into so you don’t have to bring the large bottle. If you are bringing all travel sized toiletries you can also avoid paying a fee to check your bag by opting for a carry on.
18 Valuable items
Don’t pack anything that is irreplaceable to you. You will instantly regret bringing your great grandmothers wedding ring, or your $300 pair of sunglasses when those items go missing on your trip.
Having these items on vacation is simply not worth the disappointment you will feel if you lose it, so just leave these items at home to avoid the stress.
After losing my Ray-Bans on a trip to Australia, I now always opt for a cheap pair when I’m on vacation. The nice pair that I once had was also getting damage from the salt water of the ocean and from constantly throwing them in my bag at the end of a beach day.
You don’t want to be worried your entire trip about your ring falling off in the ocean or your watch getting water damage, and I promise you won’t miss them that much if you leave them at home. These items will still be waiting for you when you get home, safe and sound.
17 Too many electronics
You’re on vacation, so why cloud your relaxation with a bunch of electronics?
While your phone is a useful electronic to bring for not only security but also for photos, bringing too many electronic items is unnecessary. Unless you are on a business trip or are planning on doing freelance work, leave the laptop at home (your Netflix binges can wait). If you’re a photographer, taking a DSLR camera with you is a practical item if you’re going to be using it all the time. However, bringing a ton of different photo taking devices is probably unrealistic for most, and I guarantee you will probably be taking pictures on your phone for the majority of your vacation. After all, some of the best photos I have taken whilst on vacation have been straight from my iPhone.
Only bring what you know you will use. Or better yet, put down your electronic devices and enjoy your vacation—it’s time to unplug.
16 Big, clunky headphones
Whilst I appreciate the functionality and sound quality of a good hair of headphones, they are simply too large and clunky to travel with. Earbuds are a much more practical option, as they are easy to pop in your carry on and if you are planning to exercise or hit the gym whilst away.
The sound quality will still cloud out that screaming baby on the plane, and you will save a ton of room. I’m sure you can live with the downgrade for a short vacation, and for long term travellers it is even more important to capitalise on space.
15 A pair of shoes for every occasion
I guarantee you will probably pack a pair of shoes for every possible occasion and not wear half of them. If they are impractical and you are bringing them ‘just in case’, you might as well just leave them at home.
Unless you are doing a 3-day trek through the amazon, bringing clunky hiking boots is probably unnecessary. You probably also don’t need 3 pairs of high heels, or three different pairs of sandals.
If you are going to a tropical location, you will probably either be wearing flip flops 24/7 or no shoes at all. 100% of the time when I bring different types of sandals on vacation, I pretty much only wear the most comfortable ones.
I always wear a comfortable pair of running shoes to the airport, and then (depending on the location) pack a pair of sandals and one slightly nicer option for a night out. Versatility is key. You are allowed to have options, but be practical. There’s nothing worse than suffering through a vacation in the wrong shoes, so choose them carefully.
14 That very unnecessarily big sunhat
How many times have you packed a massive sun hat and then arrived at your location to find that said hat is now squished and deformed from being in a suitcase for hours? Probably all of us at some point.
And how many of us actually wear said hat upon arrival? Not many.
Let’s be honest, we all want to look fabulous walking down the beach on vacay, but there are ways to accomplish this without packing an extremely impractical item. Opt for a baseball cap, and if you REALLY want a nicer hat when you arrive (which you probably won’t), I’m sure there is a beachside shop for that.
13 Too. Many. Outfits.
We are all guilty of packing too many clothing items when we go away. And we probably only wear close to half of the items we bring. It’s probably a good idea to plan outfits in advance, instead of aimlessly packing random items that don’t really have a purpose or go with any other item of clothing.
You do NOT need an outfit for every day, but by bringing multipurpose items that go together you can create a new outfit everyday with just a few items.
Besides, if you are going somewhere tropical, you will be in your bikini 90% of the time, so bring light and airy items for post-beaching.
Think about the items of clothing you wear every day. You probably go through the same 10 variations of outfits constantly, and don’t touch a majority of the clothes in your closet. So, don’t pack an item that you haven’t worn in years but want to bring it ‘just in case’, because you likely won’t wear it. It’s better to wash clothing items if you need to throughout your vacation, instead of packing a ton of heavy clothes. You’ll save money on baggage fees and have less to carry around. Less is more.
12 Big, bulky clothing
If you’re packing for cold weather, think layers. Clothing of the right material can keep you warm and insulated, and can be extremely lightweight as well. A.K.A., your suitcase will be light without compromising warmth. Packing for cold weather doesn’t mean you have to pack a bunch of bulky sweaters.
Big coats and jackets will take up half of the room in your suitcase and be a pain to lug around if you don't really need them.
If you are travelling to a cooler climate and actually need to bring a big jacket, wear it on the plane to save room in your luggage. Even if your home country isn't weather dependent for it, it'll be chilly in your destination once you get off the plane and you'll be glad you had it on you.
11 Anything that has the exact same use
You don’t need three flannel shirts in different colours. You don’t need two pairs of jeans that are essentially the exact same. You don’t need two pairs of sunglasses. The list goes on. One of every item is more than enough. Certain items such as your favourite blue jeans or white blouse are versatile enough that you can create different outfits with them and it won’t be obvious you’re wearing a variation of the same thing every day.
Everyone always seems to bring different options of the same item, and probably only uses the item that they like better. Before you finalise your packing job, look at everything to see if they have the exact same function and style, and then ditch one of those items.
10 Hardcover books and guidebooks
You don’t have to compromise your love of reading on vacation, but there are more practical items to think of instead of that bulky hardcover novel. You will instantly regret bringing your thousand page hardcover Harry Potter book on vacation with you (okay, maybe not an HP book). If you really want to bring a book, opt for a paperback or more compact book that you can bang out in the week you are away, rather than a novel that is going to take you months to finish.
Or, you can ditch the paper options all together and bring a Kindle or Kobo, an awesome option if you are travelling long term. Not only does this mean less weight, but you can purchase any book on the go for cheap, so you don’t have to go searching for a book at expensive book stores. A single device can hold an entire library!
If you are the type of person that loves guidebooks whilst travelling, then bringing one along isn’t the end of the world if it’s going to be useful to you. Alternatively, guidebook companies like Lonely Planet have an app that offers you everything that would be in a guidebook.
9 Your entire beauty routine
Chances are you don’t use everything in your beauty routine every day, and the same applies for vacation, if not less. Bring a few everyday items but nothing that you know you won’t use. It’s better to go au-natural on vacation anyways—the sun will likely give you a tanned glow and for the ladies, just throw on some mascara and you’ll be good to go!
This also applies to men, as things such as hair gel and shaving tools are not necessary to bring. Embrace the rugged, bohemian look and enjoy the time you have where you don’t have to look presentable all the time. I guarantee it will feel dang good.
8 Your entire set of keys
How awful would it be if you lost your entire set of keys while abroad? Since your keys are of literally zero use to you while away, it’s a good idea if you just bring your house key (and car key if you drove to the airport). Once you have arrived in your destination, put them in a safe place in your hotel room and don’t take them out with you.
There is nothing worse than losing your keys at home, let alone while you’re abroad. In order to avoid having to replace them all and facing that hefty cost, just leave them at home to avoid the stress.
7 Workout clothing
Let's be honest, you aren't going to be hitting the gym everyday on vacation. As much as we love to think we are committed to the GTL lifestyle and you claim your spirit animal is sporty spice, the reality is that while you are on vacation you just want to chill out. Those gym clothes and runners probably won't get much use, and you'll be wondering who the heck you were kidding when you packed them.
Bring a comfortable outfit option for when you want to hike or go for a beach run, but don't go too crazy packing too much workout gear. You probably did some intense working out before your vacation to get in shape... right? So, might as well enjoy the time you have to sit back and relax.
6 A big fluffy towel
Not only does a towel take up a ton of room in your suitcase, it’s an item that is provided pretty much everywhere.
From hotels to house rentals to hostels, towels are either provided free of charge or for a small fee. So, why waste all of that room in your bag on a massive, fluffy towel?
A great alternative for a towel is a sarong that is multi-purposeful as both a towel and beach wrap. They are light, dry fast, and small enough to fit in your beach bag. Or, just wear it as a dress and kill two birds with one stone. There are also quick-dry, lightweight towel options out there that are perfect for travelling.
5 A million pairs of socks and underwear
We all do it: pack a million pairs of socks and underwear as if we are about to embark on a 30-day hitchhiking trek where we won’t have access to running water. For some reason, we are all weirdly terrified of running out of those items while on vacation. The reality is, you really only need a pair of underwear for each day and a few pairs of socks, NOT your entire underwear drawer. You will probably only wear socks on the plane ride to and from your destination if you are heading to a warm climate.
And even if you do run out, there are these magical things called washing machines where you put clothes in and they come out clean. Revolutionary!
4 Items that your travel partner will have
If you are travelling with a group, or even one other person, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead on what you are both bringing with you. It’s unnecessary for you both to bring two massive shampoo bottles or a hair dryer each. If you are one to swap clothing, you can take even more room by bringing outfit options that both of you can choose from.
Efficiency is key when you are travelling with a group. If you have the opportunity to bring less with you, take advantage of that.
3 Every bathing suit you own
On my recent 3-month trip to Australia, I probably packed around eight bathing suits. And I probably only wore half of them, and wore one of them 90% of the time. So, if you are going on a week vacation, you definitely don’t need a different bikini for every single day. We are guilty of packing every suit we own, but the reality is that you will probably only wear your favourite one a majority of the time. you’ll come home from your vacation and find that you didn’t even take some of them out of your bag.
Alternatively, bring a few that you can swap the bottoms and tops for so you can mix it up. That way, you’ll technically have a ton more options to switch it up than just the couple you brought.
2 Those ‘just in case’ items
We all like to be prepared for any possible situation that arises. What if a hurricane happens and I need rain boots? What if I get impromptu tickets to a rock concert and need my bedazzled leather jacket?
It's good to be prepared for likely scenarios, but avoid packing for situations that are very unlikely to happen. For example, you don't need to pack rain gear if you’re visiting somewhere dry, or a winter coat if you’re going to the tropics — you won’t end up using them. The same thing goes for any activities you might do. If you aren't a hiker, don't bring hiking boots-- you aren't going to magically turn into Indian Jones on your vacation. It's important to set realistic goals for your trip so that you can avoid packing unnecessary gear.
1 Anything you want to buy as a souvenir
Whilst you are packing, avoid bringing anything that you think you will want to buy when you arrive. If you are going to be on the hunt for a new sundress to show off in your vacation pictures in Costa Rica, pack one less dress. I always regret going on a pre-vacation shopping spree because whenever I arrive in the destination I want to buy so many things!
Also, save room in your suitcase for things that you will want to take back with you. The biggest regret I always have is packing my suitcase to the brim just because I feel like I have to fill it, and then having no room to bring anything home with me.