In Defense of Overpacking

It’s all fun and games until someone realizes she forgot to pack underwear. It was very nearly the end of my seven-year-old world the first time it happened to me. I am a strict rule-follower with impeccable hygiene, so despite my careless oversight, “Don’t wear any,” or, “Flip the ones you wore yesterday inside-out,” were not viable solutions. I was the one who had packed this bag; I was the one who had forfeited adult assistance. I was bare-bottomed and stranded — emotionally, sartorially and metaphorically, too hubris-filled to ask the family friends with whom I was staying to make a pit stop at Target. I do not remember the weekend’s outcome, but I’ve packed three pairs for every one overnight since (a five day trip means fifteen pairs, minimum). That is not an exaggeration.

You say over-packer; I call myself a responsible inclusionist. Overweight luggage penalty fees at airlines are baked into my travel budget. My carry-ons are so loaded up that to distribute the excess fat would require a mule. Yet I am never the one who doesn’t have a top that goes with her outfit. I’m never the one who’s cold on a beach vacation when the weather has turned. If one swimsuit’s wet and still drying, I’ve got four more. You forgot one? Here, I lied: I have five. It’s not so much doomsday prepping as it is an “Always Be Prepared” mentality. I pack with all possible outcomes in mind: rainy days, unexpected heat, surprise black-tie occasions and accidental twinning (I hate travel-companion matching). Every outfit also means accompanying shoes, accessories and required underpinnings.

My pajamas are packed just as thoughtfully. What if it’s chilly in the room? What if it’s a thousand degrees? Will there be a documented stay-in night with a heavy Instagram element? 

Then, of course, there are toiletries, and though I’m savvy about how I pack these them (I put foundation, serums, lotions, etc. into old screw-top contact cases), I arrive equipped with a full-size set of my preferred shampoo, conditioner, perfume and shaving cream. I would always rather bear the brunt of my own crap than use the hotel’s life-sucking, rationed-for-a-bald-insect’s excuse for shampoo or worse, that 2-in-1 B.S.

I have heard the well-meaning expression, “stuff ruins trips.” Before it crossed my eardrums, I had a moment of weakness where I might have nearly agreed as I lugged a 65-pound suitcase up five stories in Italy. I had another flash of why-am-I-like-this as I bounced down a series of stone steps on my butt — world’s worst accidental sledding experience — with my suitcase crashing into my back. So much fun. And I know the drill: that when you pack the whole closet, inevitably you’ll end up wearing the same pair of shorts for ten days straight. But these tiny spells are short and fleeting. Schlep misery ends once you’re in the door. Vacations begin, for me, the moment I unzip my duffel and place, one by by one, about twenty pairs of underwear in a new adventure’s drawer.

Illustration by Juliana Vido; follow her on Instagram @julianavido.

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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