I have never been a light packer. Although I’m not that crazy lady with 3 bags and a suitcase for cosmetics, I do tend to pack my fair share of clothes for a trip. On past vacations to Hawaii I’ve easily filled a large 29″ suitcase. You know, the kind with the extra zippers to expand. Yes, that’s pretty big for a trip that only needs a bathing suit, shorts, some shirts and flip flops, but somehow I managed to fill it up. I have never really had to lug it far either, mostly just through the airport, to a rental car, and then plop it in the hotel. I think this is why my over packing habits have never changed.
Then came our 4 week European summer adventure. I knew this trip would be different. We’d be hauling our bags through airports, train stations, subway stops to apartments and hotels in major cities. I’d have to pack light, since the last thing I wanted to be was that person sweating and cursing at her family and luggage because she was hauling too much stuff.
6 months before our trip I began packing in my mind. I pinned several “5 pieces of clothing make 50 different outfits” images on Pinterest. I scoured websites for packing tips. I reminded myself this time would be different. Packing light would be easy… if I really needed to replace something, I could always buy it. Europe is filled with stores waiting for my purchases!
A week before we left, I mindfully filled the smallest 20″ suitcase I owned with mix and match outfits for 7 days and included a few extra shirts in case we hit a heat wave. Wow, plenty of room left. This was going to be brilliant. So light, so carefree, I’d be the envy of every traveler abroad. During the course of the week, a few items were added to the bag, but still I seemed to have plenty of room. The day before departure, I became paralyzed. Now I really had to make sure I had what I needed. Would only 2 pairs of shoes be enough? Add one more pair. Would I need another light sweater, just in case it was cold? Add a sweater. What about summer rain? Add a raincoat. What if the laundry in our rented apartments didn’t work? Add a few more shirts, just in case.
Enough was enough. I had to stop. I needed room for toiletries. Oh no! The toiletries! Re-examining my 20″ luggage size, I realized, maybe if I had just a slightly larger bag, I wouldn’t have to squeeze everything in. I moved up to a medium size, 24″ suitcase. Wow, so roomy, and so light too (at least when it was empty.)
Finally the time came to zip up. No problem! I complimented myself on my accomplishments. Now, I just had to stuff my camera equipment, ipad, journal and other essential items I might need on a plane into my backpack and we were off. Putting my pack on my back and wheeling my suitcase to the cab, I had a tinge of packers remorse… had I brought too much?
Off the airplane some 13 hours later in Paris, we retrieved our bags and headed to the Metro. My fears were starting to be realized as I wheeled my now seemingly ginormous bag through the humid air of the train station. My husband reassured me, “We won’t have to lug them too much.”
We arrive at our very bohemian Parisian flat– a 5th floor walkup. It’s hot. Did I mention it was humid too? We began to ascend the 94 stairs (my son informed us) and I was quickly convinced of my ill ways and packing problems. Once in the flat, I collapsed in front of a fan cursing myself for not following my Pinterest pins more closely. My supportive husband again reassured me, “we only have to bring these up to this flat once!”
A magical Parisian week passes and we are on the move again. My husband nobly offers to take my bags down the 5 flights of steps. I take one of my kid’s 20″ suitcases. As we begin our 1/2 hour journey to the Gare de Lyon on the Metro, with one transfer, my fears are absolutely realized. Stairs. Oh the stairs. The Paris Metro is a maze of stairs. Up 10 stairs, down 20… up 25 and down 10 more… in the subway train, out of the train… up 20 stairs, down 10.
Although our kids are 9 and 10 years old, we realize that even their bags are too heavy for them with all these stairs. So I offer to take the 2 kids bags, and my husband takes both ours, and we get our workout. Up, down, up, down, sweat, sweat, sweat. (Did I mention, again, it was hot! A heat wave was upon Paris in earnest.)
We did make it to the train station, all in one piece, with all our bags and with a few additional muscles, although I was very bummed out. All my planning, all my pinning, all my preparation didn’t help. I had packed too much stuff as well as forgotten my parental responsibility that just possibly I’d have to help my kids as well. We survived the rest of the trip, and managed to make it to 7 more countries beyond France. At our last stop in the lobby of our hotel, I spied one of the biggest pieces of luggage I had ever seen before. Although I felt I had failed in my light packing quest, staring at this thing that was over 1/2 my size made be feel quite triumphant. This is the lightest I had ever packed, I guess I can only get better!