Biggest Packing Mistakes

For me, researching my destination and reading packing lists is part of the fun of taking a trip. It works out well for my less organized friends because I always have suggestions or links to send them when they are trying to figure out what they are going to bring with them. However, despite my best efforts, sometimes I make a miss calculation in what clothes I need, or I altogether forget something important. I try to mitigate the severity of this error by writing out my packing lists and actually checking items off as I put them in my suitcase. But sometimes, shit happens regardless. These are some of my biggest packing mistakes through out the years.


Zhangzhou, China

My first trip to China was to go teach English for 6 months. I was going to be living in a town in southeast China, and I neither expected to be doing any extended travel, nor did I expect to do anything other than head south to Hong Kong from where I’d be flying home. Little did I know, I would spend a month making a full circle of the country, that I would be staying in hostels and taking over night trains for the first time in my life, and that I would spend most of the trip either going north or being up in the mountains. I spent that month wearing every article of clothes I owned to combat the cold. I also seriously came to hated the wheeled suitcase I had brought after having to carry it up stairs, on crammed public buses, and through the stage rush madness that is trying to get on a train during Spring Festival in China.

Lessons learned: Proper research into climate and culture is a must! Also, If you can’t comfortably carry your bag up three flights of stairs, you’ve packed too much


Canmore, Canada

I made the complete opposite of the mistake I made in China when I went to Canmore this summer past–I had mostly cold weather clothes in early July. The thought process was basically, “I’ll be in the mountains the whole time, it’s always cold in the mountains!” Well it was actually +30 Celsius most days and I ended up wearing the same few warm weather clothes I brought on repeat. And as to all that athletics clothes that I brought for hiking mountains, who was I kidding! I did hike every day, but not to a degree that required that much technical clothes. At least I just used the athletics clothes that I already owned rather than going out and buying new items.

Lesson learned: Read the damn weather report!


Athens, Greece

Greece in July is hot. Some of you are probably thinking, “yeah no shit,” but I genuine didn’t think about this. It was summer in Canada as well, so it wasn’t like I showed up in jeans and sweaters. However, I didn’t account for how hot and sunny it was, and how little I was used to that level of mid day heat. After a day of heat exhaustion, and one hell of a bruise from when I got disoriented and walked smack into a bollard, I finally admitted I couldn’t take the heat on my own and would need to buy a hat. I have a love/hate relationship with sun hats, a lot of which comes from being told constantly while in Girl Guides to put my hat back on. So that day I did buy a cute straw hat that actually helped immensely and I haven’t worn since. But I was super grateful for it that day!

Lesson learned: listen to your Girl Guide leader, put your hat on and drink more water.


Chicago, USA

In my own defense they were really pretty shoes. They were bright red beautiful flats that I had just bought, and though I had worn them a couple of times they were no where near broken in. I had planned to wear them more or less exclusively for the whole trip and really hadn’t brought anything else similar. A real rookie mistake, I know, but there you have it. The first night I wore them, I had massive blisters and was in a ridiculous amount of pain as I tried limp back to the hotel across the city. I spent the next morning trying to find new sandals to wear for the rest of the trip. A waste of time and money that could have been avoided with a little forethought regarding correct footwear.

Lesson learned: Don’t bring shoes that you haven’t broken in yet! It will only end in blisters.

These are some of the worst packing mistakes that I’ve made, though there have been numerous other small ones (who forgets to bring sandals on a cruise ship? Me, that’s who!), but thus far I have been lucky that none of them have been irreversible. I may not be as comfortable as I wanted to be, or I may have had to buy an item or two in destination, but at least it wasn’t a forgotten passport or other important document. We all make mistakes when packing for a trip, but as I say to myself as I walk out the door each time, “I’ve got my tickets, passport, and credit card–everything else is minor.”