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3 Overpacking Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

As many of you know, I’ve been on a summer adventure with my family the past couple weeks. We’ve driven all the way from Dayton, Ohio, to Vancouver Island, Canada, where we’re living for the month of July. (If you’d like to follow along, follow me on Instagram here.) 

I’ve learned a lot on this trip, and one of the biggest lessons has been about packing. 

As a self-proclaimed minimalist, I’ve always prided myself on my light packing. Until now. 

I’d like to share 3 overpacking mistakes I made on this trip that might help you enjoy lighter, easier travel on trips you take.  

Mistake #1: We have the room, might as well fill it!

We planned to camp along the route, so we bought a small enclosed trailer before our trip. We named him Larry. (Long story short: My dad’s name was Larry. This trip is somewhat in his honor. Coincidentally, the guy we bought the trailer from was also named Larry. It only seemed appropriate.) 

Even though Larry is a very small (4×6) trailer, he still offers a lot more room than our van. As soon as we bought him, our attitude toward packing changed. 

“Can I bring two blankets and three pillow pets?” this kids asked. 

“Sure! Put it in the Larry!” I gleefully responded. 

We have the room, I thought, might as well fill it.  

This, my friends, was a mistake.

While yes, all of our items did fit in Larry, we did not calculate the annoyance of packing and unpacking Larry MANY times to get to those blankets and pillow pets. 

Having the space does not automatically make the items in that space easy to access. 

You may have experienced this while trying to get your Christmas decorations out of your attic last December. 

Imagine doing that while hungry, in the dark, at a campsite, after nine hours of cross-country driving with three kids. 

Yep. Mistake.

Next time we do a big trip like this, we will still take Larry, but we’ll be more conscientious about packing what we NEED, not just what will fit in the space. 

Mistake #2: Take enough clothes for every travel day. 

I’m a very light clothes packer, but I’m able to do that because I typically know that—wherever I go—laundry will be available. However, this trip included nine consecutive days of driving. I didn’t want to do a 3-hour laundromat stop in South Dakota, so I had everyone pack nine days worth of clothes. 


Every campground and hotel we stopped at along the way had laundry facilities. (Some were even free!) And while I could have foregone laundry until we arrived at the island, the smell of our communal laundry bag after about three days convinced me otherwise. 

I realized pretty quickly that four days worth of clothing would have been more than enough for this 6-week trip. Ah, learning!

Mistake #3: Books and Board Games

When I thought about this trip, I imagined spending hours each day reading novels, followed by rousing rounds of family board games. While that’s a lovely idea, the reality has proved otherwise. We are in a beautiful, scenic area. I don’t want to look at a checkers board when there’s the Pacific Ocean to explore. 

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I packed five (real!) books and haven’t opened one of them. I have been reading, but all of it has been on my Kindle, which is small and light and usually the only reading material I pack. (I’m going to blame a combination of Larry + my 1990’s nostalgia for real books for this error.) 

I could have survived with just my Kindle. If I wanted to lovingly hold a real book, those adorable free little libraries are everywhere. In fact, there are two within walking distance of my Airbnb right now! 

Ditto for board games. I wanted to keep my kids off screens as much as possible, and I worried that if bad weather (or bad moods) hit, everyone would be glued to a device. So again, with the promise of Larry’s ample space, I packed several bulky board games. Which have not been opened once. Sigh. 

But even though I made these overpacking mistakes, our trip has been wonderful. We’ve seen much of the United States and are daily in awe of the beauty of British Columbia. If you’re hankering for a road trip, I highly suggest it! 

I hope this blog post helps you pack lighter for your next trip. If you have any packing advice—or recommendations for places to visit in Vancouver Island—feel free to email me personally at [email protected] and let me know. I’d love to hear from you! 

Happy travels! 

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