The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Better Bag Lady

Since I’m driving to Pennsylvania with my mother this week, I thought I should share again one of my greatest travel challenges.

I tend to over-pack.

I admit it.  It’s a sickness.

It might even be a curse—who knows?

However, when you travel as much as I do, it becomes a problem—

A big problem.

This issue arises every time I go almost anywhere—the grocery store, the gym, my aunt’s house in Pennsylvania.  Heck, I even carry too much to the bathroom, if I think my stay there may be extended—a book, a notebook, a pen, a drink, a phone, sometimes 2 phones—maybe a magazine.  It all adds up.

Sara insists this calls for an intervention.  She thinks she’ll fix me.  That she can help me “edit”—her word.  And admittedly, she has a reasonable investment in my reform, as often she ends up carrying my stuff, lugging it all over the planet—quite literally.

This is why she bought me a Kindle—afraid when last  year we moved to Vietnam, where there’s not an abundance of reading material in English—that I would bring the inventory of a small university library along for the ride—that she would have to carry it.

Wise woman!

Fortunately for Sara, she’s not going on this week’s trip to Pennsylvania.

However, this trip does, in a round about kind of way, remind me of another I made from Haiti to my home in Kentucky, a trip that challenged even my advanced luggaging skills.  Even more so, since I was bringing my Maltese Lucy back with me—a dog as carry-on baggage—a canine complication on top of my already dogged determination to carry too much stuff.

Lucy atop a lot of luggage--

When will I ever learn?

This complicating of already complicated carrying manifested itself most clearly one morning in Miami.

I was running late—unusual for the chronically early like me.  I had to take Lucy outside the airport to use her version of public toilet.  She took too long.

She wouldn’t pee!

Never did!

I was pissed!

So I loaded Lucy back into her black back-pack carrier, hurried back into the hotel (after an over-night layover from Port-au-Prince) to collect my 3 remaining bags—a yellow and brown messenger bag, a standard carry-on-sized suitcase, and another 55 pound monster.

The woman at the hotel’s front desk mistakenly directed me to the American Airlines check-in in Concourse E, where the hotel is, rather than Concourse D—where I needed to be.  I stood in line for a good 15 minutes before an airport official indicated what no signage did, that this counter only handled check-in for passengers headed to Haiti.

I was headed in the opposite direction—which meant trying to transport my abundant belongings outside for a 15 minute lumber to what could only be considered an outpost of the same airport.

It was far.

I was carrying a lot.

When I finally arrived at Concourse D, I tried to check in by swiping my passport.

Didn’t work.

When I did succeed by typing in my name and destination city, the machine recognized but rejected me because of the pet, at which point an actual human being intervened, only to send me to yet another, though in the same terminal, distant location.

Again I “luggaged.”

The clock was ticking.

Unbelievably, the third counter didn’t like me either, returned me, cursing the entire way, to location number 3.

There the slowest pet-check-in-specialist in aviation history had nearly completed the process, when I was reduced to begging, “Please hurry.  I’m going to miss my flight.”

“OOOOOOOOOOOh, you have plentyyyyyyyyyyy of tiiiiiiiiiime.”

“Not if you have anything to do with it.” I think.

However, her sloooooooowly articulated, cloooooooooosing words, were less than comforting, “Gate number 50.  Youuuuuuuuu have a longgggggg way to gooooooooo!”

No kidding!

Only after being rejected yet once more during the security check for (you guessed it) tooooooooooo many carry-on bags, did I finally persuade the less-than-friendly luggage Nazi, that I had paid an extra 100 US dollars for the privilege of bringing my dog along.  I had to show the receipt.

To make a long story short, I did catch that flight, and I did make it back to Kentucky with Lucy and my many bags.

Sara may be right–that there needs to be an intervention.

However, as I was preparing to leave for Pennsylvania this week, she suggested it was good my mom and I would be driving–no flights to catch, no high-power portering skills required.

Do you suppose they offer advanced degrees in “bag-lady?”

30 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Better Bag Lady

  1. This reminds me of George Carlin’s insightful routine about stuff “Your house is a place to put your stuff.” If you want a good laugh, or a better insight into this “problem” google “George Carlin Stuff Skit.”



  2. I have learned to travel light. I hate carrying bags. I came from Brisbane this time with just carry on luggage which weighed 8 kilos. All my clothes are black and each piece goes with everything else. I am sick of my self after a couple of weeks, but it is better than carrying too much stuff.


  3. Although I’m a minimalist by nature, and even more so when traveling, if you’re okay with paying the extra fees and doing all that shlepping, I’m okay with it, too. Yet reading about the anxiety-inducing ordeal you went through traveling with Lucy makes me want to take a nap now. I also think it’s pretty amazing that your dog is peeing-adverse. Wow, what’s that about? My dog would just look at a hydrant or a tree and go out of his mind.


    • Generally Lucy is FAR from pee-averse. But when she senses I’m trying to hurry her she sometimes becomes to nervous to pee, I think. Also, this spot where I was trying to get her to pee had astro- turf instead of real grass. I think she was thrown by that.


  4. I used to really look down on overpacking tendencies, now I see it as a willingness to participate in unexpected adventures. Going somewhere cold? Bring shorts in case you board a surprise flight to Hawai’i. It’s a tough balance!


  5. I, too, have paid the laborious price of over-packing, and have now swung to the opposite dimension as a result: under-packing. You’d be surprised with how little you can get away with!


  6. Lol Kathy – your story exhausted me :). I took a big suitcase on my first solo trip overseas and it did not have wheels. To cut a long story short – I carry minimal luggage now – never will I go through all that again!


  7. Hi, Kathryn – I am new to your blog, and so far cannot tear myself away from your posts! You have a new fan!
    I am such an over-packer, I dread having to travel with people other than my husband! (He has given up hope of changing me!) Rather than becoming less of an overpacker as the years have passed, my problem has gotten worse! The fact that, once I arrive in our hotel room I must then find a place to put all this stuff, (a convenient place!), is a whole other story…
    It all started back in the days when I was a Youth Leader on (indoor) retreat weekends. I never wanted to see a teenager at a loss because they forgot something. Also, having never been a camper, I wanted to make sure I was relatively ‘comfortable’ for the two-night sleeping bag venture. I always planned my arrival to be ahead of the crowd (so noone would see my ‘baggage’), and left just ahead of the janitor, (weren’t we supposed to unload our {emotional} baggage on this weekend?!). As the weekends continued, I continued to bring enough stuff to make George Carlin very happy, (I LOVE that ‘Stuff’ routine!). One of my great joys was having one young woman yell out “I forgot my belt!!”. To which I jumped up and replied “I have an extra one!” (An extra belt on a two day weekend where everyone wore track pants or pyjamas!!).
    Then on vacations, my husband and I found this quaint little town not too far away. It became ‘our place’. When we first started to go there only two restaurants stayed open past 7 p.m., the drug store closed at 5 p.m., the hotel lobby closed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and the rest of the centre of town was totally dark after sunset. Okay, there were a few street lights!
    So needless to say, I had to prepare for any and every urgent need that might befall us: ‘I need a burger’, ‘I need a bandaid’, ‘I need to check with the hotel owner’, and ‘I can’t see my hand in front of me!’. Okay, I could see my hand….. and I needed handcream……
    While all this packing did help us be more comfortable on our trip – we did usually have what we needed/wanted – it was still a nightmare part of the trip – at least in the loading and unloading of the truck of the car, the unloading at the hotel, etc. I liked arriving after 10 p.m. – our room key left in the secret dropbox – there was noone at the front desk in the lobby to watch us unload numerous and varying types of bags and baggage – all dependent on our length of stay. Although, I have learned that whether our stay is one night or two weeks, there are a certain amount of things I still need to pack…….. (‘need’ to pack??).
    One would think that age would bring less stuff required, but truly I think it is the opposite! I mean, one bag for make-up and one bag for medication is just the beginning!! You never know when someone we meet at the buffet table may be in need of a Tylenol…… or a belt…..

    P.S. One of my sisters suggested I travel to her place alone, (without my husband), for a great sisterly bonding weekend – and she suggested I travel BY TRAIN!!! Oxygen! Someone get me oxygen!!


    • Oh, Patricia, I love your stories. And I soooooooo understand. I also try to imagine anything I might need and bring it along–focusing on the “you never know what might happen” principle. Unfortunately, you can never imagine it all, and inevitably I end up needing something I don’t have. It drives me crazy.

      I’m so happy to you as a new reader. I look forward to checking out your blog, as well. Hope you have a great weekend!


  8. Oh, Kathy– I’m beginning to think that overpacking is an affliction shared by many artists and creative souls. Marty and I are in the process of packing up everything in our apartment (our lease is up at the end of November), and I swear– we have 8 houses worth of stuff crammed into a 700 sq ft apartment. It’s depressing! We did a quick inventory of it and realized that the vast majority of what we have is art-related. We can’t get rid of art supplies and artistic inspiration… can we?


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