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Packing Light (or Not)

When I was a senior in high school, I went on a weeklong trip with a different pair of shoes for each day. The bag I used was a huge wheeled beast that would often wipe out when I turned a corner.

It’s taken years for my packing strategy to evolve, but I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can pack light. On the trips I’ve taken this month (to Baja California and Nicaragua), I have been the person with the smallest bag. Considering my over-packing past, my current ability to keep things light makes me happy that I can breeze through an airport with my carry-on and no checked luggage. When a customs agent asks me “Is that all you have?” I smile and say yes.

But packing light only works when you don’t have to lug costumes along with your everyday wear. Each year, when getting my things together for the last week of Carnival in New Orleans, I’ve got a challenge: Pack regular clothes, plus different costumes for Mardi Gras day, the Lundi Gras Red Beans parade, the Bacchus Bus Stop crew and more. Inevitably, it means bumping up the size of my suitcase to one I have to check.

Since packing isn’t a competition, it doesn’t really matter how many bags you have—only that what you bring doesn’t drag you down and lessen your experience. I don’t complain when getting the larger bag ready with costumes and Carnival essentials. Just thinking ahead to the fun I’ll have with friends makes the few extra outfits worthwhile.

It seems fitting that a friend’s exclamation about his annual tequila party is also applicable to Carnival in New Orleans: Bring a helmet! No, I haven’t packed that.

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