If you talk to any travel experts, the one thing they will always tell you is to use a packing list. Why? Because travel itself can be stressful and a packing list will take away one giant source of stress–the worry about forgetting something you will need.
So, how do you come up with a packing list? Here are some simple steps to developing a list that will work for you.
- Know where you’re going, when, and the weather. This is obviously important in deciding what sorts of clothing to bring. You don’t need to know the exact daily forecast, but knowing if you should expect snow or sunbathing will have a huge impact on your list! Think about what sorts of clothing and items you’d use around home in that weather. Your packing will probably be somewhat similar.
- Know how long you’ll be gone. Obviously, for many people, the longer you’ll be gone, the more likely it is you need more clothing. For others, they pack the same and plan to do laundry on the road.
- Figure out how to set up your list. Personally, I like using the packing list app “Packing”. The icon is shown here. For most casual travelers, the free version of the app is sufficient. Other people prefer good old paper, or even a Google doc or spreadsheet. I like having a checklist on the app, and I also often write a list of my planned outfits on paper since the app isn’t that flexible. The nice thing about the app is that it has a database of all sorts of items you can just click to add to your list. It’s nice because things you might have forgotten may be remembered when you see them on the app.
- Categorize your Items. I recommend the categories of clothing, toiletries, and “other”. In the category of clothing, include everything you plan to wear on the trip. Toiletries are all the things you use (often in the bathroom) to get yourself clean & pretty. And “other” would be things like a notebook and pens, entertainment (movies downloaded to watch in flight).
- Think about clothes. As you fill your categories, do so with specific numbers. Writing “t-shirts” will let you know that you plan to bring some, but how many? Which ones? Be as specific as you can. Also, keep in mind that you will probably not regret having a suitcase that is too light and easy to manage, so consider using a few items as possible on your list. So what quantities are recommended? Well, look for another post about packing light, but this will help you figure out MAXIMUMS of what to bring. Do NOT pack more than this. You’ll pretty much never be glad you did. For every night you’re gone consider: 1 pair of pants/shorts/skirt/dress, 1 shirt, 1 pair of underwear (and 1 bra for the ladies), and 1 pair of socks. Also, 1 “nice” outfit (depending on your plans), 1 pajama. Whatever you’d wear to swim in. Maximum of 4 pairs of shoes to allow you to look nice and/or walk comfortably. I personally bring 1 pair of flip flops, a pair of Birkenstocks, a pair of tennis shoes (sometimes), and a pair of comfortable but dressier shoes. NEVER bring a brand new pair of shoes you haven’t broken in. NEVER. EVER.
- Think about toiletries. As you get ready for your day in the morning & ready for bed in the evening, notice what you use EVERY day. Plan to pack those things. Don’t pack any of the “sometimes” items (like a hair straightener you’re often too lazy or busy to use). Ladies, don’t forget to pack feminine products you might need during the trip. Include in this any prescription or routine medical items you may need (including things like pain reliever & band-aids).
- Think about entertainment/other. Remember you may not have data service on an international trip, so any digital things you’d want should be downloaded to your device (movies, podcasts, etc.). Also, please remember that electronics & their cords/chargers are relatively heavy. The more tech you bring, the more your bag will weigh.
- Special Activities–will there be anything special you’ll do on your trip itinerary that requires special items be packed? For example, if you’re going SCUBA diving, you may want to bring your own wetsuit. Think carefully about this. Don’t pack special items for something you aren’t planning to do but could do. If something like that comes up, plan to rent one at the destination.
Want to know where to start? There are a few online packing list resources here that can get you started. Many of them are somewhat “minimalist”. I’ll talk about that in a later post. You won’t believe what my bag for a 3-week trip to 2 conferences and a week of touring Spain looks like! Also, feel free to scope out other parts on these sites, they’re all pretty solid travel blogs!
Her Packing List–from a woman’s travel blog but the advice and ideas are totally okay for boys to check out!
Rick Steves–this guy is famous for travel tips. He mostly does Europe but certainly his stuff is good no matter where you go! He has separate packing lists for men and women. On the tours his company leads, travelers are only allowed one carry-on bag. That is it.
Smarter Travel–one of my favorite travel blogs. They have their own ultimate travel list.
Tortuga Backpacks–another great light travel blog.