I know there are plenty of apps available to help you come up with a travel packing list, or that you can even turn to AI for that purpose, but if you’re like me and prefer a simple checklist developed based on your specific needs, check out those simple tips to help you create a robust travel packing list that you will be able to rely on for the rest of your life.
Everyone needs a travel packing list…
If you have been following me for a while, you know I’m a list lover and have more than 20 lists I swear by. While some of my lists wouldn’t be useful to you, I really think that having a travel packing list is a must for everyone as it can avoid costly mistakes such as:
- Forgetting important items, especially stuff that you won’t be able to easily replace – think driving license, prescription medicine, your kid’s favourite soft toy without which she can’t fall asleep, etc.
- Packing too much and having to carry too much luggage, or a too heavy one, and coming back home with clothes that haven’t been worn but that you still need to wash as they ended up being mixed up with dirty ones in your luggage.
- Feeling stressed if you keep your packing at the last minute and go around your home like a headless chicken trying to locate what you want to bring, only to find out that some of the clothes you were planning to take are still in the laundry basket.
Start with creating a travel packing list template.
The template should cover all your bases, i.e., items you need for any single trip. Every time you think of something, add it to your list. Be as detailed as you want to.
Group all the items on your list in categories and where needed sub-categories, for example:
- Apparel: clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories
- Toiletries: dental care, haircare, body care, etc.
- Cosmetics: skincare, make-up, and grooming
- Medicine & supplements
- Paperwork (passport, travel documents, reservations, itineraries, etc.)
- Technology (chargers, adaptors, power bank, camera, etc)
- Entertainment (books, activity books, card games, toys, etc.)
If you have children, you might want to have a packing list per family member or add categories for each family member on your own list.
The advantage of categorising the items on your list is that you can pack one category at a time and delegate part of the packing to another family member. Giving a packing list to a child is a great way to help her progressively take charge of her own packing and build her autonomy.
Customise your travel packing list for each trip.
To help you decide the specific items you will need and how many of them you should pack, consider the following criteria:
- The duration of your trip
- The type of trip (business vs holiday) and the activities you are planning to do such as skiing, hiking, sightseeing, dining in fancy places, etc.
- The weather. This not only affects the type of clothes you will wear but how frequently you might need to change. I had underestimated how hot it could get in Sri Lanka during the month of April and I was not able to change as often as I would have liked to.
- The country dress code, especially if you like to blend in, and not look like a tourist, making you a potential target for pickpockets, or if you are expected to abide by the dress codes placed by the authorities for religious, cultural, or practical reasons
- The type of accommodation to determine whether you will be able to do some laundry, you need to pack items such as bedlinen, bath towels, basic kitchen supplies, etc. if you’ll be staying in a rented home.
- Whether you are traveling alone or not. If you’re traveling with another family member, you might be able to share items such as shampoo, toothpaste, adaptors, etc.
- How you will be traveling. Airlines have strict regulations in terms of number of pieces of luggage you can take and their weight. But if you’re traveling by train alone with young children, how many pieces of luggage will you be able to handle? Or how many pieces of luggage will be able to fit into your rented car?
- Whether you’re planning to bring back souvenirs, so you need to leave space in your luggage for that.
This should be done a few weeks before your trip, so you have a chance to review and amend your travel packing list.
You might want to turn some of those checklists into a template for those types of trips you do frequently e.g., skiing trip, beach resort trip, etc. so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Keep your travel packing list up to date.
Most of us tend to pack more than we end up using. So, when you come back from a trip and empty your luggage, take stock of what you really used, didn’t use, or forgot, so that you can amend your travel packing list accordingly.
The best way to have an up-to-date travel packing list is to have a digital version so you can easily add onto it, remove from it, or reorganise it. I personally use Evernote, but there are plenty of other apps available. A feature I find very handy is to be able to tick a box as I gather each item and pack them.
The most detailed travel packing list I have ever developed…
I usually do not itemise my travel packing list, but in 2022, we went for a 2.5-month trip, involving a variety of:
- Transport modes: plane, train, and a rented car
- Urban and rural areas
- Accommodations: hotels, relatives’ homes, and Airbnb
- Activities: sightseeing, beach, and trekking
- Temperatures ranging from 15 to 37 degrees Celsius.
To add to the complexity of this long and multi-faceted trip, we had to carry 3 large pieces of luggage belonging to our son as we were dropping him off at university on the other side of the world as the final leg of our trip.
My aim was to minimise how much I would be packing while being covered for the above situations. I started working on my travel packing list 6 weeks before the trip, listing every single item I was thinking of packing. To make it work:
- I ensured I could mix and match any single piece of clothing and accessories.
- I used the concept of layering to avoid taking too many warm clothes.
- I planned to wear my bulkier clothes and shoes while commuting.
- I invested in compression packing cubes.
Needless to say, a lot of planning was involved, but it was worth it as the packing was stress-free and the trip was quite smooth.
I hope my tips above will help you have pleasant traveling experiences, but I’d love to read your own tips. You might also be interested in my pre-travel checklist of things to do before leaving for a trip. Happy travels!