Some of the questions and comments I hear most about the traveling process have to do with packing. (These are second to the moans and groans about booking a flight which, in my mind, is the biggest mental challenge in the world of travel. I’ll delve into that another day.) Unless you’re a true nomad and live only out of a suitcase, there’s no way around it, you have to pack for your trips. However, it’s doesn’t have to be grueling or stressful. And, like booking a flight, once it’s done, you’re mentally free to focus on the other aspects of your journey.
After a lifetime of traveling, both last-minute work trips and long-planned vacations, I’ve learned there’s a simple packing process that helps relieve pre-trip stress.
MAKE A PACKING LIST
Yes, it’s 2019, and I still use a paper list to pack. While I have a standard list of staple products that I use to help pack for different types of travel (international, work, carry-on, etc.), I still create a last-minute list. I gravitate to sticky notes, and I usually have two for packing-- one is placed next to my suitcase and one is usually stuck to the back door (or whatever door I’ll exit through as I leave for my trip). As the trip nears, usually within a day or two, I use the sticky note in my packing area to write down the items that will go into my bag last. These are usually items that I will use on the morning of my departure (phone, laptop, etc.) or that I am wearing or using in transit (sweater for the plane). This list is usually short (about 5-7 items…Remember, this is NOT your main packing list.) By simply writing these last-minute items down, it frees my brain from the worry of forgetting something, and it allows me to do one last quick list check before I walk out the door.
PICK A PACKING SPOT
I use the same spot to pack for each trip I take. I occupy a little nook that’s right outside my bedroom and near my bathroom. This location is key. Having a spot that is close to most of the items on my list (closet, bathroom, etc.) allows me to quickly and easily toss everything into the prep area. If I had to go to another room or upstairs, I’d never have everything together in one spot. My packing spot is big enough to hold my largest suitcase, with some room on either side, and it’s in a clutter-free area. By keeping this area clutter-free, I know that any items placed there need to be in my bag or on my body when I walk out the door on travel day.
START PACKING EARLY
I think I was born with a “pack the night before” motto emblazoned on my brain. For years I thought this was the only way to pack. IT’S NOT. My mom has since taught me otherwise. She starts gathering things in her packing spot LONG before I do. Three weeks (sometimes more) prior to her trip, she’ll begin pulling items and setting them aside. While I don’t usually start this early (mostly because I’m usually wearing the items I’m taking until just a day or two prior to departure), I find that a week or two prior to departure, depending on your destination, of course, is a great time to start. By starting early, and using a list system, when it’s time to place your items in your bag, the work has already been done.
Side note: For those of us with pets, we know that packing can be stressful on our fur babies. I have found that packing early has helped calm my Percy’s nerves. If the suitcase is in the packing nook for more than a few days, he gets used to it and isn’t as “on edge” as he used to be.
TRUST THE PROCESS
The more you stick to a routine of making a list, picking a spot, and packing early, the more you’ll create a mental process/flow, making travel prep second nature. Do the same thing every time, making it as simple and efficient as possible and making necessary tweaks along the way, documenting any changes (ie. creating and updating your packing lists on a computer, etc.). Trust the process.
If you’re a current traveler, how do you make the packing process simpler and less stressful? I’d love to hear about your routine.
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Hi, I'm Brooke. I travel the world at every opportunity, and I hope to help you do the same. I offer travel tips and insights from a real world, every day perspective. Read more about me and my vision for Happy Tracks here.