Create a Master Packing List for Travel

by Kevin on July 15, 2009

My wife and I aren’t travel gurus by any means, but every couple of months we’re either headed home to see our families or off on a weekend trip to see old college friends. It’s inevitable that we will pack too much stuff for too short of a trip.

We’ll go on a weekend trip and I’ll pack four shirts and three pairs of shorts. Once we get back and I see all the clothes coming back out of our bag I think, Hey genius, don’t pack so much stuff!

That feeling usually lasts right up until the next time we start to pack. Then all rational thought leaves me and my section of our bag looks like a twelve day adventure.

Today I aim to show you how to stop this madness. I’m hoping I’m not the only overpacker out there.

Avoid Overpacking with Planning

Hi. My name is Kevin, and I’m an overpacker. (Hi, Kevin! Welcome to Overpackers Anonymous.)

The easiest way to defeat the overpacking mentality you have every time you grab your suitcase is simple planning.

You need a solid understanding of:

  • where you are going,
  • what the weather will be like there,
  • what activities you plan to do,
  • and how long you will be gone

If you’re not planning to do much physical activity then you don’t need to bring your high activity shoes and jogging shorts. If you plan to be outside a lot you need to make sure you bring an extra shirt or two in case you get really sweaty and need to change before going out to dinner.

These are simple things, but often I don’t think about them. Or I think we’ll do so many things in one weekend that I need to pack the entire closet.

Create a Master Packing List

My wife and I decided we would try something new. We’re going to come up with a master packing list and use it to check things off. It could be done in Excel or by hand (and then laminated – my wife loves to laminate). Essentially you come up with a system that provides one outfit for every day you will be gone. The system also takes into account things like activities, sweating, and the little detail of you’ll be wearing clothes as you drive to your trip location.

We’re also going to create a section for everything you might want to take on a trip. One big master list with things like contact lenses, backup pair of glasses, CDs, board games, allergy pills and other medications, and hats.

It has happened more than once where we’ve gotten to our location and one will ask the other “Did you remember to pack the _______?” and the answer is inevitably, no, they had forgotten. Having a huge list to go down and check off will be immensely helpful to us.

We’ve got another trip coming up soon and we haven’t perfected our system just yet, but this will give us another opportunity to tweak it. Once we get it down to more of a science (rather than an art) I’ll be sure to share it here.

Can anyone else recommend packing tips? Leave them in the comments — I sure could use your help!

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