The Art of Creating Great Packing Lists

January 10, 2018

First, let me say that I will not provide you with the ultimate packing list for your trip. I know they’re out there, but I find most of their content irrelevant for my style of travel. You know what you need. But I will say that I have gotten insights over the years about how to create packing lists that are thorough and useful. This may sound far-fetched, but using these tips to create a packing list, I rarely forget things. I also rarely over-pack (though my and my husband’s definition of over-packing sometimes differs).


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Tips for Great Packing Lists:

Start creating your packing list at least a month before the trip

I find that the more time I have to compile my packing list, the more likely it is I’ll remember to pack everything I need.

Keep your packing list with you wherever you go before the trip

I tend to keep my lists in a journal in my purse. I also keep some lists (like my grocery list) on my phone. Having it with you makes it more likely you’ll put a random item on the list when you remember. Or you can keep you list in an app or on a computer. One bonus to keeping your packing list electronically is the ability to do a “save as” for your next trip’s packing list!

Organize your packing list by what bag or container it will be packed into

I break my list up by things that should be in my purse, my suitcase, my bathroom kit, the kids’ carry-on, etc. It helps me to more thoroughly think through what I need to pack. Also, something I wanted in my purse won’t be packed away in my suitcase in the back of the car or the cargo hold of an airplane.

Make sure foods, snacks and beverages make the packing list

Maybe you’re not obsessed with your next feeding the way I am. As a mom I often find that I have a stash of snacks for my kids, but forget about the fact that I will need a snack.

Charging cables and cords and batteries, oh my!

Every device you bring on your trip should have a power supply, charger, or back-up batteries. I write down the the device and its charger as the same item on my list (e.g., “phone and charging cable”). And importantly, I don’t check it off until both are packed.

Get specific on your packing list about which clothing to pack

If I just put “shirts” on my list, I end up either over-packing or forgetting one that would have been perfect. Naming which shirts to bring helps me be strategic about what kinds of shirts I will need on my trip. It helps me to plan mix-and-match options so I can pack lighter without feeling like I am repeating outfits.

Make sure you’ll have room to bring home souvenirs and other accumulated treasures

If you think you’ll be bringing home treasures from your trip, make sure you leave enough space in your bags when you pack. Using packing cubes and garment folders will help make sure you have more room in your bags.

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The Art of Creating Great Packing Lists


If you found this post useful, check out World is Wide’s other travel planning posts:

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  • Reply
    January 20, 2018 at 2:52 am

    Good tips! Lately I have been challenging myself to explore the art of traveling light on some trips.. took only an under-the-seat bag to denver for the weekend, in part because of baggage costs. Mostly a matter of cutting down clothes to a bare minimum…

    • Reply
      January 20, 2018 at 3:07 am

      Yup, gotta be OK mixing and matching some staple items, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing the same thing every day. If you can have access to laundry facilities on the trip, it makes a huge difference! I’ve taken a four-week trip to Europe and a three-week trip to Europe (our wedding and honeymoon), and only did carry-on for both trips. I even brought my wedding dress in my day pack! 🙂

  • Reply
    TC Duong
    January 20, 2018 at 3:46 am

    Love this. Definitely bookmarking this. A couple of additions from my point of view:
    1. If you are staying somewhere with any access to laundry, pack half the clothes you need. Plan to wash halfway through the trip.
    2. If you are going to a new place, leave extra room in your suitcase for gifts and souvenirs.
    3. Jeans and pajamas are the enemy. They take up too much space.

    • Reply
      January 20, 2018 at 4:42 am

      Good additions!

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