I have this pre-printed packing checklist I bought a few years ago. It’s a massive list of items. I probably don’t need 70% of what they suggest. But having a packing checklist for vacation or any trip is essential so you don’t forget important items.
Even though I have this printed list with everything you can imagine on it, I prefer creating my own. Having my own packing checklist for vacation means I can organize it in a way that makes sense to me. It also ensures I’m bringing only what I need.
Studies are already showing an increase in air travel, RV rentals, and Airbnb bookings. With COVID restrictions lifting and people getting vaccinated, they’re eager to get away. But while vacation is meant to be relaxing, the lead-up and preparation can cause some unwanted stress.
Packing, for example, is one of the biggest culprits.
As a simple living enthusiast and practical minimalist, I’ve learned to pare down what I pack. I used to be an over-packer. I’d bring a large suitcase and a duffel bag! Both full. Now I bring only the essentials. I give kudos to my organized packing list for helping me reach this milestone.
What you should do before creating your packing checklist
Believe it or not, there are steps to take before creating your list.
#1 — Consider your activities
One of the first things I do before making my list is to consider where I’m going and what activities I’ll be doing. Am I going to do a lot of physical activities like walking, hiking, and swimming? If so, I really don’t need more than one nice outfit for an evening out on the town.
Am I going to a beach resort or staying in the mountains? Both require a slightly different wardrobe. My family and I are more mountain people than beach people. This means I pack one swimsuit to use since we’ll only use the pool once or twice. If the area you’re staying in gets chilly at night, bring an extra sweater.
#2 — Set aside some staples
I draft my list a few weeks before leaving. I’ll decide which shirts and/or tops I plan on bringing and set them aside. This way I don’t wear them and worry about them being clean in time. Some people might call this neurotic, but if anything, you’re being prepared.
You don’t have to pack all your clothes a week before. Simply set aside those few staples you know you want to bring so they’re ready to be packed when the time comes.
#3 — Check the weather
Three days before departure, I’ll check the weather of the location we’re going to. This will alert me if I need to pack an umbrella or extra rain gear. I always make sure to bring an umbrella and I have a small foldable rain jacket. But checking the weather lets me know if I should swap out a pair of jeans for a pair of shorts.
Don’t check the weather too early. Check no earlier than four days before you leave. Know that weather is unpredictable and you should always be prepared. That’s why packing an umbrella is always a good idea. But if there’s no rain in the forecast, you may not need a hefty raincoat.
How to create your perfect packing checklist for vacation?
One trick I swear by when creating my packing checklist is to first list all my daily essentials. This will look different for everyone but some common daily essentials might include:
And so on…
Don’t worry about the length of this list. If you use it every day, make sure it’s written down. This list can include items you might use for your skincare routine. Hair products you use every morning. Etc, etc. We’re going to organize this later. Right now, I just want you to sit down and write out everything you use on a daily basis.
Once you’re done with that list, it’s time to organize them into categories. I organize my packing checklist for vacation in a few categories:
To determine how much clothing I’m going to bring, I use the following formula:
- Tops = 1 for each day of the trip (example: 7 day trip = 7 tops). Sometimes I’ll bring one less. I usually wear the same top for travel days.
- Bottoms = Half of the number of shirts I’m bringing (example: 7 day trip = 7 tops = 4 bottoms). I always have a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, and a pair of leggings. The 4th pair might be another pair of jeans or shorts.
- Underwear = 1 for each day of the trip + 1
- Socks = 1 for each day of the trip + 1
- Bras = 2 everyday bras and 1 sports bra. If you’re doing a lot of physical activities, I recommend 2 sports bras and 1 everyday bra.
- Shoes = 2 pairs (1 pair of sneakers and 1 pair of sandals). If the forecast calls for a lot of rain, I’ll bring my rain boots instead of my sandals.
When packing clothes, pack versatile pieces. Don’t pack specific “outfits” as that will limit your options. Bring colors you can mix and match.
Think of the 3-1-1 bag you bring when flying. That’s what goes under this category. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, etc. I like keeping my liquids in a separate bag even when I’m not flying because I know where they are. And I still bring smaller portions even if we’re driving.
When I travel I use a bar of soap for both washing my face and body. This list also contains other hygienic needs like my toothbrush, deodorant, and chapstick.
This stuff will be packed with my solids, but I keep them separate on the list. This section includes hair accessories, band-aids, razor, and makeup brushes.
Why do I separate toiletries into three categories? Because if you’re flying, keeping your liquids under a different category than your solids will help you determine what needs to go in your 3-1-1 bag. Makes life a lot easier.
If you take prescribed mediation, it’s important to organize them in their own category. Just writing “medication” isn’t enough. I need to know exactly what ones I need to pack and what ones I can leave behind. I always have over-the-counter painkillers on me, but those are replaceable. My prescribed medication is harder to replace if I forget one.
Definitely get yourself a pill divider. It’s been a life-saver for me. Liquid medications can be kept in their regular bottles. I also bring an inhaler since I have exercise-induced asthma. If we’re going to do a lot of walking, I take a few puffs before heading out the door for the day.
I keep my electronics minimal when going on vacation. For work trips, I bring more — like my laptop — but if I’m going away with my family, I leave that at home. My electronics include my phone, charger, wireless headphones, and that charger. Everything else I leave home. I don’t bring an iPad either.
This category includes items I pack in my personal bag (for flights) or for car rides. It also houses items I can’t categorize anyplace else. This list includes a book, journal, pen, reusable water bottle, reusable bag, sunglasses, and passport (if needed).
That is how I organize my packing checklist for vacation. As I mentioned earlier, you can adjust the list for any trip you take throughout the year. Business trips will require you to take along your laptop and professional attire for meetings or conferences.
You can also adjust the number of tops and bottoms you bring per trip depending on how long it is. The reason I prefer creating my own list every time is because what I need on a daily basis may change. I don’t want to pack something I won’t use.
Learning to pack light can be accomplished. It’s all about knowing what you need and bringing only that. Most items can be purchased at local supermarkets. On the off chance you forgot something it can be replaced. So the next time you plan on jet setting somewhere, consider making your own packing checklist. Make it unique to you.
If you’re interested in learning how to travel more sustainably, check out this blog post from Wild Minimalist where she offers 7 tips on zero waste travel. And if you want to purchase some eco-friendly travel gear, EarthHero has some great products. Find out more about them on my Resources page.
Do you use a specific packing checklist for vacation? Do you use the same one every time or do you adjust depending on the trip? Do you use a pre-printed checklist? Would you like me to create a free printable of my packing checklist? Let me know in the comments below.