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Tips to Create the Perfect Packing List

We know there are questions around travel amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our note here.

In the midst of the excitement before every vacation comes that inevitable moment when the only thing left standing between you and a perfect getaway is an empty suitcase waiting to be filled. For some, the task of packing may be a daunting process where items are set aside meticulously, but others will throw things into a bag at the last minute — which can mean forgetting some essential items. When it comes down to it, only you know what you need to make your vacation worry-free, but these eight tips can help curate that list to ensure that you don’t set off traveling with too much (or too little) baggage.

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Start With the Irreplaceable Essentials

A variety of travel accessories sprawled across a table.
Credit: tbradford/ iStock

When starting to pack, having all the right clothes and shoes usually comes to mind first. The truth is that even our favorite fashion items can usually be replaced on the road. But those contact lenses that require a prescription and that medication that must be taken daily? Those types of items should always be at the top of your list. After all, if you’re not able to see clearly or aren’t feeling great, even the most joyful parts of the itinerary can feel like a drag. Items to think about include prescription eyewear, medication, passports, ID cards, vaccination cards, and credit cards — basically anything that’s truly one-of-a-kind made for you.

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Think About Protective Gear

Beach bag with accessories on a wooden background.
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The last thing you want to have to deal with while you’re away from home is unexpected emergency situations. Get ahead of those situations by prioritizing items that will prevent potential problems. If you’re heading to the beach, that includes wide-brim hats and properly vetted sunscreen. If you’re en route to snowy slopes, think of handwarmers, sunglasses or goggles, and waterproof gloves. And if you’re going on a city trip where rain is in the forecast, think about umbrellas and raincoats, but also moisture-wicking shoes and a bag or backpack that will keep your contents dry.

Don’t forget about safety gear, either. During the pandemic, that includes the right kind of masks — experts currently recommend N95 and KN95 masks amid Omicron — as well as items to ensure healthy hand hygiene, like sanitizer and hand wipes. For those who’d like to ensure even more cleanliness, sanitizing wipes can be used in and around plane and train seats — and some companies even make complete seat covers to make sure you’re fully protected.

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Prioritize Your Comfort Items

Woman resting on the sofa in pajamas and cozy soft socks.
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As thrilling as being in an entirely new place can be, sometimes it just takes one little comfort item to make you feel a tad more secure. Maybe it’s a scarf or cozy pair of socks that will make the plane ride more bearable. Perhaps it’s a favorite childhood snack, like gummy bears or cheesy crackers, that will bring a smile to your face during a long road trip. It could even be a little keychain that reminds you of a beloved friend or a lip balm that just brings a bit of calm during stressful moments.

5

Charge Up Your Tech

A mobile phone and batteries on a charger.
Credit: Drazen_/ iStock

Even if your goal is to digitally detox, with the ways we live today, you’re bound to be packing at least your smartphone (if not other tech products). Of course, every item has a charger, but maybe you’ll also want an external battery to give your gear some extra juice on the go. Some items might also require specific accessories to remember. For instance, if you’re bringing a digital camera, perhaps you’ll also need extra memory cards. If you have a pair of earphones you want to plug into the plane’s in-flight system, you might also need an adapter. If you’re going on a long road trip and want to use navigation on the go, that might mean bringing a phone mount and car charger. Think through every use of anything you’re packing with an on-and-off switch to make sure you have all you need to make those items work seamlessly.

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Think Through Itinerary Specifics

Aerial view of a travel notebook surrounded by various travel items.
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Depending on the type of vacation you’re heading on, there will likely be some items geared specifically for that adventure. An island cruise may require swimwear as well as formal wear for dinner events. A yoga retreat will warrant both athletic wear and perhaps a mat and other yoga equipment. A hiking trip will — depending on the specifics of the route and length — potentially require a whole backpack full of gear to survive outdoors, ranging from flashlights and bug repellent to water bottles and packable meals. Walk through your itinerary step-by-step and think through what you’ll need at every given moment. Make sure to pack anything that can’t be obtained or borrowed when you get there.

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Plan Your Outfits With Intention

Hands arranging a flat lay shot of an outfit.
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Experts vary on the right formula for the number of pieces to pack in a travel wardrobe. Some say to bring three tops for every one bottom by choosing ones that can be mixed and matched. Others say to go for two pieces each day of the trip so that there’s a day and night outfit. Efficiency expert Marie Kondo recommends thinking about the visuals by laying everything out first and organizing by type of item. That will give you an overall look at how many items you have for each category. Before you start filling the suitcase, think about what you really need for the trip.

One more helpful tip on clothing: Bring an extra change of undergarments. After all, you don’t want to have to scramble around buying them while you’re traveling, and having new ones that you may not be used to can make all the difference in how comfortable or not your day is. Stash one extra change of unmentionables in your carry-on as insurance.

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Think About Items That Have Dual Purposes

Person stand on the peak at Rock Empires Park, watching over the misty morning valley.
Credit: rdonar/ iStock

Running through the list of must-pack items, the pile can quickly outgrow your suitcase. That’s when it can be strategic to think of items that serve two purposes. It might be an oversized scarf that can also be used as a plane blanket or hiking pants that have zippers on the legs to transform into shorts. It may also be a bag that’s convertible between a backpack and shoulder bag, or even a pair of dressy-looking sneakers that can be worn out for a more upscale occasion. The more multi-purpose items you pack, the less weight you’ll have to carry around.

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Consider Country-Specific Needs in Your Destination

Close-up of a variety of different currencies.
Credit: Omid Armin/ Unsplash

Despite digital payments becoming the norm around the globe, there may still be a need for local currencies while you’re traveling — think of local markets and stands, as well as tips for porters and housekeeping. While using an ATM upon arrival is always an option, there’s also the possibility that your card won’t work abroad, even if you do make the proper arrangements ahead of time. Many banks — especially those with international locations like HSBC and Santander — offer customers currency purchases with minimal fees. Also, pay attention to what electricity voltage is used in the destination and make sure you check your devices for what their range is. You’ll likely also need voltage and plug converters to make sure your items will work abroad.

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