Making lists also helps to prevent redundancies. Overpacking is one of my pet-peeves. A few of my friends do it on purpose because they think they'd rather have more than be left wanting. However, I don't subscribe to that philosophy. I plan my clothes for each day I'll be away, maybe tossing in one contingency ensemble for giggles. I make sure that each outfit is one I already love and that I know will look good; I confirm this by trying them all on. Then, I just refer to my notebook to see what clothes I've planned for the day, chuck them on, and walk out of my hotel room feeling like a million bucks. It's one less thing to worry about while I'm actually abroad. And, let me say, never have I ever walked through an airport, dragging my luggage behind me, wishing that I had packed more.
Even though my lists are quite specific, there's obviously a rather sizable number of "generic" categories that every packed item falls into so today, I'm sharing my comprehensive list. I work off of this one to create my tailored-to-each-holiday list. If your neuroses are less severe than mine (which is über likely) you can use this list as your only means of organization or you can be a crazy person like me and also work off of the list below to create your own super specific list. Obviously, some of the things on the list may change depending on the season and/or destination - you won't always need a passport or swimwear and I didn't include things like snorkels or sleeping bags - and not everyone wears contact lenses and I've left off feminine products (because I'll be honest, I schedule Aunt Flo to arrive specifically when I'm not on vacation - through medication, not magic) - but it's a good jumping off point.
- Check the weather before you go. This will help you finalize your packing list.
- Roll your clothes; it's space efficient and helps reduce wrinkles.
- Pack clothes in forgiving materials that don't wrinkle easily (cotton, knits).
- Choose clothing that's easy to mix and match; pack mostly neutrals and mix in a few bolder pieces and rely on accessories to dress things up.
- Pack more tops than bottoms; bottoms tend to be bulkier (zippers and buttons can make them harder to roll up) and you can re-wear the same pants/shorts/skirts a couple of times with different tops.
- Pack extra underpants. I know I said I'm not a fan of overpacking but I always pack extra underwear - usually 2 or 3 pairs on top of what I need. Even if you've got a supersized butt (which I'd be jealous of because mine's "too small," in the words of Tracy Jordan), I doubt your underwear is so large that a couple extra pairs will take up that much space. You never know what might happen and not having any more clean underwear would be a huge, unnecessary bummer.
- Line your suitcase with one or two dryer sheets. The dryer sheets will keep your stuff smelling lovely and fresh.
- Try to minimize the number of shoes you pack (they're the chunkiest, most awkward things to stow) and wear the bulkiest pair to the airport. The shoes you are packing should be wrapped in plastic bags so they don't dirty up the rest of your items. Also, use the insides of your shoes as storage (if applicable). It's a cozy spot for socks and underpants to hang out.
- Pack your clothes in large zip-top bags (or packing cubes) and push the air out before sealing them up; this is a huge space saver. If you have those actual vacuum-seal bags, you can use them but you might not have a vacuum to seal the bag back up on your way home, which would be annoying.
- Pack an extra zip-top (or packing cube), as a laundry bag and you can keep your clean and dirty clothes separate.
- Pack biggest/heaviest items in the bottom of your bag. This is especially important if you're bringing rolling luggage, and this strategy will help prevent your bag from tipping.
- Be careful with your jewelry. If you don't have a dedicated jewelry case, use bubble wrap or tissue paper to encase delicate chain necklaces so they don't get tangled. Also, don't pack any expensive and/or irreplaceable jewelry. I pack cheap F21 pieces that, if lost, I wouldn't cry over. (I shared an entire post about ways to pack jewelry,)
- Sandwich delicate/fragile items between layers of fluffy clothes to keep them protected. For example, insulate your makeup case between a few shirts to prevent arriving at your destination with cracked compacts.(I also shared an entire post about packing electronics, which can be rather delicate.)
- Refine your beauty routine. I don't wear a huge full face of makeup on an everyday basis anyway but when I'm on holiday, I reduce my routine even further and only pack the absolute essentials. (I exclusively pack travel-sized makeup items.)
- Make your own first aid kit. Throw in your favorite headache medicine (I prefer Aleve), cold medicine, anti-nausea meds, bandaids, antiseptic, and hand sanitizer. This kind of stuff comes in handy, and if you end up needing a pick-me-up, having a familiar brand will offer some comfort too. (I shared a DIY for making your own first aid kit.)
- Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs.
And here are just a few other reminders for things you might have to do before you head off:
- Arrange for a housesitter and/or petsitter if necessary.
- Check the expiration dates on your credit cards, passport, driver's license, etc. to avoid headaches during your trip.
- Put ID tags on your luggage, even if you've only got carry-on bags. If there's no overhead space directly above your seat, you might need to store it by someone else or the crew might ask you to check it after you've gone through security (if it's a full flight) so it's just good sense.
- Confirm all of your reservations. I like to send a quick email to the hotel (or phone them via Skype if it's an international destination) just to make sure they've got my name in the system.
- Call your credit card companies to set up travel alerts, especially if you're traveling abroad.
- If you're going abroad, go to the bank and exchange some money. Chase doesn't charge a commission fee so I always like to hit them up before I go out of the country.
- If you're on any prescription medication, make sure you have enough to last you through the trip and for at least a few days after (lest your return be postponed for whatever reason). Also, bring a doctor's note, in case airport security wants to confiscate your legal drugs.
- Check for any rules of traveling in your destination; for example: do you need to apply for a visa, do you need an international driving permit, does you passport need to be valid for 6 months after your arrival?