So, you’ve decided where you’re going to take your next ah-mazing vacation. You’ve scoured all the travel deals sites and finally (finally!) found affordable airfare. You’ve practically begged your boss for time off during that ‘busy time’ at work and you are ready to get your vacation on! You spend the days leading up to your trip dreaming about rest, relaxation and margaritas. And while you’re so ready to pack your bags and just go already, the thing you don’t spend much time thinking about is actually packing those bags. And you know what that means? Panic packing.
What is panic packing? It’s the worst kind of packing. It’s disorganized, unprepared and illogical. It’s rushed and unreasonable and 100% last-minute.
Who’s guilty? Me (rarely but sometimes). And maybe you. And definitely a whole bunch of other people. Despite the fact that I’m a frequent traveler who has her packing routine pretty down pat, sometimes circumstances have foiled my best plans. Unexpected commitments and bad traffic home from work when I’ve had an evening flight have thrown my schedule off, leaving me frantically scrambling to chuck my stuff in a suitcase and stumbling out the door just in time to catch a lift to the airport. The result? I’ve either packed all kinds of things I didn’t need or forgotten some essentials. Or both. I once forgot my essential facial cleanser but that turned out to be a happy accident because I learned the beauty secret that changed my skin forever (read more about that here.) And then there was that time I forgot my contact lenses #packingfail
If panic packing is your normal, believe me when I tell you there’s a better way. Here are six tips to help you avoid panic packing so you can start your trip off on an exciting note, not one riddled with anxiety:
1 Don’t pack at the last minute
It would seem that this goes without saying but packing at the last minute is at the heart of panic packing. So don’t do it! Some people might need a week to visualize everything they’ll need and some of us just need a day. But whatever you do, don’t pack your suitcase at the eleventh hour. Give yourself time to figure out what you’ll take and what you can stand to leave at home. Make sure there’s enough time to do laundry and to pick up anything you might need before you go. If you’re packing an hour before heading out the door, there’s no time for any of that.
2 Remember: You can pick things up at your destination
Make sure that you’ve got the really important stuff organized and ready to go, like medications, contact lenses, your grind guard if you wear one. Those kinds of things are real essentials that you don’t want to leave home without. Anything else, like toiletries, clothing and even chargers, can usually be picked up at your destination if you’re desperate.
3 Make a list
While I don’t normally start packing my bags until the day before my trip, I’m often thinking about what I’ll need a few days in advance. So I create a new Note on my iPhone and jot things down as I think of them. This has hands-down been my best packing helper. Or, use an app that can help to streamline your packing process. I like PackPoint.
4 Buy two each of your toiletry essentials
“I’ve found that when I’m panic-packing, it’s always crucial toiletry items that get left behind – probably because they’re small and plenty,” says Jocelyn Christie, magazine publishing VP and frequent traveler. “So awhile back, I bought another one of everything I need to get ready in the morning (even my makeup essentials and hairdo hardware), and I always keep my travel toiletries bag fully packed and ready to go.”
5 Get an e-reader
If you’re an avid reader like I am, you likely can’t travel without a book. But panic packing means you may decide to throw two extra ‘just in case’ books into your luggage – and who wants to lug heavy books around? Get an e-reader so that you can easily download a new book when you’ve finished the last. No need to make rash decisions about what to read next and to carry around books you may or may not get to.
6 Check the weather in advance
Finding a 10-day forecast for any destination in the world is a simple click away. Check the weather to help you pack appropriately. Don’t randomly pack for every possible climate scenario. You’ll end up over packing and not wearing a fraction of what you bring.
Are you a panic packer? Got any tips for being a better packer? Leave them in the comments below!