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packing suitcase frustrated womanAs Senior Editor of IndependentTraveler.com, I’ve lost count of how many thousands of words I’ve written about how to travel more efficiently and intelligently. Many of those articles have been advice on how to pack — like tips for squeezing everything into a carry-on no matter how long the trip, and recognizing the signs of four common packing problems. So you’d think by now I’d be a perfect packer.

And yet…

On a recent trip to Toronto, I forgot to pack not one, not two, but five things that I typically bring when I travel. While I managed to remember the absolute essentials — passport, medications, underwear — a couple of the items I forgot were pretty important. Like, oh, toothpaste. I also left without pajamas to sleep in, gum to equalize ear pressure during takeoff, a black tank top (without which one of my other shirts was unwearable) and a plastic bag for dirty clothes.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to replace most of these items. My hotel came through with a dental kit, I borrowed a T-shirt to sleep in from a friend and I picked up a pack of gum (in a plastic bag, no less) at the airport. But I couldn’t remember the last time I’d packed so poorly — and done so by ignoring so much of my own advice. In the spirit of learning from my own careless mistakes, here’s what I’ll do better next time:

Start packing a few days before the trip. I never remember everything I need to put on my packing list the first time I write it out; starting a few days early lets me add additional items as I think of them. For my Toronto trip, I was so busy in the days leading up to the trip that I simply threw everything into a bag the night before I left. That was strike one.

Quiz: What’s Your Packing Personality?

Recycle packing lists from past trips. Let’s face it — most of what we pack is the same for every trip. So why reinvent the wheel each time? I often dig up old packing lists and adapt them for whatever trip I’m currently taking (shameless plug: it’s easy to do that if you save a copy of our interactive packing list). Had I done this for Toronto, there’s no way I’d have forgotten such basics as PJ’s and chewing gum. Strike two.

Restock your toiletry bag each time you get home. I grabbed the same quart-size bag of liquids and gels that I’d used on my previous trip, not realizing that I’d run out of toothpaste and failed to put another tube in. And that’s why I ended up brushing solely with water my first night in Toronto. Strike three.

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Packing

Which travel mistakes have you made, even though you should’ve known better?

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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6 Responses to “When a Travel Writer Ignores Her Own Advice”

  1. Chris says:

    I thought to share one simple yet effective way to pack in clothes. Roll them instead of folding. It’s amazing how much space you save and how easy it is to cover even the nooks when tees, pants, towels, even the underwear are rolled up.

  2. Vickie Robinson says:

    On a cruise last October, I discovered that I’d forgotten asprin/ibuprophen and benadryl. The cruise shop had none (“we don’t sell them”). Lesson: take twice the meds you need and all possible potions!

  3. Jan says:

    I created a generic travel packing list and saved on my computer in Excel that I refer to every time I travel. Works great as a checklist and I add or delete to customize for each trip.

  4. Barbara says:

    Whenever we schedule a trip, I put it on my iPad – copy list from previous trip deleting anything that I will not need on current trip. Then every couple of days I review the list and add items as I think of them. I keep a separate bag that contains any medical items, aspirin, band aids, diarrhea medicine, antacids,toothache solution, etc.

  5. Doreen Amadatsu says:

    When I travel I make 2 copies of what I am going to take the first one I use as I pack I tick off the items as it goes into the suitcase and if it is not checked then I check my list the day before I leave. The 2nd copy is for my return trip home I do the same thing to make sure I have not forgotten anything behind. I remember also to take enough different sizes of empty or filled Ziploc bags so that I always have a bag to put dirty laundry in if I have not done a laundry before I come home.

  6. Bonnie C says:

    I have a master packing list on my computer. When I edit the list for a new trip, I save that version also. When I need a packing list I can look over the lists I have saved and choose the one most like the one I need and edit that one for my current trip.
    I also have a generic list of things to do before we leave. That’s very much the same for every trip – cancel newspaper, clean out refrigerator, stock a few things in the freezer for when we get back, lock everything, etc.
    One other thing I do is on the flight home, I make a few notes on my packing list about what I didn’t use and what should have brought.

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