Stress-Free Travel is Within Your Reach: Create a Packing System

Stress-Free Travel is Within Your Reach: Create a Packing System

Ahead of a trip, do you find yourself running around the house looking for random things you swear you have but can’t seem to find? Does the thought of packing leave you feeling so anxious that you’re not even excited to get to the beach? When you get to your destination, do you discover that you forgot something that, while not crucial, is super annoying to have to replace? 

Your thoughts around packing and preparing for a trip are likely very similar to your thoughts around keeping your home organized. As a result, your systems for doing so are likely very similar as well. And if you’re hearing “system” and thinking “what system? A packing system? That’s something people have?” then you’re in the right place. Creating a new thought mantra around preparing to travel, and a system for doing so will allow you to actually enjoy it!

Chances are, your stress isn’t so much about the actual process of packing. If it was just a normal day and someone told you to put some clothing, toiletries, and charging devices into a suitcase, you might find that to be a simple task.

The stress comes when you start thinking about everything else: What will the weather be like, and will it swing drastically overnight? What are other people wearing? Is my dress appropriate for my work trip, is it too short? Do I want to check this bag? What if my kids melt down on the plane? In the car? Will people have fun on this trip I planned? What if it’s a disaster? 

Now, add on: Where is my phone cord? Is this the one that doesn’t work? Where’s my toothbrush holder, the one that doesn’t smell? Will all my toiletries fit in this toiletry bag? Can I carry these liquids on? 

Creating a new thought mantra and system around just the smallest elements of this puzzle can help. While some of the other stresses won’t necessarily go away, you are taking one more variable out of the equation to focus your energy on the fun stuff.

Here’s a personal example. Pretty early in my career, I got to travel a lot for work. In my mid-twenties, this was exciting to me on paper but as an introvert, I often had a lot of pre-trip stress around the social engagements I had ahead of me. I had a lot of whirlwind 48-hour trips which were admittedly SO fun in the “I can’t believe this is my job” way (I worked in marketing/liquor). But, I had a lot of stressful anticipatory thoughts around it, which did not leave a lot of room for stressful thoughts around the act of packing. So I created a system. A very simple system that isn’t novel or groundbreaking, but one that helps alleviate pre-travel stress, and that I still use today:

  • Get a set of toiletry bags of varying sizes that you can use for different types of trips. Or, reusable bags you have around the house that you can use for that purpose, and ONLY that purpose.
  • Get duplicates of everything and have your travel version live in that bag: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, contact solution, eye drops, shampoo, etc. Literally everything you use on a daily basis you should have a duplicate of in that bag. Use refillable tubes if you can.
  • Designate what your “go-to” bags are vs. what is something that can be stored while you travel. If you’re traveling by air, what electronics/toiletry bag do you need on the plane with you every time vs. what can be checked every time? If you’re traveling by car, what things do you need with you in the car vs. what can be put in the trunk for the duration of the trip? Make sure the things you need access to are, well, accessible. I.e. your bag of car snacks should not be underneath a backpack, a tote bag with various shoes, and a camping chair in your trunk. 
  • While traveling, clear trash as you go. Designate a special pocket or bag where you can place items that can be discarded and do so regularly. This will help with unpacking/repacking.
  • If you can, get a suitcase that you love and that can compartmentalize everything you need. If you love it, you’ll be more excited to pull it out for a trip and get packed!

These simple actions helped me change my thought of “I am so overwhelmed by everything I have to do on this trip, and have no idea what I should be packing” to “While I am stressed about how little time I will have to myself on this trip, I am prepared with my essentials and can focus on mentally preparing for my trip”. 

Road trip or flight coming up? Try these simple tips to get organized and see how it feels!

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