As we tentatively look toward a future of increased physical togetherness, another reemerging pre-pandemic experience comes to mind: traveling!

In the last year, many of us have poured over old travel photos, reminiscing about the fun we had and wondering how we ever took it so deeply for granted. Those were the good old days, and we’re ready to go back.

And yet, those rose-colored glasses have perhaps made us forget about some of the less appealing elements of travel: TSA security checks, throwing out fruit at the border, removing items from your suitcase in front of the entire airport because it was two pounds overweight. (No? Just me?)

The reality is that packing well is a learned skill. It takes a certain amount of trial and error and noticing what worked and what didn’t, and editing your habits in the future based on your experiences.

When we work with clients who are moving to a new home, we often help them with something we call pre-packing. This essentially means decluttering and organizing before the move, to make both the move and their lives much easier later on. The same concept applies to travel.

What is pre-packing, exactly?

Whether you are going on a two-day weekender or a full-blown European walking tour, the odds are that you will need the same basic items. That’s why PRE-packing makes a lot of sense. This essentially means investing a small amount of time when you are unpacking from your current trip to save you time and money when you go to pack for your next one.

Here are some basic pre-packing tips that will help you stay organized:

Sensible Storage. When you return home from any trip, invest a few minutes in cleaning and storing travel items in your suitcase so that they will be ready for the next one.

Example items might be an airplane headrest, headphones and earplugs, toiletry bag, travel appliances and adapters. If you have certain items that you only use on that kind of trip (such as holiday clothing or shoes), these could be put in their own bag in that location. Storing these items in the suitcase itself means that they are right where you need them for your next trip. If you have lots of suitcases, consider flagging the one containing these items so that everyone knows where to find them.

Make it Standard. Even if you’re not planning to take a plane, it’s helpful to store your pre-packed supplies in a way that makes them work for any kind of travel. The goal is to have one set of travel toiletries that will work for anything. This means using the 3-1-1 liquids rule from TSA: 3.4 oz bottles which fit inside a quart-sized, resealable bag. Pro tip: these can also be your emergency supplies if you needed to leave your home in case of an evacuation.

3-1-1 Liquids check

Image credit: TSA






Restock When you Return From Each Trip. Rather than packing and unpacking all of your everyday toiletries, consider investing in a toiletry bag dedicated only to travel. Top off travel-sized lotions and soaps before putting them away upon returning home. And again, keep it stored inside your suitcase so that when you pull it out, your toiletries are ready and waiting to go.

Big Rocks Organizing Packing List

Click our packing list to download and print!

Have a Packing List Handy. On your next trip, note the things that you actually used (i.e. did you end up wearing that third pair of jeans?). Keep separate lists for business trips, weekend trips and international trips so that you have a go-to master copy of the things you really need. These will take a little time to create, but once you have it down, it will help you to pack more mindfully and with less stress. Store them in your suitcase with all your other pre-packed travel items.

Clean and Organize After You Return. When you return home from traveling, take the opportunity to file or throw away used ticket stubs and receipts. Clean out your passport holder and prepare it for the next trip. Again, 10 minutes spent organizing ahead of time will save you time and hassle later on.

Document Preparation. Photocopy passports, identity cards and insurance and credit cards to have copies on file in case yours get lost or stolen. Give copies to a trusted person who can safe-keep them for you. Again, this is a great thing to put in order when you return from your trip, so that they are ready for you when you go to pack for the next one.

Imagine how great it will feel when you go to pack and find all travel items ready and waiting for you in the most logical place. Plus, pre-packing will save you time and money. It’s a win-win!

Happy Travels!