This post contains affiliate links. To learn more, hop over to our Disclosure page.
Today is all about writing the perfect travel packing checklist.
We can all agree that everyone loves going on trips. You get to experience far away lands, or spend time with family that you hardly see… it’s wonderful. But, what is not wonderful is arriving at your destination after a long day of traveling only to discover that you forgot to pack your phone charger.
We beauty lovers like to pack a lot of stuff. And when you try to pack a lot of stuff, you forget a lot of stuff. Especially beauty stuff. Like a blush brush. Or your favorite lip balm. Or your tweezers.
Once upon a time, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. I didn’t ever write a travel packing list. Preparing just wasn’t a thing. I always just did it. And you know what? I always forgot something. Always. Well, I’ve had enough. These days, I say that it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. As much as you insist that you won’t be tweezing your eyebrows on vacation, you just might get a splinter, in which case you’ll be very happy to have that tweezer in your carry-on bag.
Keep reading to learn my tips on how to prepare your travel packing list, so no essentials, (especially your precious beauty products,) get left behind!
SPECIAL BONUS: Because I know you’re a busy go-getting lady, I’ve done most of the thinking so you don’t have to. Click through to the post and download your FREE Master Travel Packing List & printable organization worksheet!
Organizing your list into five main categories
All items that you could possibly need on vacation fall into one of these five categories.
Divide a blank sheet of paper into five (5) vertical columns. Label the columns Clothing/Accessories, Morning Routine, Evening Routine, First Aid/Medical, and Electronics/Entertainment.
It should look something like the image below.
Think about each specific step you take when using items from each of these categories. Write down every item you can think of for your first draft, being as detailed as possible. Don’t worry, you can always edit later.
Think about the order in which you get dressed. It probably starts with underwear and socks, then perhaps pants, and so on. First write down all of the items that you will be needing. For example, “shorts,” or “jacket.” Once you have all the items covered, you can go back and fill in quantities and specifics.
Add any accessories that you will be needing to go along with your outfits. This can include shoes, hats, sunglasses, scarves, bags, etc.
Add any items specific to your activity plans, such as swimwear, hiking boots, etc. What about workout gear?
Consider how you will be handling your laundry. It’s a great idea to add some plastic bags to the list, or anything really.
FYI, making a list generically entitled “Toiletries” is a terrible idea, as it is much too broad. Focusing on one specific time in your day can help you visualize the items you need. Imagine what you do when you first wake up in the morning. It probably starts with brushing your teeth, so you’ll need your toothbrush and toothpaste. Next, you might apply makeup. Whatever your morning routine looks like, visualize it from beginning to end.
The same goes for your evening routine. If you shower in the evening, this will include things like your shampoo and conditioner, and maybe a razor. If items are repeated from the morning routine, try listing them anyway. This will help you stay in the zone, and you can always omit duplicates later.
First aid/Medical supplies
Just like it sounds, this list is of everything you may need to care for yourself in different situations. Things like adhesive bandages, OTC pain relievers, motion sickness medicine, as well as things like tweezers and nail clippers are good things to have with you when traveling. All of these things are either inherently tiny, or come in travel sizes, so there is no excuse for not having them.
This is also the place to list any prescription medicines or medical supplies that are specific to you.
First, list all electronics you plan on taking. Then, list the chargers or batteries for each item. This is self-explanatory, but these days, most of us would rather forget our toothbrush than our phone chargers, so do it.
Consider other gadgets, like a portable charging pack for your phone, SD cards, or headphones, and add them to the list as well.
What will you do on the plane and in down time? If you like activities that do not involve your electronics, list them here.
Other helpful lists to consider
the “carry-on” list
Now that you have the majority of your necessities listed, it’s time to think about your carry-on.
Go though your travel packing list and pick out things that you would like to carry with you, then fill in the gaps with things that are not listed. Add things such as a neck pillow, an eye mask, gum, etc. that are intended solely for your comfort on the plane.
the “pack it at the last minute” list
What are you going to be doing right before you leave your house? Probably brushing your teeth, taking a quick shower, stuff like that. By this point, your suitcases will likely be all zipped up and ready to go. In the excitement of your impending trip, it’s oh-so-easy easy to drop all the essentials you just used and skip out the door. Especially if you don’t know exactly what is not in you suitcase.
Write a list of all the items that won’t be packed until the very last minute. Tape the list to the back of your front door. When you save yourself from leaving for a 17 hour journey without your deodorant, you will thank me.
the “packing for others” list
If you are packing for more than just yourself, (perhaps a child,) create separate lists for each individual. After jotting down all the necessary items from each person’s routine that can be shared, go back and omit items that can be shared.
For example, when thinking about what your spouse needs in the morning, don’t automatically skip over toothpaste for them because it already appears on your list. Instead of writing an incomplete second list, take the time to write everything out as thoroughly as you did the first. I promise there will be less confusion and less forgotten items in the process.
Starting your travel packing list early
Travel planning isn’t a last-minute thing, (usually, *wink,) so packing shouldn’t be either!
I typically start the first draft of my travel packing list about three weeks prior to departure. This version tends to be an overpacker’s dream list.
Starting your list early relieves the pressure you feel when your flight leaves in 5 hours and you only have one chance to get to Target, so your list has to be impeccably error-free on the first try. I can tell you from experience, it almost never works out that way. I have been on plenty of trips, but no matter how many times I write a packing list, I always forget something the first time around and end up adding it later.
After you write your first draft, put it in a safe place and forget about it for a week or so. I promise, it will look all kinds of different when you revisit it! Suddenly your “completed” list is missing quite a few essentials.
Likewise, you might also notice things on there that are not all that necessary once the initial, “I’m going on vacation and I need to pack all my favorite things,” thrill wears off. Seriously, there was one time when I thought I needed a coloring book and colored pencils for a 50 minute flight. Um, no.
Keep revisiting and editing the list periodically right up until it is time to start actually putting things in the suitcase. Aim to make your list so thorough that you can simply grab items and toss them in your suitcase without even thinking about them.
the “Maybe I’ll need it?” conundrum
things you shouldn’t pack
Generally, if you have to think hard about whether you need something on your trip, it’s probably because you really don’t need it. Pack only items that you use everyday or on a set schedule. If it’s something that you use only when you randomly feel like it, don’t bring it. Chances are, you won’t “feel like it” on vacation.
things you should pack
We all know that our periods get very excited and like to join us on vacation uninvited. Even if you are not expecting to start your period, put some supplies on your travel packing list just for good measure. You know how it goes; when you have them, you don’t need them, and when you don’t have them, well, you know the rest.
Do some research on your destination as you work on your travel packing list. You may discover some items that are crucial to the area. This can include insect repellents and certain medications. It is better to be safe than sorry in cases like these, so pack all medicines you think you might need.
down the beauty rabbit hole
If you’re like me, then you know how to overpack makeup. Each item doesn’t take up all that much space, so you keep adding until it snowballs out of control.
After you’ve visualized and written down all the makeup items you use on the daily, try to not add anything to the list. This is the beauty of visualizing your routine. Theoretically, you already have everything you need. Know that anything else will be for fun, so think long and hard about it. Check yo’ self.
When packing, stick to your list. Do not try to sneak anything not on the list into your makeup bag. Be honest with yourself, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable, clutter-free trip.
A few more things to think about
Take into account what you’ll be wearing en route– It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think of stuffing your winter coat into your suitcase. But since you’ll probably be wearing it, there is no need to fervently budget suitcase real estate to accommodate it. Similarly, accessories like belts are especially easy to overpack. Create a separate list for the things you will be wearing on the plane. Cross reference it with the general clothing list to ensure there are no duplicates or unnecessary items.
Be thorough— For example, if you wear contacts, chances are you take them out in the evening and put your glasses on. That is a small but important step that needs to be included in your routine visualization otherwise you will have forgotten a very important item.
Your new foolproof travel packing list strategy
- Write 8 lists — Clothing, Morning Routine, Evening Routine, First Aid, Electronics/Entertainment, Carry-on, Last Minute and Other People.
- Start all of these lists a couple of weeks in advance and revisit them to revise periodically.
- Be detail oriented
I know, this seems crazy. I admit, it is a lot of lists. But really, it isn’t any more than what you would write normally. Breaking down your list writing into multiple smaller sections makes writing your list making much more approachable and foolproof. You are much less likely to forget items, or overpack, which is what we all want, right?
The key to great lists, is more lists 🙂
If you liked this post, you’ll probably like this one too–> Adaptable Travel Makeup + Easy Travel Makeup Routine
That’s all for today!
Try out this comprehensive (haha) travel packing list technique for your next trip, and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
Sign up for my weekly newsletter for exclusive content and insights, plus get instant access to my library of on-the-go beauty resources!
Till next time. ♥︎
FTC- This post is not sponsored. I purchase all products myself. All opinions are my own. Some links may be affiliated.