Packing Tip: Plan Before You Go

I’m breathing a big sigh of relief, because for the first time in months, I’m not packing.

We spent the first two weeks of July on a family safari in Africa.  Then, a few days after we got back, we drove our 13-year old daughter — and her luggage —  to camp for a six-week stay.

In the weeks before I go on a trip, people always ask me, “Are you packed yet?”  They assume that, because I am an organizer, I pack my bags well in advance.

The truth is that I don’t pack my bags until the night before I leave.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t THINK about packing until the night before I leave.  I usually plan my packing for several weeks.  In this case, because we were traveling internationally, I actually thought about packing for two months.

The secret to planning your packing is to make a list.   I created a list in Excel, which allowed me to continually add to it, rearrange it, and create cute little boxes next to each item that I could check off once I actually started packing.

I started with the basics — clothing, toiletries, electronics, reading material — then added to it as I thought of more things, and as I read web sites about what to bring to Africa.  That gave me plenty of time to purchase the things that I didn’t own already.

My daughter also made up an electronic packing list for camp.  This enabled us to get our camp shopping done well in advance of our vacation, since we knew we wouldn’t have much slack time once we got back.

The beauty of an electronic list is that you can use it again for future trips.  When you get back from a trip, you can add all the things you wish you had brought, and delete the things that you realized you didn’t need after all.

As for me, I don’t plan to be packing again for a long time.  Well, at least until Visiting Day.

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