How to Make a Perfect Travel Packing List
Do you remember the last time that you made a packing list?
As vaccines roll out and the world slowly opens up again, many of us are itching to fill our calendars with long-postponed adventures to places near and far. And as we decide where to go, we also have to decide what to take with us.
The stuff that we choose to bring - or choose not to bring - can make or break a trip. At Knack, we’re unapologetically obsessed with making packing lists for our Knack Packs. That’s why this week, we’re sharing our proven formula for the perfect travel packing list.
Why You Need a Travel Packing List
Any seasoned traveler knows that it’s difficult to foresee exactly what you’ll need on a trip, especially if you’re going somewhere new. But a packing list makes sure that your bases are covered. So whether it’s for a weekend or the long-haul, you need a packing list because:
A packing list makes planning way less stressful. Packing lists are proactive because you make them ahead of time. When the logistics of planning a trip get overwhelming, a trip packing list can make you feel more in control.
A packing list makes sure that you don’t forget the important stuff. There are always a few key items that you can’t take a trip without… like a passport if you’re going abroad or a raincoat on a Pacific Northwest road trip. Before you embark, you can cross-check your packing list to be sure you have the important stuff.
A packing ensures that you don’t bring too much or too little. Many of us have a chronic fear of under packing, but overpacking can be just as detrimental to a trip. A packing list is a tool for logical trip preparation; your packing is driven by reason rather than by emotion.
Before You Make Your Travel Packing List
Before you devise your packing list, you need to have planned the who, what, when, and where of the trip. These four W’s can inform your packing strategy on a deeper level if you ask yourself the following questions:
What’s it like where I’m going? Never disregard the weather, the terrain, or the culture. While you can’t predict surprise weather events, you can pack appropriately for hot, cold, wet, or dry climates. And educate yourself on the terrain and the culture so that you can pack accordingly.
Read more travel tip planning here.
How long am I going for? Is this a weekend packing list, or a month-long packing list? If it’s a quick trip, you can list what you need with more certainty. You may want a shorter packing list for longer trips, as counterintuitive as it may seem. With the greater unknowns of extended travel, you should leave space in your pack for unexpected items - like souvenirs and items that you’ve forgotten.
Who am I traveling with? If you’re not traveling alone, your packing list should be a collaborative effort between you and your travel buddies. Doing so can help you avoid packing two of something that you only need one of. You don’t need to bring two tubes of toothpaste, or two camping stoves. Trello is an awesome tool for sharing notes and lists with your travel companions.
Who am I packing for? If you’re packing for your kids, a partner, or anyone besides yourself, the packing list becomes more complex. In this case, make your list well ahead of the trip so that you have time to make additions and adjustments.
How am I getting there? How you travel dictates what you’re allowed to pack. If you’re flying and you avoid checking bags as much as we do, then be sure to review what you can and cannot bring onto an airplane. You may even want to add a “do not bring” section to your trip packing list.
What bag am I taking? If you only ask yourself one of these questions, it’s this one. Assuming that you’re bringing a Knack Pack, you’re in luck. Our helpful comparison guide lays out the packing capacity of each Knack Pack size and series. To make the most of the space in your Knack, try our compressible packing cubes and shoe bags.
Read this post for expert tips on how to pack a Knack.
Making Your Packing List
A great packing list is not built in a day. Rather, you should make your packing list template first, and then give yourself at least one week to add and subtract items. Give yourself time to do mental run-throughs of your trip and your packing list.
The greatest upside of a packing list template is that you can use it over and over again. Here’s the process that we use to develop our packing list template:
1. Make a packing list synopsis. At the head of your packing list document, write down the four W’s: Where you’re going, what you’re doing, with whom, and for how long. This will keep your list focused on the itinerary, and help you define how much you need to bring.
2. Break your packing list down into categories and sub-categories. Most trips will have categories for clothes, technology, and documents. But if you’re camping, you might have a category for outdoor equipment and food. If you’re traveling with somebody else, add a shared category. Later on, you can decide who brings what.
Once you have a packing list template, making the packing list itself is effortless:
1. Category-by-category, jot down everything that you could need on your trip. Don’t hold back, you just want to get the items out of your head.
2. Reorganize each category with the most important items at the top; this is easier if you’re working with a digital list. Demarcate these ‘can’t-do-without’ items.
3. Refine your packing list. Remove anything excess, including impractical clothes and accessories you won’t need or use. Then take a few days to add in anything that you overlooked during your first packing list draft.
4. Before you start packing, do a final review of your list. Note the quantities for items that you have multiples of - like clothes and accessories.
A Knack Packing List Template
Knack Packs are functional as an everyday bag and as a travel bag. So our ideal packing list aligns with our One Bag Life philosophy. Here is a general travel packing list that we like to use with our Knack Packs. Feel free to use this to guide you in developing your personalized travel packing list.
Beyond the Packing List
After the trip packing list template, the next most important factor in the quality of a packing job is the bag itself. Knack Packs are intelligently designed to hold a lot of stuff, without letting that stuff get lost in the bag.
Do you have any pro-tips for packing your Knack? Let us know by tagging a picture of your Knack on Instagram with #knackbags.
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