I no longer say “I’m really bad at packing.”

Friend A: “I’m going on a trip! I’m excited!”
Friend B: “Yay! When do you leave?”
Friend A: “Tomorrow… and I haven’t started packing.”
Friend B: “Oh no.”
Friend A: “I’m really bad at packing.”

Sound familiar? This used to be me. I traveled a lot, mastered the art of a perfect carry on, and always flirted with the 50 pound weight limit. Then I made myself learn how to pack. That sounds ridiculous, but if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “I’m bad at packing” I’d be rich. I figured I plan my meals, I plan my schedule each week, I plan when I clean my apartment… why can’t I plan what I’m going to wear? And that is how I started going about packing. With a plan.

Here is my step by step packing guide for skiing… I leave tomorrow and am happy to say I am totally packed!

Disclaimer: I admit this is beyond over the top, but hey… it works. Take it or leave it… or take pieces that work for you and leave the that-is-so-unnecessary ideas.

Step 1: Timeline

I admit I over-plan, but in this situation it helps. I take a close look at when I’m leaving, what I’m doing while I’m away, and when I will be returning. I take into account all options throughout the day. Do we have dinner reservations? Will we be spending a whole day out and about? Am I sightseeing? Does anything require a specific outfit or item (like skiing!)? I write down every day and every activity and end up with a sheet that looks like this.

Step 2: Weather

This is usually more important when I’m going somewhere with weather other than OMG-THIS-IS-SO-COLD. Skiing, I just prepare for -50 degrees and hope I don’t get frostbite. Dramatic, yes, but I ate being cold. Important things to note in normal situations…. is it going to rain? Is it going to be really hot? Is it going to snow? Will I need layers throughout the day? I then make notes of key weather facts on my timeline so my sheet looks like this.

Step 3: Outfits

I put outfits into 4 categories: cute, workout, special, pajamas. Cute outfits are my normal, day to day outfits for when I’m traveling. Workout outfits are my options for hitting the gym. Special outfits are for any situations that require specific attire. Pajamas are pretty self explanatory. I think about how many of each category I am going to need and update my timeline like this, allowing me to know the quantity of outfits I’ll need (I add 1 extra for each category) without pinpointing what I am wearing each day.

Now for packing my outfits. I always stick to my favorites for when I’m away. The “what if I don’t want to wear this” idea is what always leads to over packing, so I just make sure I pack my favorites that I never get sick of wearing. As I pick outfits I lay them all out on my bed. If I am wearing something twice (like jeans or a cardigan) I add a sticky note to the outfits that need that item so I get a full picture of everything I’m planning to wear. My bed then looks like my closet exploded.

Step 4: Accessories

Before I started packing like this I constantly forget about accessories. I would get somewhere and only have the jewelry I was wearing. It was really annoying. Now, I put my accessories on top of every outfit then pack them individually in a small jewelry bag. I know I could put it all into a big jewelry bag, but I always feel like I lose things in a big bag or my necklaces end up in a knot. I don’t have time for that while I’m traveling! This way, I grab an outfit and it already includes exactly the accessories I’m planning on wearing with it!

Step 5: Shoes

Shoes are just annoying to pack. They are definitely the biggest and bulkiest thing I pack. I limit myself to 3 pairs of shoes every trip. That is all. One is always sneakers. The other two depend on where I am going. For skiing, that means I’ll have sneakers, bean boots, and one other pair of shoes. Then I make sure I’m wearing the biggest pair (I guess I’ll be traveling in bean boots…). Sometimes I really want more than 3 pairs, but once I’m on the trip it is never an issue. Why waste the space when I really don’t need them?

Step 6: Basics

Undies. Bras. Socks. Don’t forget these. I pack twice the amount of undies I think I need. I go through my outfits to see what bras I need. Then I bring lots of socks. All the socks. Easy to forget, but so easy to pack. I put them into an awesome little bag that says “Wear Me” and I have a matching bag that says “Wash Me” to put them in as I wear everything on my trip.

Step 7: Toiletries

One of the best investments I ever made was a second set of all my bathroom necessities. Now when I pack all I have to do is throw my make-up into a bag. So easy. If you haven’t done this, you should. If you can’t afford it at the moment, start small with a couple items you can keep in your toiletry bag. Then the day you are leaving go through every drawer in the bathroom ad grab anything you will need! Bathrooms aren’t too big, so there is no reason to stress about packing toiletries. Stand at the sink like you’re getting ready for the day, but instead of getting ready just grab when you need to get ready and put it in a bag.

Step 8: Extras

I once made it halfway to the beach before noticing I forget a bathing suit. It is always the extras that aren’t top of mind. For skiing, there is a whole list of things I never need throughout the year, but are required for a trip to Park City. I think long and hard about these extras. I read through my timeline again. Look through my outfits. Try to think of any possible situation or outcome. Will there be a hot tub or pool? Will I need a jersey to go to a game? Am I doing an activity that requires equipment or a ticket or something special? Do I need a hat and gloves… a jacket? All those extra things get put together in their own little don’t-forget-me pile.

Step 9: Final Checks

Here is where worry kicks in. I always think I am totally forgetting something at this point. Something that will surely ruin my trip if I don’t have it. I then proceed to open every drawer in my dresser, look at every shelf in my closet, scan my hanging clothes, and re-look in every drawer and cabinet in the bathroom. I always find at least one extra or item that needs to come with me on this final check.

Step 10: Put it in the suitcase

Life gets hard here. Looking at my growing pile of things to bring and shrinking suitcase I start to panic. I make myself stay organized and it always manages to fit. First, I put everything I can into smaller bags. The wash me bag for undies, shoe bags, purse bags, extra toiletry bags… they help things stay in their own place. When I’m not traveling, I keep all these bags inside my suitcase so that I can easily find them the next time I have to pack. (Normally they fit like a glove in my suitcase, but skiing requires my giant L.L.Bean duffle where things get pretty messy.)

Easy as that, you’re done and ready to go! I typically have my La La Tote and Tumi ready to go, but skiing is a little different. This time I have my trusty (I got it in elementary school) L.L. Bean duffle and Roxy backpack (mine is a couple years old, but here is the same design in new colors). Now I’m off to Park City for the week!

43,843 thoughts on “I no longer say “I’m really bad at packing.”

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