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30 Days to Packing a Better Bag – Day 5: Prepare Your Packing List

day 5: prepare your packing list

Welcome to Day 5 of 30 Days to Packing a Better Bag.

Now that you have your trip style defined, your itinerary set, your luggage picked out, and packing goals written down, choosing what to mark on your packing list is easier to evaluate.

We’ve written about nearly every packing list under the sun, from Finnish Lapland to Mount Kilimanjaro to scuba diving to traveling with kids. But for you to become your own packing expert, you’ll need to weed out what you don’t need from our lists and create one to suit you. You’ll want to look for items that can adapt to any trip; those that can overlap in their use from one season (and situation) to the next. Remember, a streamlined packing list means streamlined luggage.

The point of today’s exercise is to go through the motions of creating a “if-I-could-take-everything” list, and then reviewing and minimizing. Over the course of the month, this list will get better, and so will your packing.

Start with the Basics

Toiletries: What you bring is entirely up to you and your needs. You may decide to leave the shampoo and conditioner at home in favor of buying it when you get there, or using the free product provided at hotels (if hotels are in your trip style). You may not have any prescriptions to bring, or you may leave many of these items at home so you can go carry on only. We’ll be discussing this section in greater detail in future chapters, so don’t worry if you still feel overwhelmed!

Delicates: Several types of travel-specific underwear sit on the market today, but how many pairs (and what type) you will need to bring is up to your specific trip and travel style. We recommend 2-3 bras and 4 pairs of underwear (we’re partial to ExOfficio) to re-wash and wear.

  • 2-3 bras, one black and one nude, one sports bra
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • Basic camisole

Tech Gear: You don’t have to bring any tech gear with you on your trip, but you’ll at least want a camera or cell phone with camera capabilities in order to capture the good times.

  • Camera, either a DSLR, point-and-shoot, or hybrid
  • E-Reader, like a Kindle
  • Batteries and chargers
  • Flashlight or head lamp, which are more useful than you might think
  • iPod with earbuds or headset
  • Laptop or netbook if you can handle the tiny size

Pack for Seasons

Clothing: There is no packing list that works for every trip in terms of clothing. Every destination and season will require different clothing and different amounts. You’ll need coats and scarves for some trips while dresses and swimsuits will suffice for others. Research the weather of your destination before you go and pack according to what activities you’ll be participating in.

Cold Weather

  • Coat, preferably a light one that can layer
  • Scarf, good in any season
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Thermal Underwear or Leggings
  • Socks
  • Jeans

Warm Weather

  • Swimsuit
  • Dresses
  • Shorts
  • Tank tops
  • Hat, or Buff
  • Sunglasses

Activities: Whether you’re whitewater rafting, hiking through the Alps or taking a bike tour, pack what you need for your chosen activities.

We suggest having a read through these packing list posts for more ideas: Inca Trail, Lapland, jungle trekking in Asia, trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp trek, hitchhiking Europe, Outback camping tours in Australia, trekking the Annapurna Circuit.

Add Versatile Accessories

Shoes: Packing shoes is one of the most difficult decisions when it comes time to create your packing list, but be realistic about what you’ll need. Bring shoes that are versatile enough to go from day to night and useful for both walking around and wearing out.

Accessories: It’s not just the basic clothing items that make an outfit. We all know that it’s accessories that have the power to change and emphasize a look in a pinch. This is definitely one of our secrets to staying stylish while traveling.

  • Scarf
  • Jewelry, ideally statement pieces
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Cardigan
  • Blazer

The Best of the Rest

Organization: A smart packer doesn’t just let everything float around in the middle of her bag. You have to pack a few organizational pieces, such as packing cubes and pouches, to put several items into one space.

Everything Else: Whatever else you add should be something that’s going to improve your trip. As you’ve seen from our One Little Thing series, it could be anything! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Cross off and pare down.
Prepare your packing list with everything you will need, and for each activity. Then, cross off items that overlap, and then cross off anything that seems excessive (2 dresses to 1 in this example).

Take Action: Prepare Your Packing List
So now that you have all these ideas flowing through your brain, it’s time to write out your packing list. Don’t worry if this list looks obscene in size – we just want all the ideas of what you think you need to be down on paper.

Make a special section for each of the big activities you plan to partake in during the trip (hiking, climbing, scuba diving, beach lounging, camping, working out, etc.) and list out all the clothing and accessories you need for each.

Finally, find where items can overlap in purpose from each of these sections and cross off the extras. Also, be realistic regarding your packing goals (carry-on only, 1 checked bag only, etc.) and cross off anything that seems excessive. You have now created a more streamlined packing list, but keep this for future reference. It’s going to get even better!

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

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Splice Reversible Jaisalmer Tunic


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Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes


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Tom Bihn 3D Organizer Cube


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Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack


Turkish Travel Towels


Travel Resources

HPL Learnables

Handbag Packing Masterclass – Learn to pack your lightest bag ever in this revolutionary packing class run by HPL founder, Brooke.

Creative Ways to Minimize Your Toiletry & Beauty Kit – Practical tips alongside DIY recipes designed to help you pack lighter, smaller & with fewer liquids. (Also included as a bonus to Handbag Packing Masterclass.)

Book Your Trip

Viator – Enhance your trip experience by booking from thousands of tours across the globe. – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


  1. Megan E. says

    1 to wear, 1 to wash, 1 to spare! That’s the best way to plan for things like socks, underwear, bras… But great way to start people off slowly to discovering what works for them.


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