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Keeping a Packing Journal

©istockphoto/RafalStachura

©istockphoto/RafalStachura

Trying to figure out what to pack? Whether you’re traveling for a week or a weekend these tips for keeping a packing journal will keep you organized and comfortable. There are three kinds of packers: Those who throw things in a bag at the last minute, those who scrawl lists on the backs of envelopes and hope for the best, and those who take the time to create and consult their packing journal. Of those three, guess who ends up more comfortable while traveling?

Creating a Packing Journal
A packing journal is a notebook where you make and keep packing lists for every trip you take. Your packing journal should be divided into sections for short trips and long trips, and each trip should list where you’re going, what you’ll be doing and what the average temperature is at your destination. Then, it should include what you need to pack, accounting for activities and temperature.

On your journal pages, divide your packing lists categories. Make a column for essentials then make a column for comfort items such as an eReader, iPod, comfy pajamas and snacks. As you put things in your bag, check things off the list. By dividing your list into essentials and nice-to-haves, you’ll be able to quickly figure out what can stay home if you need to eliminate weight or make space for essentials.

Using Your Journal
As you travel make notes about what you really wear or use, what you brought that you didn’t need, and what you wish you’d had. Having these notes will help you refine your packing list for the next trip. It’s tempting to skip this step in the excitement of traveling, but writing things down is important because it’s easy to forget little things from one trip to the next. For example, you may discover you only wore your most comfortable pair of shoes in Europe, so next time you visit Amsterdam you can leave the spare pair home. Or, you may realize you’re buying water several times a day while traveling—an expense that can sometimes be avoided by taking a collapsible water bottle. Packing your extensive scarf collection for a trip to Paris may have seemed like a good idea, but what you really wished for was your most comfy yoga pants for lounging around the hotel room.

Keeping a packing journal is the place to remind your future self that 70 degrees in Napa is not 70 degrees in Miami, that an audiobook made your train trip speed by and that a durable sweater that doesn’t show dirt is far more important than having two extra shirts.

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