A Passion for Travel, Part 4: Packing without Panic

Peak District, Derbyshire, England

Peak District, Derbyshire, England, 2006


Having a packing checklist you can easily update and use over and over makes this part of travel easy and stress-free. 

Today Clive asked me, “How are you going to write a whole post about a spreadsheet?”

I’m not, exactly.  What I am doing is advocating a process, and sharing a specific tool I find incredibly helpful.

By using a packing checklist, we can mentally focus on more interesting and rewarding aspects of travel, like reading about new places, or planning outings that would be most meaningful for our aging parents.

Many of you reading this are experienced travellers.  I know we all have favourite items we couldn’t do without, such as reading material for airline flights, or an all-purpose dress or jacket.

Our Packing Checklist – Easy to Update

Setting up a packing checklist doesn’t take long, and pays huge dividends in future savings of time and aggravation.  It evolves over time, and after 3-4 years, ours has been stable for a while.  It’s easy, and it works.

As with our trip calendar and planning checklist, our packing checklist is also a simple spreadsheet.  There are only three columns:

          Name (Both, Carolyn, or Clive)

          Checked or Carry-on


Where's the Fence?  Peak District, 2006

Where's the Fence? Peak District, England

After our last trip, we added the GPS we bought in the U.S. (Clive’s carry-on), a file of my mother’s business papers (my carry-on), and walking shoes/boots (checked or possibly wear on plane).

We decided to add the walking boots as I’ve been slow to learn a new skill Clive taught me for walking in England:  dodging cowpats.

Packing Checklist – an Excerpt


Luggage that Works

Of course, packing requires you to have appropriate luggage in which to put the items from the checklist.

Despite all the travelling we’ve done, I’m still not 100% happy with my choice of luggage.  My ultimate goal is to travel with only a shoulder bag and a wheelie carry-on, but we’re not there yet.


How Airlines Deal with Difficult Handles

Last year, due to clearing my mother’s house, we used relatively large suitcases for checked luggage.

Thanks to airline mishandling, Clive had to half-carry, half-drag one through Heathrow, St. Pancras, and Gare du Nord before we trashed it back in Sydney.

This trip, we’re going back to our smaller checked bags.  Clive’s also going to try a wheelie carry-on for the first time, instead of his well-used Qantas shoulder bag.

I Am iPod-less

I may be the only iPod-less person on the planet, but we take a lot of technology in our carry-ons.

Travel technology will be the subject of my next post.

In the meantime, having the checklist means the only packing decision I have to make is the amount of space for books vs. clothes.


I’d love to hear if there’s anything you absolutely, positively couldn’t live without when you travel.

And we always try to remember:  we are not going to remote Africa (at least not this trip), and if we forget anything critical, we should be able to find it at the other end.

More to come.

Related posts
A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6: Departure Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 7: Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8: Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a: Eleventh In-Flight Insight
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya 

8 Responses

  1. I took an old tote bag and put it in the closet with all the things we always need for trips and never for anything else — picnic cloth, wet ones, pocket knife, cutlery for picnics, etc. I also splurged for duplicate items that just stay in my traveling kit — extra hair brush, mascara, etc. so I don’t have to always be rounding those up for every trip.

  2. This is very impressive to be so organized and I think you are absolutely right – it is the only way to start a big trip. I make short flights every week pretty much and have it down to a fine art now. The key is the good carry on bag and the shoulder bag for the computer, wallet passport etc. The less you carry the less tiring the trip – that’s my motto. xv

  3. My MUST HAVES for travel are my iPod and my Kindle. Becaue the Kindle is so compact, I don’t have to choose between a book and something else.

    I love the check-list, Carolyn. There are always so many things to remember that it takes the strain out of going over and over in your head if you have everything.

    I hope you are enjoying all your adventures – I know that I enjoy reading about them!

  4. Oh I am so enjoying your posts about your travels and all the preparations. You have it all down pat. I always end up with too much carry on luggage and its such a pain to be carrying round airports. I find the airposts the most exhasuting part of the journey always. I bought some new luggage recently so I am anxious to try it out sometime. I gave up black luggage because invariably I would get confused when picking it up. So my luggage is striped which sounds ghastly but it is quite nice. I think I couldnt live without my makeup. How sad is that? I guess there is nothing you could live without really except your handbag that is or your passport. I am so looking forward t hearing about your tip and I love your photos too!

  5. Hi Carolyn,

    Oh, I gotten sidetracked a few times since you started your series ( maybe I need a master planner at home ! ) but I’m finding this all very interesting to compare notes.

    As for travel with Moi…
    My carry on is usually a backback, where I include a few useful musts like asperin & antacids,reading material, munchies, and for any fragile or delicate items coming or going.
    Hubby has a shoulder holster & I a fanny pack for currency and our passports. We feel safer carrying that under our jacket. I bring a small purse that I flatten out & slip in my luggage.

    No Carolyn…There are 2 ipodless ones; yourself and I ! I let Didier use that gizmo .

    I was really really sorry to see that broken handle on Clive’s suitcase ! What did the airline propose for the damage ? I think that the damage was obvious so you most likely brought it up right off, which is what you have to do.
    That’s a long long way to drag a broken suitcase; poor Clive.

    Happy planning to you both 🙂

  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Anne, great tips about the ready-to-go tote bag and travel kit.

    Vicki, I LOVE your motto and am going to use it as my goal ‘ the less you carry, the less tiring the trip is’ – brilliant.

    Mary, thanks for visiting 🙂 and your comments. I really appreciate your point about the Kindle – sounds so great for travel and we plan to check it out .

    Lilly, your striped luggage sounds great 🙂 We use matching checked luggage straps which makes a huge difference in spotting our black bags among the millions of other black bags …

    Barbara, I’m happy to know you (and Anne in Oxfordshire) also don’t have iPods! I feel much better 🙂 You and your hubby have your routines all figured out, too. We didn’t ask for suitcase damages – in too much of a rush – maybe next time we will! I also understand it has to be done ‘on the spot’.

    Cheers all.

  7. I have an iPod but don’t seem to use it much. Usually on the train to Torino when I’m trying to cram in the Italian lessons I should have been listening to much more regularly!!

    I too take way too much in terms of carry-ons. But there are just so many things that you don’t want to lose if your luggage is lost (or even delayed for a couple of days).

    I guess my main trick is I have refillable bottles in sizes that allow me to go on weekend trips or on two-week or so trips . . .that is, i have relatively tiny ones if I’m just going for a weekend, and a little bit bigger ones if it’s for a bit longer. I never buy drugstore sample-size — except for toothpaste and deodorant. And I refill the weekend ones, especially, right upon returning home so I don’t have to think about it before departing next time.

    I too used to keep a full weekend toiletries bag when I was living here in France before and used to take off all the time for the weekend. It especially came in handy the Friday night my friends (including a very pregnant friend) called me at 10 pm asking me to come pick them up outside Rouen because their car had caught fire! I dashed out of bed where I had been lazily reading a magazine, hopped in some jeans, grabbed the trousse and got in my car. I was thankful I’d thought ahead so I didn’t have to give up brushing my teeth or washing my face to go help them! (we then tried to pack up all the stuff we could that they had bought at IKEA into my MINI, along with her 6-4 husband and us two. Quite a sight as we headed onwards to their house on the shore! And people stopping later at the roadside convenience store must have wondered WHERE all those IKEA frames came from?!?!)

  8. Kim, great tip about refilling as soon as you arrive home! Good on you for being prepared and picking up your friends and their Ikea gear, too. Sounds like you saved the day (or night) 🙂

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