My Improved Travel Checklist

Last week in London, I wanted to shoot a video, but it appeared that I had left my camera’s memory cards at home. On my previous trip, it had been my Android tablet that I had forgotten to bring with me. The trip before that, it was my stack of local currency, my power adapters, my sunglasses, or whatever, which I hadn’t properly packed.

Sure, I have a travel checklist. But clearly, it had turned into a checklost. With at least 50 confirmed upcoming events around the world, it was time for me to redesign it.

Four Preferred Places

My original checklist was one large unorganized list of reminders. This regularly led to problems because, by scanning the list too quickly, I easily overlooked an item that was buried among all the other things that I only knew too well. So I divided the checklist into four parts:

  • Personal items (that I carry on my body)
  • Shoulder bag
  • Handbag (typically carry on luggage)
  • Extra bag (typically check in luggage)

Each travel item on my improved checklist now has a preferred place. This not only helps to keep the individual lists smaller, and easier to check more carefully, but it also helps me keep things in the right bag. I don’t want to have that situation again where I thought I had my universal adapters or chargers packed in the other bag (but found out later that I hadn’t).

(And preferred means that items can change places depending on context. For example, my keys will have moved to my shoulder bag before I arrive at the airport, while my passport may temporarily move to my pocket while suffering the security and customs rituals.)

Standard versus Extra

Another thing I noticed messing up my packing efforts was that some standard items are by default in my bags (such as passports and adapters), other extra things are by default out of my bags (such as clothes and toiletries), and some items had a Schrödinger-kind of existence, not clearly being in or out, until I opened my bags to have a look (such as device chargers and headphones).

After the reorganization, packing my bags with my improved checklist now consists of two distinct activities:

  1. Checking that all standard items are where they should be;
  2. Adding all extra items to the place where I want them.

Hopefully, this will save me some stress and headaches in the future.

For example, I once had to interrupt my trip to the airport because my passport was not in my bag: it was still under the scanner next to my computer. I always know that my passports are in my shoulder bag, except for the one or two times when, apparently, I was wrong. And thus, I made it a separate activity to check that I am not deceiving myself, thinking that the standard items are where they should be before adding all extra items. And a Schrödinger-kind of existence is not part of the improved design.

Optional Stuff

And then, of course, there are the optional items that mainly depend on the weather forecasts. I remember once nearly freezing to death in Helsinki because I had no warm coat or gloves. I was once drying my clothes in my hotel room in London because, stupidly, I had brought no umbrella. And more than once, I have been sweating in the sun because I was silly enough to bring only dark blue jeans and long-sleeve shirts.

Short versus Long trips

Finally, things can always change a bit depending on context.

On short trips (one or two nights), I don’t need to take the larger bag with me. But this means I must jam any books, running gear, and clean clothes into my hand luggage, which is not always possible, or else just leave some of it at home. And on long trips (ten or more nights), the large bag magically changes into an extra large suitcase, and this also changes what I can bring with me (usually a lot more clothes).

Well, there you have it: the philosophy behind my new-and-improved travel checklist. I include the full list below (as it is now).

Is there anything missing that you have on your travel checklist, and that may be useful for me as well?

Personal
Phone
Wallet
Jacket
House keys
Car keys

Shoulder bag – standard items
Passport(s)
Credit cards and bank cards
Travel cards and loyalty cards
Pens and markers
Presentation clicker
Spare batteries
Memory sticks
Display adapter

Shoulder bag – extra items
Tablet + charger
Headphones
Foreign currency

Handbag – standard items
Spare underwear, socks, and shirt
Spare medicine, contact lenses
GoPro camera
GoPro stick
GoPro batteries
GoPro charger
GoPro memory
GoPro USB
GoPro microphone
Glasses
Sunglasses
Universal adapters
USB chargers
Business cards

Handbag – extra items
Notebook + charger
Underwear
Toiletries
Gloves, scarf, ear muffs [IF forecast = cold]
Umbrella [IF forecast = wet]
Travel clothes [IF distance = long]

Large bag – standard items
Laundry bag

Large bag – extra items
Clothes
Extra shoes
Belt
Running shoes and clothes
Novel
Book / giveaway
Fleece jacket [IF forecast = cold]
Warm socks and sweater [IF forecast = cold]
Raincoat [IF forecast = wet]
Short pants [IF forecast = hot]

photo (c) 2013 Chris Lott, Creative Commons 2.0


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