September 13, 2023

What Lives In My Bag? A Lazy Person's Guide to (Not) Packing

As far as I can tell, there are two types of packers in the world:

Type 1
  • Starts pulling together outfits and packing a little bit at a time weeks before the trip
  • Has a detailed packing list and checks items off as they go
  • Has tickets, hotel reservations, and any important travel documents printed and/or saved digitally in one organized location
  • Has a trip countdown and a to-do list with a timeline. Knows exactly what needs to be done each day leading up to departure.
  • Plans to go to bed on time or early to make sure they are well rested for the journey
Type 2
  • Lives by the mantra “There’s still plenty of time before I leave”
  • Thinks about outfits and maybe buys a few new pieces with time to spare, but puts off actually washing and packing them
  • Has had a packing list at some point in life, but is convinced it is all committed to memory and therefore does not need to be written down or checked off
  • Does laundry at midnight the night before the trip
  • Pulls an all-nighter to finish packing
  • Has to finish unpacking from the last trip hours before leaving on the next one
  • Realizes at least one missing item once it’s too late to go back

Personally, I'm the one that tries to be responsible and print important documents, but not until 2am the morning of the trip when I inevitably discover my printer is out of ink. I guess you could say I’ve spent most of my travel life trying to pull off Type 1 accuracy on a Type 2 timeline. And while that generally can’t be done, there are a few shortcuts that I’ve found work well for me as a chronic procrastinator.

For years, the final steps in my travel prep routine included brushing my teeth, doing my hair and makeup, and then cramming all of those items in my bag right before leaving. One day after forgetting my toothbrush and having to buy one at my destination, it occurred to me to just leave that extra one in my bag for next time. It's something I'm sure savvy travelers have been doing forever and I'm just late to the party, but it led me to another realization: If I could buy an extra toothbrush and leave it packed forever, what other things could I cut out of my packing routine by doing the same?

Welcome to my favorite packing hack: With the exception of clothing, just buy two of everything and never unpack it. The end result is I'm perpetually about 35% packed, and I cut down on 1) the chance that I'll forget something and 2) the extra time it takes to pack those items.

So here it is, the list of things that permanently live in my bag and save me valuable packing (and sleeping!) time every single trip:
  • Toothbrush
  • All liquids/toiletries
  • My makeup bag & everything in it
  • Over the counter medicines
  • First aid supplies
  • Hairbrush & hair accessories
  • Hair straightener
  • Phone charger & external battery
  • Travel umbrella
  • Packable rain jacket
  • Passport (Obviously I don't own two of these, I just never unpack it, so I can't forget or lose it)
That's right, I have a home hair straightener and a travel hair straightener, I own duplicates of every item in my makeup bag, I have home bandaids and trip bandaids, two sets of medicines, and sometimes I leave my shoes packed if I know I won't use them between one trip and the next (my Chacos live in my bag every January to May). The lazy person in me absolutely loves waking up 15 minutes later on a travel day, brushing my teeth, doing my hair, and walking out the door with all of that stuff left on the counter instead of scrambling to pack a wet toothbrush and praying I remembered my phone charger.

Which type of packer are you, and what's your own favorite hack?