PACKING: A 4 Day Process

globe on shelf
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

I know some of you inwardly groaned at the title. Let me guess the reason:

  1. either you can’t stand the idea of packing for anything, ever

  2. or you think 4 days is way too long to prepare for any adventure.

Maybe both. Some of you can accomplish everything in this post in less time than it takes to read it. If you’re that person, not only do you not need my help, I don’t need help fixing my system. You have permission to stop reading. 

I hope you’re curious enough to stay.

I know one of you is at least AS paralyzed as I am by the thought, much less the activity, of packing for even the shortest trip. You may benefit from this.

Also my mom asked about it.

This just so happens to be the perfect time to write about my packing system because I am planning short term (2 days) and medium term (7 days) trips at the same time. I’m using the system for very different visits and the details are fresh in my mind. 

So now you’re wondering, why 4 days? Am I right?

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Photo by OVAN on

Let me say first it doesn’t always take me 4 days. I’ve proven to myself I can do it quicker if I need to, but that’s because I have this system in place.

My system is really only 4 steps that can be completed in any amount of time you have.

As I said before, I used to be completely paralyzed by the packing process (it still makes me super anxious). It took hours or days for me to pack for even an overnight trip. I was horribly inefficient.

The problem was this: I couldn’t focus on the task itself (packing) without trying to do all kinds of other related but currently unnecessary jobs instead. Things like:

cleaning my house
waxing my eyebrows
re-organizing all my projects
doing. ALL. the laundry
painting my nails

Usually these things need to get done. Sometimes they need to get done before I leave. They do not need to get done while I am packing, especially not if it’s the day of or day before I’m supposed to leave. Giving myself at least four days cuts down on the distractions from packing, and I am also able to accomplish those other things on my mind before leaving.

Not to mention the fact of my exhaustion from all these extra tasks, anxiety about their various levels of completion, and supreme anxiety about all the things I was invariably forgetting or messing up because I couldn’t keep my mind on the task at hand. I was never sure about taking the right or enough or too many things. I would be sure I had forgotten something important and believe nothing could undo any kind of mistake I made.

See? Even after I’d done the dreaded packing part, my mind would not let it go and call it done. I would chide myself on taking so much time, doing so many unnecessary things, wasting my resources and energy. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?

So basically everything having to do with travel and packing had me an anxious mess of conflicting negative emotions instead of anticipation and excitement or ENJOYMENT of the trip itself. Plus I did usually forget something.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
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I devised this 4-part system that does two things for me:

  1. allows me to focus on only one part of the packing process at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed

  2. allows time to get all those other tasks on my mind taken care of

I’ve recently been reminded that anticipation or excitement and anxiety are really the same emotion. Our thoughts surrounding whatever it is influence how we feel. In other words, I can choose to replace my anxiety with anticipation for the fun I’m going to have and the people I’m going to see or meet. I can choose to keep myself calm about the packing process and direct my anxiety into energy.

Without further ado, here is my 4-part packing system:

PLANNING: (I’ve also called this PREPACKING in the past, so feel free to use that term) This is where I plan what to take, do any laundry I need to do, and plan my dogs’ care: I  make lists and send texts about the dogs and plan my finances.  This is the area that’s seen the most growth, if not improvement. Now I know it’s crucial to my mental health and anxiety level to know ahead of time what is going where and when. I may complete this step up to a week before I leave or longer if I need to plan a longer trip.

I dispensed with the term ‘prepacking’ because I put my PREPACKING list in my bullet journal.

That’s a fancy way of saying I have a list of things I take on every trip and a list of things I might need for this trip.

Here’s my list for EVERY TRIP:









I have a separate list for THIS TRIP:






PACKING 1: Now I have a general outline of what I want to take. If not, or it’s a short trip, the PLANNING happens at this stage. By this time I definitely know WHEN I’m going and WHERE, so I know what kind of weather to expect and what events I’m going to be attending. Ideally, I have a bunch of clean clothes and a list of anything special that’s going with me.  I can go ahead and pack the special outfits/accessories/shoes for those events, any swim or cold weather gear I might need for the climate, and workout/activity clothes. I should know how many outfits I need, including travel outfits, so I can pack the clean things and wash anything that’s not laundered. I can also pack the appropriate amount of underwear, any extra shoes, and my travel toiletries.

TRAVEL TOILETRIES is another area I’ve significantly improved. Basically I have an extra set of everything necessary (toothbrush, deodorant, bodywash, etc.) that I keep in a separate bag and use only for travel. Having the extra toiletries and bag has reduced the anxiety of packing, using, or forgetting these important items by 150% or more. All I have to pack is the toiletry bag, with modifications for flying.

PACKING 2: This is where I pack my reading books and work materials and anything else I don’t need before leaving. I take a reasonable amount of work I can expect to complete, then I usually take a little more as productivity encouragement. Depending on the length of the trip, I take an extra reading book in addition to the one I’m currently reading (which goes in last). Next is all the laundry items that weren’t clean before. If it’s the night before then I can usually pack my medicine and reading book

PACKING 3: This is all the necessaries in the bags, bags zipped, and everything ready to go. It’s bags in the car and things in the house settled. Like the dishwasher loaded and running or empty and the water turned off. Turning on the right lights and the gas off and the alarm on. All these things I have down to DEPARTURE.

That’s it. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. This system has made my life easier and travel more fun, and I’m happy for the opportunity to pass it along.

Happy trails.

woman in blue and brown bikini sitting on brown wooden folding chair on beach
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on


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