In an older post, I talked about making a project template for trip planning. The goal is to build a comprehensive list of everything I might want to prepare, pack, or do before, during, or after a business or vacation trip. Before I made this template, I was more anxious: Did I forget to do anything? Do I have everything I need? What am I missing? Now I can relax and concentrate on the fun times ahead.

Friends have asked me for my list to use as a starting point for their own, and this is that lightly annotated list. Regrets from past adventures inspired every item. The moment I’ve booked a trip, I copy this template into my to-do app, then delete everything that doesn’t apply this time. For instance, if I’m going to visit family, I can use their pillow instead of packing my own. If I’m going to Chicago in winter, I don’t need swimming trunks. If I’m traveling for personal reasons, I may not take my work laptop. It’s much easier to remove items I don’t need than to scramble to remember the things I do need.

As always, the “update the travel template” action near the bottom is the critical feedback loop that makes this all work. Every time I’ve wished I’d done or packed something, I made a reminder to add it to the list for the next time. If I were to start over with a new template having that as the only item, after a few trips that template would look a lot like this one.

As soon as travel is planned

  • Schedule time off at work 1
  • Call the vet to make pet boarding arrangements

Three weeks before travel

  • Ensure airline has TSA Pre✓ info

One week before travel

  • Notify the bank about travel 2
  • Buy travel toothpaste
  • Buy disposable razors
  • Buy travel shaving cream

Two days before travel

  • Get passports from safe
  • Check in to flight
  • Get $40 from an ATM 3
  • Download reading material 4
  • Stop eating spicy food 5

Day before travel

  • Charge the USB battery 6
  • Pack pants
  • Pack shirts
  • Pack undershirts
  • Pack underwear
  • Pack socks
  • Pack shoes
  • Pack jacket
  • Pack sandals
  • Pack shorts
  • Pack belts
  • Pack a wearing-around hat 7
  • Pack swim trunks
  • Pack a sun hat
  • Pack a sun shirt
  • Pack gaffers tape 8
  • Pack water bottle
  • Download podcasts and meditations 9
  • Pack dopp kit 10
    • $20 bill
    • Brush/comb
    • Hair gel
    • Deodorant
    • Bottle of shampoo
    • Bar of soap
    • Razor
    • Shaving cream
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Floss
    • Lip balm
    • Nail clippers
    • Sewing kit
    • Safety pins
    • Curtain clips 11
    • Eye lotion
    • Meds and vitamins
    • Q-tips
    • Eye drops
    • Gold Bond powder 12
  • Pack first aid kit
    • Band-aids
    • Blister bandages 13
    • Ibuprofen
    • Melatonin 14
    • Allergy meds
    • Indigestion medicine

Night before travel

  • Put passport card in bag
  • Put backup credit card in bag 15
  • Set wake-up alarm
  • Charge laptop
  • Charge iPhone
  • Charge iPad
  • Charge Apple Watch
  • Charge AirPods
  • Charge Switch
  • Remove TSA-unfriendly stuff from bag 16
  • Pack USB battery
  • Pack passport book in suitcase 15
  • Pack handkerchief
  • Pack food bar
  • Pack AirPods
  • Pack Switch
  • Pack magazine for plane 4
  • Pack boarding passes
  • Pack sunglasses
  • Pack journal

Day of travel

  • Wear my Apple Watch
  • Turn on Fog of World 17
  • Set the thermostat to vacation mode 18
  • Pack laptop charger
  • Pack iPhone charging cable
  • Pack iPad charging cable
  • Pack Apple Watch charging cable
  • Pack USB charger’s charging cable
  • Pack AirPods charging cable
  • Pack multi-device charger
  • Pack laptop
  • Pack iPhone
  • Pack iPad
  • Pack pillow
  • Buy airport stickers 19

The day before return

  • Check in to return flight

The day of return

  • Buy airport stickers
  • Set the thermostat to normal mode
  • Put away passports
  • Update the travel template 20

After return

  • Submit travel reimbursement request 21
  • Look for travel reimbursement check 22

  1. This seems obvious but I always forget. ↩︎

  2. If you don’t do this, your bank may see transactions from an unusual location and freeze your debit or credit card. ↩︎

  3. I’ve never regretted having walking around money while traveling. ↩︎

  4. If I didn’t have something to read on a flight, I’d lose my mind. ↩︎ ↩︎

  5. Yes, the Thai curry native-extra-hot is delicious. Do you really want to be trapped in a plane while your stomach tries to digest it? ↩︎

  6. I take a plug-in charging block and a portable USB battery. If my phone is running low in the middle of a long flight, I can still charge it with the battery. ↩︎

  7. It’s vacation. I want to throw on a hat to step out for coffee or breakfast. ↩︎

  8. Ideal for covering obnoxiously bright power LEDs in hotel rooms, blocking light under the door, etc. ↩︎

  9. If it’s too bumpy to read, it’s nice to have something fun or relaxing to listen to. ↩︎

  10. See “Building the Perfect Dopp Kit”. ↩︎

  11. Hotel curtains never seem to close all the way. Bend them to your will. ↩︎

  12. Ever been rained on, had to walk around a lot in wet pants, and gotten chafed from it? Yeah, me neither. ↩︎

  13. “Ow, these new shoes are killing my feet and I’m walking way more than usual.” ↩︎

  14. Jet lag. Strange hotel. Travel excitement. These add up to difficulty sleeping. ↩︎

  15. Carry at least 2 forms of ID and 2 forms of payment in 2 separate places. If 1 set gets stolen, you still have the other to get home. ↩︎ ↩︎

  16. I have a tiny multi-tool in my EDC bag, and I don’t want the TSA to confiscate it. ↩︎

  17. This is a fun little app that records everywhere you’ve been. ↩︎

  18. Save money not heating or cooling your house as much while you’re away from it. ↩︎

  19. I collect them for my carryon suitcase. This is in here twice in case I have a different layover on the way home. ↩︎

  20. I take notes of things I wish I’d done or packed. When I get home I immediately update the list so that I won’t forget next time. ↩︎

  21. Do it while you still have all the receipts in one place. ↩︎

  22. Once the office has reimbursed me, the trip is officially done. ↩︎