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Are you a panic packer? You know … the kind of person who leaves packing until the very last minute. You’re rushed, unprepared and completely disorganized. Do you find you don’t have everything you need when you arrive at your destination? Do you often forget travel essentials at home? Panic packing is the worst kind of packing and creates stress before you leave on your trip and during your trip as well. RELATED: Stop Overpacking! 10 Things You Don’t Need to Pack

Panic packing can happen to any of us, really. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, unforeseen circumstances can foil our plans. While I’m normally well-organized well in advance of our travels, I’ve gotten derailed by bad traffic, sick kids and last-minute meetings.

But if you want to avoid all the stress and anxiety that comes with last-minute packing, here are some tips to help you get organized and start your trip off on the right foot.

1. Make a list

I use the Notes app on my iPhone to make my travel packing lists. In bullet point form, I’ve created a Master Packing List and it’s broken down into categories. The first four categories are for my two kids, my husband and myself. Under each person’s name, I list everything they will need. I have a category for kids toiletries and medications and then mine and my husband’s. I have a Carry-On category, under which I list all the items I need in my carry-on bag as well as a category for Kids’ Backpacks, where I list everything that goes in each child’s backpack. I list out travel documents and electronics … you get the idea.

Because I use the bullet points in the Notes app, I can easily check off each item as it’s packed and not give it another thought. Additionally, for each trip that we take, I copy the Master Packing List into a new Note and then tailor it for that specific trip. For instance, when we headed to Turks & Caicos around Thanksgiving, I needed to pack all of our beach gear but when we headed to Toronto for Christmas, I needed to remove those items and add hats, mitts, boots, etc. But having the Master Packing List always ready to go, makes it easy for me to quickly adapt it for each trip.

Of course, there are packing apps you can download but for me, this works well as I can customize my packing list exactly as I like.

2. Give yourself enough time

You would think this goes without saying but packing at the last minute is the throbbing heart of panic packing. Don’t do it. Give yourself enough time not just to pack your actual suitcase but to do other things like laundry or pick up that travel-sized bottle of contact solution. Some people might need a week to do all of this while some people might just need a day. You know your style – plan accordingly. Because if you’re packing an hour before heading out the door to the airport, there won’t be time to deal with anything unforeseen.

3. Check the weather

Don’t ever pack for a trip without checking the weather at your destination. Just because you’re heading to the tropics doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed sunny skies every day. Check the 10-day forecast for your destination well in advance and pack appropriately. You don’t want to pack for any and every scenario – you’ll overpack and not use half of it. Be smart about what you’re bringing. But knowing that rain is expected means you can pack that travel umbrella and reconsider the shoes you’re wearing. If you pack at the last minute and aren’t armed with this information, you’ll likely leave the umbrella at home and maybe wear shoes that just can’t get soaked. And you won’t be happy.

4. Always have a duplicate toiletry bag ready to go

My good friend Jocelyn, who’s a frequent traveler, shared this tip with me years ago. She says: “I’ve found that when I’m panic-packing, it’s always crucial toiletry items that get left behind – probably because they’re small and plenty. So awhile back, I bought another one of everything I need to get ready in the morning (even my makeup essentials and hairdo hardware), and I always keep my travel toiletries bag fully packed and ready to go.” Great idea!

5. Use an e-reader

I don’t know about you but I cannot travel without a book. But when you’re packing in a panic, you may throw in an extra book or two that you may not get around to reading or may not feel like reading. Use an e-reader so you can download books as you need them without adding any weight to your bags.

6. Use color-coded packing cubes

The key to avoid panic-packing is organization and one of the best organizing tools is packing cubes. These lightweight compression packing cubes from BagSmart come in a variety of colors and you can dedicate one color to each person you’re packing for. This will make it faster and easier to keep track of what’s what for each person, making it less likely you’ll forget something.

7. Double check your list

You made a packing list for a reason – now don’t forget to double check it before zipping up your bags. I’ve made this mistake before and regretted it when I arrived at my destination and found that I’d forgotten that unchecked item from my list. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar a day or two before your trip to make sure you’ve packed everything. This gives you time to address any missing items.

8. Remember: You can pick up most things at your destination

Of course, you don’t want to forget any of your absolute essentials like your contact lenses, medications or, say, your grind guard if you wear one. But try to calm your panic with the knowledge that you can pick things up at your destination if you absolutely have to. If you forget certain toiletries, clothing or even chargers, you can usually pick them up somewhere along your travels if you’re desperate. But know that you may not find exactly what you’re looking for and you’ll likely overpay.


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