Is Packing for a Trip an Ordeal?

Adults with ADHD often struggle with going on vacation, school and business trips, primarily because of the challenge involved in packing. They’re hard on themselves because they think it should be easy.

What I’ve learned over the years is packing requires a little bit of memory and a lot of working memory (executive functioning) because of the misconception that one must retrieve from memory all the items necessary for this particular trip.

Here are my suggestions to make thinking of, and packing easier:

  • Visualize yourself on the trip and walk through, step by step, all the places you will go and then make a list of the things that you would need in order to make the trip successful.
  • My Boy Scouts experience taught me that it’s easier not to have to remember what to take, but to make a list of everything you could take and strike off what you don’t need.  Then, all you have to do is pack everything left. The warm coat could be crossed off if you were going to a tropical area, but you’d keep the long johns if you were going north.  Removing what you don’t need is much easier from an executive functioning perspective than it is to recall what you do need.  See my talk on this subject here:

What do you think of these suggestions? Do you have any others to share? I’d love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “Is Packing for a Trip an Ordeal?

  1. Haha! Yes I have created a comprehensive master packing list many times, and then cannot find it a year or so later for the next trip. Its a massive ordeal – recently took me 4 days to pack for 2 adults and 2 small kids to go to the snow and then a weekend away with friends. I tend to go room by room through the house packing what I’ll need.( I mentally “cross off” the rooms I’ve packed and count that as an achievement to keep motivated.) And then I visualise day-by-day scenarios on the trip of what else I could need and add them to the room category list. The slow-down comes if I have say first aid and medicines for adults and kids in different locations in the house. I have to put them all in the same space to see the whole lot visually, then cull. The other thing I’m working on to make it more successful is pre-packed labelled containers that can sit in a storage area ready to go, like the toiletries bag that has always has everything already in there. However, its easy to buy a spare toothbrush and toothpaste but does’t make sense for clothes or consumables. So I’m thinking maybe a partially filled labelled container with a master list inside to make it quicker.. Its a work in progress!

    1. Losing the packing list is very common. Here is an idea… put the packing list in the most frequently used suitcase. There is a bit of logic to it but… if you get out the suitcase when you are going somewhere… BAM… the packing list is right there.

      For me, I have certain things that are always packed… like toiletries… and my backpack has everything in it (rain gear, compass, etc.) except the tent, sleeping bag, and food.

  2. I used to have a great trip packing list but now cannot find it.
    It might be useful to generate a comprehensive master packing list (e.g. including first aid kit, disposable eating utensils, earplugs, etc.) with many people contributing. Then let each of us access it and edit it down to our own master list stored on our own computer which would then be further edited for the particular trip we intend to take..

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