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How to Create a Packing List

How to Create a Packing List

Do you want to know how to create a packing list? It should come as no surprise that we are big fans of travel packing lists here at Wear When What Why given that our whole site is dedicated to creating the perfect packing list no matter the destination. In this guide we will talk you through the principles of how to create a packinwg list no matter the destination or season using our helpful tips and packing hacks.

Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

But first why is it important to create a packing list?

Why make a packing list?

Woman ticking off packing list as she packs a suitcase for a summer vacation
Hot to create a packing list for travel

For me no matter where I am traveling to I always create a packing list. It is important because:

  • it helps you not to forget anything. My first international vacation was an Alaska cruise in September, and I forgot my coat. After this incident I never traveled without a packing list again,
  • it helps you keep track of any supplies you need to restock on before departure i.e. toiletries and
  • it stops you from overpacking.

So now you know why you should create a packing list we will turn our attention to the questions you should ask yourselves when planning your packing list.

And it doesn’t matter whether you prefer using pen and paper, a packing list checklist or using an app or quickbooks or excel to create your packing list. All are equally effectively and it just depends on you as a person to what you find most accessible.

Questions to ask when creating a packing list

Whenever we are traveling and I start to put together my packing list there are always some key questions that I ask myself which will effect my packing list are:

How long I am traveling for?

Although I am a big advocate of packing light no matter the length of your journey, the length of trip will inevitably effect how much you pack.

I try and limit myself to 9 key pieces of clothing no matter my itinerary, however this is entirely dependent on laundry facilities and also whether there are special events or dress codes to consider.

For this reason we have different length packing lists available:

  • 4 day packing list
  • 7 day packing list
  • 10 day packing list
  • 14 day packing list

What is the weather expected to be?

Weather has to be the biggest influence on any packing list which is why we also create our packing list by season or month. However, no matter where or when you travel there are always odd weather events. For this reason we create our packing list well in advance of travel, but will always check the weather 7 days out just in case of cold snaps or heat waves which will change what you need to pack.

Are there any special dress codes at my destination?

What to wear to the Blue Mosque dress code advice

Dress codes are obviously a huge factor for packing lists and these can come in many forms. Even Disney comes with a dress code these days. So how may dress codes affect your packing lists?

If you are putting together a cruise packing list for example you will be concerned with formal nights, shore excursions and line specific requirements (i.e. Disney is very different from Cunard and from Norwegian).

While, in some parts of the world there are strict dress codes. For instance traveling in the Middle East always involves dress codes due to the Islamic religious believes. This is present in more conservative countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to specific destinations within these countries such as the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi to beaches in Dubai.

And religious settings on the whole have a modest dress code no matter where in the world you are. From temples in Thailand and Bali, to churches in Italy. If these places are on your itinerary you will want to have at least one modest outfit with you.

Restaurants and dinners are another good example of places that may have a dress code that you need to contend with.

For more examples on what to wear to dinner in different places check out these guides:

Are there things you can not wear?

What Not to Wear in Paris

We are all about feeling comfortable while you travel however in some countries there are definitely things you can not wear – i.e. skimpy or overly revealing outfits in the Middle East.

And in other countries there are things that will mark you out as a tourist so are best avoided.

For more information check out our what not to wear guides:

While in other places such as Amsterdam there are things that just aren’t practical i.e. thin heels. It is worth thinking about things that are not safe, appropriate or will mark you out as a tourist before you pack so you can eliminate these items from your packing list.

Are there any specific activities you will be doing?

Just as dress codes can affect your packing list so can activities. For instance, if you plan on cycling in Amsterdam or Copenhagen you are going to need the right type of shoes with you.

Woman in hot air balloon
What to wear on a hot air balloon ride

And if you plan on going hiking in Iceland or visiting the beautiful Blue Lagoon or plan on going up in a hot air balloon in Capadoccia, all these things will require you dress in a certain and practical way.

Therefore it is worth checking your itinerary for activities

What luggage are you taking?

Woman with carry on only looking at planes in airport
How to avoid overpacking for vacation

We always try to pack light, and where possible travel carry on only / hand luggage only. If you are doing this then you will be limited by the luggage you are taking. It is no good having a huge packing list and a tiny carry on bag, it’s never going to work.

It is therefore a good idea to know what luggage you will be traveling with, its capacity and also how to pack it effectively i.e. how to pack boots and winter coats and how to use your airport outfit to good effect.

Are there laundry facilities at your destination?

Not the most glamourous thing to be thinking about but depending on the length of your itinerary and the amount you are traveling with it is a good idea to know whether there are laundry facilities. If there aren’t, there is no way around it, you are likely going to have to pack more.

And if there are laundry facilities you will also need to decide whether you are happy doing laundry on your vacation.

How to create a packing list for travel effectively

So now you know the considerations when looking at the amount and things you need to pack how can you create an effective packing list?

When we are looking at how to create a packing list for travel we recommend looking at different packing methords or techniques that can help focus the mind and prevent overpacking.

Some of our favorite techniques for creating a packing list are:

Pack a Capsule Wardrobe

A Capsule wardrobe is a great way of organising your packing and vacation outfits. It ensures outfits mix and match and helps reduce the amount if items you are taking with you.

For some examples of packing lists check out these posts

The Sudoku Method

Sudoku Packing Method
How to use the Sudoku Packing Method

The Sudoku Method of packing basically limits you to 9 items (3 tops, 3 bottoms and 3 layers) which are completely interchangeable.

This method is a great way to master minimalist packing and is perfect for shorter vacations or those with access to laundry facilities.

4 x 4 Packing Method

The 4 x 4 packing method is similar to the sudoku method but allows you to pack 16 rather than 9 items. I find this slightly better for longer itineraries and allows for adding more splashes of colors than the above method.

The 5 4 3 2 1 Method

Like the Sudoku method, the 54321 method is a way of restricting the amount of each item you are bringing.

Unlike the sudoku method however, you are not prescribed the number of each particular item which makes it very versatile allowing for you to make changes relating to the destination i.e. beach vacation vs winter sports.

And there you have it our ultimate how to make a packing list for travel tips. Do you have any other packing hacks we haven’t included here? If so drop them in the comments below as we love hearing your packing techniques.