I was sitting at an airport bar near my terminal, two whisky sours deep, waiting for my flight, which was delayed another hour because of the unpredictable DC weather. Everything was going according to plan.

I was with two guys from work, and then a third guy came up to me and asked where I was headed. I said, “Toronto, I’ve never been before.” He responded inquisitively about the weather and how cold it must be.

Side note: If anyone reading this knows me, I can be a bit… forgetful…

Anyways, approximately 2.4 milliseconds after he mentioned the weather, it dawned on me: “Shit.”



It wouldn’t have been a big deal if the temperature wasn’t going to be in the negatives the entire time we would be in Toronto… or if I hadn’t gone out to find the perfect coat for the trip a week before… I left my new coat in my car, which I had parked at my friend’s apartment before carpooling to the airport. Nevertheless, when I arrived in Toronto, I bought the first overpriced coat I could find just so I could actually enjoy my trip.

You live and you learn, and the situation inspired me to write this pre-travel check list, so now you can learn from my travel mistakes (and believe me—I’ve made plenty).

When I first began traveling, I’d pack at the last minute, never really using a system, which inevitably led me to forget half my life back home or take unnecessary belongings with me (which honestly still happens).

Now, I prioritize my packing.

The breakdown:

What do you need to sustain your lifestyle?
What is required of you to travel?
What is the purpose of your trip?

Once you answer these questions, you can make a list of everything you need.

What do you need to sustain your lifestyle?

I start at the beginning of my day. Why do I wake up every morning? Without getting philosophical on you, I wake up because I set the alarm on my phone the night prior. This brings me to the first item: 

Your phone.

You also need your charger, and maybe even a spare charger. I keep a designated “travel” charger in my suitcase at all times. I also leave my phone connected to my everyday charger so, when I pack my phone, I remember to pack the charger.

Next, I stumble into the bathroom and, by some miracle, perform my skin care and dental health regimes.

Although I usually pack toiletries the morning of departure, I help myself out the day before by putting my everyday items in a designated travel case. That way, everything I need is at hand but also ready to pack once I’m through using them. I pack the items as soon as I am through using them so I don’t forget them. 

Following my skin and dental regimes, I take a quick shower. I use cute, travel-sized squeezable containers for my shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Hotels/Air BNBs usually have these amenities, but I’m a creature of comfort and like having my own good-smelling soaps and conditioners. If you’re traveling a lot, it’s nice to have some consistencies. And again, when I’m through showering, I immediately put the containers in my suitcase.


My favorite/least favorite part.

First, check the weather before you go. The last thing you want to do is be unprepared for something you could have prepared for with a two minute Google search. Having lived in Southern California for about four years prior to my last visit to Oceanside, I thought I knew the weather. If I would have looked it up prior to my last-minute trip, I would have known it was going to rain for the entirety of my vacation.

The clothes you pack also depend on the activities and duration of your trip. I’m so guilty of packing clothes without giving it much thought. Being as easily distracted as I am, I have to hold off on packing clothes until I’ve set myself up for the beginning of the day. For example, if my friends and I are taking a weekend trip to the beach, I’d pack a bathing suit or two, an outfit for the beach (maybe a cover-up), an outfit for a night out, a brunch outfit, and mayyyyybeee an outfit for the gym. I’m really simple when it comes to shoes. I’ll pack my Rainbow sandals or Chaco’s (yes, I’m basic, but they both last foreverrrr), a pair of tennis shoes, and some heels or flats and call it a go.

However, if I’m backpacking across Europe, I’ll pack a few weather-appropriate outfits, plenty of socks, and other necessities, but I would pack as light as possible because I’ll have to carry everything with me.

There’s no packing guide that’s one-size-fits-all. It really depends on your trip. If you’re going for a special event, obviously pack the appropriate event outfit and then lay out realistic outfits you’ll wear for everyday of travel. To help consolidate, think of pieces you already own that can be worn in multiple ways, such as a tank top you could dress up or down. 

Also, wherever I’m traveling, I know I’m going to shop, so I leave a fair amount of room for whatever I bring back with me. I always try to take a piece of the country back with me. Whether it be a tee-shirt or a hijab, I want to be able to put it in my suitcase without having to stuff it. I’m not a huge fan of baggage overage fees either, so I *try* to pack somewhat conservatively beforehand.

What is required of you to travel?

If you’re traveling outside of your country, you’ll need your passport and any required visas for your trip. To become a visa-savvy boss babe, click here. If you’re just traveling stateside, all you’ll need is your boarding pass and a valid form of ID. Most airlines, both international and stateside, allow you to check in online to get a mobile boarding pass, which can expedite check-in times. 

Adam Sandler’s rap “Phone, Wallet, Keys” plays through my head before I walk out the door. It’s pretty catchy and helps me remember some of the most important things on my list. Phone, because my whole life is on my phone, wallet (because well, moneyIDs, and my Priority Pass are important), and keys (I eventually have to go home, unfortunately!). You can listen here, so you can have it stuck in your head as often as I do before a trip.

It’s good practice to have a physical print out of your reservations, itinerary, and boarding pass in case of emergencies or your phone dies, but that’s up to you. 

What is the purpose of your trip?

There are probably thousands of scenarios, but consider why you’re going on the trip and what you must-have for it.  If you’re going skiing, what is the equipment you’ll need? If you’re going to a wedding, is there anything specific that you need to bring? If you’re going to a team event, it’s probably important to bring your uniform and other equipment. If you’re going to the beach, don’t forget your sunscreen! This might sound too obvious to mention, but the obvious is often the most forgettable. 

In addition to essentials, my must-haves include my camera equipment and a list of fun events and destinations I plan to write about for you!

I know this all sounds like A LOTTTT, but it’s pretty simple. Just ask yourself these questions and make a list from them.

What do you need to sustain your lifestyle?

Most of the time, the answers to the first question won’t change. These are things you do every day, often times without thinking about it. Just pack the items you use on a daily basis to sustain your current day-to-day lifestyle. Just keep the weather in mind so you don’t end up forgetting your coat like I did!

What is required for you to travel?

The requirements for you to travel will vary based on the location, but generally remain constant. Just stick to the basics- “phone, wallet, keys”! (+passport and visa if needed).

What is the purpose of your trip?

You already know the reasons why you’re going. Just make a list of what you’ll need to do these things.

Hopefully this system will make packing a little easier for you to get lost in whatever you do and wherever you go. As I mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to guides, but this is what works for me. I’ve significantly cut down on over-packing (definitely need to keep working on it though!), and this system helps me overcome my forgetful nature a bit.


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