Essential packing lists for travel, vacation or backpacking

Travel planning with map and laptop

If you love traveling like I do, you do not want to get bogged down with the hassle of packing. The key is to properly plan your excursions so that packing is simple and easy. You want to pack smart. Definitely start off with a packing list, based on whether you will be backpacking, spending time in a hostel, or staying in a luxurious hotel. No matter what your travel plans are, you want to pack light, easy and inexpensively.

Personally, I love doing the backpacking. This means traveling light so that I can easily go from one place to the next. Whether across the United States, or across Europe, or anywhere in between, I have learned that less is actually more.

Starting off your planning

I guess the first thing I always do when I want to travel is to figure out where I want to go next. The location is always the first decision. There are many factors that go into this decision. I do have a list of dream places I would like to go, and start there.

I conduct my research. This means I need to know my budget for the trip first. Properly planning your vacation can keep those hidden costs and fees away. I consider how much I want to spend for the entire trip – including getting there, staying there, doing activities, and purchasing souvenirs.

I use this amount to research a few of my dream locations I would like to go next. I try to see which place will best fit into my budget. Determining which way I want to explore the destination – either more money on getting and staying there or more money doing activities and such. I try to keep everything to the minimum I can handle. This narrows down my destination choices, and I can finally choose where I want to go.

Planning the trip

Now, not everyone is like me, and I understand that. I love to plan! I am not the type to book a trip and just wing it. I will do many hours of research deciding what I want to do, where I want to stay, and how long I plan to stay there. I find that this makes the trip easier.
That does not mean that I am not flexible to bumps in the road. I always plan back up activities if something does not work out, or look for good shopping places or indoor events that might be necessary if it rains. The better prepared you are for your travel, the more fun you can have while you are there. No reason to try to plan each day as you wake up, when it can all be done beforehand!

Creating your packing list

I always make a packing list before I travel. I am a light packer, especially when I am going the backpacking route. Remember you have to carry that bag around! Make sure the weight is reasonable to wear for longer stretches of time.

Pack the basics. This means choose good sized backpack or suitcase. When I start packing, I lay everything out that I want to bring (that was on my list!) on my bed. I take inventory, and then determine whether or not I really need to bring everything I have laid out with me. Do I really need those extra pair of boots? Did I check the weather to see if I need my raincoat?

I always pack as if the trip will turn out exactly like I want it to. That is why when I am planning I always calculate in some cash for one of those ‘oh no’ moments. If something gets lost, stolen, or I do not take that raincoat and it starts pouring. That way I am prepared without having to pack extra weight that I do not need.

Even if you are not backpacking, I recommend packing lightly. Do you know what some airlines charge for large bags? I have realized how planning my vacation well in advance makes a huge difference while I am there. I just get to sit back, relax, and enjoy every moment of my time!


Vacation Packing List PDF

Hiking Packing List PDF

Backpacking Packing List PDF

Camping Packing List PDF