Packing: It’s Not My Favorite

July 26, 2023

Okay, I’ll admit it: I don’t particularly like packing. I feel like I should like packing, because packing is a physical manifestation of PLANNING what you will need on a given trip.

I don’t think I’m terribly bad at packing, actually. I usually wear most of what I bought, and I don’t overpack. But it still tends to be something I procrastinate & perseverate on. I always find my wardrobe lacking when I go to pack — like I should be able to dress like some fantasy self when I’m on a trip, because a trip is magically elevated above real life!


Nope, it’s just life in another place, and I’m still me. And unless I go shopping, my clothes are my clothes.

Okay fine. I’ll make a list. Here we go . . . .

[ELAPSED TIME: ~30 min]

You know what, that did help! I didn’t identify outfits by day but I think having the above pool to choose from will work out. And the kids’ lists will basically be similar: 5 casual outfits with layers, 1-2 jackets, hats, 1-2 swim outfits, 1 formal/nice outfit. And I don’t think I’ll need the down sweater or super heavy layers (lows appear to be 50s / highs 60s-70s which sounds downright amazing).

WILL IT FIT in my carry on, that remains to be seen . . . we do each have a set of packing cubes now so we will see if this revolutionizes the process!

If you’ve been on a similar trip (cruise, Alaska, Vancouver) . . . anything you regretted bringing or not bringing?

PS: One more day to enter the giveaway!


  • Reply Coree July 26, 2023 at 5:54 am

    I check luggage b/c I’m always flying internationally and by the time you clear border control, your bags will be waiting for you. Worth it just to have a small backpack in the airport and not have to fight for overhead space. We’ve got a driving beach trip but the weather looks rubbish so I can’t count on doing too much laundry (UK houses rarely have dryers) as it’ll take ages to dry. But at least I can just shove a few more things in the car.

    I packed way too much for our Lisbon trip because we did laundry everyday (T swam everyday at camp and I didn’t want wet towels/swimsuits sitting around) and everything dried so quickly. I always forget to pack enough socks for me – at some point in every trip, I’ll end up at H&M buying a pack of socks and undies.

    My best thing I packed for a warm weather trip was a beach coverup, which I wore around the house. It was really hot, and I’d come home, take a shower and put it on.

    • Reply Amanda July 26, 2023 at 9:16 am

      I also always check a bag, although travel more frequently internationally. It makes the time at the airport so much more enjoyable with kids, and then we can bring one or two suitcases instead of more. I typically fly direct and haven’t experienced lost luggage yet. I’m sure that will be my turning point! Have a great trip, Sarah.

  • Reply Emily July 26, 2023 at 6:44 am

    I can relate SO much to feeling like I don’t have anything to wear whenever I go to pack. Why is that?!

    I keep a master packing list for me and the kids (with sub-lists for specific types of trips like the beach or camping) in my Google drive. Then I refine my list for the specific trip I am going on. Hopefully that makes sense. My husband makes fun of me for my lists but I love them so much and without them I always forget something critical. I should add that though they are digital lists I always print them because I like the physical act of crossing off the items.

  • Reply Louise July 26, 2023 at 6:53 am

    I’m with Emily here – I keep master packing lists for various – UK, beach, winter, etc and then print and cross off. I always email myself at the end of the holiday with things that need to be removed (no longer needed) or added. It makes packing so speedy – especially for all the little stuff like chargers and assorted paraphernalia.

    I often share them with friends who ask. Once we returned to a hotel in Greece and I was chatting with another mum in the kids club pick-up about the need for pegs (this particular resort was windy) and I was so glad they were on my Packing List when she was like “OMG, the (specific resort) packing list I got was from you!” and sure enough, it had gone through several mutual friends to reach her. I was very proud haha!

  • Reply Elisabeth July 26, 2023 at 6:53 am

    Ditto to everything you said in this post! I feel like I should *like* packing because it’s planning and nice, neat piles of things which I generally love, but I mostly just find packing feels like a lot of pressure to get it all “right.” I hate to overpack and we NEVER check bags so I have limited space, and I’ve had a few trips where I didn’t have the right clothes (Denmark 10 years ago was a freezing cold August and I packed light summer clothes and ended up borrowing/buying clothes and re-wearing the one sweater I brought every single day). That said, I think I’m getting better at it, but also feel like my wardrobe should be magically elevated for vacation. I’ve learned that taking a versatile jacket is so helpful because I often default to cold.

    One thing that helped me recently was taking pictures of outfit combos. When we went to Rome this winter, I took 45 minutes and tried various combos of tops/bottoms (not my ideal activity, so this felt like a slog at first) and actually took pictures and created a packing list with images in my Notes app. It was SO helpful. I wanted to be able to mix and match tops/bottoms and was shocked how great some combos looked that I had never tried before and vice versa. If a shirt only looked good with one bottom option, it didn’t make the cut!

  • Reply Gillian July 26, 2023 at 7:06 am

    I always dread packing and then it turns out to be not so bad. I am not great at it, I do tend to overpack for me though not so much for the kids. I get them to help me, I make a list then have them bring me the items. We use packing cubes so we can pack 5 people in two medium suitcases and then I hand out packing cubes on arival.

    I have never worried about carrying on. I know this flies in the face of a lot of advice but for years we were traveling with carseats which we were checking anyway and we have not had a problem. Our last lost bag was 12 years ago and there were extenuating circumstances. Meanwhile, in the last 3 months I have been on 4 flights where I planned to carry on my bag and as made to gate check it 2/4 because the overhead bins were full halfway through boarding.

  • Reply Chelsea July 26, 2023 at 7:32 am

    Vuori joggers are 100% the best travel pants. Soft and comfy. Not too hot but warm enough if it’s cold. I think I’ve worn mine on every single plane flight I’ve been on since I got them 🙂

    • Reply Grateful Kae July 26, 2023 at 7:17 pm

      I always eyeball the Vuori ads online for these but the inseams seem so short…. I think they even have a tall version but per reviews, they’re still really short?? Not sure if anyone can confirm or deny this…

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:09 pm

        YES SHORT. which for me is amazing and for you would be terrible. though I think I have the petite or short length.

  • Reply Candace July 26, 2023 at 7:33 am

    Don’t forget gloves for the Cruise, I think you’ll want that down sweater too. It was definitely cold , especially out on deck. Cruised to Alaska about the same time in August, with great weather and was so glad to have the coats, gloves and hats. Have fun

    • Reply K July 26, 2023 at 8:29 am

      I’ll echo Candace—bring your down sweater, plus a hat and (lightweight) gloves! I lived in Alaska for a couple of years… in that part of the state it’s very likely you’ll need these items to stay comfortable at some point.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:54 am

        Greatly appreciate the warning – I hate being cold. Will bring! Just hard to wrap my head around the idea that it’s cold anywhere right now which is silly 😅

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:53 am

      I will take your advice! The down sweater squishes pretty tiny anyway 🙂 I might stuff it into my plane backpack and then I can use as blanket on plane too!

      • Reply Bridget July 26, 2023 at 12:35 pm

        Have done this cruise as well, agree with hat/gloves. We also packed rain pants along with rain jacket-super useful to keeping comfortable while still enjoying all the outdoor opportunities.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 2:01 pm

          Rain pants never even occurred to me … sigh. Maybe we will just shop in Vancouver!

          • Steph July 29, 2023 at 10:30 am

            Not sure about Alaska but Vancouver (and most of BC) is currently in a drought with no rain in the foreseeable future. We had one day of heavy rain last week in which I needed a rain coat otherwise I haven’t used one in months.

  • Reply Gwinne July 26, 2023 at 7:34 am

    Lately I’ve also been checking a i dint have airport hassle. A couole years ago I actually had a bag, which was gate checked as required, taken by another passenger. (Mine was purple, theirs gray?!) They brought it back on their return flight, at which point I was also en route home. Really unsettling experience.

    I love the idea of preset digital lists. Hmmm.

    • Reply omdg July 26, 2023 at 2:26 pm

      But how does checking a bag prevent another person from taking your bag? Is it just that people are rushed when getting off the plane? Am I missing something?

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns July 26, 2023 at 8:58 am

    I never check bags when traveling sans kids. But if I travel with both kids, we check a bag. That way I can pack things like bigger things of sunscreen. But my kids are so young, especially the youngest, that he can’t carry a suitcase. That said we haven’t taken a family trip since Feb 2022! When I went to AZ with P, I just carried on and everything for the 2 of us fit in my suitcase.

    Like others, I keep a packing list for trips. I have it in my iPhone notes. I have one for family travel and one for work travel. With how often I have been traveling for work, you would think I shouldn’t need a list. But I really do. I often feel rushed when leaving for a work trip so it helps to have a list to refer to. And for the kids, there is so much random stuff to remember, like sound machines and such.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:55 am

      The big difference is that the big kids can fully carry their own rolling bags around the airport and G can mostly do it, or at least have a backpack. We land sooooo late and I really want to avoid the baggage claim!

      • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns July 26, 2023 at 3:59 pm

        That makes sense! If I was landing land, I wouldn’t want to prolong the airport experience! I don’t even like gate checking for that reason – it just prolongs things. It is nice when the kids can all haul/manage their own stuff. We are a couple of years away from that!

  • Reply JGold July 26, 2023 at 9:27 am

    I would vote for the down sweater! 50 can feel very cold if it’s damp or windy or if you are out at night. Have fun!

  • Reply Mtbakergirl July 26, 2023 at 10:25 am

    Just a heads up that parksville is quite small without a big chain store (checkout west coast tees though!) but Nanaimo is only 45? Away and has all your general walmart/ H&M type places (one of my packing stress coping strategies is to remember I can almost always buy what I forgot)!

  • Reply Linda July 26, 2023 at 11:24 am

    How do you manage to bring enough toiletries/cosmetics for that long a trip in just a carry on? Don’t they still limit the quantities of liquids?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 5:08 pm

      “You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.” – we use travel sizes and have not had a problem – they are smaller than 3.4 oz by design. Plus with 5 carry ons (b/c 5 people + plane tickets). . that’s a lot of potential liquid carrying!

      • Reply Linda July 26, 2023 at 8:03 pm

        Oh, with 5 quart bags that makes sense. I feel like I want/need to bring so many things that they wouldn’t fit in one quart bag.

  • Reply Donna July 26, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    Rain gear is essential — jacket, pants if possible, rimmed hat. And wool socks if you have them to keep your feet warm if/when they get wet.

  • Reply Keren July 26, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    Planning what to pack isn’t same as fitting everything into a suitcase, that part takes a lot of energy. I have packing lists on oneNote, one for international travel and one for local trips. As for planning outfits I really don’t bother, I just make sure I have enough items from each category and weather specific items. I pack neutral colours and then I don’t worry about everything matching. If I want to elevate an outfit I will pack a jacket. But I prioritise comfort when travelling. when I go somewhere cold I will pack base shirts and a couple of sweaters, or buttoned up blouses with a collar that looks nice picking from a sweater.

  • Reply Beth July 26, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    Super interesting! I don’t mind packing. I think it’s because I have a set of rules that drive everything. I have a Trello board that I just recreate for every trip. E.g. x days trip = x+1 outfits, underwear and socks. 1 set of PJs per 3 nights. Etc. Specialized gear goes on a separate list, e.g. if we are skiing, we need boots, skis, helmets, goggles etc. I pare this pile of stuff back if it doesn’t fit in my carry on. I literally will wash things in the sink rather than check a bag.

    • Reply Beth July 26, 2023 at 1:28 pm

      PS. This trip sounds awesome!!

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 26, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Welp, that list seems crazy short/ small to me!! hahaha! But go you if you can pull that off! I freely admit I tend toward “overpacker”, BUT… I do often appreciate some of the options I’ve brought along. If I’m going somewhere where I know hands down exactly what the weather will be like, that’s easier, but I feel like it’s more common to need to plan for various conditions! I also always like to have a few extra/misc outfits along. For example, I will often wake up and throw on some sort of casual outfit like shorts and a tank top before showering for the day just to go down to the lobby or somewhere to get tea, etc and hang out a while. I don’t really want to put my day’s outfit on yet, but I don’t want to go out in my PJs, obviously! I also tend to bring several sweatshirt/zip up options and/or a jean jacket, etc. because I want things to mix and match, but I’m not sure which one(s) I’ll need, depending on the weather or what I end up wearing… or if the a/c is extra chilly… etc. 😉

    Don’t you need more evening options for dinners? We all changed literally every night on our recent cruise, even on the “casual dinner nights” because our daytime clothes were either TOO casual (we didn’t see anyone wearing like basic daytime-type shorts/t-shirts in the dining room ever, or honestly many jeans at all, either- most people seemed at least a little more “put together”) or I just felt kind of gross after being out and about in those clothes all day, anyway. But maybe the Alaskan ones are different? Or Disney? Ours was Royal Caribbean.

    I also agree with Elisabeth- I have taken to trying on various outfits before packing which can be a big hassle/ time suck, but tends to pay off greatly for me!! I also will jot down outfit ideas or mix/match options and I feel like I’m overall a lot happier with my outfit choices when I’ve done this in advance.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:10 pm

      Disney is definitely known to be more casual – it definitely was on the Caribbean cruise with took w them. AND we plan on laundry x 2 – probably once on the ship & once at our Airbnb!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:12 pm

      that said – maybe i’ll throw in an extra dress or skirt! they don’t take up much space . . .

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 26, 2023 at 7:22 pm

    Oh, and one other thing… I sort of have an unwritten rule that I will usually purchase at least a couple of fun NEW items before any of our big trips. TOTALLY not always necessary (though sometimes depending on location, I legit do need a few things…like water/hiking shoes for Costa Rica!), but my reality is that I just feel a little better/ more excited about wearing new things. So I will typically treat myself to a couple of fresh items which then makes me feel better about all the other times I’m wearing my older, regular stuff. 😉

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 26, 2023 at 9:13 pm

      my allowance is depleted, ahhhh! I did get some trail runners that are kind of fun (Altra).

  • Reply Anne Sjobeck July 27, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    I’m obsessed with our packing cubes. I love how organized it keeps our suitcases on trips. Regardless of how you pack, when you search for stuff it turns into an overwhelming mess. Packing cubes are also awesome for sharing suitcases and minimizing the number of luggage you need to travel with! It seems minor but makes a big impact. We also sometimes throw them in our car when we are going somewhere where we want an extra set of clothes or we use them in our travel trailer for camping to maximize space. Let us know how they worked!

  • Reply Taylor July 29, 2023 at 10:11 am

    I live in Alaska, bring a raincoat!

  • Reply Daria August 3, 2023 at 5:52 am

    My kids carry on their own small suit cases and we manage to fit everything into them. For Denmark in the spring and Spain/Portugal in the summer we fit everything we needed. They even had some extra space so I snuck in my stuff into theirs. Both have wheels, both kids just roll them in the airport. My youngest is 3.5 so he can get whiny at the airport because he has to walk. Mu oldest is 5.5 not a problem with walking.
    I don’t particularly hate packing, I find it quite liberating to have this one suite case to live out of for a while 🙂 SAS lost our one suite case in Iceland (!) so now we only do carry-ons only until I learn how to trust airlines again lol

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