You know those moments when you’re packing at the last minute (quite literally) and you think you have everything because you’ve made lists. However, then you’re in a moment where you need something and then you’re like “Oh yeah, that’s what I couldn’t remember what I needed” or “I knew I needed something, but couldn’t remember it earlier” – sounds familiar? Thought so.
ADHD Travel Suitcase Packing Hacks
This is exactly why I’ve put together this guide, as I found that the standard packing list and travel tips just don’t cut it for people with ADHD brains when the executive function just doesn’t want to cooperate. So, this guide includes way more than just random lists of things – don’t worry, it does also include a sample list for packing, but that’s not the point here.
Read this guide to finally travel stress-free on your next trip – maybe even for the first time.
Throw Everything In a Bin the Week Leading Up to The Trip
This has probably been my biggest savior as a frequent traveler! I have a dedicated basket where I start throwing stuff that I think I will need about a week in advance – things that I remember at the moment that I don’t normally use – yes, I’m looking at those hiking boots in the very bag of my closet.
Take a random bin or box or place it next to your closet, whenever you get ready and buy stuff for the trip or remember things to pack, just throw it into the box! No need to organize anything yet!
Based on the type of trip, like road trips, family vacations, or business trips, your personal packing guide may vary – the good news is, you can just adjust it for your own needs 🙂
Sort Things Into Piles When Packing
Another great technique I’ve found is to compile everything into piles, which means all pants go into one pile – or an entire outfit goes into one pile. This will help get yourself organized before you start actually putting stuff into the suitcase, plus it gives you a great overview of what you have so far.
Designated Travel Toiletry Bag
The next best thing that I’ve found was to make a dedicated ADHD travel toiletry bag that included close to everything in travel sizes that I’ve accumulated over time. I also tend to just throw all travel-size items and samples into it and when I’m actually packing – last minute, of course – I go through it quickly and put everything I don’t think I will need out. Tadaaaaa.
Tip: Collect travel sizes of all your favorite cosmetics slowly over time, that way you don’t have to use those refillable tubes that you will likely forget to refill.
Packing cubes with labels or ziplock bags
Another fave that will likely make your life easier is using packing cubes with labels or different sizes of ziplock bags.
Here’s what to pack into packing cubes based on labels:
Night Out Outfits
- Dresses/dress shirts
- High heels/flats
- Hiking boots (take a separate plastic bag to pack them into)
- Casual dresses
- Casual shorts
If you’re going on a short trip, either pack your PJs into your daily wear box or take a small packing cube for this one.
- House slippers
Tip: Consider also having a packing cube just for sensory-friendly items.
Zip Lock Bag Packing Ideas
- Toiletries/Dish soap/Laundry soap
- ADHD Medication (+ other meds) and supplements
- Important travel documents (passport, ID, travel insurance, and itinerary) – dry & safe!
- Wallet and any important travel credit card
- Emergency first aid kit (band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, etc.)
- Sensory needs changes (ear plugs, favorite materials, fidget toys, etc.)
Tip: Also take either a separate packing cube or a large zip lock bag for dirty laundry.
Pack Lists with Categories and Checkboxes
There are some fantastic packing checklists that you can find online, though you could just take my master packing list for ADHD travelers!
Download it here for FREE!
Alternatively, Amazon has a fantastic packing list pad that you can use to cross off the essentials and then rip it off and put it into your suitcase. You can also keep adding things to the list whenever you remember it and pair this method with the packing bin method above!
Tip: Cross off what you packed and highlight everything you need to pack on the day of, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.
Check out how to go on a spontaneous road trip alone – perfect for impulsive ADHDers!
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Step-by-Step ADHD Packing on the Day of Travel
We know we’re going to do it – you know this, I know this, our partners and parents know this, and our cats or dogs know this.
This is a guide for you on how to plan out what needs to be done on the day of – yes, the actual packing steps.
Absolutely! Packing on the day of your trip can be quite a task, especially for individuals with ADHD. Here’s a step-by-step guide to make the process smoother and more efficient:
Step 1: Get your checklist ready – either the one you’ve created yourself or the Amazon one above.
If you’re creating your own checklist, take a piece of paper and just write everything down that needs to be packed on a generic trip, including clothes, toiletries, electronics, documents, snacks, and medications. When you’re done, break everything down by category on a new piece of paper (or tablet) and cross through it, so you know you already sorted it.
This will give you a bit more control over what needs to be done and packed.
Step 2: Gather all your items and throw them on a large open space like your bed or the (clean) floor.
Step 3: Now you need to sort and organize everything, so, once you’ve collected everything on your checklist, make little piles of the different categories – this visual representation will help you see everything at once.
Step 4: Use zip lock bags for smaller items and label them, such as “Medications,” “Chargers,” “Snacks”.
Step 5: When you’re packing your clothes, pack the categories into individual packing cubes, while you can do it by outfit types (as above with casual, night out, etc), you can also sort it based on the type of clothes (e.g. shirts, pants, etc.) – see what works for you!
Whether you use packing cubes or not, fold or roll clothes when placing them into your suitcase.
Here’s my packing strategy: Roll all smaller and thinner clothes and place them in the suitcase first. Then fold and place the bigger and bulkier items on top. Any socks or panties that you still have you can put either into zip lock bags or stuff them into any of the available tiny spaces on the sides – same thing goes with shoes and everything else.
Step 6: Once your clothes are all put into the suitcase or backpack, add your toiletries and medications on top of them or on the sides where you can find space – if you’re backpacking, put it into the front smaller compartments for easier access.
Step 7: Final check with your checklist as you’re going through it to make sure you didn’t forget anything – place it also either on top of everything in the suitcase or in a smaller compartment in your backpack. This way you can double-check everything when you’re packing to take it back home, so you don’t forget anything.
Step 8: Pack your snacks and any entertainment (books, tablets, kindle, etc) into your carry-on or easily accessible part of your backpack.
Step 9: Double-check your essentials to make sure you have all your travel documents, like passport, wallet, phone, insurance card, etc.
Step 10: Just before leaving, add any last-minute items like chargers you were using or a water bottle – then do a final sweep of your room and apartment to make sure nothing is left behind – same thing goes for the hotel room.
Expert ADHD Packing Tips
- Minimize distractions by turning off your TV and putting on your favorite dopamine music.
- Set alarms every 15-45 minutes to remind you of your time and how much time you still have left. You can also try to divide the time into steps to see what steps you still need to do based on the time you have left.
- Set alarms for when you need to start, need to be done, and when you need to leave.
- It can help to color code your packing cubes or your checklist
- Set up a random bin where you throw things throughout the week leading up to your trip. So when you do laundry and you see something you want to take you can throw it right in or when you randomly remember something you can also just throw it in.
Lastly, use that last-minute rush to your favor and get ahead!
Have any other tips and tricks that you can think of? Let me know below!