When Should You Start Packing for a Trip

When Should You Start Packing for a Trip? [Top Packing Tips for Travelers]

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.


Are you wondering when to start packing for your vacation? Get expert tips on when to start packing for a trip, no matter the airline! Find out more here!

Planning a trip is exciting and stressful.

What do you take? What stays? And when should you start packing?

But you can rest your traveler’s head because you’ve found the right post.

I’ll help you figure out when you should start packing for an upcoming trip and some things to consider while you do so.

So,  let’s get into it.

When should you start packing for a trip?

There are various things to consider before you start packing:

  • Length of your trip
  • Destination and weather
  • Activities you’ll be doing
  • Your preferences for your wardrobe

Generally speaking, start your packing process a few weeks to a month before your trip for longer trips (a week or more) to give yourself ample time.

This gives you enough time to create a list of things you’ll need, organize it, and then get everything packed without the last-minute packing fun. Plus, you can narrow down precisely what you need to take so you don’t overpack.

For shorter trips, you can slim this timeline down.

About a week before your trip to a few days before is enough for short trips (3-5 days).

You don’t need to take as much, so you have less planning time than if you’re traveling for an extended period.

One thing to remember is whether it’s a short or long trip, it’s good to have a list of some kind so you can track what you’re taking and leaving. This also comes in handy at the last minute.

For example, when your Uber is outside sending you angry messages because you’re taking too long, you’ll have this nifty list ready to cross-check everything.

So you can tell that Uber driver you’ll be out in two minutes…and actually mean it!

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A timeline to pack for your trip

One Month Before

No serious packing needs to be done at this stage.

But it’s time to start making a list and give yourself plenty of time to pack for your next trip (especially abroad).

Simply start creating a list of potential belongings you want to take and consider the multiple climates you may be in. But, giving yourself plenty of time to pick is crucial as waiting until the last minute to pack results in headaches.

Start with the necessary items first:

  • Shirts
  • Pants
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Jackets
  • Dresses and skirts

This is also the time to start checking the weather. Sure, you’re a month out, but researching historical climate trends can help you get an idea. Plus, consider any activities you’ll be doing and what kind of clothing you require.

Plus, you can see any items you might need to buy before your trip begins.

So, start weeks ahead and give yourself enough time to pick the essential things and start organizing them.

15 days before

Now that it’s 2 weeks before, it’s time to start setting aside your items and getting them ready.

Start with any documents you need — passport, visa, license, vaccinations, etc. Then start putting your clothing and other travel gear to the side.

This will let you see exactly what you don’t have but need to get. Accessories, clothes, shampoo, or even a small pillow for the flight!

Organization now means less stress on the day of your trip.

7 days before

Now that it’s one week before your trip, you have a pretty good idea of your destination’s weather.

And it’s time to start adjusting your clothes as necessary. More rain than you expected? Grab the rain jacket. A bit colder than you thought? Pack an extra sweater or two.

Once you adjust this, you can start your packing process. Leave out the essential items you’ll need before your trip in case you need them, but it’s okay to begin packing the non-essentials.

You’ll also start to understand how everything will fit in your bag, and you can adjust your packing strategy as necessary. 

1-2 Days Before

The trip is almost here!

Now it’s time to start packing those essential items you left out and check over your backpack or suitcase with your checklist.

Personally, I’m a fan of REI’s 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule:

  • 1 hat
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 3 bottoms
  • 4 tops
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 6 pairs of underwear

Adjust this based on your individual needs, but this is an excellent rule of thumb to keep things light and ensure you have all the important items.

Last, pack any important toiletries you want to bring, like your toothbrush, bottles for liquids, or even mascara you may also need!

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On the Day of the Trip

Now that your clothes are checked and packed and the day of the trip is here — it’s time to do one last check.

Double-check your essentials like documents, medications, and tickets. I always check for the things I absolutely can’t buy once I’m at my destination. That includes more expensive and important things like:

  • Computer
  • Airline ticket
  • Passport or license
  • Phone
  • Debit or credit cards

Most other things I can buy at my destination if I need them. That means leaving out certain toiletries, electronics, and other unnecessary items.

Once you’ve thoroughly checked everything, it’s time to head out to that angry Uber driver who’s just dying to give you a 4-star rating.

What to consider before you start packing for a trip

There are four key questions to ask before you start packing:

  • How long are you going for?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What will I do there?
  • What are the luggage limitations?

These questions will help you narrow down what you need to take and will help you get a better timeframe for packing.

Trip Duration

More clothing means more packing time.

Shirts, shorts, bathing suits, underwear, and other wardrobe items must be sorted and prepared in advance.

If it’s only 3-5 days, you can start packing about a week before.

Longer? Start packing a few weeks out.

Destination and Climate

Just as important as picking clothing based on trip length, destination climate is just as important.

Make sure to constantly monitor the weather forecast to familiarize yourself and make any adjustments you need at the last minute.

Travel Activities and Events

Consider the activities you’ll be doing and any gear you need to bring.

If you’ll spend a lot of time outdoors, some extra layers and shoes would be a great addition.

Going to a more formal event? Then a suit or gown may be more necessary.

Plan in advance, and you save yourself any surprises.

Luggage Limitations

The biggest enemy of travelers everywhere: luggage limitations.

For years, they’ve been causing frustration, arguments, and some viral TikTok videos. And it’s best to operate within them because you rarely “win” when fighting with an airline.

So, know your airline or transport’s limitations, then adjust accordingly and avoid all those hidden fees.

Packing tips for your luggage and clothing

Pack mix-and-match outfits

If you want the most out of your packing, you can’t pack just one outfit that works together.

Instead, pack shirts and pants that all match together. This extends the number of outfits you can pair together and keeps your wardrobe looking fresh on your trip.

Creating a Packing List

Whether you’re organized or not, a list is perfect for keeping track of your items.

Include essentials like clothes, documents, electronics, and other necessary items to make your trip smooth.

If you travel frequently enough, you can keep a running record of this and refer to it every time you’re almost ready to depart.

Before packing, create a packing list to ensure you remember all essentials. This should include clothing, toiletries, travel documents, and electronics. Start crafting your list a week or two before your trip to give you time to gather needed items. 

A packing list is also helpful for staying organized.

Organizing Luggage

Organization is vital in keeping things together.

And there are a few items to help keep it organized.

For starters, a set of packing cubes is an absolute lifesaver. They help condense all your clothing into a small compression cube to take up less space and help you organize properly — shirts in one bag, pants in another, and so on.

I also recommend an electronics organizer for any cords, battery packs, and any other electric items you want to pack. It helps keep them together and not fly around your carry-on while your back moves around.

You can also help optimize luggage space by choosing clothing items with multiple uses that can be easily mixed and matched. 

Also, make sure to pack heavier items, such as shoes, onto the bottom of your luggage to prevent them from crushing delicate items.

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Pack enough for a week

If your trip is 2 or 3 weeks long, you don’t have to pack for all 14-21 days.

Instead, pack for a week, then wash your laundry in your room or at a laundromat. This saves you space in your backpack and makes packing much easier.

Roll your clothes, don’t fold them

One of the top things you want to try on your next trip.

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them has many advantages:

  • Fewer wrinkles
  • More space
  • Pack easier
  • Fit easily into packing cubes

Many people choose to fold their clothes, but it’s time to rethink how we pack our clothes.

So, when will you start packing for a trip?

How you prepare for your trip will set the tone for how it goes.

Getting started early means you have more time to sort out everything you need before departure. It’s also a good way to get started on your itinerary and start planning things out (unless you’re not much of a planner!)

But if you want more tips on packing your clothes, you’ll love learning how to fold your clothes for your trip!

Last, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube for more tips and tricks!

author avatar
Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.