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26 days to go - when do you start packing?

how early do you start packing? We have 3-1/2 weeks to go - still researching and buying items (Amazon loves me!!) and going through the list of updating banks, credit card companies, etc. Those details are almost done. I'm thinking of June 1st or 2nd as the date to keep suitcases open in a spare bedroom and start assembling everything. Any tips from the experts out there? We are going for 17 days & checking bags. So I can take a lot - but want room for souvenirs too :)

Posted by
19156 posts

I usually pack the night before. Sometimes, when I have a late flight that day, I pack in the morning. BUT, I already have a packing list, which I have had for years, and have removed things I didn't use, and added things I needed (never happened).

Now is the time to start a packing list. Spend the next three weeks taking things off of it.

Keeping an open suitcase just encourages over-packing. Make a packing list, and don't pack anything not on it.

Posted by
2768 posts

I keep the suitcase out from approx. 2-3 weeks and toss stuff in it as I remember. That means getting out the plug adaptors, setting up travel size toiletries, basically all the travel accessories I won't use during regular life. Also any clothes I won't be needing get tossed in the suitcase. Then somewhere around a week or so ahead I actually pack. Fold the clothes into packing cubes, fit everything in instead of the jumble that is sitting on the suitcase before packing. I lay out clothes, try them on in outfits - I pack light so making sure everything fits and works together is important. Also make a pile for my carry-on purse with a magazine, snacks, camera stuff, etc. Don't want to forget that!

Sometimes this is 2 weeks ahead, but that's excessive. I just like packing because it means my trip is coming :)

There is no way I could pack any less that 4-5 days ahead. The stress would kill me, and I'd forget something, no question. I like to reserve the 3 days before departure as stress free days, doing only my regular work and life stuff, no packing or planning beyond reading books.

Posted by
8 posts

I have been "gathering" items for 6+ months. (Power Amazon Prime user ;). Over the past 3-5 months I have reviewed several different packing list then made my own for my specific likes/requirements. Today I did my first trail packing, I leave in 18 days (21 day BOE + 10 days). I found I will only need to add a couple last minute items ( daily use stuff, chargers, headphones, tooth brush etc). I even found a few Items that I have added to the "do I really need that" pile. I now have one more weekend to run through the packing list and then the last weekend do a final pack three days prior to departure to ensure the last minute "Oh I might need that" stuff stays out of the bag ;). I'm normally a night before packer for business travel so this is something way out of the norm for me, but I'm hoping this keeps the unnecessary items at home. Happy Packing and make use of a list, it will keep you on track!

Posted by
2252 posts

Not that I'm an expert but here's what I do. I choose, sort, choose more, reject, sort again, add some, take some away for a couple of weeks before I need to be ready to walk out the door with my suitcase. And like you, I keep it all easily accessible in my spare bedroom. I do have and use a list but it's more of a guideline as far as clothing goes. Some stuff always goes with me and remains packed from one trip to another; electronics, chargers, journals, first aid kit, etc. I am ready to walk out the door by the morning of my departure. The details you mention (credit cards and atm notifications) I usually take care of a month or so before I leave. Amazon loves me, too!

Posted by
8214 posts

It's so nice to read of someone that's so excited to go on their European vacation.
I suggest you follow Rick Steves' Packing list exactly--no more, no less.

You don't need to contact your bank and credit card company until a day or two before you leave.
I appreciate early packing of suitcases. My family never unpacked our bags--no kidding.
I hadn't checked a bag in 20 years, and a problem in Prague Airport 4/2014, caused me to check a bag My bag arrived 2 days after my return to Atlanta and my car keys were in the bag.

Take a 22" rolling bag, and carry it on the plane. Buy only souvenirs that fit into your rolling bag.
After my recent trip to Hawaii, I bought an ultra light 21" rolling bag and will limit my future clothes--taking less than ever. You can really wear jeans and khaki's a full week if you send'em to the laundry for heavy starch.

Posted by
3243 posts

As I recently bought another suitcase…RS 20", I have packed up and unpacked, a couple of times, in an attempt to obtain the right weight. Right now, I have it out of the closet, open, with items that are going that I won't need before I go. I'll be fully packed the weekend before I leave except for day of trip last minute items. I used to pack too light, and then I packed in a 22", and now I'm meeting in the middle unless I don't like it and then I'll just check from now on. I can't seem to get mine below 20 lbs and be happy with what I have. I'll remove one thing and add another…It's driving me nuts! I leave in 10 days! But I love to pack so it is part of the fun of the vacation, as sick as that is… Wray

Posted by
1221 posts

Somewhere around T-minus 48 hours we do a run to the store for any necessary travel-sized toiletries and shelf-stable snacks (Yes, I will make sure to have enough baggage space to lug a box of emergency Clif Bars over six countries on two continents) and since we wear the same clothes at home that we do on trips, I do a bunch of laundry the day before to make sure I have good options, then check the 10 day weather forecast to make sure I'll take clothing comfortable for conditions before packing clothes at that point. Electronics and final bathroom supplies get packed the morning of departure.

Posted by
3696 posts

Usually a day before,but I also usually know which array of clothing I will be taking. Travel won't regret it

Posted by
14175 posts

I do use a list I've refined over the last two years and do a trial pack about 2 weeks out. I usually refill my toiletries when I get back from a trip but this is when I make sure they are topped up and that my first aid kit is stocked. I mark those items off the printed list so I'll remember it's done. I then leave my clothes hanging from an over the door hanger. I'm retired so I can usually get by without them! I do a final pack the afternoon before. I dont like to be stressed the morning I leave!

Posted by
980 posts

Usually the day before, but I have my list probably two weeks ahead. I don't have special travel clothes, and I've learned to take only things I really like to wear. I can do 3 weeks in a roll-aboard, but I always check it. I need my carry-on to be my backpack with my laptop, camera, random electronics, and one change of clothes in case my checked bag gets lost (which it never has.) I can't get 3 weeks of liquids in a quart ziplock to carry on, and I don't want to spend a lot of time buying replacements (that are probably only available in too large quantities anyway.) I've never lived well out of a suitcase, and packing cubes from eBags have changed my life!

My husband packs about two hours before we leave for the airport, has never thought to make any kind of list, and always manages to look nice. Maybe it's from being a road warrior for 30+ yrs, but I think it's just easier if you are a guy.

Posted by
32247 posts

I normally start getting organized about 2-3 weeks before departure. The first step is to decide which luggage I'll be using for the trip, putting it in the spare bedroom and then starting to gather smaller items on my packing list. A week or so before departure, I start loading the pack including clothing and setting out the clothes I'll be using for travel. I do a final check the night before departure.

Posted by
795 posts

Good idea! I am glad you are letting your bank and credit card companies know you'll be using your accounts more as this can prevent an emergency situation where you can't access your money or credit. Amazon loves me too! I am an Amazon Prime member and heavy shopper. Yes, keep the suitcases open so you can add last minute items. We aren't budget travelers so, like you, we always check luggage and are able to take what we want and we don't go on RS type tours where you have to haul your luggage through town and up stairs, etc. We ride from the airport in a shuttle, cab, or limo and only choose hotels with bell staffs and elevators. You could go ahead now and begin packing it since you'd have the suitcases and garment bags in a spare bedroom and not in the way. We always carry along empty bags to bring back souvenirs and often just have shops ship stuff to us. I hope you have a fantastic trip!!!!

Posted by
15651 posts

My advice, based on what I usually do, taking into account that you are not as experienced.

  • Make a list, a detailed list. For example, not just "camera and accessories" but spare battery, charger, spare memory cards, adaptor for charger.
  • Put everything in the suitcases at least a week in advance and weigh them. That will give you an idea of how much room you'll have left for souvenirs and how much stuff you need to start thinking you can live without. If you're going to multiple destinations, you're going to have to carry those bags up and down trains, up and down stairs in subways, train stations, hotels. You'll also have to pack/unpack every time. The less you take the easier it can be.
  • Decide what clothes you want to take, a week in advance. Be sure to have the minimum for inclement weather. If you're going to Italy, don't worry about cold or rain, just have a light jacket if it's chilly in the evening. But if you're in northern parts, it's quite possible to have sizzling hot days and chilly days, sun and rain. I take a good rain poncho. When it rains the umbrella sellers appear magically - you can always buy one, think of it as a souvenir. Consider laundry. If you do hand laundry every couple of days, you can pack a lot less underwear and quick-dry clothes. If you have 3-4 night stays, you can do laundry (2-3 hours at a laundromat) or send it out (sometimes same-day service, sometimes overnight). Use this time to research where there are convenient laundry services. With 17 days, you'll want to do laundry once or twice. Twice means less to pack and lug around. If you're planning self-service laundry, take some powder detergent and dryer sheets with you. Some laundromats sell detergent but you may have to buy a big box at the supermarket (wasted time and money).
  • Not packing, but make a to-do list for last-minute stuff. I have one for the 3-4 days before I leave and another for the things I need to do before I leave the house.
  • Cabin baggage. I never assume I will see my checked bag when I land. All kinds of things can delay its arrival, even on a non-stop flight. I pack what I'll need for the first 24 hours in my carry-on along with anything I absolutely can't manage without (like the chargers) just in case my bag goes missing for longer. Don't pack his and hers suitcases. Mix it up so that if one bag is delayed, you both have what you need in the other one. You can repack any way that's convenient for your second destination in Europe.
  • Don't expect to remember things when you're away. Make a list of passwords, PINs, emergency contact info (including bank/credit card phone numbers), etc., to tuck into a money belt. I keep all my travel info (tickets, itineraries, notes) on my travel computer, with a back-up on a flash drive. You can also back-up to a cloud or drop box.
Posted by
14580 posts


With the days left prior to departure and the length of the trip, I would start packing now, ie putting things into the suitcase, and also making a packing list if it hasn't done already. Decide which clothing items you're bringing, how much to take, etc.

Posted by
11613 posts

It scares me a little to read that you can pack "a lot", You are checking bags for flights but you still may have to carry your bags through train station passageways/staircases, over stretches of uneven pavement, etc. For 17 days, one 20" or 22" each should do it, plus your personal item(s), throw in a spare lightweight bag for souvenirs and on the way back you can check your suitcases and still have two cabin items each.

Disclaimer: for 88 nights, I pack a 20" rolling bag and a Civita day bag, with a messenger bag for on-the-ground use tucked into the 20" bag.

Posted by
86 posts

I leave in about six weeks for seven weeks and I've started to pull stuff out of hiding for the trip. I wouldn't call it packing-more organizing and finding things. I take my time because I'm more ruthless that way. I couldn't pack the morning of or I would throw stuff in last minute I would not need and forget things that I would be kicking myself for. I also check my backpack- not because it's heavy but because of liquids (contact lens solution and sunscreen are very pricey in Europe). I think whatever works for you is good just remember you have to haul around what you bring and you buy.

Posted by
14175 posts

Chani makes an excellent point when she says "Don't expect to remember things when you're away. Make a list of passwords, PINs, emergency contact info (including bank/credit card phone numbers), etc., to tuck into a money belt. I keep all my travel info (tickets, itineraries, notes) on my travel computer, with a back-up on a flash drive. You can also back-up to a cloud or drop box. "

Also add in your security questions/answers. Yep, I managed to lock myself out of my BillPay account the first week of an 8 week trip last Fall. I thought I had prepaid everything but the Costco membership charge popped up which I had forgotten about. I was accessing BillPay from my phone and it wanted the answer to a security question. No, I did not remember exactly what I had put in for my first dog. Ugh. (hint: It was not brown dachshund or Brown dachshund or Brown Dachshund and then I was locked out.) It was OK, just wound up paying a late charge which I decided was my fee for experience learned.

If you plan to pay anything using your phone/iPad/tablet/etc, try to do it at least once ahead of time so your device registers, but take the security questions/answers along anyway.

Posted by
485 posts

I start collecting things a couple of weeks ahead of time and then pack the night before. Even then, I can't completely pack because I need to fit in my cosmetic bag (and am using those things up until I depart for my trip).

I have never understood people who are packed a week before they leave. With every trip I take I get asked 'are you all packed?'. I honestly don't have enough clothes to pack for a 2-week trip AND wear what I need to wear while still at home. I guess if my destination is a totally different climate than where I live..... but I'm usually doing laundry the night before.

Posted by
193 posts

Good morning & thanks for all the feedback! I'm glad to say that I'm a list maker - so that seems to be a plus in my favor! We do travel a lot and I have been the primary packer for my family of four for the past 21 years and we've overpacked, packed light, and all in between (although never as light as the RS way!) ;) I've had a packing list on my phone for about 6 months that I add to, edit, update when I buy new items but I'm sure when it comes to putting the list into motion, that's where the overpacking tendency will rear its head. With three of us going I will need to have all the details nailed down so we don't forgot the items like chargers, copies of documents, first aid items, etc. So much to do!! But it does help build the excitement! I will print off the RS packing lists for men and women and put that next to our suitcases.

After this adventure my husband would like to do a Mediterranean cruise so we have more to look forward to and more packing practice coming up!! ;)