‘I Seem to Have Forgotten My Pants’

I know several people who travel so much for work that they have “home clothes” and “travel clothes” in addition to always ready-to-go bags with toothpaste and conditioner. I travel enough that I don’t find packing stressful, but not frequently enough to have an established routine. Given that, I almost always forget something.

Last week I traveled to Phoenix to attend a board of regents meeting and forgot my running shoes and toothbrush. When I met my early morning walking group wearing cowboy boots instead of my hot pink Asics, it prompted a conversation about how common and embarrassing it can be to leave vital items at home. One person shared that she went for an interview and discovered she had forgotten to pack the skirt that went with the top part of her ensemble. Another recounted wearing shorts on the plane and realizing at 11:00 p.m., when all the stores were closed, that he had a blazer, shirt and tie, but no pants for his 8:00 a.m. consulting meeting. I confessed to an unfortunate three-day trip to San Diego in which I reached the airport only to realize my suitcase was not in my trunk, but at home on my bed. “Hey, everyone,” I began the first committee meeting, “we are going to have to end early because the mall closes at 8:00 and I have arrived without underwear.”

Given that I seem to be challenged to pack required pants, power cords and potions, I decided that it was finally time to create a reusable travel checklist. I was inspired by both my latest packing gaffe and the completion of The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This book, which focuses extensively on the power of checklists to reduce medical and aviation errors, applies to everyday life as well. It argues making a checklist requires a bit of sustained thinking, and then frees up later brain space for worrying about other things. Phone charger? Check! Allergy medicine? Yes! Running socks? Got ‘em.

I did a quick Google search on “travel kits” and found a variety tools that helped me build a customized checklist this weekend. It is a thing of beauty, but something tells me it is probably missing a few key items. I’m sure all will be revealed during my next trip.

Do you have any tips for making it easier to pack for professional meetings? What is the most interesting thing you have ever forgotten?

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