Tips for Packing for Vacation When You Have ADHD

Health Writer

Packing for a trip sounds like an easy task. Not so for many adults with ADHD. Packing requires planning, organization, and decision-making. It requires you to think about where you are going, what you plan to do, and the weather forecast. It means you have to decide, sometimes a week or two in advance, what you want to wear for dinner or sight-seeing.

It requires you to think ahead about your needs for the duration of your vacation: How many pairs of socks will you need? Do you have enough underwear? How many pairs of pants should you bring? Do you want one or two shirts for each day? Should you bring something dressy? And don’t forget the toiletries. In other words, packing requires executive functioning skills that are often the ones people with ADHD struggle with the most.

For many adults with ADHD, one of two things happens when you pack for a trip. You might procrastinate, wait until the last minute and then throw as many clothes as will fit into your suitcase. Or, you think about it, pack up some clothes, and get to your destination to find that you forgot half of what you need.

The following are tips to help make the task of packing a little easier:

Gauge how much you are taking by the size of your suitcase. One suitcase should have plenty of room to fit everything you need for a week away. If you fill a suitcase and reach for a second, chances are you packed too much.

Choose neutral color clothes — at least in pants, shorts, or skirts — that you can mix and match. Browns, grays, and blues for cooler months, and in the summer, whites and tans, can all be worn with a variety of colors and accessories to change the look of your outfit. This allows you to pack lighter, but still have something different to wear each day.

Add your destination to the weather app on your phone, so you can quickly look at the weather while you are packing. Will you need a raincoat? Sweater? Will you need both shorts and long pants? You can use the app to choose an outfit for each day based on the weather.

Count how many days you will be gone to make sure you pack enough underwear, bras, and socks. Once you have enough for each day, pack two extras.

Plan outfits for each day/event and take a picture of each outfit. (Remember you can wear different tops with the same bottom to create more than one outfit.) Once you have arrived, you can flip through the pictures and know exactly what you want to wear.

Pack entertainment for downtime. Whether you are stuck in a bus station, airport, or in a hotel room during a storm, you want to be prepared with activities to keep you occupied. Pack puzzles, crossword books, or download movies or books to your tablet. Consider these essential items.

Create a checklist of essentials. This includes medications, toiletries, sunscreen, first-aid kit, stain remover pen, eyeglasses or contacts, and any other essential items. If you tend to forget items, break the list down to each individual item, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair products, razor, makeup, etc. Pay attention to airline sizes if you are packing in a carry-on bag. Keep the list on your computer or phone so you can refer to it to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Create a checklist of documents. This includes your driver’s license, passport (if needed), boarding passes, hotel confirmation, tickets, brochures or printed sheets of places you would like to see. If you are concerned about losing your papers, scan them and then email a copy to yourself to a web-based email, or make a copy and keep one copy in your carry-on luggage and another in your checked luggage.

Pack healthy snacks. Rather than stopping along the way and eating junk food, pack some healthy snacks, such as nuts and fruit, that will help fill you up along the way. Bring along bottles of water for car drives but remember you can’t bring these through airport security.

Slip a dryer sheet into your suitcase. Before you close up your suitcase, tuck a dryer sheet inside (as long as you aren’t hypersensitive to smell) and by the time you arrive at your destination, your clothes will smell fresh.

See more helpful articles:

Don't Let ADHD Stand in the Way of a Great Vacation

Going on Vacation with Adult ADHD

Returning to Work After Vacation with Adult ADHD

Why Vacations Make Us Crazy

7 Tips for Taking Your Child with ADHD on Vacation