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I travel a lot and I constantly forget various small items in the places I go. For instance, I recently left my travel adapter in a Starbucks and a few months ago I forgot many toiletries in an Airbnb.

What are some heuristics to avoid this? I do compartmentalize the items in my bag, which seems to work fine for the most important things (e.g. I never lost my passport) but nevertheless it's not enough.

closed as primarily opinion-based by David Richerby, Dmitry Grigoryev, Jan Doggen, Glorfindel, Redd Herring Aug 15 at 22:43

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    what about a check list???? – ΦXocę 웃 Пepeúpa ツ Aug 14 at 14:28
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    By making a final check round the place where you stayed before you leave. – Weather Vane Aug 14 at 14:33
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is at best tangentially related to travel. Lifehacks might be more appropriate. – David Richerby Aug 15 at 10:53
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    @DavidRicherby This is also purely opinion based. Why do we forbid "What are some places to see in Europe?" if we allow this? – Dmitry Grigoryev Aug 15 at 11:17
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    @DavidRicherby this is probably personal improvement, which is off topic there. Definitely should be off topic here though. – Tim Aug 15 at 18:21

14 Answers 14

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There are a variety of strategies you can use but they all involve a cost of time. I use different strategies in different places.

First and foremost is what we calling "walking the campsite" (because it came from camping trips where leaving something behind could be catastrophic). You literally walk from room to room in the hotel (or wherever you are) looking for your things. I just look for things that I recognize, but if that's hard for you, you could use a written list of things to find and pack away.

Second strategy is not to see if x is still where you left it (by going and looking in the bathroom for example) but to see if it is where it's supposed to be when you leave. Having specific pockets and places for specific things. Chargers are the sort of thing that are often last to pack and need to be gotten quickly, so they can have a special pocket in your bag. Check that pocket before you leave to be sure you have your charger. For your toiletries, again they're typically in a specific water resistant bag, so make sure everything that's supposed to be in there is in there.

Third strategy is to evaluate the places you put things as you put them there. Wow, this plug under the table cries out to have my charger forgotten in it. Then either put a sticky on the inside of the door that says "charger under table" or don't leave the charger there without a phone on it. When the phone is charged, put the charger away until tomorrow. Yes, it takes longer than just leaving the charger there all the time, which I can do on a desk or somewhere obvious. Same with toiletries -- should I make a point of keeping them out here where I can see them, even though that means carrying them into the bathroom when I need them? Or put a note somewhere reminding me they're in a weird place this time?

Fourth strategy is to have spares. I always have at least one spare USB cable, with which I can charge things even if I forgot my charger. I typically have spare nail clippers and other small things - the smaller they are the easier it is to bring spares and the more likely it is you'll leave it somewhere weird and not see it. Travel adapters you should definitely have a lot of because so much grinds to a halt if you can't use the local electricity. For paperwork and documentation, your spares might be photocopies, or digital versions on a laptop or phone, or digital versions in cloud storage that you can retrieve even if you lose or forget the originals.

And the final piece of the puzzle is not to sweat it too much. I once left two good blouses (that I could wear on stage or to meetings) in a hotel closet because I forgot I had brought extras and still had clean clothes in the closet on the last day. I remember the incident, which reminds me to check the closet when packing, but I don't beat myself up over it. The cost of replacing forgotten things is part of the cost of traveling.

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    On the matter of duplicates, I carry photocopies of the significant pages of all important documents, stored in a different bag from the actual documents. – Weather Vane Aug 14 at 19:31
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    I carry photos of my wife's and my passports on my phone, along with the emails that contain ticket and reservation info. Ticket and reservation info is also printed, and carried in my always-with-me daypack. – David Aug 14 at 19:55
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    This is a great comprehensive answer. I want to add one more point. After forgetting something there's, no harm in contacting the hotel to keep it for you or ship to you. Emirates once shipped me perfumes which I forgot in Dubai airport, via the next flight. Just try to contact the right authority who can help you. – iceman Aug 15 at 6:09
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    I called the hotel about the blouses without success. But I did manage to retrieve a stuffed animal that I had left in the bedsheets at a hotel once, so yes, give it a try. – Kate Gregory Aug 15 at 11:49
  • Never remove the cord from a charger until you're actually packing it into your bag. And check the fridge! – Spehro Pefhany Aug 15 at 13:21
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I make a conscious, visual check of my surroundings every time I leave the place (restaurant, lodging, bus, etc) I've been in. "Conscious" is important: running one's eyes over the walls and floors and so on so that you're really seeing what's there.

Works very well, and has become a useful habit.

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    Indeed. When you stand up from a site, turn around, and look at the seat, table, pockets, etc. When you leave a hotel room, after you think you have packed everything, do a last sweep of the whole room: bathroom (including inside the shower), bed, nightstand, desk, all drawers one by one, all closets, the safe... – jcaron Aug 14 at 14:56
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    This is all well and good when things are in a place you'll think to look. I do this, but still forget things like, say, chargers that are in that one weird socket behind the bedside cabinet that was the only one in reach of a table; or toiletries balanced behind the shower door because it was the only spot within reach while having a shower, etc etc – user568458 Aug 14 at 15:42
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    You're not looking in the usual place, you're looking everywhere. It doesn't matter where you might have put it: if you look comprehensively and pay attention, you'll see it. Otherwise, you're going to have to tie a length of string to every object you carry, and hold onto the other end of the string all the time. – David Aug 14 at 15:44
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    My point is it's easy to think you've looked everywhere, when actually, you've only looked in all the places you thought to look. – user568458 Aug 14 at 15:47
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    Agree, you have to train yourself to always check. I never use hotel drawers, but I always look in them. When I get up from a restaurant, I always do a pocket check (keys, wallet) and a table check. – pboss3010 Aug 14 at 16:55
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Those things (which I also often forget) have something in common: they are out of sight and out of mind, and easy to overlook especially when in a hurry:

  • The toiletries are probably in the bathroom, maybe under a towel or in the shower behind a fold of the shower curtain, and it's easy to forget to look there or to miss a spot
  • The adapter is wherever the plug is, probably under a table, often somewhere awkward to get to

As a backup, it helps to have a fixed space in your bags or pockets for such easy-to-miss items, so that even if on your 3rd sweep of the room, you didn't properly look under the damp towel in the bathroom or behind the cabinet where the only usable plug was, you'll notice the item is missing because the space for it in your bag or pockets is conspicuously empty.

Side pockets of bags are great for this because you can just pat them to check they feel right. (Just don't put valuables there if you're going somewhere with a pickpocketing problem)

If your luggage doesn't have compartments like this, e.g. a trundle suitcase that is just one big compartment, you could consider things like packing cubes which won't fit together as expected if one is missing or under-filled - especially sets that are different sizes and colours:

enter image description here

Image from https://www.wikihow.com/Pack-with-Packing-Cubes

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Remember that you can forget things, so e.g. for the charger, when it is not attached to the computer, put it in your bag. If you need it again, you will take it out again. Put things in evident places. I put often my umbrella under my chair at restaurants, so that I would probably see it also if it stop raining. If you forget your bag, it is probably that the restaurant keep it (BTW it is required by law, in Europe).

Then I go out (office, home, restaurants), I check 1-2-3: keys, phone, purse/moneys. Now it is nearly automatic, I may make few meters before to check and go back.

For accommodation: I try also to put things together: charger other the open luggage if I'm not actively using it. Toiletries: all in my toilette purse, so it is much more visible. I tend not to put things on closets (but on long stays). Usually before I exit last time, with all luggage closed and near the door I do a last check in all rooms, and under the bed and I move the bed sheets (my weak point of loosing things).

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    I always check under the bed before leaving a rental room, even if I don't think I dropped anything on the floor. One time in Las Vegas I found a $100 gambling chip under the bed! – shoover Aug 15 at 13:28
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tl;dr Be tidy and leave cupboards and draws open to indicate you’ve checked they’re clear.


I have a sequence I follow when leaving a location I’m not returning to, particularly hotel rooms but most applies to any location.

  1. Tidy my surroundings, it’s harder to find things in a messy environment. This includes clearing rubbish or at least consolidating it into a pile. In a hotel room it includes straightening the bed sheets and opening curtains.

  2. Move all the things I want to take with me to a single location, perhaps by the door, one end of the table or even just into my pockets if I only have a few things.

  3. In a place like a hotel room, once you think you have everything, go open every cupboard and drawer, check it’s empty, then leave it open. This gives a good visual of where you have/haven’t checked.

  4. Go check all plug sockets.

  5. Go round and close all the doors and drawers, double checking they’re empty as they go. Bonus is if you can get someone else to do this for you as a second set of eyes is always useful for finding things.

Never left anything in a hotel room using this method.

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Write a list of everything you want to take with you on a trip, use it to pack your bags, then at the end go through that same list and check you still have those things before you leave

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    I use this same approach, but using the notes app on my (Android) smartphone (the actual app is called QuickMemo+). It allows adding "to do" items that you can check off, so my list of items to pack is individual to do items. When I pack an item prior to travelling, it gets checked off (which also crosses out the text). I know I have everything I need when every item is checked off. When I pack an item to return from travelling, it gets unchecked again. I know I have everything I need when no items are checked off. – Anthony Grist Aug 15 at 10:19
  • Same as @AnthonyGrist , but I use Google Keep, the prevalence of digital checklists and smart devices has made this much easier than keeping a checklist was in the past! – user3067860 Aug 15 at 18:05
  • Any shopping app will do actually. Make a list of what you want to take with you. Check items as you pack them. At your destination, uncheck each item as you put it back in your luggage. Bonus: you have a list for next time. Especially if you correct the list after the fact to what you should/not have packed. – George M Aug 15 at 18:40
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Some tips that might help:

  • Whenever you are visiting a place, locate the item you don't want to forget (such as your adapter) near something you definitely will not forget (your jacket for example).
  • Or (but this can take some practice), connect your jacket to the adapter in your mind in the most funny strange way you can think about (e.g. when you take on your jacket, a cable will come out of it and tries to electrocute you). This will remember you when you take your jacket not to forget the adapter. You can do this with as many items as you wish; the better the mind-connection the better it works.
  • In your hotel room, before you leave, check all spots, under the bed, behind the desk (some items can have fallen down without you even noticing).
  • For the very important items (or all), make a check list... I always use one when I leave, if you take it with you, you can reuse it again.
  • Tidy up items as soon as you can... the more that is packed, the least easy it is to forget.
  • You can set an alarm on your phone to remember not forgetting things (at a certain time).
  • If you have an item you don't want to forget, put it on top or inside something you definitely will not forget. E.g. at the beach, when I don't take a bag, I put my watch inside my shoes; also it is less visible, but most important I cannot forget it (I don't forget to put my shoes on).
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What I use is a Trello board with three lists on it:

  • The first list is things that I have at home. I keep a card on this list for each item I have that I'm planning on packing for the trip.
    • This helps make sure I don't forget to pack things, as well as coming in handy for keeping track of things at the end of the trip.
    • For sets like toiletries that mostly go together, but might have one or two things missing, I keep a checklist in the card details: for bundles of identical things, like pairs of socks/underwear, I keep a count of how many I'm supposed to have on the card.
  • As I prepare for the trip, I move those cards from the first list to my second list, representing things that I have packed in my luggage.
    • If I decide not to take something with me at the last minute, I leave it on the first list - this stops me from fretting about having lost things that are actually waiting for me safely at home.
  • Once I get to my lodgings, as I take things out from my luggage, I move items from that second list to the third list, representing items that are unpacked at my destination.
    • It's not super-critical that I move items out from this list as soon as I unpack them: I usually end up handling that at the end of the trip, in preparation for the last step.
  • At the end of the trip, as I pack things up, I move them back to the "packed" list, one by one: if I'm not sure whether or not I've forgotten to re-pack something, I can look at the cards on both lists for a reminder of what I need to check for.

To keep things clear between trips, I keep my base list of stuff I normally pack as a "template" board, and make a copy of that template for every new trip I take.

This process has helped keep my return trips relatively stress-free for the last five years: hopefully, it'll work well for you.

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Doing a search of each place you leave prevents most lost items.

The other thing is to get everything back into place after each use. That means a lot of taking stuff in and out of bags but it does help.

The other tip that is harder to get used to is to remember the feel of the back weight and bulk. I travel enough that I can notice small changes in weight, not as small as a travel adapter, but even forgetting a charger or guidebook is something I immediately question as to why my bags are lighter than before. This however takes the discipline of putting things exactly in the same bags each and every time.

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I'm not sure how applicable it is to travel, but I have a technique for not leaving my things at work. I count them, and should always get the same number. If I didn't bring that thing with me that day, I count it off all the same.

I take my keys, wallet, phone, headphones, drink bottle and sunglasses. Before I go home I pat each object in my pockets, or think "that's in my jacket downstairs" or "I didn't bring that today", counting them off. If it doesn't add up to 6, that means I've forgotten something.

  • I use this method, especially when leaving a hotel with more than about 3 things (eg. umbrella, camera bag, notebook computer, etc.) – Spehro Pefhany Aug 15 at 13:20
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For me, it's all about interlocking - making sure I can't get past one thing without hitting something else.

If I'm staying in a hotel, my jacket doesn't need to hang up in the wardrobe. Best place for it is over the door handle, or hanging off the door closer.

My keys, cards, etc., can all be in the jacket. The door will be deadbolted and quite possibly wedged, so nobody's going to put a hand around it and help themselves.

Can't get out the door without remembering the jacket. Can't remember the jacket without remembering the cards. Even if it's suddenly too nice to take the jacket for a day out, I'll feel the weight of the stuff in the pockets and remember to transfer it to something I'm wearing.

My backpack doesn't need to be on the nifty suitcase stand they provided. It can be on the desk where the outlets are, which means I can loop the cables for my laptop and phone charger through the straps before plugging them in. Laptop and phone are plugged in, so they're not getting forgotten either. Can't even put the backpack on without being reminded.

The only thing I forget these days is toiletries, and they're easily replaceable at the airport. The sizes that you can get through security, you're probably not going to get more than a couple of trips out of them anyway. Honestly, who cares about those?

It means just a little thought when you're unpacking, but it soon becomes second nature.

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If you can reduce, the number of things you carry with you, outside of where you are staying, so you can check for them every time you stand up. As a habit I now check for my wallet, keys and phone every time I stand up, and they all have their own pocket. In essence Awkward Zombie was on to something

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Another solution that I take is; when you unpack, for a those brief minutes, be more mindful, focused and 'present' about what you are doing and where you are putting things, eg don't be thinking of anything else at the same time. This will help you put things in the correct places and also it will help you remember where you put those items when you come to look for them.

Also, be mindful for a few minutes when you do your last minute check; again this will help you recall where you put your things and it will get you to check in the correct places.

0

I travel a lot as well, and I never forget anything anymore. I use the ColorNote App (for Android) to keep track of my packing list, which I re-use after each trip. I've been honing it for about 8 years and I feel I've reached the level of Packing Ninja! :-D

I put everything on the list that I might possibly want to bring for both personal and business travel. Before I start packing, I quickly go through the list and check off things I won't need for that specific trip. For example, if I'm travelling for business, I will cross off bathing suit, sunscreen, flip flops, etc. Once I've done that, I sort the list so that the checked items are at the bottom.

As I pack, I check stuff off, and occasionally re-sort by status (checked items at the bottom). This list gets shorter and shorter. The last thing packed is always my phone and charger. When I'm done, I reset the list so that all items are unchecked for next time.

It's simple, easy to maintain, quick to use, and keeps me super organized.

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    how does that keep you from leaving your charger behind when leaving a hotel? The question wasn't about forgetting to pack things from home, but about forgetting things in a destination. (Eg a travel adapter left plugged in, toiletries left in a bathroom.) – Kate Gregory Aug 15 at 17:17

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