To prevent this from happening, I have gotten in the habit of creating a handwritten list of everything I need to take a long night or two before the trip. Then, as I pack each item, I cross it off my list.
But re-creating this list from scratch each time I travel has been a time-consuming pain, so I recently decided to streamline the process: I created a simple travel planning mind map that I can utilize as a starting point and customize to meet the needs of each trip.
The mind map shown above right (please click on the image to view a larger, more complete version) is divided into several major segments, corresponding to the types of items I need to take in a typical business trip. Major sections include clothing, personal hygiene items, medication, electronics, work items and a special section just for those things that are peculiar to that particular trip.
To customize this map to your specific needs, I recommend that you sit down with your laptop or in front of your PC in a quiet setting, and mentally walk through your day. For example, if you want to develop a complete list of the hygiene items that you need for your average business trip, I would start by envisioning the sequence of things that you do to prepare for your day, and what is needed to do each one. Take a similar walk through the process you follow to get ready for bed, and the tools, clothing and supplies you need to make that happen. Record all of these items in your customized version of this mind map.
Your goal is to create a template that you can use as a starting point for your own trips. A day or two before each trip, open this template, save it to a new file name that corresponds to your trip and begin customizing:
- What are your specific clothing requirements for this trip, both daytime (more formal, for business meetings) as well as evening attire (casual clothing, shoes, etc.)?
- What files, records, presentations and other supporting information do you need to take along in order to accomplish the objectives of this trip, as well is make efficient use of your travel time?
- What key things do you need to do before I leave on the trip (give my wife a copy of my itinerary, charge my cell phone and iPod, reorder medication from the pharmacy, etc.).
For best results, you should start preparing your trip map at least several days before you leave. This will give you the opportunity to add to it in several iterations, which will increase the odds that you won’t overlook anything important. When preparing mind maps, it’s always a good idea to capture as much information as possible in one sitting, then walk away from it for a day or so. When you return to it, you’ll be in a different frame of mind, which will help you to see additional items that need to be added to it. This increases your odds of producing an accurate and complete map.
Once your travel map is finalized, print it out and use it as a checklist as you gather and pack everything for your trip.
I’m confident that this simple mind map will save you at least an hour of time in planning and preparing for each trip, as well as illuminate needless aggravation and inconvenience. I hope you find it useful!