The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Whether you're vacationing in Europe, spending the winter in Florida, or just visiting a friend’s house for the weekend, a successful trip depends on good packing, which in turn depends on good memory. Nothing’s more frustrating than arriving at your destination only to realize that you've forgotten your toothbrush, pajamas, or—worse still—important medication or travel documents.

Successful packing requires you to remember everything that you normally need in daily life, as well as any specialty items you'll need at your destination. Unfortunately, most of us pack in the hectic hours before departure, and this kind of stress can interfere with our memories, making it harder to remember everything we might need.

To avoid this problem, make a packing list. Start by writing down all the items of clothing you'll need. Then list any personal articles such as medicine, makeup, and shaving razor. Next, think about what you'll be doing on this trip. Will you need any special equipment, like a bathing suit, golf shoes, or a warm coat? Finally, add travel-related items. This might include your passport, tickets, or hotel confirmations.

Start the list a few days ahead of time, and carry it around with you so that you can add things as they occur to you. Pay particular attention during your morning routine: as you get ready for the day, notice what items you use and make sure each item is on the list. Do the same at bedtime.

Then, when it's finally time to pack, just go down the list and put each item in your suitcase. You won't forget anything in the stress of getting ready to leave. If you add anything at the last minute, put that on the list too.

Take the list with you. When it's time to go home, use the list to guide re-packing. That way you won't leave anything important behind in the hotel room!

And here's the payoff: when you get home, keep the list in your suitcase. Next time you have to pack for a trip, you can recycle the list rather than starting from scratch.