Do you have an awesome trip booked, and the only thing standing between you and the plane is packing your suitcase?

You might be scratching your head a little because even though you have done pretty impressive things in your life, when it comes to packing a suitcase…it feels hard!

 ADHD often impacts the executive functioning skills, including those used for packing a suitcase, like organizing, prioritizing, managing time, and working memory

In this article, you’ll learn 6 reasons why packing a suitcase feels difficult when living with ADHD.  

These are helpful to know because understanding the reasons behind your challenges can help lift any self-blame, shame, or feelings of frustration with yourself.

You’ll also learn some practical action steps to help you pack in an ADHD friendly way.

1. Planning

Some planning and thinking ahead is helpful so that you know what put into your suitcase for your trip. 

Some people with ADHD like to plan but have a tendency to over plan then feel drained and no energy to implement the Plan, or overwhelmed just looking at the Plan.

The trick is to do just enough planning so that you know what to put into your suitcase but not too much planning where you feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

Use these questions to help you kick-start your planning.

How long is your trip?

 eg 8 days 7 nights

What activities will you be doing? 

e.g swimming, hiking, eating in restaurants

What will the weather be like?

eg 30 degrees

Are there any special events you’ll be attending?

e.g friends wedding 

Be sure to write down the items you plan on taking on a trip on a packing list (more about this later!)

2. Fear of making the wrong decision.

Packing your suitcase requires making decisions about what to bring and what to leave behind.

How many shirts to take? What about your snorkel mask?

Many people with ADHD have a heightened fear of making mistakes or making the wrong decision. 

This fear can stem from past experiences when you felt you made the ‘wrong’ decision, feeling criticized by others for your choices, or trying to make the perfect decision.

Avoiding making decisions can lead to overpacking or leaving packing to the last minute when you hastily throw things into your suitcase because of the time crunch. 

Creating a plan allows you to decide what to pack ahead of time, which means although decisions still have to be made, you do them without the stress of the trip deadline looming near.

3. Working memory. 

Working memory (a close relation to short-term memory) temporarily holds and manipulates information. It plays an important role in packing your suitcase, including remembering what needs to be packed and what you have already packed.

For example, you might be folding your sundress and putting it into your suitcase when the thought strikes you ‘I need my sun hat’ Ideally, you’d hold the ‘pack sunhat’ in your working memory as you finish folding your dress and walk into your bedroom, answer a couple of questions your partner has as they are packing their suitcase, open the wardrobe reach up to the top shelf and get your hat.

However! the thought’ sun hat’ can come into your mind and quickly leave. Then the next time you think about your hat is when you are on vacation, putting on your sundress.

There are two helpful ways to support your working memory while packing your suitcase. 

In the preparation phase, when planning, create your packing checklist

Then, when putting items into your suitcase, have a notepad and pen to jot down any additional thoughts that pop into your mind. 

4. Focus and attention. 

Having problems with focusing and paying attention is a key characteristic of ADHD. 

Being able to focus and pay attention to your packing means you’ll be able to gather all the items you want to pack and remember everything.

Using a timer (learn tips on how to use your timer can help you with your focus here) and a packing list help will help you to pay attention until your suitcase is all packed!

When packing your suitcase, reduce as many distractions as possible, for example, closing your computer and switching off your phone.

This way, you’ll be able to focus just on packing. Plus, you’ll be more productive, so you’ll finish your packing quicker.

5. Time management. 

ADHD can make time management tricky. Understanding the passage of time leading up to your trip and how long a task takes are issues that can get in the way of packing your suitcase.

Scheduling appointments with yourself in your calendar helps with both of these issues.

Thanks to your planning, you know what additional items, like sunscreen, you need to buy and then errands you need to run.

Block out time in your calendar in the weeks before your trip to avoid last-minute panics.

Even if you don’t know precisely how long a task will take, have a guestimate; the more you practice doing this, the better you get at predicting how long tasks take you.

Also block out time in your calendar the day before your trip to put items into your case.

6. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious. 

Packing for a trip and all its different elements can feel daunting and overwhelming. The fear of forgetting something important, combined with not knowing what to expect while you are on your trip, can cause feelings of anxiety.

Breaking tasks down into small, manageable steps is very helpful for anxiety and overwhelm. 

Writing ADHD-friendly checklists and packing lists also helps because they help you get organized, reducing stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.


1. Plan

Use your timer and work in 15 min chunks to time to do your sweet spot planning. 

How do you know when you have hit that sweet spot? When you have fleshed out a plan enough so that you know what you’ll be taking on your trip with you. You’ll feel energized and ready to take action.

2. Create a checklist

Using your Plan, create a checklist of all the items you will take with you.

  • Write your list down using your favorite method.
  •  A Google doc, 
  • A notebook that you know you won’t lose, or an app such as ‘Packing List’ or ‘Trip list.

3. Calendar Block

Block out time in your calendar to put items into your suitcase as well as time in the lead-up to the trip to do preparation actions, such as buy additional items, etc

4. Do-able actions

Break big tasks down into small actions that feel do-able, so you can start taking action (which will help reduce anxiety and overwhelm). If a task still feels overwhelming, break it down into even smaller parts.

5. Timer!

Use your timer to help you stay focused while you are putting your items in the suitcase

Bon Voyage!!!!

What if you could take your suitcase-packing skills to the next level?

With my ADHD-friendly step-by-step guide to packing your suitcase, you can say goodbye to last-minute scrambles and hello to organized, stress-free trips today!


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