Holiday Disruption & ADHD: Tumultuous Travel

Of all the things that happen during the holidays, travel is one of the worst for disrupting our lives. ADHDers are notorious for struggles with packing and timeliness, not to mention how many of us just get lost on our way somewhere!

Let’s talk about how to know what to bring, how to be on time for flights (or the bus), and how to make sure we get where we want to go.

Pinnable image with a photo of an over-stuffed suitcase.

Packing for a Trip

There are a few questions you need to know the answers to before you can pack for a trip:

  1. How many days will you be gone?
  2. Is there anything special you need to bring (e.g., a special outfit, gifts)?
  3. Will you be able to do laundry while you’re away?
  4. What is the weather supposed to be like while you’re there?

The answers to these questions will help inform how many clothes you need to bring and what else you need to pack. Let’s break down the categories.


If you can do laundry while you’re away, you can bring fewer clothes than if you can’t do laundry. But let’s look at this from the most practical angle.

The best way to keep your luggage down but have plenty of options for what to wear is to pack separates. You’ll probably want the following:

  • 2-3 bottoms
  • 4-6 tops that all go with all of your bottoms
  • 1 pair of underwear per day of your trip
  • 1 pair of socks per day of your trip
  • pyjamas
  • 1 dressy outfit for any more formal events (e.g., party, church service) you will attend–this doesn’t need to be separates
  • any other items you need (e.g., bras)
  • slippers if you wear them
  • shoes for everyday that go with your separates
  • shoes for your dressy outfit
  • proper outerwear for the weather (e.g., winter coat, rain jacket, windbreaker)
  • wallet/purse

Remember, unless an item of clothing is dirty or smelly, you can wear it again. If you don’t want to wear the exact same outfit more than one day, that’s why you have more tops than bottoms. Mix and match and you’re golden.


How many times have you forgotten to bring a toothbrush on a trip? I have a great way to avoid that.

I have a toiletries bag that I keep packed.

Yes, it means I have two of some things, but it means that when I’m going somewhere all I need to do is grab the bag, toss in the stuff I only have one of, and I’m good.

Here’s what I keep in my toiletries bag:

  • toothbrush
  • travel-size toothpaste
  • travel-size shampoo
  • travel-size conditioner
  • dental floss
  • travel-size body wash
  • razor
  • hair elastics

Other things you can keep in your toiletries bag:

  • travel-size shaving cream
  • brush and/or comb
  • travel-size hair products (e.g., hair spray, mousse)
  • deodorant

When you’re packing to go on a trip, add any jewelry or makeup you need to have with you. Unless you travel a lot, I don’t recommend keeping makeup in your toiletries bag, since it will probably expire before you get proper use out of it.

Other Stuff

Other things you might want to bring on a trip include homework if you’re in school, books to read, hobbies that you enjoy (and don’t take up a lot of space), gifts for family and/or friends you’ll see, and electronics–including chargers–like a laptop or tablet.

The best way to keep this under control is to choose a bag to carry things in and keep it contained to that one bag. This will make it easier to keep track of what you’ve brought, because less stuff and fewer bags to keep track of means you’ll do better at remembering to take it home with you. If you’re doing gifts, you might want a second bag for gifts, which can then house any gifts you receive on the way home.

Number of bags

If you’re flying, you need to keep everything to a minimum, so you’ll want to keep the gifts small and fit them in your suitcase with your clothes and toiletries, and then use your carry-on bag for your activities and electronics.

If your mode of transportation doesn’t charge for extra luggage (e.g., you’re driving), you can use a box for gifts and a bag for activities, and have your suitcase as well.

Keeping Track

When you’re at your destination, you’ll need to keep track of your things so you don’t forget to bring it all home with you. I recommend having a checklist for everything that you brought so you can consult it while packing to leave, but there are a few more tricks you can use.

  1. Keep your clothes in the suitcase. If you need to hang something up, keep your suitcase in the same area as the closet. To separate dirty clothes from clean, I use that pocket that goes across the back of my suitcase to hold dirty underwear and socks, but you could use any other way of separating your clothes within the suitcase (e.g., other pockets in the suitcase, a space-saving packing bag).
  2. Keep your toiletries bag in the bathroom and the items from it in the bag or nearby (anything you use in the shower will need to dry off before you return it to the toiletries bag).
  3. When you finish using something, put it back in the bag you’ll be transporting it in. This keeps it all together and you’ll be less likely to forget it.

Being on time

It’s so easy for us to be late for things like flights. Here are my best tips for being on time when traveling.

  1. Know when you need to be at your destination or the airport (or other transportation hub).
  2. Know how long it will take to travel to your destination or transportation hub (wherever you’re going from your house). This will tell you when you need to leave.
  3. If you’re taking a plane or other mode of transportation, consider calling ahead for a taxi or shuttle to take you to the transportation hub. You tell the taxi service when you need to be at the airport (or whatever) and they send the cab for the right time based on traffic and so on.
  4. Pack the day before you’re leaving so all you have to do is load the car.

Finding Places

A map is a great thing. If you have trouble reading a map, GPS is an excellent substitution. Take note of things like landmarks to help you remember where to turn and stuff. Getting specific directions can also be really helpful, but make sure they’re written down so you don’t forget them.

This week’s printable is meant to help you make your packing checklist and figure out when to leave. I hope it helps you have a great holiday!