Wellbeing In Transit: Beauty Packing Tips From A Frequent Flyer with ADHD

Do you find packing stressful? We share some tips on how to navigate pre-travel.

June 13, 2024

Travel is a privilege and often an enriching experience, but it can also be stressful for many. Transitions can be particularly challenging for neurodivergent individuals, and planning or packing can be more difficult for people dealing with anxiety. After years spent on the go as someone with ADHD, here are some tips that have helped me to make the whole process more calm and enjoyable. If you think you are experiencing a more than average level of overwhelm, anxiety, or fear around travel, please know that you are not alone, and seek support from a mental health professional.

Chill & Plan Beforehand

If you’re reading this, you probably know what worked (or didn’t) for you in the past. You might be super chill, a pro-packer, repeating the same dreaded experience of packing last-minute, overcomplicating things, overpacking, or not having what you need once you’re there. Regardless, I think it always helps to give yourself some time and space to prepare for a trip, and how much of that you need will be very individual, so be honest with yourself. I tend to think of wellness as taking the time to ensure I’m doing something good for my future self to be as comfortable and calm as possible. A checklist of essentials is super helpful so you have something concrete, and you’re not pacing around the house wondering what it is that you’re forgetting.
I love to travel! It’s a huge part of who I am. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that it can be tiring. If the trip is for work—or a more active holiday or involves crowded settings—having some downtime beforehand can be very grounding before a more high-energy period. Many introverts also need some time to decompress and recharge before and after big events, even if these are positive experiences. Something as simple and not time-consuming as doing a short meditation or breathing exercise the night before, perhaps even before packing, and on the plane can help to regulate your nervous system.

Think In Reverse

One common advice is not to pack essentials like hygiene products that you can find anywhere. But let’s be real, imagine arriving at a hotel late at night and you don’t have toothpaste! Even if my suitcase gets lost, I can live without eyeliner for a week, and it wouldn’t be as urgent a purchase as a face wash. So, I always make sure to pack my toothbrush or some makeup remover in my handbag or cabin baggage. The same goes for things like Kleenex, cotton pads and Q-tips. Yes, they are probably available wherever you’re going, but they don’t take much space and when you need them at the moment you have them. I always take a few Q-tips in my bag when I’m going out to touch up any smudged or running eye makeup—this is a life-saver…unless you’re really going for a disheveled rockstar look.

Essentials Means What You Can’t Do Without

Have you ever packed a bunch of things you barely use because you might magically become a red-lip-woman during this trip? It is fun to experiment with new beauty on holiday, and it’s fine if you have the space and don’t mind carrying them. But always pack essentials first and add the extras afterward. This means taking what you use every day in real life. If I’m in frizz-inducing weather, I would rather pack a hair conditioner or a small hair tool over a hair brush. Similarly, if I’m going on a chill trip for a few days, I won’t use an eyeshadow palette or that much makeup. So, for me, packing things like a hair product and a tinted moisturizer with SPF would be the priority. These will be different for you, but visualize your time there starting in the morning and what you would use. I would start from the basics (like skincare, deodorant, lip balm, maybe then mascara and bronzer) and add more depending on the context of where I’m going and what I’ll be doing.

Realistic Multi-Use Items

If you’re really tight on space, think of what works most instead of multiple products. Again, don’t be too optimistic here about something you’ve seen online and never tried yourself before. Maybe check to see if it really works to use your lipstick as a blush. For example, I would take out eyeshadow and use a brown eye pencil for my crease line to blend into eyeshadow for the same effect. One thing I always pack is a tea tree oil eye shampoo and it’s a must if you wear contact lenses or have sensitive/dry eyes. It’s naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial, doubling as a perfect eye makeup remover and face cleanser. When I’m lazy, I wash everything off my face with it before bed.


This is one of those things that you might not use nine times out of ten, but when you (or other people) need something for a headache or an upset stomach, it’s really reassuring to have on hand. Caution: Please resist the urge to go overboard with this and include only a few things you might need, plus some band-aids and hand sanitizer. I think it’s always good to have earplugs (or even an eye mask), especially if you are neurodivergent or sensory-sensitive. If I’m traveling alone, I pack a book, a portable charger, and an extra pair of wireless headphones because I can’t imagine navigating an airport or waiting for a long time without some kind of stimulation. Knowing I can tune out the noise and listen to a podcast or some feel-good songs makes the journey much more enjoyable.