I returned from a recent trip a stinky mess. After dinner on the road, I realized that I’d forgotten my toothbrush. (Thank you Courtyard by Marriot, Moorhead, for the freebie.) I hopped out of the shower the next day to discover I was also short one comb and a stick of deodorant. Good thing it was merely an overnight.

In the realm of packing, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect. I travel (and hence, pack) so often, I thought I could throw it all together the morning of my departure. But instead, I was rushed, distracted and, as it turns out, forgetful.

I decided it was time to get smarter about packing. Smart like a smartphone.

I needed a packing app that would save lists for several kinds of trips and for other members of the family. I figured that would be an upgrade from the handwritten packing list I’ve used for my annual summer getaway to Madeline Island. That worn piece of paper was lost long ago, and I wouldn’t have pulled it out for a short trip, anyway.

I was happy to discover that packing apps do much more than save lists. They prompt your thinking with a thorough inventory of stuff you might need but may not have thought about (bug spray, anyone?). They let you share lists with others via e-mail.

Create a list on Pack & Go, check off as you fill your suitcase, and it’ll visualize your progress with a bar at the bottom of your screen that fills in with color as you go. It also has useful categories. Under “preparation,” for instance, you’ll find “arrange for pet care” and “get manicure.”

My favorite, the sleekly designed Travel List, lets you set alerts. Now a bell will chime the morning I depart for my next trip, reminding me to pack my toothbrush.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.