I Tried the Packing Technique a Data Scientist Swears By

Purple Suitcase With Black Purse and Black Belt Bag on Top Nearby Laptop With Packing Spreadsheet
PS Photography | Taylor Andrews
PS Photography | Taylor Andrews

I'm the person who always forgets something on vacation. Sometimes I have to find the nearest convenient store to get deodorant, and other times I have to mooch toothpaste off of whomever I'm vacationing with. (If this isn't my beige flag, I don't know what is.)

But the reason I always forget things is because I'm a procrastinator. As excited as I am to go on vacation, I normally don't pack for a trip until the morning of. Sure, I might make a list of things I need in my phone's Notes tab; I may even come up with some travel outfit ideas in my mind ahead of time. But the packing itself happens at the last minute possible.

Recently, I went on vacation to Florida with my family, and in an effort to not be roasted the entire trip for forgetting something "like I always do," I attempted a viral spreadsheet packing technique circulating on TikTok. Although it felt like work in the worst way possible, I can confidently say I didn't forget a single item.

What Is the Spreadsheet Packing Technique?

Luke Scarpino went viral on TikTok when he shared his unique packing method. In the TikTok, which has accumulated more than 1.5 million likes, the data scientist shares a glimpse of a tracking spreadsheet he uses. It includes three columns: "bag," "item," and "packed."

In these columns, he lists the items he wants to bring, and also indicates which bag he would like to pack the items into. When those items are packed, he checks off the box in the "packed" category. On the spreadsheet, he also includes a table that shows what percentage of each bag is packed. "Everyone makes fun of me for how I pack, but I think I'm just organized," Scarpino says in the TikTok.

My Experience Trying the Viral Spreadsheet Packing Technique

In an attempt to be on top of my game, I started working on my spreadsheet a week before my flight. Because it was a trip to the beach in Florida, I wrote down my must-haves: a bathing suit, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Then, I listed off basic toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, morning moisturizer, night-time moisturizer, deodorant, etc.).

Once I had the necessities down, I thought of every additional item I could possibly want and put it in my spreadsheet. This was random stuff, like a water bottle, an iPhone charger, and my AirPods. When I couldn't think of anything else, I put away my spreadsheet.

A few hours later, I remembered that I needed to pack my meds, so I added that to the list. A couple of days later, I remembered to add my hair dryer and makeup to the list as well. By allowing myself a week of thinking about what I wanted to pack, I ensured I didn't miss a thing.

Once I had every item I wanted to pack listed by day three, it was time to sort the items into the bags I wanted them to go in. This was the part where I started to think this "hack" felt more like work.

Packing Spreadsheet Example
PS Photography | Taylor Andrews

Because the trip to Florida was short and with my family, I didn't bring a lot of luggage — it was only my checked bag, a purse, and my Lululemon belt bag. Once I started sorting the items into the bag category that made the most sense, it felt unnecessary. I could easily visualize which item would go in which bag without indicating it on the spreadsheet, but I did it anyway for the purpose of the experiment. When I was finished, I put away the spreadsheet.

The night before my trip, I pulled out my spreadsheet and all of my empty bags and started packing. I finished in 10 minutes, the shortest amount of time I've ever spent packing. I felt confident that I had all of the items I needed.

When I was officially done packing and ready for my trip, I neglected the rest of the spreadsheet. No offense to the strategy, but I knew I didn't need to mark every item as "packed" — and I certainly didn't need to include the percentage of bag that was packed. I was already mentally in Florida by that point.

The Verdict

I love organization, but this packing spreadsheet hack wasn't much of a "hack" at all. While it definitely prevented me from forgetting anything, it took way too much time and effort. It felt like making a to-do list instead of just doing what you already know you have to do.

I could see how the "bag" column could be helpful, especially if you're going on a long trip or flying internationally. It allows you to keep track of where everything is located, after all. But for most trips, it's not necessary — and the "percent packed" section is definitely not necessary for anyone but a data scientist.

The most helpful part of the spreadsheet for me was taking the time to list every item to pack, but I don't need to make a spreadsheet for that. In the future, I'll just start creating a list in my Notes tab earlier than I did before. Maybe I'll also start packing earlier than the morning of the trip, but I'm not betting on myself. Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.

Taylor Andrews is a balance editor at PS who specializes in topics relating to sex, relationships, dating, sexual health, mental health, and more. In her six years working in editorial, she's written about how semen is digested, why sex aftercare is the move, and how the overturn of Roe killed situationships.