Packing-list apps: It remembers, you fold

03/16/2014 12:00 AM

03/14/2014 2:43 PM

Can a smartphone help you pack for a vacation?

I recently used mine to create a checklist of everything from headphones to high heels. I winnowed photos of my wardrobe into a short list of travel outfits. And I set an alert to go off if I leave home without essentials like my passport. In this column I’ll walk you through the tools I used — all of which are free or cost less than renting an airport luggage cart.

TRAVEL LIST

The fundamentals: Among the most uncomplicated yet effective packing solutions is Travel List ($1.99). Forgetful travelers will appreciate the option to set an “auto reminder”: If you begin packing and forget to finish, you’ll be alerted as you’re leaving the location where you’ve been packing (this works only if you give the app permission to know your location). Another option is to set alarms for specific items you plan to pack. The app is easy to read, and you can share your list by printing or emailing it.

Good for: Minimalists, the absent-minded, app novices.

PACKING PRO

If you think minimalism is overrated, there’s Packing Pro ($2.99). Initially, it appears to complicate packing with its various options: customizing colors and icons, sorting packing lists, importing and exporting them. But if you’re traveling for business, or if you’re packing for several people, you might think all these choices are precisely what’s needed. You’ll just need a little patience to get the hang of it.

Here’s what families will like: Packing Pro allows you to create a master family packing list that can then be sorted by each member — husband, wife, son, daughter, “pet.”

Good for: Detail-oriented travelers, families, your dog.

TRIPLIST

Like Packing Pro and Travel List, TripList (free), allows you to select categories of things to pack — clothing, documents, electronics — from an “items catalog.” What distinguishes this app is that its categories feel particularly of the moment. For instance, in the items catalog there’s a “tasks” category where you can add to-dos like “book home exchange,” “charge batteries,” “download music,” “check-in online” and “security (set light timers).” A “family” category includes “apps for kids.” The “pro” ad-free version of the app ($2.99) is where the real value is: It allows you to sync your lists across multiple devices, create separate packing lists for everyone in your household, and link to TripIt, an itinerary management tool.

Good for: Tech geeks, happy campers, and if you buy the pro version, families.

STYLEBOOK

Fashion forward: By uploading photos of every sweater, dress and shoe you own, closet-organization apps allow you to catalog your wardrobe and play stylist.

Why would anyone want to do such a thing? If you have to ask, these are not the apps for you. Fashion is the focus, though some of these tools, like Closet+, have features to help travelers pack for runways of a different sort. I find Stylebook to be the most intuitive. In addition to being an index of your closet, Stylebook ($3.99) calculates the clothes you wear most and least, the total value of your closet and the colors found inside.

Good for: Would-be Anna Wintours.

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