I hate to admit it, but I am a last minute packer. The more I travel, the more I procrastinate to the very last minute. Fortunately, I have created a spreadsheet that helps me on my packing weakness (did I mention I live and breath spreadsheets being a financial analyst?).

Since I do multiple trips a year, I have a packing list I keep up-to-date in Google Docs. This is more for my hiking, backpacking, and outdoors trips, but it serves a foundation for most trips. It is always good to make a running list of gear you have in a template spreadsheet and then create a new packing list for ever trip with the most recent list.

Below is a screenshot of how my spreadsheet is set up:

packing list

As you can see, it is color coded based on the bag I want the item to go in. The “B” column stands for “bag number”. Each bag (or pack) I plan on taking gets a number. Once I have packed it, I mark an “X” in the “P” column; that stands for “packed”. Also, you can see at the bottom right of the screen shot my “List Template” sheet, which is the running template. Once I have a new trip planned, I copy the “List Template” and rename the tab accordingly.

I let the type of trip decide how much I will be packing and the gear I will be. If I am traveling a lot without my own transportation, then it is crucial that all my camping goes in my pack with my clothes. This does get to be hard, so splitting gear up between travelers is important. You don’t want to be lugging around a backpack plus a duffel with all your tent and camping gear. I always pack in layers and plan on re-wearing clothes. It is easy to find a quick place to do laundry no matter where you are (if you have water).

Below is a picture of me with my trusty backpack (in Italy) for a 6 week study abroad trip in France PLUS a week trip in Italy. I did have a small roll bag with me as well and ended up shipping all my school stuff and souvenirs home before heading to Italy to lighten my load, which is always an option.


I traded in this REI bag for a more comfortable Osprey bag. If you really use your backpack, then spending the extra money for comfort is definitely worth it and cut the costs elsewhere on your travel.

What tools/techniques do you use to pack for a trip?