I’m on an eternal quest to pack light. Seriously, I’m tired of schlepping my heavy bags all over the place! Spoiler alert: I’m not there yet, but I made some progress!

The first step in packing is planning. I do all my planning in my dedicated travel Bullet Journal, one for each major trip. The pictures below show the various categories I use to organize my list. Yep, my list took 4 pages in the journal. Not all trips require this much planning, of course. I promise I can pull of a long weekend without even making a list at all. Three weeks in a foreign country, however, is another story. The goal here is to keep it simple, keep it streamlined, and bring the things that will really be functional and will save us money on our travels.

I start with clothes (the most fun) which includes shoes. There is a separate section for the outfit I plan to wear on the plane. I’m getting this one perfected, so maybe I won’t need this too much longer. Then toiletries, kitchen supplies, and miscellaneous. Finally, a category for items I want to ensure are in my carry-on.

My carry-on always has my computer, camera, chargers, and an adapter for the country I am traveling to. A deck of cards, a travel cribbage board, and my Kindle provide entertainment. I also make sure I carry any paper vouchers or confirmations that I might need once we arrive. WiFi can be unpredictable and I never assume I can access my email for all those confirmations. Next to those, I slip in my travel journal and writing implements. Final items are anti-nausea travel bracelets, Gin Gin candies, gum, a few snacks, compression socks, and a week’s worth of medication.

Kitchen items might seem kind of weird, but when you are spending three weeks on the road, staying in a variety of lodging options, you want to have a few essentials. First, coffee. I always bring my AeroPress and my Porlex coffee grinder. I throw in a bag of beans from home and procure more along the way. This is a life saver when you wake up that first morning in a hotel that features mediocre coffee options. To be fair, I love going to local coffee shops and will buy a coffee (or two or three) every day while traveling. But I love the convenience of being able to get up wherever I am, make a quick AeroPress, lounge in bed read, and sip coffee, before I have to venture out in the world.

I also throw in one reasonably good paring knife, one dish towel (comes in handy all the time), a simple corkscrew, a wine sealer, and two toppers for wine bottles. I don’t want to be forced to drink the whole bottle just because I don’t have a good way to reseal it. I throw in a few Ziplock bags to store leftover food in as well as a small stainless cup for taking drinks to the pool. I love this one from my local wine store.

Perfect cup for poolside drinks

The miscellaneous list is rounded out by a shopping bag for market runs, a clothesline, travel laundry soap, a Tide pen, and a basic canvas bag to take to the beach and pool. I’m starting to figure out why my bag is so heavy! Seriously, though, these are the things I have used over and over again while traveling. I have certainly packed other random things over the years, but they haven’t made the cut as being enduring or worth their weight. Literally.

Next up, clothes. They deserve their own post!