Stuff We Like: Pack Light, Travel Fast, Part II – The Calm Traveler Packing List

Welcome to Stuff We Like, a regular column where we shop and share items we think you’ll love. By reader request, I’m building a Stuff We Like series on one-bag packing and tools to help you organize and travel light.

Last time, I talked about the tiny bag I carry with me all the time, and the tech essentials inside it. I also talked a little about my focus on one-bag travel, and making sure I carry only what I need, and not too much extra, so my bag is as light and easy to carry as possible.

So this week, I’m going to share with you my Calm Traveler Packing List Template – Domestic Business Travel, and talk a little about how I use this template to streamline my own packing.

First: Instructions!

The Calm Traveler Packing List Template is a Google Sheet, and is visible here.

You’ll need to be signed in to using your Gmail address. Once you’re logged in, click the link above to view a copy of the spreadsheet.

Important! The above link is view-only, but you can save a copy of the sheet for yourself. Here is what you should do.

  1. Click the link! Magic, these internets, I tell you.
  2. The spreadsheet shall appear!
  3. Click FILE, and then Make a Copy:File - make a Copy
  4. Name the copy or leave the name as-is, and save to your Google Drive:
    Make a Copy - copy document name and location, then OK button and cancel

That copy is yours, and you can edit it as much as you like – and you should, to make it useful for your travels!

How do I use this packing list once I’ve got my own copy?

First, I always make a copy of my template, or of an existing packing list when I start to prepare for a trip. So it’s perfectly logical for you to make a copy of your template, and customize it for each of your journeys.

Most packing lists are a starting point, including this one. Alter and adjust it as needed to figure out your needs and what you want to have with you.

Do I use this on a computer or do I print it out?

Your choice! I sometimes follow the packing list on a laptop, and other times I print it out. You can check items off with a pen, or use the “strikethrough” button to indicate an item has been packed – whatever works for you.

Note: there is a small space next to each item, and you can either specify a number for items needed, or put a “Y” for “Yup, I totally packed that.” Again, do what makes you feel comfortable and prepared!

Let me give you a tour and some instructions on how to use this template. Ready? 

The guiding principle of this packing list (and most of my travel advice, really) is:

Don’t bring indecision with you!

Decide in advance what you need, and what you’re bringing, so you can reduce the number of items you’re carrying. That way, you travel light, fast, and relaxed.

Now, let’s take a look at the The Calm Traveler Packing List Template, and take a tour.

Starting with Essentials

essentials section - mouth guard, medication, passport epi pensIf you get the Organization Academy newsletter, you’ll have read about this in a previous newsletter.

Essentials are the starting point of this packing list.

Think for a few minutes about your day, and what you do to take care of yourself.

Then, answer this question:

What are the most important, irreplaceable, absolutely necessary personal items you need to have for this trip, and every trip?

I’m not talking about cell phones or computers or pants – that’s another subject.

I mean your personal items, things that are essential for your travel, comfort, and health that can’t be easily replaced. Items like:

  • Passport and/or Identification
  • Prescription medication
  • Prescription eye glasses or sunglasses
  • Mouth guards for TMJ (I have one and I can’t sleep without it so it’s crucial!)
  • Medical equipment

If you absolutely need it with you, and it’s nearly impossible to replace on the road, then it’s an Essential. Write it down! Essentials are those items you cannot or should not be without, that are very personal to you, and are impossible to replace easily.

This part is yellow because it’s very important. Your Essentials are very likely different from mine, but they are vital to your health, safety, and comfort.

You can see some of my necessities on my list, pictured above:  my TMJ mouthguard, medication, my passport or ID, and my Epi-Pens. I left a lot of room because you might have more necessities than I do. Plus, you can move things around as needed.

On Flight

On Flight - noise canceling earbuds, kindle, snacks, waterbottle lip balmThis is where you list the things you need while you’re traveling in your seat on the plane (or train or bus or wherever).

The goal is for your bag to be as minimal as possible, but you’ll want to be able to pull out a smaller bag or use your purse for the things you’ll need during the flight.

I list items here that I’ll need while I’m traveling, and possibly only while traveling.

Miscellaneous and Tech

This section is pretty self explanatory. If you read the last Stuff We Like: Pack Light and Travel Fast, Part I,  you know what I have with me all the time, in my “mini cord bag.” Anything that doesn’t quite fit in the other sections can go here.


Foundation - socks, underwear, bra, jammies, tights stockings knee highs with numbers neededAKA: undergarments! Again, this is self-explanatory. “Jammies/chill” is sleep clothing and/or clothing to wear while I chill in my room, like pajama pants and a tee, or similar.

The “2k” in tights/stockings/knee highs is “2 pair of knee high.” I realize they’re more accurately called ‘trouser socks,’ but there’s already a “t” in use for “tights.” If I needed to bring some of each, I’d write “1t, 1s, 2k” or similar.


You’ll notice that “Toiletry bag” is shaded yellow. This is because most of the time, my toiletry bag is 90% packed. At all times, I can grab my bag, put in medication and my mouth guard, check that my bottles and tubes are full, and go.

I’m going to do a separate explanation on types of toiletry bags, and what I include in mine every time I travel. If I did that here, this entry would be nineteen miles long. 

You might find a packing guide that lists everything (shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc) – this is very handy the first time you pack a toiletry case.  I keep all of those things already packed. I have a once yearly reminder to go through, toss expired things and replenish what I have.

You’ll notice that there’s a second tab to this packing list for the toiletry bag. I’ll be adding a page to this spreadsheet specifically for toiletry bag suggestions so you can keep yours mostly ready.


I really, really love trying out hotel gym equipment, and I try to work out at least 3-4 times per trip. Part of my self-motivation is bringing the stuff I’ll need with me, so if I don’t use it, I’ll feel WHOA DAMN GUILTY.

I also wear my sneakers on the plane because they take up the most room in a bag, and they’re the most comfortable and versatile should I have to hurry through an airport.

And now, we come to the most important part of this packing template, the part that I love the most.


Clothing, Outfits, weather, agenda, with information filled in below each column heading

This is the crucial part of my list, and the one that saves me the most stress. I’m operating on the assumption that if I’m traveling and/or at a conference, I’m going to be tired and a little frazzled from the combination of possible time changes, crowds of people, meetings, presentations, and hotel/travel food.

Despite the layout order, I recommend you start with “WEATHER.”

List the forecast high and low temp (obviously this is Fahrenheit, but if you rock the Celsius do your thing) and any precipitation.

Then, in agenda, sketch as minimally as possible what you’re doing, emphasizing level of dress and whether you’re outside. So in this sample, I list presentations, lunch dates, formal dinners, workshops, lunch meetings wherein I’ll be walking to the restaurant, and whether I leave the hotel at all that day.

Then it’s time to plan outfits. I usually construct this part of the list with my computer on my dresser, looking at the weather and items on my agenda.

I have two key goals with planning outfits:

  1. Keep to a specific palette of colors so if something goes wrong, everything goes with everything else. This trip is blue/grey/black. I’ve done burgundy/black/cream, and many others.
  2. Make sure that major items that take up room are worn more than once. If it’s a big piece of clothing, like pants, shoes, and sweaters, make sure it does double or triple duty.

Another key point: I know at conferences like RWA, you might be self conscious of what you’re wearing, and want to put on your best clothing. I totally understand that, and often feel the same way!

But it’s important to be comfortable, to feel like your most confident self. So plan and pack outfits that make you feel great.

Also, consider this: do you remember what other people were wearing every day? Probably not, unless they were wearing a terrific shirt or shoes or something you really liked. So don’t worry about mixing and matching – you don’t have to wear an entirely new outfit every day, and there isn’t anyone standing with a check list making sure you aren’t wearing the same trousers twice in a week.

But, wait, it says Domestic Business Travel? What about personal or family travel?

I am working on those now, and they’ll be ready next, along with All The Toiletry Info, too. I started here because for many of you, business travel is challenging, and can be overwhelming. My goal here is to explain all my one-bag tricks, then show you what I’m packing for RWA, which is in July. I know not everyone goes to RWA, but it’s a good example of being aware of weather and agenda, and then forming a capsule wardrobe that fits.

But for personal travel, your needs may be a little different. Cruises and events with formal evenings can be a challenge, especially dressing for dinner. (Again, I say it’s ok to mix and match pieces. A black dress, for example, can be dressed up in different ways with cardigans, belts, scarves, jackets, etc.)

So what’s the plan for this mythical event?

With this sample outfit plan, we have:

a. Flying. I always fly in the same outfit. Yoga pants (which I wear later to sleep or chill in my room), a travel fabric tee (more on those later), and a wrap sweater that’s a lightweight wool (I am always cold). As mentioned, I wear my sneakers so I can work out when I’m away without taking up too much room in my bag.

b. Four days of conference activity, meals, presentations, and workshops. You’ll notice that the pants repeat, as do the shoes. I’ll change from heels to flats (and wear the flats all day later in the week when I’m very tired) depending on the schedule and if I have time. I am relying on a few key elements – grey and black pants, blue sweaters and tops – to form the foundation of my wardrobe. I can also dress anything up or down with jewelry and scarves. Those make a big difference!

Generally speaking, I’m going to place comfort and traveling light as a higher priority than dressing up, but I don’t want to appear underdressed, either! By focusing on repeating a few elements, I carry less clothing, and each item, as often as possible, does double duty.

Once you’ve planned an outfit, list the individual items in the Clothing column, and the Shoes column.

Fluevog Revelation in blue and creamYou can construct your outfits however you want – if you want to start with a pair of shoes and build two outfits, go ahead. I’ve done that: I have a pair of blue and cream heels that I have built several outfits around, starting with the shoes.

The Goal: Create outfit plans that you like, with clothing items that make you feel like your best, most confident self, and mix and match major elements as much as possible.

Why do you not list a specific number of shirts and pants to bring?

This packing list starts with what you’re wearing and when, which allows you to plan your wardrobe and bring only exactly what you need.

In other words, instead of a list that looks like this:

Shirts – 3
Pants – 2
Jacket – 1
Sweater – 1 to 2
Belt – 1

I list the specific item I’m bringing. I find that if I bring X number of shirts and Y number of pants, I’m then standing in my hotel room half asleep and under-caffeinated (in-room coffee? No, thank you) trying to make decisions about what shirt and what pants to wear that day.

If I plan my outfits in advance as much as possible, and list the specific items I’m bringing, I don’t over pack. I know what to put on each day, and if something gets stained or spilled on, everything matches, so I have other items that can substitute.

Extra tip: when I’m done traveling, I will often make notes about specific outfits on my packing list. Advice like, “Pants got very wrinkly, not good for all-day or presenting,” or, “Shirt was very comfortable – bring again!”

And when I have another trip to plan for, I will make a copy of an existing packing list from my Google Drive, either from the same event the prior year, or a trip of a similar length. Then I alter, substitute, and adjust as needed, knowing that the bulk of the work is already done. When there’s a trip I do annually, like RWA or RT, I leave myself advice about what to do better next year.

So what’s the short version of how I should use this Packing List Template?


  1. Decide Your Essentials. If you don’t have these items, it will most definitely be a crappy trip.
  2. Weather and Agenda. What are you doing that day, and could the weather have any influence or impact?
  3. Outfits and Clothing Items. Based on your agenda and the weather, plan your outfits, and list the individual items in the “Clothing” and “Shoes” area.

Past Sarah and Present Sarah developed this packing list template over several years of travel to help Future Sarah out.

I’ll be back next week to talk about what I pack my clothing in. There are so many choices – packing cubes, compression bags, plastic pouches – and I’ll share my research into what works really well for me. I’ll also be sharing my master Toiletry Bag list, as well as packing list templates for international travel, and family travel, too.

If this series is completely your catnip, please consider signing up for the Organization Academy mailing list. I send out weekly tips on digital and personal organization, and I send templates and guides like this one to the group early, too.

I hope this template helps present and future you. And if you have questions or suggestions, absolutely let me know!

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