4 Steps To Make a Bullet Journal Packing List

Cartoon suitcase doodle which symbolizes a bullet journal packing list

Table of Contents

The ability to travel in our modern age seemed as permanently sure as the hills. Of course, that was pre-2020, prior to the gangrene of a pandemic spreading throughout the earth, effectively killing off humanity’s itinerary.

But things WILL get better! If you’re into travel bullet journal ideas, why not consider making a BuJo packing list? Even if your foreseeable future is devoid of travel, you can still gain from making this spread right now. After all, isn’t half the fun in planning and daydreaming?

In this post, we’ll guide you in designing the perfect bullet journal packing list. Let’s dive in!

1. Determine the Features of Your Bullet Journal Spread

Before designing the basic layout, determine what features will make your list as helpful, efficient, and logical as possible. I can think of two. Much like a habit tracker, a handy packing list should implement 1) symbols and 2) categories.

Use Functional Bullet Symbols

Bullet symbols that can indicate whether an item is packed or yet to be packed are the best way to manage your luggage. They’re important because they track what you pack, giving you peace of mind from having to do rechecks. Casey and I use this modest format:

Example of square fillable bullet symbols at work in a two-columned list
Fillable bullet symbols are the most helpful way to manage a travel packing list

Once an item is packed, we fill in the square and forget about it because we trust the system. This method is cleaner than crossing something off the list and less work than migrating it to another category. Simple is best.

Turn Each Bag/Suitcase Into a Category

Separate your list into categories, designating each bag or suitcase as its own. For example, “Casey’s Carry-on” or “Big Blue Suitcase”. Doing it this way ensures an extra level of organization.

Of course, it’s easier to pack for a self-serving weekend road trip than an extended vacation with the entire family. So keep your unique needs in mind.

For us, there isn’t a need to divide EVERYTHING into categories, such as what belongs to whom, which items are electronics, clothing, toiletries, etc. But we definitely need to know WHERE something is packed.

To separate your main list into its appropriate categories, you can incorporate color-coding with the symbols, like this:

Red and blue color codes are used to manage a travel packing list for bullet journaling
Color-coding your categories is a great way to organize your belongings

Or, you can also break down the list visually into sections, like this:

Two categories are physically separated into their own bullet journal packing lists within the same spread
Physically separating your categories is also an excellent option

2. A Recyclable “Master Packing List” or a New Tracker for Each Trip?

The next step is to figure out whether you want to recycle the same spread for all of your excursions or create a fresh one for each upcoming trip.

My wife and I both preferred the “one-spread-fits-all” approach. We figured it would be wiser to create one beautiful spread dedicated to the essential items and reuse it over and over again. This saves notebook space and time.

But, you might wonder, what if your master list of belongings changes? Or how will you deal with the previously filled-in bullet symbols? Won’t the page end up cluttered or messy after repeated use? Valid questions, for sure. If you’re going for a minimalist packing list, then it makes total sense to start a new one for each trip, since it takes such little effort to remake.

Casey’s Creative Spread

But by leveraging the bullet journal method to its creative potential, Casey designed a cute packing list I know you’ll all love:

Casey incorporated the best of both worlds: a reusable packing list BuJo spread with pockets in the form of a backpack and suitcases
Casey’s BuJo travel spread can be reused without getting cluttered or messy

I think this decorative spread gives the best of both worlds. Its modular elements – the envelopes, the category labels, and inserts – are all changeable, rearrangeable, and replaceable. But only when they have to be. For instance, we’ll likely have to replace the bullet lists after each vacation, but not the luggage labels.

3. Design Your Bullet Journal Packing List

Much like you would for daily or weekly spreads, calculate a simple layout for your packing spread. Leave enough room for each category, including its potential bullet list and header. Keep everything neat and orderly, preferably aligned to your grid spacing cheat sheet.

In our case, even though we’re using inserts, notice how each of the pouches is spaced symmetrically on the double-paged spread.

At the end of the day, though, this is just a LIST. If you mismeasure the layout, who cares? Some of us bullet journaling junkies just HAVE to finesse every little thing, but by no means do you have to!

4. Decorate!

Finally, this step is where you get to manifest all of your creative ideas. How about trying your hand at the following cute doodles? (Minimal lists without the pomp are totally fine, too!)

A paper airplane. A super popular symbol for travel, this one’s easy yet good-looking. It’s essentially a bunch of “V’s” assembled together. No matter how you draw it, make sure all the triangular shapes resemble wedges. Also, to give perspective, make the further wing slightly thinner than the one closer to you.

Step-by-step tutorial for doodling a couple of simple paper airplanes from different angles
Doodling paper airplanes is a favorite among travelers who own bullet journals

A suitcase. Start by doodling a rectangle with rounded corners. From there, you can draw the handle, the wheels, the corner protectors, the bands, some stickers – really, any feature you wish – using basic shapes.

Casey converted small card envelopes into suitcases by using thin Washi tape for the bands and corner protectors. She finished off the other easy details using a 0.5mm Sakura Pigma Micron pen.

A backpack. Although traveler’s backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, I’ll show you how to draw one with an arched top. Usually, there’s also a compartment on the front lower half. For the upper half, you could draw a flap or another small compartment.

I love how Casey divided her cut-out backpack into two parts, with the lower portion functioning as a pocket for inserts.

Diagram of both a suitcase and a backpack doodle, step by step. These often look good in bullet journal packing lists
Drawing suitcases and backpacks is easy, too! Just follow the above steps

If you’re intimidated by fancy bullet journal stickers, Washi tape, brush pens, and the pressure to write beautiful lettering, don’t be. Bullet journaling is a means to an end – better productivity. So start basic with the design and gradually progress from there.

Other Bullet Journal Packing Lists From Around the Web

Need more packing list inspo for your BuJo? Here are several other spreads from bullet journaling veterans we really like:

A Stylish Theme Without the Embellishments

This organized packing list has everything we love, in a style we agree with. The color choice is excellent. The suitcase doodles are simple yet fitting. In fact, go over to the Plenty of Plans Instagram feed, and you’ll be encouraged by how even unsophisticated doodles can create a stellar presentation! Credit: @plentyofplans

The Master Tracker

So, Jenn’s list is what I suppose Casey’s list would look like for a 2-week adventure. It makes my head spin. Regardless, this is a very intelligent spread. The items are divided into appropriate categories, albeit according to type rather than whereabouts. But color-coding could easily address this! Credit: @happie_jenn

Leo Cai

Leo Cai

Leo Cai, the one solely responsible for the inception of this Mickey Mouse operation, has at least garnered the acceptance of Casey Cai - his wife. He used to view himself as an avid writer back in high school, with grandiose dreams of making a living using words. That never culminated because, as he himself puts it, "It's more practical to stock bakery shelves while striving to become a professional photographer".

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About Us

We’re Leo & Casey Cai, and Journaling Diaries is our outlet for sharing what we’re learning from the lightweight, nearly disaster-proof hobby of journaling. So far, we’ve found that journaling isn’t merely a shameful tool for hard times or a poor memory. It’s enriching & fun. Whatever, whichever, however – as long as it involves journaling – we’ll be covering it all here. Thanks for stopping by!

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