I'd rather not have to type out all the metadata types in the package.xml but i'm not seeing any other way to do it?
You can use this VS Code extension
This extension provides an User Interface to choose metadata components for Package.xml file for development against sandboxes or DE orgs (Org Development Model with VS Code). This is similar to Eclipse Force.com IDE Add/Remove Metadata Components option.
Affiliation : I am the developer for this extension. It is free to use.
You can now use the org browser in VSCode to retrieve specific metadata types or individual files: https://developer.salesforce.com/tools/vscode/en/user-guide/org-browser/
I created a
Package.xml that contains all the metadata types and wildcards so you can pull down the whole org.
The Gist is here: https://gist.github.com/shanerk/d9fec40ddd096cac44cab6d2fd16f5c2
That being said, the Salesforce Extensions for VSCode have native functionality to retrieve all the org metadata which should be used unless you have a compelling reason for a more customized process.