Day Trip Essentials — Packing a Day Bag

Day tripping is one of the best parts of traveling and this is partly because we leave our luggage behind and travel light — often with just a small Day Bag. I have a pre-packed Day Trip Essentials Kit, which makes packing my Day Bag fast and easy. You might also find a day trip kit helpful for spending time outside the airport on a long layover, or a day exploring a new port city during a cruise, or hiking in the middle of a city!

I love being able to go sightseeing or hiking with just a small backpack and my camera, but I also want to balance traveling light with being well prepared. My pre-packed day trip essentials kit lets me quickly include small things like a band aid, a nail file, a safety pin, or an Aspirin that can smooth out small annoyances.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to quickly pack a day bag with everything you need for day tripping. We cover these 5 subjects:

A day tripper with a day trip bag on his back standing before the Great Buddha in Kamakura.
A small day bag like this is great for day trips; it doesn’t weigh you down and leaves your hands free.

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Organizing a Day Bag for a Day Trip

Typically, when packing our day bag, we gather items from our makeup bag, and toiletries and first aid kits and hope we have what we need. It takes time, and it’s a bit of a hassle to gather the items up and later to put them back.

Prepacking day bag essentials like sunscreen and mini first aid kit into a one-quart Ziploc bag makes packing a day bag easy.
Contents of the Day Trip Essentials kit easily fit into a one-quart Ziploc bag.

I save time by assembling small things I might need into a one-quart Ziploc bag. I simply toss the pre-packed Day Trip Essentials kit into my daypack along with anything I want from the Day Bag Packing List below, and I’m done. The kit is 8 x 6 x 1.5-inches (20 cm x 15 cm x 4 cm) and weighs 11.4 oz (323 g).

Since I always keep my ID, cash and cards in my money belt, and my iPhone in my pocket, I don’t need anything else. I’m hands-free and good to go.

A tiny 3 x 4 inch first aid kit with basics like aspirin, alka seltzer, alcohol pads, tweezers, and assorted band aids.
This tiny First Aid kit holds more than you’d think and is perfect for day tripping.

A Perfect First Aid Kit for Day Trippers

The Mini First Aid kit, included in the Day Trip Essentials kit, is 3.25 x 4 inches (8.25 cm x 10 cm) and weighs almost nothing. Even so, it holds items that can save the day if you get a splinter or blister or have a headache.

The packed daily bag essentials kit, which is a one-quart bag filled with small but useful items for any day trip.
The fully packed Day Trip Essentials kit also includes a packing list of other items to consider taking, like a jacket.

Pre-packing a Mini Day Trip Essentials Kit Saves Time

I seldom use more than a few items on any given trek, but these items are small, cheap, and take little space. With a pre-packed kit, I don’t need to scramble to get my day bag organized for an early excursion. Just knowing I have things I might want (like sunscreen or insect repellent) makes my day more enjoyable.

A small day bag with the mini day trip essentials kit, a copy of out day trip check list, and a few typical day bag items.
Packing a day bag is so much easier with a Day Trip Essentials kit. Add the kit, scan the checklist, and add whatever else you need.

Day Bag Packing List for Day Excursions

We created a checklist for our own use, and you can download a PDF copy below. The checklist is actually two lists on one sheet; it has all of the things in our pre-packed Day Trip Essentials kit and an expanded version the list below:

  • Mini Day Trip Essentials kit (which includes the tiny first aid kit)
  • Camera gear: Spare battery & SD card, polarizing filter, camera hood, remote shutter release, GorillaPod (tripod)
  • Binoculars
  • Glasses (sun & reading)
  • Maps, guides & tickets
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Clothing for hot, cold, or rainy weather: Hat, coat, jacket, fleece, rain poncho, umbrella, gloves

The list helps make sure you’ve included whatever clothing, camera gear, or other gear you’ll wish you had on a specific trip. After boarding the train for a day in Monet’s Garden in Giverny, it’s too late to remember you really meant to bring a sun hat.

A display of all of the items listed on the one day trip packing list that you might take depending on the weather.
This is everything on the Day Bag Packing List, although it’s unlikely you would take it all on the same day trip.

Create Your Own Custom Mini Essentials Kit

Create your own Day Trip Essentials kit to suit your own needs. You will save time and be well prepared for the day. My day bag check list is pretty standard, but the contents in the essentials kit are unique to me and have evolved over time. Here are the reasons for some of the odd bits:

Young man wearing his best day pack while walking the Labyrinth on Lands End Trail in San Francisco.
My grandson always wears a small day pack on day trips as he does here on the Lands End Trail in San Francisco.

Choosing the Best Day Bag for Day Tours

The Eddie Bauer comes with a rock solid lifetime guarantee. When Jim’s 5 year old day pack suffered a broken zipper, he brought it back to a store and exchanged it for the latest model, no questions asked. You really can’t beat that kind of customer service.

I have two small back packs I use for day trips and other outings. One is a simple nylon sack with strings for straps. It takes no space in my luggage and is useful on treks where I only want my essentials kit, water, and a windbreaker.

My best day bag is a Outlander Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking DayPack. It’s small, lightweight, washable, and its 7 pockets keep things in place, so everything doesn’t go straight to the bottom of the bag. It also has elastic loops on the side mesh pockets to secure water bottles, and it folds neatly into its 7 x 7-inch interior pocket.

Safety on Day Trips

Crowded cities and major tourist sites are a magnet for pickpockets and other thieves and scams. And that’s true in many parts of the world. Most of us travelers manage to avoid being harmed or robbed by taking a few precautions.

Here Are Ways to Keep Yourself and Your Possessions Safe When Day Tripping

Protect yourself:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings and even more so in crowded cities and tourist spots.
  • Avoid empty streets and alleys, especially late at night.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol or other drugs. You need your wits about you.
  • When crossing streets, know which way traffic flows, pay attention, and look both ways. Crossing a road when it’s clear on your right can be deadly in a country where traffic drives on the left.

Protect your personal stuff:

  • Keep the location of your valuables a secret by carrying a small amount of money in a front pocket for small purchases and donations.
  • Keep major money, credit cards, and passport in an RFID proof money belt or similarly, hidden-away device.
  • Avoid putting valuables in your day bag. If you do need to put keys or other valuables in your bag, pin them to the inside bottom of the bag with a carabiner clip or safety pin.
  • If you have a large, expensive camera, carry it on a crossbody strap, preferably in a protective camera bag.
  • When in crowded places, carry your day bag on your chest, rather than your back.
  • Avoid wearing expensive or even expensive-looking jewelry.

True Story: While standing across the street from La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a woman came up and said “a man just walked up behind you and unzipped your backpack; you should wear it on your chest instead.” Sure enough, the middle pocket was unzipped. My Best of Spain Travel book was the only thing in the pocket, and, for some reason the thief didn’t take it.

For overall travel safety see How to Travel Safely.

The Day Tripping Kit Works for Other Outings Too

This isn’t just for travels. I keep the Day Trip Essentials kit packed and stored next to my camera. Anytime, I go anywhere that calls for a small daypack, I take this kit. That includes taking my great grandkids to the zoo or aquarium.

Taking the Essentials Kit Through Airport Security

When flying, I often pack the Day Trip Essentials kit in my carry-on bag, but I move the sunscreen and hand lotion to my liquids bag for airport screening. Everything else in the kit is carry-on safe.

Conclusion

The Day Trip Essentials Kit is like an emergency kit. It contains many things you hopefully won’t need, but it can save the day if you do need an item of two. It takes little time and costs very little to build a kit — customized just for you. Plus, a Day Bag Packing List can help you remember to add other items to your day bag, so you have everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Pin Day Pack Essentials
Don't you just love a day trip? Be prepared with our Day Trip Essentials Kit with free checklist download.

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