Day Trip Essentials — Packing a Day Bag

Contents of a day trip essentials kit, which is a one-quart Ziploc bag pre-packed with several small but essential items.

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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 Bay 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.

A daytripper on an excursion with a small day bag.
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.

I save time by assembling small things I might need into a one-quart Ziploc bag. 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). 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.

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.

Several small but essential items for a day trip, like sunscreen and mini first aid kit, are pre-packed into a one-quart Ziploc bag.
Contents of the Day Trip Essentials kit easily fit into a one-quart Ziploc bag.

A Perfect First Aid Kit for Day Trippers

The [easyazon_link identifier=”B0747N5KDM” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Mini First Aid kit[/easyazon_link], 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.

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.

Pre-packing a 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 my pre-packed kit, I don’t need to scramble early in the morning to get my day bag organized for an early excursion. I’m well prepared, and my day is more enjoyable.

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.

Day Bag Packing List for Day Excursions

In addition to things in the Day Trip Essentials kit, I take the following list of items. To download a complete PDF copy of both a Day Bag and Day Trip Essentials Kit checklist, click the button below:

  • Day Trip Essentials kit
  • Camera gear: [easyazon_link identifier=”B07D127YV5″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Spare battery[/easyazon_link] & [easyazon_link identifier=”B0143RT8OY” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]SD card[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B00SRNEEG8″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]polarizing filter[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B010BIK992″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]camera hood[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B00YRV3DHU” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]remote shutter release[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B074WC9YKL” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]GorillaPod[/easyazon_link] (tri-pod)
  • [easyazon_link identifier=”B06XT7M6P5″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Binoculars[/easyazon_link]
  • [easyazon_link keywords=”Sun Glasses” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Glasses[/easyazon_link](sun & reading)
  • Maps, [easyazon_link keywords=”rough guides” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]guides[/easyazon_link] & tickets
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Clothing for hot, cold, or rainy weather: [easyazon_link identifier=”B078V49YWG” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Hat[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B076CNHYGB” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]coat[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B006SWECPI” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]jacket[/easyazon_link], fleece, rain poncho, [easyazon_link identifier=”B01AU292NS” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]umbrella[/easyazon_link], gloves

Download the Day Bag and Essential Kit Checklist

A display of all of the day trip bag items on the suggested one day trip packing list.
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 Kit and Checklist

Create your own Day Trip Essentials kit and day bag checklist 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:

  • The [easyazon_link identifier=”B01N6UZLXH” locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Croakie eyeglass strap[/easyazon_link] is an item I added after losing my favorite sunglasses on the Katoomba Mine Train in Australia
  • The microfiber cloth is for cleaning glasses
  • The plastic bag is for small purchases (like postcards) or trash
  • The [easyazon_link identifier=”B074ZMDPR5″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]Electro Mix[/easyazon_link] turns a bottle of water into an energy drink. I sometimes need Potassium
  • Brow pencil is the only makeup I take because it’s the only makeup I routinely wear

Choosing a Day Bag for Day Tours

  • Jim swears by his [easyazon_link identifier=”B073W91R54″ locale=”US” tag=”reflectio0203-20″]little black backpack[/easyazon_link] by Eddie Bauer
  • My favorite is the Civita Day Pack

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 backpacks that 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 Rick Steves Civita Day Pack, which I’ve had for many years. The bag is very lightweight, washable, has 3-pockets, padded straps, and rolls up quite small. On long train rides, I’ve turned it into a pillow by stuffing it with a fleece.

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.


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 Bay 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.

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