Day Trip Essentials — Packing a Day Bag

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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. I love being able to go sightseeing or hiking with just a small backpack and my camera. However, having things like dental floss, a nail file, or a safety pin can smooth out small annoyances — so I try to balance traveling light with being well prepared. I have a pre-packed day trip essentials kit, which lets me quickly pack my day bag and have the things I want and might need. You might 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!

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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.

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’ve assembled small things I might need into a one-quart Ziplock 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 and chapstick in my pocket, I don’t need anything else. I’m hands-free and good to go.

The contents of an essentials kit for a one day trip

The contents of my Day Trip Essentials kit easily fit into a one-quart Ziplock bag.

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.

Contents of a tiny First Aid kit with Band-Aids, and a variety of non-prescription medications.

This tiny First Aid kit holds more than you’d think and is perfect for day tripping.

Pre-packing a Day Tripping 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.

All the small daytrip essentials packed into a one-quart Ziplock bag.

Here’s the packed Day Trip Essentials kit, which also includes a copy of my day bag packing list.

Day Bag Packing List for Day Excursions

In addition to things in the Day Trip Essentials kit, I take water, camera gear, and whatever extra clothing the day requires. Here’s my day bag checklist:

A display of all the items you could put in your day bag for a daytrip

This is everything on the 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:

  • Lip balm is not in my kit because I always have Chapstick in my pocket
  • Brow pencil is the only makeup I take because it’s the only makeup I routinely wear
  • The plastic bag is for small purchases (like postcards) or trash
  • The microfiber cloth is for cleaning glasses
  • The Electro Mix turns a bottle of water into an energy drink. I sometimes need the Potassium
  • The Croakie eyeglass strap is an item I added after losing my favorite sunglasses on the Katoomba Mine Train in the Blue Mountains in Australia

Choosing a 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 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.

About the Author

I am a native Californian and retired telecommunications manager who loves all aspects of travel, even the challenging stressful parts when arrangements don’t quite go as planned. I'm an avid sightseer and amateur photographer; my travel interests include history, art, language, food, and, of course, people. I've been to 43 countries on six continents — including 20 trips to Europe.

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