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How to Pack a Day Trip Bag — the Fast and Easy Way

Do you love taking day trips? Do you like traveling light and also like being well prepared? With our day trip bag checklist and a small prepacked essentials kit, you can do both.

Day tripping is one of the best parts of traveling and this is partly because we leave our luggage behind and often have just a small day bag. I love being able to go sightseeing or hiking with only a small backpack and maybe my big camera. But I also want to balance traveling light with being well prepared.

Two things help me quickly pack my day bag and feel confident that while I don’t have much to carry, I do have items I might need. The downloadable checklist (linked below) reminds me to pack things like camera gear, binoculars, and a sunhat. I also have a small Ziplock bag prepacked and always ready in my day bag. It’s full of small items like sunscreen, a nail file, bandaids, aspirin, and electrolyte packets. It’s my Day Trip Essentials Kit, and it can help smooth out small annoyances and sometimes even save the day.

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!

Here’s what’s in this article:

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

Organizing a Day Bag for a Day Trip

So, you’re heading out on a day trip and you’ll likely be away from your lodging for several hours. Maybe you’re checking out ancient rock art in Australia’s Kakadu National Park or taking a boat to Skellig Michael off the coast of Ireland. No matter where you’re going, it’s easier if you travel light, and it’s also great to have things with you that you might need.

A day trip check list and a small day bag with items typically packed in a day bag.
My small day bag with the things I normally pack and a copy of our downloadable checklist.

Making sure you have the things you want or need is more likely if you have a day trip check list to remind you. Download ours, if you wish, and customize it to suit your needs.

The packed day bag essentials kit, which is a one-quart bag filled with small but useful items for any day trip.
Packing a day bag is so much easier with a prepacked bag of stuff that can really be useful on a day trip.

Creating a Small Day Trip Essentials Kit

I save time by assembling small things I might need on a day trip, or any long outing, into a one-quart Ziploc bag. The kit goes in my daypack along with anything I want from the Day Bag Packing List. My 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 smart phone in my pocket, I don’t need anything else. I’m hands-free and good to go.

Display of suggested contents for a prepacked Day Trip Essentials kit, which makes organizing a daypack fast and easy.
Contents of the Day Trip Essentials kit. It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s worth it when you need it.

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 need (like sunscreen or insect repellent) makes my day more enjoyable.

A tiny 3 x 4-inch first aid kit with basics like aspirin, Alka Seltzer, alcohol pads, 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 has a ridiculous amount of stuff but it’s only 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 maybe serious heartburn from lunch.

True story: My husband and I were walking toward the cathedral in Koln, Germany, and I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and fell. My camera, which was hanging around my neck, smacked my face and cut my nose. Items in the tiny First Aid kit, cleaned and patched me up enough to continue sightseeing.

You might notice that the assortment of over-the-counter pills are individual servings in sealed packets. I find these in convenience or liqueur stores and prefer them because they are sealed and have “use by” dates. It just feels more trustworthy if you happen to share them with a fellow traveler whose day would be better if they just had an aspirin or a bandaid.

Day Trip 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 of the day bag 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
  • Binoculars
  • Glasses (sunglasses & reading glasses)
  • Maps, guides & tickets
  • Snacks (Kind bars are our go-to)
  • 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.

Customize the Mini Essentials Kit

Create your own Day Trip Essentials kit to suit your own needs. My day bag checklist 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 Croakie eyeglass strap is an item I added after losing my favorite sunglasses on the Katoomba Mine Train in Australia.
  • The bathroom kit helps when the only facility available is less than desirable.
  • The Electro Mix turns a bottle of water into an energy drink, with Potassium.
Young man wearing his best daypack while walking the Labyrinth at Lands End in San Francisco.
My grandson wearing a small day bag on a hike to Lands End in San Francisco. Alas, the labyrinth is gone now.

Choosing the Best Day Bag for Day Tours

  • Jim swears by his little black backpack by Eddie Bauer
  • My favorite is the Outlander Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking DayPack

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.

My best day bag is an 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 my smartphone tripod. The Outlander folds neatly into its 7 x 7-inch (18 x 18 cm) 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 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.
  • Avoid wearing expensive or even expensive-looking jewelry.
  • When in crowded places, carry your day bag on your chest, rather than your back.

True Story: While standing across the street from La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a woman came up and said “a man just unzipped your backpack; you should wear it on your chest instead.” Sure enough, the middle pocket was unzipped. But the pocket picker must have been disappointed because he didn’t take my Best of Spain book, which was the only thing in the pocket.

For overall travel safety see How to Travel Safely.

The Day Tripping Kit Works for Other Outings Too

I keep my small day trip bag packed all the time and use it for outings like taking my grandkids to the zoo or aquarium. In addition to the essentials kit, my day bag always has a windbreaker and sunhat.

Taking the Essentials Kit Through Airport Security

When flying, if you take your essentials kit on the plane, remember to move any liquids to a plastic bag for screening. In 2023, this was still a requirement at some airports. In May 2023, the airport in Athens Greece was still screening liquids, and several people in the security line were unprepared. They had to step out of line and remove all liquids from their carry-on bags. They were pretty stressed about it.


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 or 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 not much you don’t.

Author bio: Ginny Vail is a travel writer, who loves sightseeing, photography, and videography. She’s been to 45 countries across six continents and traveled by air, car, bus, train, boat, and ship. Her articles can help you discover places to go, sights to see, and details about when and how to visit them.

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