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:
- Create an inexpensive, mini pre-packed day trip essentials kit for your day bag.
- Create a perfect tiny first aid kit to include in your mini pre-packed day trip essentials kit.
- Customize a day bag checklist so you remember important items like camera gear or an umbrella.
- Learn what our favorite day bags are for day trips.
- Discover safety tips for day trips.
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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. 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 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.
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.
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)
- Glasses (sun & reading)
- Maps, guides & tickets
- 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.
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:
- The Croakie eyeglass strap is an item I added after losing my favorite sunglasses on the Katoomba Mine Train in Australia
- The microfiber cloth is for cleaning glasses and phone screen
- The plastic bag is for small purchases (like postcards) or trash
- The Electro Mix turns a bottle of water into an energy drink, with Potassium
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.
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
- 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.
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.