Many Americans are feeling the post-pandemic travel itch. However, because of the pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the cost of traveling has risen substantially.
Finding the best vacation package your money can buy is even more important than ever. Most Americans put in hundreds of work hours during the year to pay for a vacation and accrue enough time off to take a much-needed break from work. Therefore, getting the most out of your hard-earned money is a must.
But don’t be deterred from scratching your itch because of increasing travel costs. Creating a travel budget and using a vacation packing list will help you control your travel expenses. Here is your list of essentials, plus helpful tips to take the stress out of packing.
Your Vacation Packing List: Factors to Consider
When making your vacation packing list, you will want to consider several factors, including whether you will be traveling in the U.S. or abroad, the length of time you will be traveling, and the climate of your destination.
You’ll also want to consider all of the small details of your trip to make sure you don’t leave anything behind. For example, will you have access to a kitchen where you are staying? Would it be possible to save money by meal planning ahead of time so you can either take food with you or schedule a grocery pickup upon arrival at your destination? Again, contemplating the small details can make a big difference in travel expenses.
Planning as much as you can ahead of time will result in a fantastic experience you will enjoy. Use this travel packing list and tips to prepare for your next memorable vacation.
The Essentials for Your Vacation Packing List
The following list contains essential items you may need for your trip. However, you may need other specific items not listed depending on your destination. For example, if you plan a trip to the beach, don’t forget all of your beach vacation essentials. Remembering to pack all of the specific items you will need will help keep your vacation spending under control.
Clothing is often the first thing that comes to mind when packing for a trip. Ideally, you will want to pack one casual outfit per day of travel unless you have access to laundry facilities.
However, check out the weather forecast for your destination before packing your suitcase. Be aware of fluctuations in temperature from morning to evening so you can pack appropriate clothing. Try packing clothing that can be mixed, matched, and layered to avoid overpacking.
Consider packing apparel with multiple uses, for example, pants with zip-off legs that can be turned into shorts when the weather warms up or a wrap that could do double duty as a shawl and beach coverup. Try searching for multi-use clothing items online to quickly find what you need for your vacation.
Also, don’t forget to pack clothing for special events you have planned during your trip. For example, a wedding, a formal dinner, a beach excursion, or a sporting event calls for specialized clothing that you won’t want to leave at home.
- Pantyhose or Tights
- Workout Clothing
- Bathing Suits & Coverups
- Formal attire/Suits
- Jackets or Coats
Wearing the proper shoes when you are on vacation is incredibly important. Nothing can ruin a trip faster than blisters and sore feet. Be sure you pack comfortable shoes if you will be sightseeing and walking during your travels. Also, choose shoes you can wear with several outfits to save room in your suitcase.
- Casual shoes
- Dress shoes
- Flip Flops
- Other Trip-Specific Shoes (Water Shoes, Waders, Snow Boots, etc.)
The perfect accessories aren’t just crucial for looking good when on vacation. The accessories you choose can mean the difference between being comfortable and cold, wet, or sunburned while traveling. Therefore, consider the climate of your destination when packing your accessories for your trip.
- Collapsible Tote Bag or Backpack
- Umbrella or Poncho
- Hats (Bucket hats, Baseball hats, Knit Thermal Hats)
- Jewelry & Watches
Toiletries & Personal Care
Your hotel may provide certain toiletries for your use, which means fewer items to fit in your suitcase. Find out which toiletries are provided by doing your research before packing.
If you need to pack your personal care items, look for travel-sized toiletries to help save space in your suitcase. Also, opting for multi-use products, such as shampoo and conditioner in one formula, can minimize the storage space you’ll need for your items.
- Dental floss
- Soap or Body wash
- Face Wash
- Shave Cream
- Makeup & Makeup Remover
- Feminine Products
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Hair Products
- Hairbrush & Comb
- Facial Products/Moisturizers
- Body Lotion
- Contact Lenses/Contact solution/Contact Case
- Eye Glasses
- Perfume or Cologne
- Cotton Swabs/Cotton Rounds/Tissues
- Nair clippers & Nail File
- Hair Styling Tools/Hair Accessories
- Laundry care items
The following travel essentials are arguably the most important items to remember to pack. You will want to gather all of your necessary travel documents and keep them where you won’t forget them on your departure from home. Pack these items in your carry-on or in a wearable document holder or money belt to keep them safe.
- Passport/Copy of passport
- Boarding Passes
- Confirmation Receipts
- Credit Cards
- Driver’s License/Photo ID/Visa
- Health Insurance Cards
- Travel Insurance Documents
- Emergency Contact Information
- COVID Vaccination Cards
You definitely can’t leave home without your medications. So make sure you have enough of your prescription medications ready for your vacation well in advance to avoid the need for last-minute refills.
Keep a list of the current medications you are taking, and make sure your travel partner knows where to find the list in case of a medical emergency. Also, don’t forget your epi-pens if you or anyone in your family have severe allergies.
- List of Current Medications
- Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer
- Motion Sickness Medication
- First Aid Kit
- Epi-pen (if needed)
- Inhalers (if used)
- Birth control
Electronics & Electronic Accessories
Charge up and pack all of the electronic devices you will be taking with you. Put a reminder somewhere to make sure you grab your cell phone before you leave on the day of your departure.
- Cell Phone
- Travel Plug Adapter
- Portable Phone Charger
- Selfie Stick/Portable Tripod
Safety & Comfort Essentials
Keep yourself and your family as comfortable as can be and as safe as possible from illness-causing germs by packing the following items:
- Face Masks
- Hand Sanitizer
- Anti-bacterial Wipes
- Money Belt
- Travel Pillow
- Small Blanket
- Sleep Mask
- Ear Plugs
- Insect Repellant
- Refillable Water bottle
What to Pack in Your Carry-On
Now that you have your complete vacation packing list, you may be wondering which items you should pack in your carry-on bag if you will be flying during your vacation. You will want to keep valuable items, important documents, and a few other things on you when boarding a plane. The following are items to pack in your carry-on bag:
- Wallet (containing credit cards, cash, ID, health insurance cards, etc.)
- Change of clothes
- Cell phone
- Valuable jewelry
- Travel pillow/blanket
- Magazines or books
- Portable cell phone charger
Other Helpful Packing Tips
Pare Down and Pack Light
It is easy to fill up a large suitcase with clothing and shoes when traveling. However, there are ways to pare down your clothing to avoid overpacking. For example, you could opt for a smaller suitcase to help limit the amount of clothing you can take.
Also, try to keep the majority of your clothing neutral or within a small color palette so you can mix and match pieces to make different outfits. In addition, by packing clothes in a well-planned and coordinated color palette, you will also be able to pack fewer pairs of shoes.
Lastly, you’ll want to take one more final look at your clothes to spot more opportunities to pare down before placing them in your suitcase. Think about the weather at your travel destination to ensure you are packing appropriately.
Folding vs. Rolling Clothes
Packing your clothing to save space and minimize wrinkling could allow you to leave your travel clothes iron at home. Consider the fabric of the clothing when deciding whether the garment should be rolled or folded.
Thicker and sturdier fabrics, like jeans and sweaters, should be folded because they take up more space when rolled. Also, button-down shirts generally become less wrinkled when folded because of bunching when rolling clothes.
However, rolling clothing when packing can save you space in your suitcase. Clothing items that do well rolled when packed in a suitcase are t-shirts, slacks/pants, bathing suits, shorts, and pajamas.
If you want to leave your bulky travel iron behind, consider traveling with a small bottle of wrinkle release spray to touch up any clothing creases that occur during your trip.
Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are great for keeping your suitcase neat and well-organized. Also, packing cubes will accommodate your folded or rolled clothing and can help to compress clothes to fit nicely into your bag.
When more than one family member uses the same suitcase, packing cubes is a great way to keep everyone’s clothes separate for easy access. In addition, you can use packing cubes to separate dirty clothes from clean clothes on your return trip.
Utilize Every Square Inch
Using all the nooks and crannies in your suitcase is key to fitting in all of your accessories. Utilize space around rolled and folded clothing, inside shoes, and under hats. Don’t forget to utilize the zippered suitcase pockets. Lay toiletries flat in secure plastic bags to prevent leaks, and keep those bags on top of your clothing for easy viewing by airport security.
There are many details to arrange when traveling, making planning your vacation stressful. However, packing your bags in preparation for your trip should be effortless. Use this vacation packing list to help you easily prepare for your trip and save money by avoiding unplanned purchases during your vacation.
Lisa is a personal finance enthusiast and founder of AdaptYourDollars.com, where she writes about her knowledge of frugal living and money management. Her goal is to help women gain control of their money to live their best lives possible. When she isn’t writing or at her day job helping people, she can be found cheering on her kids at their sporting events, baking bread, or running.