Packing for a week long trip? Whether you’re headed out on a road trip or on a plane, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed efficiently and haven’t forgotten anything important behind. This checklist of things to bring with you will help you make sure you don’t forget anything before you leave.
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For clothes I am a huge advocate of having a capsule wardrobe. By that I mean that you want things that are in the same color family or pair well together, that have the ability to be layered and mixed and matched, and that can be versatile for all the different activities you might be participating in while you’re on vacations.
Think through your trip and the activities you have planned. Will you need to dress up? Are you going hiking? Do you plan to get in workouts on the road?
Then check the weather. Will it snow? Rain? Be incredibly sunny? You can check the weather about 10 days out, but you’ll want to check again a few days before your trip to get a better idea of what the weather will be like when you’re there.
Typically a universal packing list looks like this for me:
2 tank tops
2 pairs of pants (one black slack or khaki, one pair of jeans)
1 light jacket/rain jacket
7 pairs of underwear
7 pairs of socks
This of course doesn’t count what I wear on the plane or in the car, which is another pair of jeans, t-shirt, hoodie and associated underwear and socks. I dress to be comfortable while I’m traveling, and use it as an opportunity to bring another pair of jeans with me. If you’re a jeans lover like me, this is a good way to save weight and space in your bag while still getting to bring two pairs of jeans.
Again this will depend on any activities that you’ll be participating in. If you plan to go hiking you’ll want to have hiking boots, and if you plan to be somewhere wintery and cold you may want a pair of fleece lined boots. Always wear your heaviest pair the day you fly in order to keep as much space in your bag as possible.
Typically I wear a pair of sneakers or hiking shoes while I’m traveling then I pack a couple of pairs of smaller shoes, usually a flat and a dress shoe or sandal. If I’m really worried about space in my bag, I opt for a dressier pair of flats and skip the dress shoes altogether.
A universal shoe list for a week:
1 pair sneakers or hiking shoes
1 pair of flats
1 dress shoe
I know toiletries can be one most controversial of the “what to pack” bunch.I know lots of people prefer to depend on whatever the hotel will provide, while others with allergies or sensitivities prefer to bring their own. What to pack will vary wildly depending on your personal preferences and needs, as well as (surprise, surprise) what you’ll be doing on your trip. It is a place where you can save weight and space in your bag, though. So for this one I’m just aiming for a very generalized list that you can add on to or subtract from as needed:
Just remember, if you’re flying in a carry-on only you’ll need to make sure your liquids fit the 3-1-1 rule and stay under 3oz. Swapping out shampoo and body soap for bars can help you get around limits if you’re worried, but usually for a week 3oz is plenty! I also opt to pick a soap with a good lather when I travel to avoid having to bring shaving cream with me.
Hair & Makeup
This one is another that can get controversial. I know a lot of travel gurus will tell you to skip the makeup and let your hair go natural for your trip to lighten the load of things you need to bring with you. That’s a completely viable option, and one I’ve done myself when I’ve taken a trip where I knew doing my hair and makeup would be useless (spending lots of time outdoors in a humid climate with curly hair – well it’s just not worth it!).
However, you may want to dress up for a night out or spruce up for some of the pictures you’ll be taking on the road. So I’m giving basic set of things to take here, which you can add or detract from as you will. Another reminder though, any liquids like foundations and lipgloss will need to go in your quart-sized bag if you’re flying.
For hair, again it’s up to you. Though many modern hotels have a hairdryer standard. Your straightener can also double as a curling iron if you watch a few youtube videos and get the hang of it.
Medicine & First Aid
This is another important one. If you take prescription medication, it’s recommended that you take the actual bottles and a copy of the prescription with you. I still bring my weekly pill box with me to remind me what I need to take and when as I don’t want to be fumbling every morning I”m on a different time zone trying to remember if I took my pill or not.
I’d also recommend a small supply of things like tums and imodium in case you have a run in with bad food. It’s approximately zero fun to have to try to find a local pharmacy open after hours when you realize the delicious but out-of-the-ordinary food you had for dinner is doing battle with your insides.
Your mini-medical kit can also include things like tweezers, a bandaid or two, neosporin (universally helpful for small burns, bites and cuts), benadryl or another antihistamine (I’ve found it good for air sickness and seasickness in addition to potential pop-up allergies when I’m abroad), ibuprofen or tylenol, and alcohol wipes. You want to keep just enough to get you through a few hours before the pharmacy opens or you can find one, but not so much that it takes up a huge portion of your bag.
Weekly pill box
Tums and/or Imodium
Ibuprofen or tylenol
How connected do you want to be on your trip? That’s probably the first question you’ll want to ask before you start thinking about what electronics you want to bring.
If you don’t plan to work on the road for instance, you probably don’t need to bring a laptop. Usually I can get away with bringing a tablet and a small foldable keyboard. It’s enough that I can easily check email, read books on the plane, play a few games while I’m in the airport, and look things up from the hotel before I head out before the day. I find it incredibly useful for saving space in my bag – I can bring all the books, magazines and guidebooks I want in digital form without any of the bulk! If you want to be extremely minimal, you can probably do all of that with your smartphone. Just be sure to bring extra batteries and chargers!
For photography, I’m also including a DSLR camera. I don’t carry it everywhere I go on my trips. My phone in many cases is more than enough for some good snapshots, especially when I’m just out to dinner with friends or family and just want to be able to capture moments as they happen. But if I’m heading to a gorgeous castle or guaranteed some scenic vistas? You better believe I’m taking my DSLR. It’s well worth the space it takes up for the photos I can get out of it. And if you can’t tell, I take a lot of photos which means I typically bring several high capacity SD cards. (Yes, I am that person in the museum taking photos of everything, and I love it!)
Kindle or iPad
Extra camera batteries
Physical tickets or passes
Copy of your passport
Copy of your travel insurance
Copy of your health insurance information
Copy of your reservations
Extras (that you’ll probably want):
Deck of cards
Luggage and Packing
Last but certainly not least, you’re going to need to be able to pack up everything and luggage can make or break your trip. For a week long trip you should be able to get by with a large carry-on and a personal item if you’re flying.
Here are my favorite carry-ons for the plane:
Osprey Farpoint 40L
One of the most versatile bags on the market, it meets most airline carry-on restriction requirements. It has tons of room inside, and if you decide you want to check it the straps tuck away into a back panel pocket so you don’t have to worry about it getting caught on anything.
This one comes in a set with carry-on luggage and one larger piece of luggage. While I try to go with just carry-on, on my longer trips (3 weeks or so) I sometimes travel with one checked piece of luggage and one carry-on and this is the perfect set for that. For my one-week trips the carry-on piece fits most airline sizes, has a nice hard case that makes it easy to clean and protects the contents – particularly when I have to gate check it, and it packs far more than you would expect it to in two neat compartments. I also love that it has built-in TSA locks and omnidirectional spinner wheels as it makes it so much easier to handle in the airport. And as an added extra it’s expandable, which is a great little trick when I’m on my way home and I’ve bought some souvenirs to take home with me for friends and family.
Samsonite is one of the brands that has a long positive reputation in the luggage industry and one I feel it’s hard to go wrong with. This carry-on luggage is the perfect carry-on size and fits most airline requirements. It’s got a zippered interior compartment on one side and straps on the other, with a small zippered pouch in the middle that’s perfect for storing things you don’t want to get lost in your bag (though I highly recommend packing cubes!)
If you’re taking a roadtrip, you can get away with taking a standard size suitcase like the one that comes in the Cal Pak set and a smaller day-bag. Just always remember to bring a day bag as there may be day trips or hikes that you want to take at your destination that will require more than a purse and less than a massive suitcase.
Either way you’ll want to make sure your bag is organized, which you can do with a solid set of packing cubes. These are my favorite:
I’m not sure who exactly came up with the idea for packing cubes, but if not the first Eagle Creek was one of the first to bring out packing cubes and they have some of the highest quality ones out there. These are made with washable rip-stop nylon that is durable and lightweight so it doesn’t bulk up your bag. Better than your average packing cube, these compression cubes have a double zippered system that compresses the contents down and saves you even more space in your bags. These are on the pricier side though, but I’d argue that there an investment well made.
eBags Packing Cubes
eBags are another popular brand of packing cube that are affordable and durable. They also come with a lifetime guarantee and YKK zippers which can be hard to find amongst other packing cubes. While they don’t save quite as much space as compression cubes, they do still save a lot of space and keep your bag neat and tidy. They also feature a mesh panel which will let your clothes breathe and lets you get a peek at what’s inside.
Pro Packing Cubes
These packing cubes are the most affordable of the bunch and also offer the same lifetime guarantee and YKK zippers. My favorite part about this brand is you can get a set that has a variety of colors. When you’re in a hurry or trying to grab some clothes in the dark, it can make it much easier to find the cube you’re looking for when they’re all different colors. And with this brand, you don’t have to buy 4 different sets to get that variety. They’re also lightweight and won’t add bulk to your bag
For security, if your bag doesn’t have inbuilt TSA locks, you’ll want to get a set of those. It keeps prying hands out, and the TSA has a special key to unlock it if necessary. Even if you’re flying carry-on, it’s always possible that they need you to gate-check your luggage.
Another favorite of mine if I’m checking my bag is a bright luggage tag. Like everyone else standing at the carousel, I have black luggage and no one likes to play the game of “your bag or mine?” when you’ve just spent several hours cooped up on a plane and are in a hurry to get to your hotel and get your vacation started.
Printable Travel Packing List
Last but not least, we’ve got you covered with this printable travel packing list that lets you check off everything you need for the week: