7 Items for Every Traveler’s Day Bag

If I’m exploring a new place, especially if I’m pressed for time, when I leave my accommodation – I’m leaving for the whole day. This is particularly true if I’m on a super-tight budget I’ll walk between each site or activity. I mean, I usually walk (even if I’ve got a little extra $$ to throw around) but prioritizing foot-transportation means that I’ll be walking through lesser-visited areas, and therefore giving me a more robust experience in a city – fo’free.

Now that I’ve preached at you about walking, let’s talk about what I take with me. Let’s ride the center line here and assume I’m walking a lot, but nothing that exerts more energy (like hiking, biking, or… idk, rollerblading?). As if the title of my site isn’t a dead giveaway, I’ll usually go for a backpack over a purse – if you need a little guidance picking the right backpack, I’ve got you covered here!

1. Water

Forever and always, amen. You would sooner see me without shoes on than leave home without a water bottle. Proper hydration is SO IMPORTANT when you’re travelling, so keeping a bottle on me at all times in a major priority. Dehydration can be a real problem if you’re an active traveler or not used to the local cuisine – and it can also lead to fatigue and irritability (and those are the more pleasant symptoms).

2. ID

I realize that this topic can be quite polarized, but I don’t have a general rule about keeping my passport on me versus leaving it locked up at the hostel/hotel. I will usually find a clever spot for my passport and leave it behind unless I know I’m going to need it or if I get a weird feeling about where I’m staying. I do, however, always have either my current license or expired license on me at all times. Keep something on you that verifies you are who you say you are.

3. Lip balm

…because I’m addicted. Actually, in the interest of full honesty, I probably have at lease two tubes on me. And maybe a mini vaseline.

4. Calories

Depending on how long I’ll be out or if I have a food plan will determine the quantity of snacks, but I never go out for the day (even at home) without having something to eat stowed in my bag.

5. A notebook and pen

I like to take breaks and jot down notes of things I saw and food I ate. I also quickly note prices so I can keep up with my budget (which is precisely how I was able to see San Diego on $200). The notes also help me recall the events of my trip so I can write about it later!

6. Scarf/sarong

This might not sound like a universally useful item… like, what would you need a scarf for in Chicago in the middle of summer? An impromptu picnic, that’s what. Or something to wipe your hands on after you ate that supergreasything and forgot to get a napkin. I promise- I have used* (read= *abused) my scarves/sarongs for much more than covering legs to enter temples or covering up leaving the beach.

7. Money in something other than my wallet

I keep local currency in my wallet, but will stash the equivalent of an extra $20usd elsewhere in my bag. I like sunglass-cases, jackets with multiple pockets, or in my sock (and by that I mean that sometimes my money shares space with my foot- but also that I’ve had to get creative and folded some money into a clean pair of socks and threw that into my bag).

  • Every traveler has his or her preferences for day bag items – what are some of yours?7 items for every traveler's day bag
  • Tell me about a time you left for the day and realized you had forgotten to pack something important.
  • How do you feel about taking or leaving your passport in the hotel/hostel/AirBnB?
More reading:  Accommodation Hacks


Posted in How To, Travel, Trip Planning, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .


  1. Thanks for this list!! Super basic stuff that can be easy to forget or overlook, but is SO, SO important. Lip balm is always one I forget and regret it haha

  2. Very practical list of essentials! I also like to carry hand sanitizer in the event I’m traveling somewhere with no soap. And the passport discrepancy thing is so annoying—some (official government) sites say to take it with you, while others say to bring a copy.

  3. I always take a book with me. So when I get tired of walking or want to hang out in a nice spot I can get out my book and read. Also, you never know when you’ll come across a book swap.
    In California I was staying in a hostel without a book swap (unbelievable I know) and had finished my book so I left it in my room and went out. 4 hours walking later and at maximum distance from my hostel I come across a public book swap. My moral compass was too strong to take a book without leaving one.

  4. Great list of essentials! Somehow it always feels like I forget something when packing for a long day of exploring.

    Personally, I’m a little wary of leaving my passport in accommodations, such as a hostel. But if there is a safe, or I’m staying in an airbnb and have the entire house/apartment, I usually don’t think much of it.

    • Yeah I usually take it with me, but definitely assess where I’m staying or if I’ll need it while I’m out. Some hostels I’ve felt ok leaving in in the locked locker, but some were sketchy enough that I wanted to keep it with me.

  5. I love the part about the calories most, haha! Thanks for that comprehensive list. I love to have something I can tick off!

    • Thanks! I’m one who gets mighty cranky when I’m hungry (even if I don’t feel hungry), so keeping food on me at all times is pretty necessary if I don’t want to turn into a she-beast lol

  6. Totally agree to this list! These items are also all in my bag except for the lip balm. But if traveling to a cool place, that’s definitely a must! I also bring some napkin/wet wipes and a book to keep me occupied when waiting. 🙂

    • I’ve always been one to listen to podcasts while waiting, but it drains my battery too fast while traveling, so I’ve gotten into bringing small books. Turns out, not only are they great for killing time, but also a great conversation-starter (since I don’t have earbuds in!)

    • Thanks, Felicia! I found myself checking like 8 times before I first to make sure I had everything so I was like, ‘ugh I just need to make a list’ lol

  7. When we traveled for a few months we always took our passports unless we were absolutely certain we would not need them. We carried maps, a camera, and water typically. I definitely agree with the irritability because you would know when we were thirsty because we would get on each others nerves. We usually did not bring a snack and would get something at the train station like a croissant.

    • Maps are a great idea! I’ll usually wing it unless I’m somewhere where I know I won’t be able to communicate well – in that case I definitely need a map in the bag, too! And I like the idea of grabbing something on the go – sometimes when I bring the snacks I fall back on those if I cant figure out what local food to try… and then I miss out.

  8. That is a useful list! I never thing to bring calories with me! I will have to start bring something for when I’m out for a long time! And I now travel with a scarf after having to purchase one to enter the Vatican!

    • I highly recommend nuts or (if they have them wherever you live/travel) Larabars. Nuts are so boring, but they’re great fuel… and Larabars use nuts and dates-and other fun stuff- to make the boring a little more tasty 🙂

  9. Great list! I definitely pack all of these things when traveling. I love that you included putting cash in someplace other than your wallet. I always stuff money randomly in my pack as well, just in case something happens! It’s also great when I forget about it and find it later on 🙂

    • haha YES! I love receiving the gift of cash from past me – so much so that I usually stash $20 in one of my winter coats before I put it away for summer.

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