4 years ago, Taylor and I got bit by the travel bug and it changed our lives. Traveling quickly became a priority and it was something we constantly wanted to do. First, we started out exploring the US, then started traveling internationally as we got more and more comfortable traveling. During this time we learned how to optimize our packing strategy to pack only what we truly need allowing us to travel as light as possible. We used to find ourselves packing way too much for our trips and lugging around way too much luggage for no real reason other than we “thought” we would need it. Today we strive to pack as little as possible only bringing a carry-on (overhead bin) suitcase and a personal bag like a backpack. For this post, we will cover the perfect weekend trip packing checklist to cover a 2-4 day trip. This packing checklist has helped us save money by traveling light and we want to share with you our process for preparing for a trip so you that you can benefit from our early mistakes.
Now before we dig into our perfect weekend trip packing checklist, let’s cover two topics that will dictate how we pack for a trip.
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This may seem obvious but the very first thing you should do before preparing for your trip is to check the weather. This will not only help you determine what clothes you should pack, but it will also help you determine what activities you can or can’t do. If you’re weekend trip involves a flight, then you have limited options to reschedule or change your destination, unless you want to pay a fee. On the other hand if you are driving to your weekend trip destination, then you have much more flexibility and can cancel your hotel/airbnb reservation with a few days notice.
We use the weather channel app on our phones about 10-15 days out from our trip to get a good gauge on the future weather. Knowing the weather in advance helps us determine if we need to make modifications to our trip like changing our destination. A good example of this was back in the winter of 2019. Taylor and I had plans to head to the Finger Lakes in New York but noticed the weather wasn’t looking too good. it was going to be 40 degrees outside and raining the weekend we wanted to visit. Since we are a member of the Hilton Honors program, and a Diamond member thanks to our Hilton Aspire credit card, we were able to cancel with up to 48 hour notice and switch our location. So we cancelled the reservation in the Finger Lakes and decided to head to Boston instead for a getaway in the city using our Hilton points accumulated from our Hilton credit cards.
If you’re interested in a Hilton credit card, you can get the Hilton Aspire credit card which grants you automatic Diamond status or you can elect for the Hilton Honors credit card which grants you Silver status and it doesn’t have an annual fee.
Now like I mentioned earlier this particular example of modifying a trip based on the weather is much easier when driving to a location since you only have to worry about flights. If you have a flight booked, you are much more limited unless you purchased flight insurance or booked a reward flight, that being said I still advise checking the weather because it could have a drastic impact on how you pack for your trip.
Ok, once you checked the weather and know what to expect for your upcoming weekend trip, it’s time to pack.
Whenever we travel we try to pack smart.
What do I mean by packing smart?
Packing smart entails, plan your outfits before you leave for your trip. You already know the weather (assuming you checked it) so you know what to expect and can plan your outfits accordingly. This helps us out tremendously ensuring we never pack more than we need allowing us to fit our clothes in a personal bag and our carry-on suitcase. We never bring large suitcase on trips especially for weekend getaways because we really do not need to. If you know what you’re going to wear each day you don’t have to pack multiple outfits just to make a decision later. Make the decision ahead of time, be pro-active, and plan your outfits for your days away.
However, if we feel the need to bring additional clothes due to uncertainty we certainly do so and do not completely limit ourselves. One way we combat the need for space is using packing cubes. These things are an absolute lifesaver and create so much space in your carry-on!
If you think you need more than a carry-on and personal bag on your next adventure, then i’d challenge you to try out some compression packing cubes before packing a large suitcase. On average it costs $25-$50 dollar one way to check a bag. Packing cubes are a one time cost that help prevent the need to travel with large suitcases.
Pro tip: You want the compression kind because it….COMPRESSES your clothes!
Seriously, packing cubes are life changing. For our honeymoon, we traveled to southeast Asia for 3 weeks and we only brought a carry-on suitcase and our personal backpacks. Yes we did do laundry, but bringing only a carry-on made our lives so much easier while traveling since we did not have to worry about lugging around excessive luggage!
Anyway enough with the rant, lets move on to our packing checklist for three different temperatures. We also split the checklist into gender specific although they’re very similar.
Below is everything we pack into our personal bag and carry-on suitcase. Again we rarely bring large suitcases that require us to check the bags, we’re almost always putting them in the overhead bins.
In fact, if we are traveling to a warm location on a budget carrier like Spirit or Frontier airlines, we will likely just bring a personal bag with no carry-on to save costs. You really don’t need that much when traveling to warm locations! We also found a way to get great seats for free on budget airlines which helps us save even more money, which you can find here.
I love weekend trips to warm locations because they’re easy to pack and allow you to travel light! Below is our weekend trip packing checklist for warm locations. We try and bring clothes that are easily compressible and lightweight.
When the weather is mild we often find ourselves in city destinations. We find it’s best to explore a city in comfortable clothing that’s not too hot or cold. Similar to warm destinations, for mild temperature destinations we strive to travel light, bringing only what we need, like bringing one pair of jeans for a weekend trip!
When traveling to cold locations, I understand the urge to want to pack more than just a carry-on suitcase. However the activities you do will dictate how much clothes or gear you really need. In fact, even if you’re going on a weekend ski trip, I still believe you can get away with only a carry-on suitcase and a personal bag. We only brought carry-on’s for our trip to Switzerland were we snowboarded in Saas-Fee!
This will help you save money as well as time since you do not have to struggle lugging around such big suitcases!
Below are the list of items we bring on our weekend trips to cold locations, assuming we aren’t snowboarding.
You may wonder how do we fit this much clothes in our carry-on suitcase? Well again we do this by using packing cubes since they are able to compress our clothes and compact them down as much as possible. But we also wear a layer or two, or bring our hoodie/sweatshirt on the plane with us because they do sometimes get cold!
Ok the time has come and it’s now departure day! Are you prepared? Hopefully you were pro-active with your packing and preparation for the weekend trip. If not there’s still time! Here is our packing checklist of our absolute must haves when departing for our next trip.
The short list:
Now this one is obvious I know, but do not forget it! Make sure you have your license, debit card, credit card and any insurance cards if needed (I hope you won’t have to use them!).
If you’re traveling internationally then consider opening a Charles Schwab checking account where they offer a free checking account with no ATM fees. If you want some free money to go along with your adventure, you can use our referral code to get anywhere from $100 – $500 (we do not receive any income what so ever using this referral code, this only benefits you).
A wallet and cash do go hand in hand, but I want to call them out separately so you do not forget! Remember some locations only accept cash and if you’re going to a remote location, cash may be required. I opened the Charles Schwab checking account because I hate carrying chase and didn’t want to have to worry about it when traveling internationally. Carrying cash a lot of cash gives me a bit of anxiety with the fear of losing it. With the Charles Schwab checking account, I don’t have to worry about ATM fees and I can pull money out when I need it.
We still do bring some cash but not enough to lose sleep over if I lost it by accident, just enough to get us out of a pinch in a location only accepted cash as the form of payment.
So you have your wallet and cash ready to go, next on the list is your itineraries and/or boarding passes. Depending on where we travel will determine if we print any itineraries or save them to our phones.
If we’re flying, I almost always use the airline’s mobile apps to digitally check-in online and use their mobile apps to obtain our boarding passes. This way I do not have to worry about carrying a boarding pass paper ticket and lose it or rip it by accident.
When we travel internationally, I do print out our itineraries and hotel reservations just in case anything goes wrong or if there is a language barrier. I find having reservations printed out on paper helps prove that I have reservations and can help resolve an issue if one occurs.
I briefly alluded to travel apps in the boarding pass section above, but having mobile apps on your phone related to travel, really comes in handy. In addition to the transportation apps, like airline apps, railroads, public transportation, hotel apps, and more, there are plenty of cities or countries with their own apps packed with recommendations on things to do and where to eat.
So before you leave, do a quick google search to see if your destination has an app to help bring some new ideas for things to do while you’re away.
One of my favorite apps that I use on every trip is Google Maps. Google Maps let’s you download maps offline in case you’re in a remote location and do not have any signal or if traveling internationally where you do not have a data plan. I also use Google My Maps to help plan itineraries to identify points of interests and places to see.
Another great travel is Maps.Me which also works offline and we highly recommend it!
If you take medicine frequently, do not forget it!!! We also bring Tylenol and Nausea medication in case we have any issues while away.
I used to forget my sunglasses all the time before creating our checklist. Make sure to remember them especially if you’re going somewhere warm and planning to sit on the beach in the bright sun!
If you like wearing hats, do not forget one. For a warm location you may want to bring a sun hat or baseball hat. For mild or cold locations consider bringing a warm hat like a beanie.
I personally think toiletries could have a checklist of their own, but here’s what we include, which covers both me and Taylor.
In today’s day and age, we are always connected using things that require energy. Make sure to bring all of the necessary charges, for all of your devices.
We make sure we bring a portable charger, which comes in handy if you’re using your phone a lot on a trip. We often find ourselves burning through our phone batteries when we’re using our phone apps to help look up points of interests and for navigation purposes.
Just make sure you do not spend your entire time away looking down at your phone!!!
Also, don’t forget the charging cords! You may want to pack these in your personal bag so you can charge your device while on a flight or on the road!
Headphone or earphones are a must have if you’re on a flight, especially if you want to watch in flight entertainment, listen to a podcast, audiobook, or some tunes!
You might be thinking “why the heck are keys on the checklist?” well, I never paid attention to where I put my keys when we left for a trip and when we got home or back to our car, I found myself wasting so much time scrambling through our luggage to find our keys. So moving forward, I put this on the list to remind myself to put them in a specific spot so I know exactly where they are when we come back from our trip.
I hope this packing checklist makes your life easier when preparing for your next weekend trip! If you have any questions or recommendations on what else to include in this checklist please drop a comment below!