Ultimate Weekend Packing Guide

I love the puzzle that is packing for a backpacking trip. But I so rarely see posts about what people put in their bags on weekend getaways or longer vacations! If you’re like me and hate to check bags, you really have about the same amount of room: I hit the airport with one roller bag and one (always very heavy) shoulder bag. Aside from the usuals, here are the things I never leave home without. What are your “extras”?


Since I so stubbornly refuse to travel with a backpack, after a long trip, my muscles are especially sore. I always have this yellow ball in my carry-on. A tennis ball will work, but I’m obsessed with this one. I honestly don’t remember where it came from! But it’s super-light. To get out any knots, I just stand with my back against a wall and spend twenty seconds shrugging my shoulders with the ball between the muscles and the wall. Life-saver! 


My favorite two skincare brands, especially when it comes to travel, are Kiehl’s and Dermalogica. Kiehl’s famously doesn’t advertise and is wisely generous with (free) samples. These two containers are from old samples — don’t try to read what was in them. It doesn’t matter. I now re-use them on every trip I take, refilling with whatever products I am using at the time. One is for night cream, and the other has SPF for day. Dermalogica has amazing travel-sized products. My favorite? This facial exfoliant. It makes me feel so cleansed after a long day of travel — and it actually heats up, which makes me feel extra-cozy during winter.








This one doesn’t need much explanation: I eat less veggies on the road, so I supplement. There are so many choices at Whole Foods and elsewhere. This is what I happen to have now.

These are my favorite items in my travel bag: Almay makeup removal pads. In addition to how easily these make it to take off makeup on the road, I learned during a recent trip to Argentina that they have a double purpose. With one swipe, it’s so easy to remove any residue left by red wine. Just don’t lick your lips afterwards — disgusting!


Between spray-tans, makeup or even dirt if there are outdoor activities involved, I’ve started carrying a dark-colored washcloth with me. That way I don’t ruin anyone’s nice things!

Everyone has “their” thing they steal from hotels. Mine? Shower caps. I quite famously can go an entire vacation without washing my hair, which is approximately the consistency of thick pieces of rope.

Travel scents are so important, for so many reasons. Normally, I am addicted to little roll-ons, but I was recently introduced to the brand Lollia. I am obsessed. In Vegas, they sell it at the Cosmopolitan.

I have so many more things (who could really leave home without a Tide to go pen and eye drops for the plane?), but my last one is, simply, a watch. Not only was I taught to never wear a watch when I was in middle school (no one in a social situation should see you looking at a watch, as if your time with them is boring), but I don’t even have a clock in my car right now. But if I doze off on a plane and can’t quickly check what time it is when I awake, I would have a coronary!

What do you never leave home without?

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. Oh my, I just now realized I can’t live without all this stuff. Great product choices 🙂

  2. I’m still trying to get over the whole ball thing. I think that’s an awesome idea.

    We’ve got packing down to a science and bring lots of helpful things, but one thing we never forget is a candle in one of those metal containers. It’s great to have along if you land in a room that smells funky or if you want to create a calm atmosphere after a long day of exploring.

  3. Ooooh, taking shower caps isn’t stealing, I hope. Last 2 times I was traveling with a group, I mentioned that I always need more caps, and all the other people inundated me with theirs. My goal is to never have to actually buy another one, lol. And the NVR guys are right, a tiny candle helps a lot; I especially like eucalyptus/spearmint.

  4. I feel like this is such a grown-up packing list – nice bath products and healthy supplements. Whereas I always feel like a semi-disaster when I go on short trips since I inevitably can’t find my travel-sized products and decide to just leave things at home since it’s only a couple of days. I think you may have inspired me to get organized with some new travel-sized containers so I stop making excuses!

  5. I don’t leave home without a sarong or pashmina. I always freeze on airplanes!

  6. Great post, seriously. So many people have no idea how to travel well.

  7. Unfortunately, I will never be able to travel with just a carry-on because my husband and I are both addicted to sleeping with a fan. We have a small fan but it still takes up quite a bit of room in the carry-on so it limits what else I can put in there. I have tried white noise machines, etc. but only the fan will do. So we never leave home without it. The other thing I have to take with me is my iPad – I do everything on that little gizmo and love it!

  8. The little ball is the best thing ever!! I loved that you had it in Turkey! I ALWAYS pack a black scarf. It keeps me from getting too chilly indoors or when there’s a light breeze outside. Plus, it is great for wrapping around my eyes to block out light when I want to get sleep in places where it’s not dark. Great list!

  9. My skin is super sensitive, I often have ridiculous allergic reactions, so I cannot depend on borrowing face wash/lotion or makeup so I always have my own stuff. I also like to carry clearasil pads that are basically like your makeup remover pads but with just astrigent. They are awesome for cleaning up my oily face after a plane ride.

  10. I’m obsessed with shower caps too. Is it just me or are less and less hotels putting them out with the other “free” shower goods? I take the shower caps home (unused) and use them like saran-wrap when wrapping up dishes to store in the fridge.

  11. I’m obsessed with all of these items that people pack! Some really good ones!

  12. I love the ball! 🙂

    I should get one of those!!!!

  13. You know the more I travel the more I realize how important skin care is. A heavy duty moisturizer is a must – especially when you fly.

  14. Lip balm (preferred brand Burt’s Bees) and at least one backup tube. Good face moisturizer.

    By the way, the ball is a really great idea.

  15. HAHA, I steal just about everything from hotels – the rare time that I’m in one over a hostel or guest house.

  16. My Kindle is my #1 never leave home without it item.

    As for makeup….my undereye concealer. Must have that with me every where I go…or I look dead 🙂

    Rollie ball is a great idea for back knots, love it!

  17. I love this post! I’m always so curious to see what people travel with.

    I’m a huge fan of Kiehls too & actually am using that eye cream at the moment! I also adore the Lollia scents, the one “Lollia 19” smells absolutely heavenly.

  18. For me, it changes based on the trip…usually my must-packs are always of the electronics variety. But after SAS, I will never travel without earplugs again as the ship is so loud, I never get more than a few hours of sleep at a time and I have failed at finding earplugs for purchase in Asia!

  19. You can’t find earplugs? So strange!!

  20. Fun post! Adding the tennis ball & dark washcloth to my list… good ones!

  21. My Kindle is right up there as well – I usually devour multiple books on long flights, so I’d probably crumble to pieces w/o it. Other than that, though, I always bring my skin care products and my memory foam pillow. 🙂

  22. Me and my spraytans — I’ll never arrive without my own washcloth again!

  23. I need to finally get one… sigh.

  24. The ball is an excellent idea as is a watch – I don’t own a watch, always have a mobile with me (can be set to “airplane” mode during flights) but a watch would be good as cell service isn’t always available, especially in rural areas). I always travel with:

    Travel towel
    – much like a chamois; super thin, super quick drying in the US you can get them at The Container Store or REI http://goo.gl/CoKd9

    Pack-it Folders
    – super lightweight, easy to fill w/more clothes than it advertises (especially warm weather clothing). Medium size fits w/room to spare inside a 55L back pack or just about any suitcase. Also found at Container Store or REI in the US

    Day bag
    – Love the Kipling “Lancelot” bag. Tons of interior room w/out exterior bulk, lightweight fabric, easily cleaned, dries quickly. I can fit maps, water bottle, lightweight sweater, documents and if you carry an iPad /small tablet, it’ll fit too! http://goo.gl/bi5yj

    Travel wipes
    -You might not always have access to water during hiking or sightseeing.

    When staying w/friends I ask ahead of time to share their toothpaste, soap, etc… Restock their supply before you leave – supports local economy and a nice gesture of thanks for their hosting you.

  25. I used to have wipes — I need to get more! Restocking toiletries to help the local economy is a great idea!!

  26. How funny… I always have the exact same stuff in my bag. LOL

  27. I totally always had you for pegged as the Dermalogica kinda guy haha

  28. Idea for post is awsome !!!! hehe u have good imagination what to be your next topic 🙂 and u have watch that is nice , i m passionate about watches have them 8 🙁 guilty 🙂

  29. I love that you listed all of your beauty and health products rather than the normal electronics/clothing packing list. I have had the hardest time finding a good moisturizer to replace the crazy expensive Pevonia line that I used to use when my friend got a discount. I’ll have to check out Kiehl’s.

    I agree about the tennis ball idea. I have a sock that I put 2 tennis balls in and it works great for your neck and all the way down your back.

  30. I know this is going to sound vain, but I can’t go anywhere without my MAC compact (powder/foundation combo). Its one of the few luxury items I take on trips. I can’t even leave my home without a little of it on.

    That “tennis” ball actually looks like a racquetball ball – firm but soft.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one with washcloths in my bag since they’re quite handy especially as make-up remover, and they will take everything off.

  31. I love that ball!! i need one of those things!! 🙂

    I actually make it a habit now to travel with cold pressed coconut oil. I always seem to pick up some sort of bug when I travel. I take tablespoon of that and it knocks it right out! bizarre!!

  32. Great minds think alike, ladies!!

  33. I’m awful forgetting to pack all kinds of things. As long as I remember my passport and credit cards, I reckon I’m OK 🙂

  34. Coming from someone who’s had to drive all the way back home for her passport and recently didn’t have the right credit cards in Canada, I think you ARE doing ok!

  35. I can hardly believe it, a few of these I’d never have thought of! The watch though – soooo glad I do carry one on every trip. After a SECOND IPHONE WAS STOLEN FROM ME IN LONDON, I’ll now never go without a watch. I can’t imagine not, at the least, knowing the time and when I do have an iPhone I am usually lazy enough to use it as a watch. Can’t do that when you don’t have it!

  36. Now I’m picturing you in a shower cap:). Great list. Mine is always my straightening iron or my hair ends up looking like a frizz ball.

  37. Just looked at the Juice pills and realized we probably should have brought something like that in the land of meat and rice.

    I will carry eyeliner into a warzone if I have to.

  38. I have this big cardigan that I never travel without- it is huge, and can be used as a blanket when i’m on the plane or as a cardigan when I’m walking around. it is perfect!

  39. Haha I have one of those, too. It’s a real lifesaver!

  40. Truth be told: I can’t go anywhere without a good DEODORANT and lots of HAIR TIES!

  41. Impressive. We’re still learning how to pack light. We normally travel for long term so carry a lot but as we do more weekend getaways and short jaunts we are getting better.

  42. Ruth-Hanna says:

    Add condoms. No matter what else you have in your carry-on, the tell-tale circle will cause a smile on the TSA team member. I think you could get a bomb wrapped in a condom onto a plane. (Not my goal! I just want to get through security as painlessly as possible. My most bizarre experience was a TSA agent hollering “BREAST-PUMP” as my non-lactating breasts were flowing through security.)

    Really? Condoms. No matter what your expectations are.

  43. Yes, very, very true. And responsible!! Especially when meeting lots of people in hostels.

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