Vacation packing list — Top tips on what to pack and what to cut

Travel Guides

Travel Guides (Photo credit: Vanessa (EY))

Summer vacation is as much a part of college life as the classes. Think warms sands at a beach, a hike in the mountains, or an adventure in a far-off land. Pack a good book, some music and a bottle of water, and that should do it. Well, you’ll need to think beyond the immediate needs of a relaxing vacation. Ask yourself: what are my activities, where will I be going, what will I be doing in the evening as well as in the daytime, am I prepared for an emergency? These are all important considerations when you create your vacation packing list.

Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy never went anywhere without his towel. Here are some other practical items to carry with you when you travel.

General items to pack

For travel to just about anywhere, here are some basics:

Electronics: Phone, GPS, camera and smart card for extra picture storage; charger; adaptor to charge your electronics in the car’s cigarette lighter; batteries.

Paperwork: Reservation confirmation, tickets, boarding pass, directions, maps.

Clothes: Pack an extra change of clothes—underwear, socks, shirt, shorts or pants. You never know if you’ll get stranded somewhere overnight, or get your clothes sweaty or dirty during your adventures.

Personal items: In addition to the usual toothbrush, razor, shampoo and deodorant, don’t forget contact lens solution, prescriptions, lip balm, skin lotion and antibacterial wipes.

Food: Dried fruit or granola bars, water or sports drinks, apples and bananas, trail mix, sandwiches, cooler.

Currency: Cash (put it in a very safe place), traveler’s checks, ATM cards (debit, credit).

Travel to the beach

Sunscreen is a must; preferably anything over SPF30. Also bring sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat, flip-flops, blanket, music, a cooler and bottled water. Also bring various changes of clothes. Even if you go to a warm place, bring a jacket, long sleeves and warm socks — it can get very cold at night.

Stay over in a hotel

Higher-end hotels come with a lot of amenities these days, such as a microwave, refrigerator, iron, etc. But if you’re choosing cheap, consider bringing your own alarm clock, hair dryer, slippers, robe and towels.

Travel by car

In “How To Create Your Own Roadside Emergency Kit,” March 18, 2010, on, Scott Mead recommends the following emergency gear for your car: jumper cables, flares or reflectors, quart of oil, first aid kit, blanket, screwdrivers, flashlight and extra batteries, and duct tape and bottled water. Also bring a spare tire and jack, and the phone number for your insurance and emergency towing service.

Travel by air

Make sure you know how many carry-ons you can bring, how much luggage will cost to check and the weight and size limits of luggage. Also bring a snack, ear phones, magazine or book. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

Travel overseas

Bring a passport or visa, and other identification such as a birth certificate and currency in the country’s denomination. Also research American embassy contact information ahead of time just in case of emergency. And bring “electrical adapters and converters (consider packing as many battery-operated electronics as possible, as converters can be expensive to buy and heavy to carry),” according to “International Vacation Essentials Packing Checklist” on

Summer reading list

“One of the differences between high school and college is the degree to which you actively educate yourself, and your summer reading can be a part of your transition to greater engagement in your own education,” said Notre Dame University faculty, reported in the May 2013 article, “NerdScholar’s 2013 College Summer Reading List Picks.”

Yeah, I know, it’s a vacation, not summer school. But if you’re lying on the beach anyway with nothing else to do, why not tackle your college’s summer reading list. There are classics, history, biography, social commentary and even some good old mysteries. Pack a few books, get a head start, and do some extra credit work. It can’t hurt, and your professors will be impressed.

What was the most important item you’ve ever forgotten to pack for a vacation?

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