How do some people fit everything in a single bag?
Packing light always seems easy, especially for overnight and weekend trips. After all, you'll only be gone for a few nights—how much can you really need?
But if you've ever been on a trip and forgotten something at home, you know how annoying it can be to arrive at your destination only to open your bag and realize you don't have what you need. That's why it can be hard to pack light, even for quick trips.
No matter where you go or for how long, there's a sense of comfort in having everything you could possibly need in your bag. But the last thing you want is to be the person that lugs around a giant suitcase of things you probably could have left at home. And that can make packing an overnight bag a balancing act.
You want to ensure you don't forget anything you need at home without overstuffing your bag. That's why so many lists of travel tips recommend using an overnight packing list like the one we've outlined below. While you may have to make adjustments depending on your intended destination and trip length, it's a good starting place for any overnight or weekend trips you might have planned.
12 Travel Essentials to Pack For An Overnight Trip
Use our travel packing list as a starting point for your own—feel free to add or remove items based on your travel plans and preferences.
It's important to note that our list is for a true overnight trip—if you are traveling for more than one night, plan to pack additional items for every extra day of your trip.
- A single pair of pants
- One clean T-shirt or long-sleeve shirt
- A set of pajamas
- One clean pair of underwear
- A pair of socks
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hairbrush and styling products
- Contact lens case (and solution) or glasses case
- Any prescription medications
- Cell phone
- Portable charger and adapter cables
Packing these extras would technically disqualify you from meeting the strictest definition of a minimalist traveler—but depending on where you're going and what you have planned, they might be essential items to add to your packing list. I
f you can leave these items off your list, you're bag will be lighter. But if you plan to use any of these items on your overnight excursion, don't forget to pack them!
- Gym clothes
- Extra pair of shoes
- A winter coat Hat, gloves, or a scarf
- Beach towel
- Insect repellant
- Laptop, tablet, or e-reader
How to Avoid Overpacking
Using a checklist to guide you while you pack helps ensure you don't forget anything important while helping you avoid overpacking. But it isn't the only thing you can do to limit how much goes into your overnight bag.
Pack only what you truly need
The key to traveling light is packing only what you need—and nothing more. And while using a minimalist packing list is a good start, you can pare down your checklist even more if you plan ahead.
Consider researching the weather at your intended destination so you can plan accordingly. Knowing what the weather will hold will help you pack exactly what you need and eliminate worries like whether or not you should toss an umbrella in your bag.
Evaluate what you'll be doing while you're gone and see if there are any items you can eliminate. Let's say you're sleeping over at a friend's house to reduce your morning commute before an early work conference. While you can't leave out your blazer or laptop to save space in a small bag, you can wear comfortable clothes (like leggings or sweatpants and a big T-shirt) on your way over. That way, your day clothes can double as pajamas.
Choose the Perfect Overnight Bag
If you're notorious for overpacking, your luggage might be part of the reason why.
Choosing a bag that's bigger than you need will give you plenty of extra space if you’re hoping to bring home souvenirs you pick up while traveling. But before you even leave, all that empty space in your bag could make you feel like you're forgetting something. And that increases the chance that you'll pack something you don't really need at the last minute—which means you won’t have space for those souvenirs after all.
So, what is a good overnight bag?
When it comes to packing for a short trip, backpacks and duffel bags are usually the best option for minimalist travelers who want to travel light without sacrificing comfort or convenience. They provide plenty of space while still being easy to compress down if need be, making them incredibly versatile. Plus, they're much easier to carry around than a bulky, wheeled suitcase.
Here are a few of our favorite overnight bags:
- Synik 30 – This daypack combines spaciousness and organization with a clamshell zipper compartment for easy packing and exterior pockets for organizing all our belongings. And that makes it perfect for a night or two spent away from home.
- Addax 31 – The roll-top opening makes it easy to adjust this bag's size, making it a versatile backpack for longer trips. It also has a specific compartment for our water bottle and built-in key straps, so we can stay organized and quickly locate items within our bag.
- Aeronaut 30 – This versatile duffel is a travel bag favorite for a reason – its compact size, efficient organization, and well-thought-out compartments make packing essentials easy and convenient for short trips.
- Techonaut 30 – As our most versatile backpack (or duffel, depending on how we carry it), we often recommend the Techonaut as a carry-on bag. It's big enough to pack everything we need for a weekend getaway. But since it maximizes space through organization features, it isn't bulky. And that means it offers all the same convenience of a standard overnight bag, plus it comes with a little extra space.
Don't overthink things
It can feel like you've forgotten something at home when your bag is so light. But don't overthink it—especially if you'll only be gone for a single night, you probably won't forget anything at home. Even if you do, chances are you'll be able to make it through the night without (and you'll never forget to pack whatever it was again). That said, if there's anything we've forgotten to list in our packing checklist, help a fellow traveler by letting us know in the comments below!