How to pack your overnight bag

With the rise of short cruises, weekend breaks, and even stay cays, booking travel in bite-sized chunks is definitely becoming a big trend. So how do you pack for these one- or two-night sorties? Well, for starters, definitely not the same way you pack for a traditional holiday.

Let’s begin with the basics. Which bag are you taking? If you’re heading away for one or two nights, and are going to be doing a bit or travel or walking, I’d almost recommend taking a small carry-on suitcase with wheels. This will make your life easier and leave your hands free to deal with other more important tasks – such as carrying a coffee. Plus you’re not packing enough to make it heavy (I hope) should you need to pick it up. Other options include a purpose-designed weekender bag – you know the designer looking duffle shaped ones – or perhaps the most practical choice, a backpack – which, with the added bonus, are very in fashion at the moment.

Once you’ve made that decision, the best place to start is with all the things you know you’ll need over the next night or two. I find the easiest way to do this is to mentally walk myself through my typical day, including my morning and night routine. For example, this would leave me with: pyjamas, underwear, my toothbrush and toothpaste, all my facial products, make up, hair brush, perfume and deodorant, as well as my phone charger, since I charge my phone overnight.

From here, I think about where I’m going, what I’m doing and what I’ll be wearing when I do said activities. Obviously the clothes you take will depend entirely on the trip you’re taking, but generally I will try to carefully plan the outfit that I wear away and the one for the next day or two so that there’s some overlap, with a few extra items to give me options. Here’s an example of what I might pack for a weekend away:


  • white jeans
  • navy singlet
  • striped jumper
  • denim jacket
  • black hat
  • clogs
  • scarf
  • watch.



  • black jeans
  • shorts
  • dress
  • long sleeve knit
  • navy shirt
  • t-shirt
  • orange silk singlet
  • sneakers.


As you can see, this gives me a range of different outfit options with three bottoms and seven tops as well as a dress and two pairs of shoes. Layering pieces work well in this situation, as does picking a complementary selection of colours that will allow you to mix and match.

Next up, add your exercise gear if you’re going to hit the gym or go for a long walk. Think about what pieces you’ve already got that can double as exercise gear. For me, my Nike sneakers can be worn during the day or for exercise, and I’ll often wear a normal t-shirt or knit when out walking. Add any additional items you may need – such as gym leggings or socks.

If you’re not taking your handbag with you, then check it – I usually do – and add things such as your wallet, keys and phone to your travel luggage. Then grab any other technology you may wish to take, such as headphones, a laptop or camera – don’t forget their cords and chargers too!

Finally, make sure you have all the documentation you need, such as ID, cards, maps and guides, tickets, and copies of any reservations. Pack a snack, water and something to read and you’re almost ready to hit the road. 

Two final things:
1) It’s a good idea to make sure your bag is named – even if you plan on having it with you at all times. We all know things don’t always go to plan.
2) Now before you leave your house, have one more look in your bag for your deodorant and clean underwear and socks. These are easily the most important and most often overlooked items.

Do you have any other tried and tested tips for packing an overnight bag? We also found this great list from Pack Whiz. And we’ve also produced a fantastic, easy-to-follow video on how to pack a weekend bag.

Related articles:
Packing tricks for simpler travel
The best suitcase for travelling
Ten things to always carry on

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

Leave a Reply

Desperately seeking trusty tradie

Cruising: what to pack