Spring Break Packing List

By Bennett Collins

Spring break isn’t just for students. The spring is an excellent time for people of all ages to travel as it’s a shoulder season for the most popular places. Here’s what to pack for a short spring break escape.

While we associate spring break with students, anyone and everyone should travel before the high season of summer. Here’s a solid packing list that will get you through a short spring break vacation. 

I realize, writing this as a PhD student, I’m not exactly in the demographic of student that heads to party zone destinations. Rather, I’m more the type who sees an opportunity, in cheaper shoulder-season airline and train tickets, to go somewhere different (and with bluer skies than my adopted home of Scotland).

While they “classic” spring break involves warm weather and a beach, more temperate climates are gaining in popularity and are often the most affordable option during spring break, which is “high season” in the typical locales. When you’re a student, price is (almost) everything.

So, I’ve devised two packing lists: one for those of us comfortable cooler weather; and another for the masses who are running for sun, beach, or as far away from a sweater as possible. Since spring breaks don’t usually last longer than a week, it’s very possible to keep your packing list small and and vacation with only a carry-on-sized travel backpack.

Spring Break Packing List

There are things we all need, no matter where in the world we’re going for our break in a March to May shoulder season. There are some things on this list (*) that you can buy once you arrive to make space in your bag and avoid adding extra weight to your back. Where toiletries are concerned, it’s more of a risk to expect your favorite shampoo or deodorant to be available, so if you’re brand specific or allergic to certain ingredients, it’s better to decant small amounts of your favorites and carry them with you.

These are the basics, no matter where you’re going


(3-4 oz or less bottles in a 1 qt plastic bag. Otherwise buy at your destination):

  • Toothbrush*
  • Floss*
  • Toothpaste*
  • Deodorant*
  • Feminine care products*
  • Make-up*
  • Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap (can be used for shampoo, conditioner, body and hand wash!)
  • Pain medication (ibuprofen or advil ladies and gents – you’ll thank me in the morning) *
  • Condoms/birth control pills*
  • Razor & shaving creams*
  • Imodium or Pepto-bismol (for stomach issues)


  • Passport
  • Copy of passport or extra ID (you do not want to lose your passport without one of the two)
  • Copy of itinerary
  • Purse or Wallet 
  • Cash, Debit, or Credit cards
  • Water bottle
  • Unlocked Smartphone (purchase a local sim card at the destination) 
  • Smartphone charger
  • Travel adapter*
  • Tablet or computer, if you’re ‘work-cationing’
  • Travel towel (microfiber is best)
  • Notebook & pen*
  • Sunglasses (remember winter-accustomed folk, the sun is coming back out)*
  • Powdered laundry detergent*
  • Headphones

Temperate Spring Breaks

I, for one, love a chilly vacation. Maybe it’s because my dermatologist says I should never go in the sun without SPF 70 on applied every two hours, or maybe it’s that I always get food poisoning on tropical vacations. A better reason is that it’s nice to see places that are normally swarming with tourists at peak season a little less crowded but with a little more sun than winter may offer. If you’re headed to a cooler destination, remember to layer up.

If you are opting for a sweater weather, here’s the list to help you own it: 

Spring Break Clothing

  • 1 hoodie or sweater 
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 5-6 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras
  • 5-6 pairs of socks 
  • 1-2 pairs of pants
  • 3-5 t-shirts and shirts (button downs can layer with t-shirts)
  • 1-2 skirts or dresses (for nights out)
  • Windbreaker or raincoat
  • Gloves, hat, and scarf (depending on where exactly you’re going and when)
  • Pajama pants (for chilly nights) 


Spring Break Beach Packing List 

Living in Scotland, I can more than appreciate the need to get somewhere warm ASAP; given that Scotland has two seasons: cold while raining every day, and chilly while it rains every other day.

The risk, of course, is that everyone is looking for some heat late winter or early spring and you’ll find it busier in the tropics than in more temperate climates. Also: Just because it’s a beach destination, doesn’t mean it’s warm all the time. Be sure to pack a few items that layer well.

For a beach vacation, pack: 


  • Sunscreen stick*
  • Mosquito repellent*
  • Malaria medications (do your research whether your destination is high risk)
  • SPF lip balm*

Spring Break Beach Clothing

  • 5-6 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras
  • 5-6 socks
  • 3-4 t-shirts, shirts, or tank tops 
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts, loose pants, or skirts 
  • 1 light sweater 
  • 1 pair of pants (for chilly nights)
  • Sandals or flip flops
  • Sun hat or bandana
  • Swimsuit (choose shorts for bottoms and you can wear them out of the water too)
  • Beach towel 


  • Small daypack for the beach
  • Portable speakers 
  • Rehydration sachets

Whether you’re chasing the sun and looking to get a tan, or looking for an affordable adventure in a slightly off season and more temperate destination the key to perfect spring break packing is in keeping it light and layering up.