Weekend Trip Packing List: What to Bring for a 3-Day Getaway

By Fred Perrotta
Woman carrying Tortuga backpack while crossing the street

Weekend trips seem like they should be the easiest ones to pack for. But they always end up being the hardest.

Weekends should be simple. The trip is short, the weather won’t vary much, and you probably know what you’ll be doing.

But packing light for a weekend trip can pose a challenge. We all tend to pack as much as we can fit, not just what we need. Whether you’re traveling for a weekend or a month, you’ll probably fill your backpack or suitcase. When you have the space, you start adding stuff you’ll never need, like an extra pair of shoes or a just-in-case outfit.

Your stuff will expand to fill your bag.

To combat this tendency, stick to a short weekend trip packing list and pack a small bag.

3-Day Weekend Packing List

Let’s start off with a quick checklist for a three-day, two-night weekend trip. The packing list below assumes that you leave on Friday, stay Friday and Saturday nights, then return home on Sunday.

For clothing, we’ve included your travel day (or in-flight) clothing in the packing list.

Consider at least one “nice” outfit depending on your plans. Dressing up—especially if you don’t have to—can make a nice dinner feel like a special occasion when you’re traveling.

Optional Add-Ons

  • Jacket
  • Eye mask and ear plugs
  • Hat, scarf, and/or gloves for winter trips

Travel Day Outfit

The outfit you wear to travel should be the bulkiest outfit of the trip, especially if you’re flying. Wear your biggest, heaviest clothes—jeans, sweater, boots, jacket—so that you can save space in your bag. If you’re too warm, you can always remove a layer after takeoff and store it in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

If you’re flying, your travel outfit should include a light jacket with zippered pockets. The pockets will provide extra space for packing things like your wallet, phone, chapstick, boarding pass, and other travel day essentials. The zippers will keep your stuff secured when you go through airport security.

Shoes

Shoes are always a challenge when packing. It’s easy to convince yourself that you need a second pair, even for a three-day trip. Resist this temptation. Instead, pack one pair of shoes you can wear all weekend. Your shoes must be comfortable enough for walking all day but nice enough to wear out to dinner.

In the winter, choose warm, comfortable boots. Sandals or sneakers work well in nicer weather. You can always add flip flops for the beach or pool if needed. Most will fit in your backpack’s water bottle pocket.

Electronics

Be careful not to overpack electronics. For such a short trip, you can leave your work computer at home. Since you’ll either be driving or taking a short flight, skip the tablet too. Your flight might be too short to watch a movie anyway.

A Kindle is my favorite in-flight entertainment for short trips. You’ll also have your phone and earbuds if you prefer to listen to music or a podcast.

Toiletries

When it comes to toiletries, take only the essentials. If you can live without it or survive with a different brand for a day or two, leave it at home.

Choose a hotel or an Airbnb that provides basics so that you don’t have to bring soap or shampoo.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Contact solution, if needed
  • Basic makeup, if needed
  • Soap, shampoo, and conditioner (only if not provided by your accommodation)

Consider if you can pool resources and share the packing burden with your travel companions. Do you each need to bring your own bottle of sunscreen or can one person bring a bottle for everyone to share?

If you forget anything, just grab a cheap option at your destination. You can bring home any leftovers so that you aren’t being wasteful.

Weekend trip in an Outbreaker Laptop Backpack

Long Weekend Packing List

If you’re staying over Sunday night and heading home on Monday, use this list instead.

Optional Add-Ons

  • Jacket
  • Eye mask and ear plugs
  • Hat, scarf, and/or gloves for winter trips

Wedding Weekend Packing List

Weddings may require packing a bit more.

You’ll need an extra pair of shoes and one or two extra outfits so that you’re always dressed appropriately. In addition to dress clothes for the wedding, consider what you’ll need for the rehearsal dinner or Sunday morning activities if either will be part of the festivities.

  • 2 pairs of shoes (1 pair for the wedding, 1 pair for everything else)
  • 5 outfits (1 casual outfit for each day plus the wedding and rehearsal dinner)
  • 3 sets of underwear
  • 4 pairs of socks (3 casual, 1 dress)
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • Toiletry bag
  • Water bottle
  • Phone, charger, and earbuds or headphones
  • Book or Kindle

Best Weekend Backpack

We recommend packing a bag that’s made for travel—not just the old duffel at the back of your closet—especially if you’re flying. You’ll need a bag that’s optimized for packing, getting through security, and being accessible in-flight. Depending on how and what you’re packing, we recommend two options.

Outbreaker Weekend Travel Backpack

Outbreaker Backpack (35L)

The Outbreaker Backpack is a front-loading travel backpack that will keep your clothes neatly organized. At 35L, the Outbreaker is better suited to long weekends or weddings where you’ll be bringing more stuff. The upside is that its large enough that you can also use it on longer trips of a week or more.

Outbreaker Weekender Laptop Backpack

Outbreaker Laptop Backpack

The Outbreaker Laptop Backpack is a smaller, more traditional backpack. At 27L, you save space while still having room for a weekend’s worth of clothing plus your computer or tablet if you’ll need it.

Why You Should Pack Last Minute

Packing last minute sounds sacrilegious, especially for Type A travelers. But hear me out.

You don’t need to bring much for a weekend getaway, so you won’t need much planning or packing time.

If you wait until the night before your trip to pack, you can be even more efficient. Check the weather last minute so that you know it won’t change (much). By then, you’ll also know your weekend plans and can pack and dress accordingly.

No need to worry about any “just in case” stuff.

Pack a small backpack and limit yourself to one outfit (or less) per day.