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What to carry in day bag?

I'm considering what size day bag I need. Some look so large to carry around all day! What do you carry in it?

Posted by
6451 posts

Are you hiking outdoors or walking around in a city? How far away will your lodging be from your daily activities?

The reason I’m asking these questions is your answers will determine how big or small, or even if you need to carry a day bag. For instance, we stay in the center of towns. By the time we’re ready for a break, we like to stop back into our room or sit at a cafe with a beverage. So, during city days, we never carry anything beyond my small crossbody purse that holds my phone and reservation tickets. But, if we’re hiking, we take a couple of bottles of water in a lightweight LLBean day bag.

Posted by
884 posts

Options I've used for basic sight seeing:
- Cheap foldable backpack from Wal-Mart plus a small Travelon anti theft waist bag. The backpack was mainly for jacket, water bottle, small toiletry bag, any shopping I did. The waist bag is essentially a money belt big enough to hold some money, credit/debit card, phone, tissues, lip gloss, she drops - but it has locking zippers and slashproof construction. It can also be worn crossbody.
- A larger Travelon single strap backpack. Kind of a halfway option to the above. Secure but big enough for jacket, water bottle, etc. Padded if you want to carry a small tablet.
- On an October trip I didn't carry any bag but wore a Lands End hooded jacket with lots of interior pockets.

The less you carry the better. Less likely to get something stolen or lost. Less likely to have problems with security at museums. Physically more comfortable day.

Posted by
4484 posts

Without knowing more, I wouldn't venture to say. Too much depends on where you are going, what types of activities you will be doing, and the time of year. Plus whether this is just for yourself, or are you sharing space with a partner or if there are kids.

Posted by
11503 posts

Been to Europe , many countries, over last 45 years .

I wear a cross body purse .

Money ( cash ) for the day .

Secondary ID ( I only carry my passport while in transit , passport in hotel safe )



Kleenex ( for those bathrooms out of tp)

A tourist map

My phone ( for photos , I don’t get an international plan )

Sometimes a small bottle of water

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for your replies. I'll be on my first Rick Steves tour so I've been doing a lot of reading here. We'll be in Spain. I don't think I'll need a big bag, but I read about people taking backpacks and big day bags. I just wonder if I'm missing something I will need.

Posted by
1259 posts

Are you on a Rick Steves bus/walk tour? If so, you cannot get to your suitcase so the pack stores anything you want easy and quick access to and can be left in the bus confidently.
A 20-28 liter backpack can hold : rain layer, umbrella, gloves, binoculars, snacks, water, notebook, pens, sunglasses, sunscreen, a few meds, guide book, ipad, charger. Ladies have additional items. Couples often have a single pack.

Posted by
13209 posts

When I am on a RS tour I want a bag for bus days. I have a rain layer, water, snacks, guidebook, iPad Mini, chargers, hat, sunscreen etc. I leave it on the bus during activities so also have my cross body purse for any touring we do those days. I’m not much of a shopper but others use it to stash purchases, lol.

Over the years I’ve used a LiteGear day pack, a RS Veloce bag and various tote bags. All have pluses and minuses!

Have a great time on your tour!

Basically, anything you desire to enjoy your day and/or prevent issues. Everyone packs his/her favorites and most lists are similar. Here's my run down - packable raincoat with a hood or a zip-up fleece type jacket (if weather requires it), small (think Altoids can-sized) first aid kit, keys, travel info., map (as needed), public transportation pass (again, as needed - PRN for short), tissue or napkins, camera, small binoculars or opera glasses (as desired), Sometimes water or Gatorade, pen, tiny notepad, any female hygiene supplies, wet wipes or hand sanitizer, a quart size zip-lock to hold trash, medications or medical supplies, snacks (PRN), flushable wipes. Whatever it takes to get through the 1/2 day or full day until I can return to my hotel or coach/private travel group bus. I pack differently for different trips. Stay with a daypack around 15 - 20 liters unless you are carrying supplies for others. (Even then, 15 - 20 liter pack size should suffice.)
I carry important stuff like passport, money, and credit cards in a neck wallet/pouch UNDER my shirt. Makes shirt look bulky weird - but, improves safety.

Posted by
2692 posts

All good suggestions. But, don’t forget toilet paper!

Posted by
542 posts

I live in New York and don't have a car, so I nearly always have some kind of bag with me when I'm out and about, and the list of things I carry isn't all that different when I'm traveling in cities. (This is expressly not a list of things I carry with me on day hikes; that's a totally different thing.)

Aside from the fundamental essentials (phone, keys, wallet) I also carry:

  • Kindle or book (I read extensively on public transportation)
  • Umbrella and/or sunglasses depending on weather
  • Seasonal clothing accessories (i.e. gloves and hat in winter, light sweater in spring/fall)
  • Chapstick
  • Headphones
  • (Reusable) bottle of water
  • Pen

If I'm traveling, I also tend to carry:

  • External phone battery
  • A snack or two
Posted by
8196 posts

There's also stuff that you might buy while out and about - water, soft drinks, pastries, cookies, fruit, postcards, souvenirs, etc., that you need to carry around somehow.

What bag are you looking at? I dont think I've ever seen anyone here, describe taking a "big" backpack for a daypack. Perhaps you're misreading the discussions on backpacks as carryon luggage, which is not the same thing. I use the Rick Steves Civita pack for a day pack (see the Shop Online link) which weighs practically nothing and scrunches up to about a fist size when empty. Its the same thing I use as the "personal item" on the flight over.

Posted by
363 posts

Depending on what I'm doing that day, I might bring an Eddie Bauer "Stowaway Packable" backpack with me. I have two different sizes: the 30 L is on sale right now for $20 and the 20 L is on sale for $15. Both are super lightweight but fairly durable. I sometimes will even use them as my "personal item" on long flights.

Posted by
1662 posts

Hi CoKaLa,

At first, I was not sure how to reply since I didn't know if you are female. lol. sorry.

What I carried was a Kipling purse - more on the hobo style really. It converted to a cross body bag if needed. It was good to also put little purchases in. I also take a foldable, nylon tote.

I love "big bags." The one I took is about? 14" or so. It was allowed at The Vatican and St. Peter's and other places.

I love Kipling bags because they are very lightweight to start, have many pockets you can get lost in, are pliable, good zippers, very secure, and most are convertible - a lot of their bags come with an extra long strap.

Andrew has a good list and like some others, carry what he does.

Since I am female, I add a little cosmetic case with makeup and stuff to freshen up if I have to. I also carry my "first aid" basics - OTC's, bandaids, hand wipes, gum and a few other things - not heavy.

Beside my phone and Kindle, I carry a portable batter charger. Not heavy really. Can be found at Walmart - Electronics - $5.

I carry two packs of tissues - like Alan wrote "toilet paper."

I had free bottled water (San Benedetto) from my hotel - refillable bottle - so I took that around.

I carry my glasses and sunglasses.

A little snack.

If I know I will be out into the darkness, I take my little flashlight. It attaches to my key leash inside the bag.

It is plastic, not heavy or big. It shines a very good LED. It was $1 at Walmart in the Camping Section. You would "think" it was nothing but it really performed.

It was very useful in Rome - cobblestone can be protruding or slippery if someone spilled something. Curbs and sidewalks can be broken or "just end" with no warning.

I traveled to Rome in December (both times) so I brought thin gloves to take away the chilly edge at night. My puffer (knee length) coat with removable hood. A scarf and (newsboy style) wool hat.

Adding - I forgot - The "infamous" small roll of duct tape! lol. It can/came in handy. They can be found at Walmart; usually in the section where they sell artistry supplies - like Washi tape, special gel pens, etc. $3

I get the black. I also bought bright Orange - cut strips and placed them in strategic spots on my luggage - when it comes off the plane, it is identifiable on the carousel.

Michael's Crafts also sells them. $3 too. If you have a percentage off coupon, you can use that.

Posted by
15477 posts

I prefer a backpack to a shoulder bag. I got a super-lightweight one at R.E.I. some years ago. While it's big, it's never close to full except when it's my hand luggage on planes or trains.

Always in my bag:
- moleskin and bandaids
- folding fan (you can buy pretty ones in Spain, they make good souvenirs and gifts)
- kleenex and a travel pack of wet wipes
- pen and notebook
- reading glasses in hard case
For tours I add:
- sunglasses and hard case (so many have broken)
- water bottle
- snacks
- book or kindle for long bus rides
- camera, spare battery

Posted by
3134 posts

On my RS Greece tour, my 'bus bag' was also my personal item 12x16x6. It is actually one of my camera bags in real life, but on the bus it held my DSLR, memory cards, extra battery, backup battery pack, snacks/motion sickness items, iPod and earphones, bandana and eyeglasses. It would also hold my small bryant baggallini with financials/PP, (& iPod if leaving bus bag on bus), and my medicine for the trip in contact lens holder---tiny pills, but I wore it crossbody instead during all but airport travel days. RS company wants you to wear a money belt so unlike one of my independent trips, I wore a leg money belt. Ordinarily I don't. The bag also held a recycle grocery bag that folded up to a 1"x2" package. I'm not one for extra clothes or water (we could buy water on the bus if we needed to do so.) If I didn't need my jacket, it folded into its own bag which I could latch onto my 'bus bag' for transport into the hotel, otherwise, I'd leave it on the bus if not needed at some point during the day. Depending on the stop, I'd take or leave on the bus, this bag. Lots of times I'd just take the camera in my hand and the recycle grocery bag in my pocket in case I wanted to put it away into its own bag while walking around or eating. I'm one who lives my life from a very small purse at home, so this size bag was only due to my DSLR, etc. and this trip. Try to stay as small as possible, would be my recommendation.

I have since moved on to a backpack the same size as the above bag as it is my personal item with BA so I stay within the above measurements.

Posted by
1620 posts

Just make sure it has a zipper on top!
The bag is just for the day's activities, not for the whole trip. Although some items will be permanently packed in there like chap stick.
Mine is mid-size, I don't want to have to play tetris in there. Mine must have a zippered outside pocket for my quick grabs (Chap stick, phone, metro tickets etc). I like one large pocket for camera, tickets for the day, sunscreen, wallet, map or guidebook pages, scarf, snack.
At the end of each day I dump the purse out, repack for the next day with any entry tickets, maps, asses my money situation and add more to the wallet if needed, etc.
If it is a travel day (Going from one location to the next) the bag will be packed much different than if we are just walking around that day.

Posted by
1071 posts

I use a Pacsafe Vibe 325 slingbag and I love it. Just used it on the Switzerland tour 2 weeks ago and it was perfect.

The bag is lockable, small yet carries quite a bit, I usually take a small Davek umbrella, my rain shell and a collapsible platypus water bottle, my camera, sunglasses and any snacks I may need.

Posted by
5 posts

I have a lightweight foldable backpack that I use, it's fine to carry around all day and it's big enough to keep everything I need. I always make sure I have a bottle of water, sunscreen and plasters when it comes to the essentials but if I plan on spending a bit of chill time somewhere a magazine/book is a good idea too, along with a couple of snacks. Don't forget the camera!

Posted by
105 posts

Another city dweller, and public transit user here, so Andrew's list is pretty much my everyday list - sans umbrella because I'm from Seattle :-) Like Girasole, I include kleenex and a small bag with a few things like wet wipes, bandaids and such. I sometimes include some ziplocks and a collapsable shopping bag. About the only other addition I might make is sunscreen (Seattle again!). As it happens I currently have all of the foregoing in my bag right now.

I am on my second RS cross-body bag. It easily handles all of the above, and if it is my personal item on the plane it can also hold my Surface, all of my cords and chargers, my noisecancelling headphones, my deflated travel pillow, and a light sweater and scarf.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it isn't waterproof. I see the current one has been slightly remodeled from the one that I currently have. Not sure how the water bottle would fit in the side pocket of that one.

Posted by
156 posts

I’m a fan of the Eddie Bauer packable daypacks. They come in 20L and 30L sizes, and can be easily folded and stashed in a carryon bag when not in use. They aren’t expensive and frequently go on sale. For a more structured bag, I’ve used the RS Veloce backpack/shoulder bag for all day sightseeing as well and it was comfortable even packed fairly full.

What you carry is obviously an individual choice; for me, it’s usually a water bottle, light sweater or jacket depending on the weather, umbrella (same reason), phone, leaving a little room for items I might purchase during the day.

One caveat about the “packable” bags: They’re pretty much unstructured,(hence the “packable” part) so in order to avoid feeling like you’re carrying a plastic grocery bag on your shoulders all day, you need some bulk. A sweater or jacket will usually fill the bill here. The trick is to keep it as light as possible, because the straps on a lot of these bags aren’t padded.

I find it strange that the Appenzell pack sold here is described as a daypack. IMO, it’s more of a small to midsized backpack, good for a change of clothes or overnight trip, but a bit large for a daypack, unless you’re carrying around a lot of camera equipment or similar stuff, or plan on picking up a lot of souvenirs during the day. Just my impression.

Posted by
135 posts

One thing I include is a 2 1/2 gallon ziplock bag to stash all my goodies in case of rain since the lightweight backpack I carry is not waterproof.

Posted by
3499 posts

I use the Civita shoulder bag sold here online as my day bag. It is compact but roomy enough for all the things listed by others that they carry. I mostly leave it on the bus at shorter stops, but will carry it if the tour has a longer stop (I have medications I carry that I might need during the day). It is not waterproof, but I sprayed it with a waterproofing spray deigned for hiking boots and it keeps things dry enough now.