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Packing List for US West Coast Road Trip – Hand Luggage Edition!

Summer hat, bikini and sun glasses

We already started thinking of what to pack in our hand luggage a few months before our US West Coast trip. What dress to take, hiking shoes or trainers, how many socks and which factor sun cream to use! Creating a packing list in advance really helped to check off what we really needed to take into our backpacks. But still a challenge to pack the right things for the activities we would be doing!

For starters the US road trip was in September, so the expected weather temperatures were an average of 27°C and higher at the chosen destinations. This resulted in no need for us to bring lots of insulated clothes or winter coats, but bikinis and sunglasses.

Why Hand Luggage Only?

We decided early on that we would take hand luggage only, as we knew that we would be travelling around with the car (and motels) and wanted to keep it easy. For the summer, we like to be minimalist with clothes that match well together for multiple occasions too.

In total we took both one hand luggage each full of enough clothes for 1 week and during the vacation hand washed things to be worn again! This was super easy to do, especially if you have more than 1 night in the same place where you can leave things to dry easily overnight. However we also did it during 1 nights stay (washing as soon as we check in for timing) and worked out perfect.

Packing List Necessities

Here are 6 personally important things that we needed;

  1. Hiking Shoes – For exploring Zion National Park, Grand CanyonDeath Valley.
  2. Sunglasses, sun hat and sun cream – I’m a redhead, so for me is ALWAYS needed.
  3. Workout clothes – these are the most comfiest when travelling long distances (and hiking in!).
  4. A map! We didn’t get lost on the large roads as it was pretty easy signage, but just in case we had Google Maps as our go to app. We also had ‘CityMaps2Go’ which was free to download for those offline moments
  5. Tech belongings like our mini camera tripod, SD cards, batteries & chargers.
  6. Passport, cash money and credit card (obviously!)

Packing list photo for a US Road Trip

Packing List Extras

As well as the important necessities mentioned above, we wanted to plan for those unexpected rain showers or for a cold night, so we had at least these items with us too;

  1. One pair of long warm trousers*
  2. Two tops (long & short sleeve)
  3. One warm jumper/vest*
  4. Thin rain coat
  5. One smart piece of clothing (dress/shirt) for a night out/dinner time.

*It was smart that we took these as we were greeted with snow during our route near Lake June – totally unexpected for us!

Packing Cubes

If you are not yet using these, we can highly recommend them. We have some super cheap ones from a local store and they have been great! We have two different colours for us both, so when searching in a backpack we know exactly which colour to pull out.

These are also super handy for staying organised on your vacation too, such as keeping clean clothes separated from dirty clothes. Nearly all of our belongings fitted inside 2 packing cubes, as we have a few different sizes. A few things we also just kept inside the backpack at the bottom, such as our raincoats that we only used once during the 2 weeks.


Since we only took hand luggage with us we decided to buy cheaply our toiletries on our first day. For only a few dollars we had all the toiletries we needed for our 2 week vacation. Some of the toiletries needed were the following;

  1. Deodorant
  2. Suncream
  3. Toothpaste
  4. Bug Spray

At the end of the trip, we left all liquids and toiletries behind as they were pretty much empty and no need to bring them back to Europe with us. This also meant we didn’t need to worry about any unwanted liquids while going through airport security and flying home.

You can see our full itinerary of our US West Coast road trip itinerary here!

Read more of our USA posts! 

2 Week Road Trip USA

Helicopter Tour Above Grand Canyon

Alcatraz Day Tour 

Cycling The Golden Gate Bridge, CA

Exploring Bodie: An Abandoned Mining Town

San Francisco 2 Day Itinerary With & Without A Car

Hiking At Zion National Park

Route 66

4 Nights In Las Vegas

Have you visited North America for a road trip? Did you also take only hand luggage? We’d love to hear your stories and tips for next time!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    24th August 2019 at 6:56 am

    Awesome that you guys managed to do it with only hand luggage! For a week trip, I’ve been able to do it as well but for anything longer, I struggle hahaha but definitely getting better!

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