What to Pack for the USA
The USA is an amazing travel destination with so many places to visit and when planning a trip there are some important things you shouldn't forget.
What you pack really depends on where you are going and what you will be doing.
If you plan to tour the USA on an overland adventure you might want to pack light and put everything into a backpack as you will need to carry everything you take. Luggage should be restricted to a frameless backpack, which must not weigh more than 20kgs (ideal – 15kg).
We recommend a backpack over a suitcase for ease of transportation. But for short trips, for example a short holiday to Miami or California, a suitcase is fine.
Here is our list of top things to pack and remember when travelling to America.
- Passport (check your passport is still valid and has at least 6 months validitity)
- Flight tickets
- Travel insurance - this is vital and something you need to buy! If you aren't covered and have any medical problems in the USA you can get hit with a huge bill!
- Backup copy of passport and important documents like visa and passport (better still, scan these and email it to your web-based email account or cloud for access anywhere in the world)
- Money, be sure to change money in advance before departing to get the best rates. You could also take a pre-paid credit/debit card.
- Student ID - if you are a student there are lots of discounts available when sightseeing
Apply for a Visa Before You Go
If you are planning to visit the United States for tourism you need to apply for a special type of tourist visa called the ESTA. This is vital to do to gain entry to the USA for holiday or business trips that are 90 days or less.
All it involves is a short online form so it’s pretty easy to fill out, and will be valid for two years from the issue date. Be sure to apply for your ESTA as far in advance as possible, because even though most are approved quickly, it’s best to find out if there are any issues that need to be resolved ASAP.
A couple more things to note is that you can no longer submit a last minute application either, so don’t try to apply for this one at the airport, as you might not even be able to board your flight without it and there’s no way you’re getting through US customs at the other end.
Check online for all information (it will cost you a small fee).
Recommended General Packing List
- Travel towel (i.e microfibre material)
- Travel umbrella/thin raincoat
- Sun Hat (summer)
- Sunglasses (summer)
- Camera – film/batteries/memory card/charger
- Travel pillow
- Swiss army knife
- Travel clothesline
- Universal sink plug/Laundry Soap
- Student ID (if applicable)
- Day Pack
- Money Belt
- Portable battery charger
- Electrical adapters (110v American flat pin plugs)
Recommended First Aid / Medical / Hygiene
- Sunscreen and moisturiser/after sun cream/lip balm (if travelling between May to September as the weather can be hot)
- Diarrhorea remedies
- Any prescription medication required
- Contact lenses and solution
- Cold/flu decongestants
- Travel motion-sickness tablets (i.e. natural ginger tablets)
- Rehydration salts (Gastrolyte)
- Ear Plugs
If you have any medical conditions, or if you are keen to keep track of your heath we recommend buying a UnaliWear Kanega watch, this is a wearable medical alert device that is designed to be fashionable, sleek, and lightweight.
Beyond that, this smartwatch has all the features you could ask for, including fall detection, voice control, and medication alerts. Plus the UnaliWear is AI-based. So it’s always learning more about you and how to work better for you.
Clothing and Footwear
What to pack clothing wise will be dictated by what month you are going. Some places like Miami, Las Vegas and Florida have a warm climate all year round, but others like New York can have freezing cold winters.
- Comfortable trainers
- Long trousers and jog pants for lounging around
- Shorts (summer)
- T-shirts and Long sleeved T-Shirts
- Warm jacket, hat, scarf and gloves in winter
- 1 smart/casual outfit for evenings out
- 1 Waterproof/windproof jacket (if trekking and heading to the outdoors)
- If trekking or travelling in winter, hard soled boots are a MUST
- Flip flops for summer
What Not to Pack
What is not allowed to bring into USA? Prohibited means the item is forbidden by law to enter the United States. Examples of prohibited items are dangerous toys, cars that don't protect their occupants in a crash, bush meat, or illegal substances like absinthe and Rohypnol.
Other things you should't pack include narcotics of any kind, whatsoever. You can check more guidance on the US customs and borders website.
Don't Worry if You Forget Anything
Also remember even if you forget anything, you will likely be able to find it on arrival. The USA has shops everywhere, and you can also buy online with websites like Amazon which offer same/next day delivery in most destinations.
Hopefully our ultimate America packing list has given you ideas for everything you need to take. If you would like to spend time in the USA, check out our website today. You might like to search USA tours, or our guide to working in north America.