Things to pack for vacation: Bug-repellent clothing.

Steer clear of the mozzies this summer with bug-proofed clothing. (Photo: Alamy)

Tips + Trends

Pack It Up: 10 Must-Have Summer Vacation Items

Steer clear of the mozzies this summer with bug-proofed clothing. (Photo: Alamy)

It’s a day or two before you hit the road on your summer adventures. OK, maybe it’s not the road — maybe you’re packing for the beach or a family cabin, or you’re off to explore a new city. Your favorite bag lies open on the bed, you’ve solved the ever-present problem of which shoes (and how many pairs) to bring. You’re not worried; you’re a resourceful traveler, and you know that in most places, you can find what you’ve forgotten.

But what could you toss in that will make your life easier as you travel this summer? Here are a few must-have travel items that will level up your packing game, no matter your destination.

Bug-proofed clothing

Ex Officio and Columbia Sportswear both make adventure-wear that’s pretreated with bug repellent. Whether you’re going on safari or taking an alpine hike during peak bug season, clothes that keep the bugs at bay will make your time outdoors so much more enjoyable. You’ll still need bug juice on your exposed skin, but you won’t get bitten through your socks. Mosquito-bitten ankles are the worst.

Dry bags

Spending time in or near the water? If so, dry bags are a must-have beach item for your vacation. Protect your gadgets from water (and sand, too) by stowing them in one of these impermeable packages. Tip for solo travelers: A small dry bag on a lanyard can serve as a safe for your small valuables — phone, car keys, cash. Take it swimming with you. Your stuff will be safe, and you’ll have peace of mind.

Zip-close bags

Airport security isn’t the only place that zip-close bags are handy. The large ones are perfect for storing wet swimsuits after the beach or pool, or for keeping an extra set of socks and underwear clean in your flight bag.

The small ones are perfect for keeping leaky toiletry bottles from making a mess in your luggage and for stowing small, stray items. And did you visit a spice market? Small zip-close bags are also nice for double wrapping your take-home kitchen treasures.

Public transit apps

Taking the subway in New York or the bus in San Diego? Nearly every big city metro transit system has an app that includes real-time tracking of your ride. A handful of regions are using One Bus Away; others have their own — Tokyo’s comes in three languages, Japanese, Chinese and English. Route planners show you how to get from A to B, while arrival-time tracking lets you know how much time you can spend in that air-conditioned café before plunging into a muggy subway tunnel.

Solar charger

It’s summer — don’t spend your time indoors looking for outlets. There are solar charger cases that fit your phone, lightweight solar-charged backup batteries, and even compact panel chargers. Make the summer sun work for you.

Solid moisturizer, sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner

Lush and Neutrogena both carry a variety of toiletry products in airport-friendly solid bars. You might want to try them out before you travel; not everyone loves every product. But if you find something you like, you’ll free up space in your carry-on for other must-have items. Pro tip: Products like bar shampoo don’t always dry as quickly as you need them to; one more reason you’ve got those zip-close bags as one of your top things to pack for vacation.

A great soundtrack

It’s easy to use Spotify or Pandora to create playlists that reflect the theme of your summer travels, and you can access them anywhere if you’ve got a solid connection. If you have Bluetooth in your rental car, you can rock out on your road trip by playing your music directly from your phone.

It seems like the dashboard CD player is still standard, though, so why not buy yourself a pre-trip compilation? It’s a little old school, sure, but it’s still fun to turn it up and lose yourself in a CD that reflects the sound of your adventure. Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” sounds so right while you’re driving through the city at night. And the Beach Boys’ 1966 classic, Pet Sounds, still provides exactly the right tone for cruising the California Coast.


A flashlight is always a handy extra — your phone can serve this purpose in a pinch. But a headlamp frees up your hands, good for balance if you’re tidepooling at the beach or hunting tiny rainforest frogs after dark.


They’re not just for hanging your sink-washed laundry up to dry. (You have a bit of lightweight rope, too, right?) They’re also good for pinning shut that annoying gap in the hotel curtains.


You grabbed a supermarket picnic on your way to the park, but you forgot cutlery, and there you are, staring at your quinoa salad and wondering what to do next. A spork is an essential day-bag item — you should have one in your bag at home, too. Some travelers like chopsticks as an alternative, but it’s hard to eat ice cream with chopsticks.