It’s a party in the U.S.A. and you’re invited! But what should you bring?! Packing for a holiday can be super stressful, but it doesn’t have be! Just follow this handy guide on what to pack for America and a few tips on the things worth remembering and planning for in advance.
Apply for a visa before you go
The United States of America has a special type of tourist visa called the ESTA and it is absolutely necessary for travel 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).
What clothing to pack for America
American weather can be extremely varied depending on the season you’re travelling and where exactly within the country you’re going, so ALWAYS check a predicted weather forecast. Google has a lot of historical data so you can get a great idea of what to expect in any location for the month you’re travelling. As a guide though, here’s what you should pack in your suitcase:
- Shorts/skirts/jeans/long trousers (again, check the weather)
- T-shirts and singlet (or tank) tops
- Casual dresses or playsuits
- A light jacket or thick coat depending on the season
- A hoodie/jumper for the flight or coach
- Going out outfits: this can be a nice dress for the ladies and for guys, a collared shirt
- Swimming costume
Top tip: Roll your clothes or buy packing cubes to maximise space in your suitcase, you may want to do some shopping in America, so you’ll be grateful for the extra room in your case from the beginning.
Shoes and accessories for America
It’s really up to you how many items you bring here, but if you’re a minimalist packer who wears clothes in a set colour palette (i.e. black, white and denim), fun accessories will give you a lot more options when it comes to mixing up your wardrobe. Just remember, comfort is key!
- Sneakers for exploring during the day (or exercise, your call)
- Flip-flops, thongs, sandals or jandals (whatever works for you!)
- A pair of heels or closed toe shoes for any nights out (one will do here, don’t overpack!)
- A scarf for the plane or cooler weather
- A belt (I cannot tell you how often I forget this!)
- Jewellery – cute earrings or a necklace can turn a casual dress into a party outfit
Toiletries for America
Toiletries are the most stressful part of any packing list, I think. Here’s what you need to remember:
- Sunscreen (especially if you’re travelling in summer!)
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap or body wash (or both, you can never be too clean)
- Skin care (e.g. face wash, moisturiser etc.)
- Insect repellent
- Contact lenses and solution if you’re a glasses wearer
- Tweezers and nail clippers (if you’re doing a long trip like The Grand Southern, you’ll probably need these at some point)
- Dry shampoo
- Make up
- Hair straightener
- Basic first-aid kit (Panadol, vitamins, anti-allergy etc.)
- Optional: hand sanitiser. America is a relatively clean country but you may want to back this for flights and public transport.
Top tip: Pack your toiletries in a plastic or waterproof bag in case of leakage.
Technology and other important stuff
Usually, the items that make it into my hand luggage are either breakable, important, will be used often or, most importantly, on the flight.
- Mobile phone
- Headphones (noise cancelling is best)
- US power adapter and power board with a double adaptor
- Camera or GoPro (or just use your phone)
- Travel documents and ESTA application (definitely print these! US customs may ask you where you’re planning to visit and you’ll need to have the answers handy).
- Flight essentials: neck pillow, ear plugs and eye mask
- Suitcase label or bag tag with your name, home address and email address
- Any medication you may need and be sure to bring the prescription or a doctor’s letter if carrying onto a flight
Extra tips for traveling to America
Here are a couple of extra things you may want to think about before arriving:
- Try to get your hands on U.S. currency in small denominations like $1 and $2. Tipping is customary in America and you may need tip money right after you land. Being prepared is a lot easier than asking a frustrated taxi driver to break a big note!
- Organise airport transfers at your destination. I personally love knowing how I’m getting from the airport to my hotel so will look up shuttle options, public transport or even just check that Uber operates in the city I’m heading to beforehand so I can book in advance or know what to do as soon as I arrive.
- Let your bank know you’re travelling. If you plan on using your regular bank card while overseas instead of using a travel money card, be sure to let your bank know when you’re travelling and where to, otherwise your card may get blocked when you try to make a purchase. The worst.
- Create a hit list for food. If you’re a foodie, then you know how many amazing spots there are to eat in America—my advice is to make a Google spreadsheet of places you’d love to go so you know where to eat in each spot. Makes tasting as much as possible SO much easier. Bonus points if you save every restaurant or bar you want to hit in your Google Maps—trust me.