Travel Tips & News

21 essential packing items for the USA & Canada

Recently updated on December 1st, 2023 at 05:36 pm

Travelling throughout the USA and Canada is unlike any experience in the world. From the desire to hike through the best National Parks the USA has to offer to exploring the cosmopolitan streets of bustling downtown Toronto, it can be tricky to determine the exact essentials needed to cover every bucket list experience. Read on to discover the top 21 items you need to include on your packing list for the USA and Canada. 


1. US and Canadian dollars

When travelling throughout the USA and Canada, carrying the local currency in small denominations is a good idea. Throughout the USA you’ll find US dollars and in Canada it’s Canadian dollars. Tipping is customary (taxi drivers, servers, bartenders, etc.) in both countries so having a few bills on hand will be super beneficial for your travels. 

2. Universal travel adapter

A universal travel adapter is another essential item needed to eliminate any electrical confusion when on your travels. 

3. Copies of travel documents

Carrying extra copies of your passport, travel insurance and visa is a top travellers tip. Accidents happen and sometimes along the way items can be lost. Having a few copies of important travel documents with you will put your mind at ease in case you need a backup plan. 


4. Travel pillow and blanket

When travelling from destination to destination, having a pillow and blanket means ultimate comfort. Before your travels, be sure to purchase a travel specific pillow and blanket that are lightweight, compactable and of course, cozy. 

RELATED CONTENT:21 bucket list experiences you can only have in the USA

5. Headphones 

In order to pass the time during long travel hauls, a comfortable pair of headphones are essentials to keep you entertained while watching movies or listening to music. Bonus points if they are noise cancelling.

6. Portable charger

Portable chargers are the latest and greatest invention to keep electronics charged and at your fingertips. If you’re on the hunt for a new power bank, be sure to look for one that is lightweight, small and has a long battery life. 


7. First aid kit

Safety first. To help plan and prepare in case of any emergency situation, a small first aid kit is always a good idea. 

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8. Toiletries

Having your toiletries packed up and easy to access in a lightweight case will make your travels a breeze. Be sure to include all your necessities and go-tos such as soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, medication, etc. 

9. Sunscreen 

From chilling on white sand beaches in Hawaii, to breathing in the fresh ocean air during a stroll to Peggy’s Cove, summer throughout parts of the USA and Canada can be very hot and humid and often require extra protection. To help keep you safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays, a bottle of sunscreen should be on your packing list. A wide brimmed hat and sunglasses are also key. 

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10. Variety of clothing 

Weather in North America is extremely varied depending on the season you’ll be travelling. Always check a reliable weather forecast to determine the proper clothing items you will need to pack in your suitcase to experience the destination to the fullest. 

Some insider tips include wearing warm clothing and layers (extra socks, sweaters, long pants, etc.) during the winter months and breezy and fast drying clothing (shorts and t-shirts, etc.) for the summer months. 

RELATED CONTENT: What to pack for Canada in summer vs winter

11. Backpack 

To keep all your essential travel items safe and dry, a waterproof backpack is another needed item on your packing list for the USA and Canada. 

12. Reusable water bottle

In order to stay hydrated along your adventures and not break the bank purchasing single-use water bottles, a collapsible and reusable water bottle is a travelling essential. Be sure to keep an eye out for water filling stations throughout your journey and give yourself a pat on the back knowing you’re helping protect the planet by eliminating your plastic use and consumption. 


13. Umbrella

Weather conditions throughout the USA and Canada can vary tremendously depending on the region you plan to explore and time of year. Packing a compactable travel umbrella is an excellent way to stay dry. 

14. Rain jacket

Another option is to keep a compactable rain jacket or windbreaker close by. Your dedicated Trafalgar Travel Director, also known as your personal USA trip planner, will be sure to flag if any inclement weather is on the horizon. But just to be safe and to keep you warm and dry, a handy waterproof jacket should be on your packing list.  

15. Comfortable shoes 

A comfortable pair of shoes is an essential when preparing for your great adventure to the USA and Canada. From enjoying an expert lead walking tour of vibrant New York City to exploring the natural wonders of The Rockies during a hike, a sturdy pair of shoes is a must.

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16. Bathing suit

To help beat the heat during your adventures to North America during the summer months, a dip in a lake, ocean, pool, etc. is a staple. Be sure to include a bathing suit on your packing list for the USA and Canada. Flip flops, a travel towel and cover-up are also important items to consider. 

17. Maps

Thanks to today’s technology, we can have access to local maps with the tap of a few buttons on our mobile phones. Depending on the type of traveller you are, you may want to do some research beforehand and pick up some handheld maps to navigate through your new destination of choice. Or, be sure to save your map searches on your phone for when you’re on the go. Your dedicated Trafalgar Travel Director and Coach Driver will also be able to assist with any direction help you may need along the way. 

RELATED CONTENT: 12 crazy-but-true facts about the USA and Canada you won’t believe are real

18. Binoculars

Binoculars are another item to add to your packing list for the USA and Canada. With so many incredible sights to see and animals to be on the lookout for, binoculars are the perfect tool to make sure you don’t miss out on seeing any of the attractions (both near and far) along the journey.   


19. Camera

To help document your adventures and share your fabulous experiences with your family back home, a camera is an essential item to capture the breathtaking sights throughout North America. 

20. Lightweight suitcase  

In order to carry all the mentioned above essentials, a lightweight suitcase will be your best friend. Not only will it be easier on your hands, shoulders, back and arms, rumour has it you can fit more belongings compared to heavier and bulkier luggage (win win)!

RELATED CONTENT: Folding vs Rolling: Which packing technique comes out on top?

21. Your appetite

And we mean it! The culinary scenes throughout the USA and Canada are incredible. From indulging in freshly made bagels in New York City or savouring the flavours of the Canadian staple, a classic poutine in Montreal, the foods and flavours of North America will not disappoint. 

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What other essentials would you include on your packing list for the USA and Canada? Share your tips for other readers in the comments below…

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