Between snow showers and single-degree weather, the new year can be a bit of a downer — but you know what’s not a downer? Spring break, that’s what. Lucky for us, it’s just a few days — or weeks — away. Whether you’re a college grad planning on backpacking your way through Europe, a bachelor headed to Tulum or a kid-free couple looking to take advantage of some paid time off in the Caribbean Islands, the point of spring break is the same: to escape your current reality and completely unwind.
But before you can do that, you’ve got to pack. We’re here with a roundup of spring break essentials to bring on your upcoming adventure — whether you’re planning for a road trip or a flight across the country. Consider this your packing list cheat sheet. From travel necessities like passport cases, carry-on bags and luggage tags to organizational tricks like packing cubes and wet bags, to warm-weather wardrobe must-haves like bathing suits, cover-ups and sandals, we’ve got every facet of your entire trip covered. Check out our favorites below, and just remember, don’t overpack — and follow our tips for avoiding checked bag fees!
Between Uber rides, airport security bins and public restrooms galore, you’re going to want to be sanitizing those hands — a lot. Keep the Purell handy 24/7 with these wrap carriers that you can attach to your tote or backpack, and with a set of eight, you’ve got one for everyone in your party. Another thought: Stash some disinfecting wipes in your carry-on so that you can de-germ everything around you throughout your travels.
For many, polycarbonate luggage is the only way to go when traveling, and Away is one of our favorite makers of the style. Sized to perfectly fit in the overhead bin, The Carry-On has 360-degree spinner wheels and an interior compression system that makes for intuitive packing — not to mention a USB phone charger if you opt to pay an extra $20. After our testing, we ranked the Away Carry-On as the best overall hard-shell carry-on luggage.
While there are many travel jewelry cases out there, this option from Calpak is one of our favorites for good reason. It features a 28-hole earring card, four snap tabs for rings and necklaces, a padded ring roll and a super-luxe drawstring pouch for corralling bulkier pieces like watches and bracelets. The case is feminine yet structured with a zip-around opening.
A true sign of adulting? Have a matching passport case and luggage tag. We love this set from Mark & Graham, which is crafted from vegan leather with a crisp, clean finish. More to know: For a small fee, you can have a monogram shadow printed onto both. Looking for a luggage tag with a bit more personality? Check out the brand’s fun leather options that are available in seven different colors here.
Know what you don’t need this vacation? A “low battery” notification. Ensure your phone is always fully charged with this Anker option that has 13,000mAh — enough power to fully fuel an iPhone 11 two and a half times. As a bonus, the two USB-A ports mean that you can charge two devices at once. After testing, this was our pick as the best overall portable charger, and it’s perfect for your spring break trip.
Set yourself up for viewing success on your next jaunt in the sky with the Flight Flap, a bendable phone and tablet holder that can attach to the seat in front of you or rest on your tray table. The best part? It flattens for easy stowing when not in use.
These small but mighty containers are a travel game-changer. The set is completely customizable — pick your favorite colors and any labels to fit on the top of each — and fit the magnetic containers together for staying organized while in transit. Not only can you use them for liquids and gels, as they’re completely leak-proof, but you can also use them to carry around jewelry, powders and much more.
There is a slew of pricey noise-canceling headphones on the market, but we declared this pair from Anker to a good budget option to buy. The sound-canceling capabilities compare to that of a brand six times more expensive, and our editors also loved the Soundcore Life Q20’s extreme comfort, great sound and incredible 40 hours of battery life. Looking to splurge on a fancier pair? A pair of the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones is the way to go.
Would you spend 10 bucks to save your phone from water-related death? We thought so. More than 75,000 Amazon reviewers did, too. Simply place your phone in this IPX8-certified waterproof pouch, secure the lock mechanism and voila, your phone is safe from water, snow, dust and scratches. More to know: When 100% sealed, the pouch is screen-touch sensitive, meaning you can take your phone with you underwater and nab some coral reef photos and videos for the ’gram.
Hit all your packing cube needs with this pretty set from Mark & Graham that includes one extra-large, one large and two small packing cubes, in addition to a shoe bag and the ever-important laundry bag. Available in a natural light pink, navy and an adorable navy-and-white pinstripe, the set can also be monogrammed with initials for an additional 12 bucks. Done and done. (For more packing cube options, visit here.)
One unfortunate part of vacationing is that as the days pass, the laundry increases. Tuck your stinky and stained items out of sight in these Isolate Cubes from Eagle Creek. The cube walls are lined with an antimicrobial treatment to keep odors — and dirt — contained within the zippered pouches. We love that they’re water-resistant and machine washable, too.
Listen, we get it, a spring break round-up doesn’t typically include a luxe puffer. If you’re like us, you’re hopping on a plane to get away from your current freezing locale — meaning you’ll be bookending that fabulous vacation with single-digit temps. Avoid shivering during your airport commute with this insanely warm jacket from Canada Goose that can actually pack into itself by folding the entire jacket into the left side pocket, which then turns into a cinchable bag with a backpack strap. While we love the fact that the Cypress is travel-friendly, its true selling point is that it’s going to keep you warm all winter long for the next few decades. For a less-expensive option, check out Girlfriend’s Fossil Hooded Packable Puffer.
If you want to pack for your spring break trip in just a weekender bag, look no further than July’s Volume+ Weekender bag. When expanded, the bag features 42 liters of packable space — enough for a few days away from home. Best of all, this bag still qualifies as a carry-on bag with most airlines, so you won’t have to worry about checking it once you get to the airport.
Sunscreen is a spring break must, and we love the Supergoop! PLAY option that is packed with SPF 30. Moisturizing, fast-absorbing and easy to blend into the skin, this Supergoop! option is free from harsh chemicals and is water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes. So, it’s the perfect option if you’re planning on playing some beach volleyball or tennis under the sun’s rays. We’re fans of the mini, TSA-approved size, but if you want the bigger option, visit here.
We get it: You want to take all of your bags on the trip — but that takes up a lot of space. Solve the problem with Paravel’s travel backpack, which folds up into a zipped petite pouch. A mini version of the brand’s beloved Fold-Up Backpack, this smaller option is perfect for exploring a local market or heading out for a day of boating. Weighing in at less than half a pound, the backpack also comes in six colors and can be monogrammed for an extra $15.
Meet the new “It” bag! Beloved by Marianna Hewitt and influencers galore, Naghedi NYC’s handwoven neoprene totes are not only incredibly chic, but they can also transition from the airport to the beach with ease thanks to that durable, easy-to-clean fabric and the roomy bag interior. We love the unique patterns — from this orange stunner stunner to monochromatic neutrals — and the fact that each tote comes with a matching zippered pouch (perfect for storing your phone and sunscreen!).
Sunglasses are a vacation must, and we love Goodr because it’s got dozens of fun options — all of which are priced at just $25 to $35. Lightweight and slip-proof — even when you’re really, really sweaty — the glasses are known for their snug fit and polarized lenses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. We’re also not mad at the hilarious names, like “Gardening with a Kraken” and “Falkor’s Fever Dream.”
Slip-on shoes that are comfortable, cute and machine-washable? Yep, they exist for men — and women, too. We’re obsessed with the shoe’s cozy fit and soft knit fabric, which is spun from plastic water bottles. The perfect travel shoe, the Driving Loafer will keep you warm throughout your travel day and will have you looking spiffy for vacation date night. Did we mention they’re machine washable, too?
If you can’t imagine a vacation without your favorite books by your side, it may be time to upgrade to an e-reader. The Kindle Paperwhite features a 6.8-inch display with warm adjustment. Best of all, your bulky books won’t take up too much space in your luggage, making way for more room for your favorite clothes and shoes.
Once you’ve reached your destination, it’s time to chillax to the max with a comfortable pair of flip flops, and one of our favorite brands is Reef. With more than 7,000 positive reviews, the brand’s Ginger Sandals are an Amazon favorite thanks to their superior arch support and that insanely soft footbed. And don’t worry about getting them wet, as they’re water-friendly.
There’s nothing worse than returning to your beach chair only to find your phone overheated from sitting in the direct sun (the same goes from overchilled in freezing temps!). Avoid that nuisance of a problem with Phoozy, a weatherproof capsule for your phone that protects from extreme temperature and the permanent damage it can cause. More to know: Made from a spacesuit-like lightweight material, Phoozy also has military-grade drop protection and it floats — making it easy to quickly retrieve your phone should it fall into the water.
This ultra-portable speaker is equal parts durable, stylish and chock full of powerful sound. Offering up to 12 hours of playtime per charge, the Flip 6 is beach- and boat-friendly thanks to its IP67 water rating, and with JBL’s PartyBoost feature, it can connect to other speakers to create a surround sound effect. Looking for something even more portable? Check out the JBL Clip 4, which is smaller and has an integrated carabiner clip for hooking onto your beach bag or umbrella.
If you’re going to be anywhere near a body of water this spring break — or if you’re planning to shred some black diamonds instead — you’re going to want to have a GoPro handy to capture all the action. Featuring a new, faster processor (dubbed the GP2), this latest version of the cult-favorite camera can produce some incredible slow-motion videos, not to mention crystal-clear footage thanks to a higher image resolution. One of our favorite new details, however, is the camera’s “hydrophobic” lens cover that sheds water off the glass. (Read: no water droplets obscuring your videos!)
If you want to throw a bikini in your suitcase, this one from lingerie maker Lively is a sure bet. Made from a ruched-style fabric that is super on-trend right now, the cute bralette is sure to fit perfectly thanks to the adjustable tie front, straps and back hook closure. We also love that the bikini bottom offers just the right amount of coverage (not too much, not too little!). The hardest part is choosing between the basic black, pretty purple or electric pink hues.
If bikinis aren’t your thing, look no further than this flattering-on-everyone one piece by Andie. Offered in sizes XS to XXXL, the Amalfi suit has adjustable straps, removable cups and a ribbed texture that glides across your body without any pinching or bulging. Boasting more than 2,000 positive reviews and a 4.7-star rating, the suit is also a favorite of Andie investor and campaign model Demi Moore and her three daughters.
More than 16,000 Fair Harbor reviewers agree that this Anchor Trunk is worth obsessing over. What makes this bathing suit different from the thousands of other options on the market? Well, for one, the brand has done away with the chafe-inducing liner of yore, replacing it with a stretchy, supportive, alternative. Beyond that, the Anchor Trunk is also surprisingly soft, quick-drying, odor-repellant and sustainable — each pair is made from 12 recycled water bottles.
This travel-friendly floor mattress is the perfect solution to finding a place to sleep for the extra friend who tagged along on your trip. It’s not an air mattress — instead, it rolls up and can be unclipped and set up in seconds. Not only can the twin mattress fold up to take on the go, but it’s also comfortable, made from a memory foam material.
No surprise here: Swimwear brand Summersalt knows its way around a cover-up — and we’re smitten with this chic crochet option that can transition with you from the pool to dinner and beyond. Available in cream or black and sizes XS to 2XL, this flattering dress is about to be your new favorite.
If you’re planning on spending plenty of time on the beach — or if your vacation rental has a big backyard — you’ll want a good game on hand to keep everyone entertained. This paddle ball set comes with two wooden paddles as well as one ball and four birdies for more relaxed play. Plus, we love that this set comes with a carrying case for easy packing and transport.
Yogis, fear not. You can downward dog on vacation, too, thanks to Manduka’s ultra-thin, ultra-portable mat. Ranked by our editors as the best non-slip yoga mat on the market, the eKO Superlite is also a breeze to travel with because it only weighs two pounds and can be folded into a 10-inch by 12-inch rectangle, taking up minimal space in your luggage.
Adventure doesn’t always come without risk. Bolster your self-defense arsenal with Birdie, a personal alarm key chain that emits a loud (130 db) siren and strobe light when activated. If feeling threatened or uncomfortable, simply pull the top of the device to activate the diversion, which can just as easily be deactivated by reinserting the top. We love the peace of mind Birdie brings, the cute color options and that it’s permitted to bring on an airplane.
More than 21,000 Amazon reviewers agree that this little powerhouse of a hairdryer is worth the purchase. Featuring a folding handle and two heat and speed settings, the petite dryer can easily fit into your carry-on bag and is likely to be stronger and more effective than your hotel’s built-in option.
We know, we know — there’s going to be some sticker shock at the price here. But trust us, when it comes to Dyson, you pay for what you get. And in the case of the cord-free straightener that is Corrale, you get a travel-sized, frizz-fighting straightener that (like the Dyson Supersonic Hairdryer) works to reduce damage by using flexing plates, tension and targeted heat. We love how smooth and glossy the results are, or you can also create beachy waves by twisting the Corrale. Whether you’re taming flyaways in a cab or freshening your tresses post-flight in the airport bathroom, this portable hair savior is worth the splurge.
If you’re like us, you’d rather avoid sharing a communal snorkel mouthpiece with hundreds of fellow hotel or boat cruise guests. Instead, go the BYO route and invest in a snorkel set. More than 3,000 Amazon reviewers like this option from U.S. Divers, which includes fins, a leak-free, anti-fog mask and a comfortable mouthpiece and barrel, not to mention a handy bag to corral all the gear.
While it might seem unnecessary to bring your own beach towels on vacation, discovering your hotel or Airbnb’s options are 100 years old is not something you want to experience. Instead, throw one of Dock & Bay’s quick-drying microfiber towels into your suitcase. Super absorbent and sand-free — seriously, just shake them off after using and all the sand slips away! — the compact towels fold into a tiny matching pouch when not in use.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards currently available.