One of our favorite travel “hacks” is taking overnight transportation whenever possible. Overnight travel options are almost always a great way to save on accommodations (because you’re paying for the transportation anyway, might as well have it double as your overnight accommodation at the same time) and maximize your daytime hours for sightseeing. We’ve taken overnight trips on three trains, one bus and four flights in our first six months of travel. We have never regretted our decision to sacrifice a night in an actual bed in exchange for daylight hours at our destination.
Overnight transportation can vary greatly based on the type of transit, ticket class and location. We’ve had luxurious experiences like the Air Canada Business Class redeye from Santiago to Chicago, and we’ve also shared our journey with a whole bunch of cockroaches on our overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. No matter the mode of transportation, a well-packed daypack by your side can make even the worst ride feel a little more tolerable.
We travel with backpacks which are fully packed with all of our current belongings. While I don’t have that much stuff, getting it all into my main backpack is a fine-tuned magic act. I somehow manage to add more things to my already full backpack every time we leave a city; magic, I swear. So, accessing necessary items in transit from my big backpack just isn’t practical.
Enter the daypack: a smaller backpack that I keep by my side on whatever plane/train/bus I find myself on. I use this cheap collapsible daypack that I got off Amazon at the start of this trip and is still somehow holding on. It’s not great, the lining is starting to peel alway and the stitches are strained, but I mean, it’s gotten me through daily use for six months so it’s got something going for it.
Over the past few months of constant travel, I’ve worked on perfecting my packing list for my daypack for overnight transit. I know exactly what I’m likely to need for a comfortable and pleasant journey, regardless of what amenities the actual transit provides. Here’s what I pack in my daypack every I have to spend on a night on a plane, train or automobile.
Daypack Packing List for Overnight Transit
- Eye mask. This is perfect for those shared train cabins when you don’t control the light switch. I wish I could say I was as cute as to have this Breakfast at Tiffany’s eye mask, but truth be told, I just stole mine from a previous flight amenity kit.
- Ear plugs. Because you never know who you’re going to be stuck by and how loud of a sleeper they’ll be. I plucked mine out a previous flight amenity kit, too.
- Travel socks. I like to take my shoes off and cozy up right away, but don’t want to be barefoot. I keep a pair of plane socks in my daypack that I got in a flight amenity kit at some point. Any clean pair of socks will do, but ones that haven’t been in my shoes yet are best.
- Fip Flops. 100% essential for bathroom trips on any journey. You could also wear flip flips if you don’t want to pack them, but I prefer to wear my bulkier hiking shoes and pop flip flops in my day pack. I always keep my shoes in a shoe bag to keep them from getting the rest of my things dirty.
- Kikoy. I almost dropped my kikoy from my packing list, but I have recently started using it nonstop. Whether you use a kikoy (aka Turkish towel), sarong, or even a pashmina, it’s nice to have something to use as a light blanket while sleeping.
- Tissues & paper soap. You don’t have to worry about this as much on flights, but my bathroom kit of tissues and paper soap is something I have on me almost 24/7 while traveling. You just never know when a bathroom will be out of either. (I’ve also made these soap papers for laundry soap, and you can read my tips for paper soaps here.)
- Amenity kit. This may vary by person, but I bring a zipper pouch with my toiletries for night and morning. This includes a collapsible tooth brush, tooth paste, face wash bar and bb cream.
- Inflatable pillow. I’m not going to lie, I don’t use this nearly as much as I plan to, but I always bring it with just in case. This travel pillow hardly takes up any space and serves double duty as a pillow and a lap desk on transit without tray tables.
- Change of clothes. I like to travel in jeans, but the second I’m trying to get comfortable, I have to be in stretchy pants or shorts (I hate stretching out the knees of my jeans!).
- Pro tip: If you’re really stealthy, you can change into said PJs under the cover of above mentioned kikoy.
- Headphones. Because I’m a millennial, I can’t go anywhere without headphones. I’m obsessed with Audible and listening to books is my favorite thing to do during transit
- (I just finished The Night Circus which was amazing and am currently listening to Harry Potter).
- iPad. On trains and buses, this is great for us to watch some saved tv or movies before bed. I only had Forgetting Sarah Marshall on my iPad for the longest time and I have seen it at least 100 times by now (and it’s still hilarious, btw).
- Laptop. As digital nomads, we are pros at working from anywhere, with and without wifi. We have our laptops on us 100% of the time (while transiting or otherwise) for work, blogging and personal use.
- Chargers. I have the new MacBook which only has the USB-C charger and port. I always have the USB-C MacBook and phone charger on me, since I can’t rely on sharing chords with Kenny.
- Sleep sack. This has saved my life (or at least my sanity) on a couple overnight trains, specifically on the above referenced cockroach train. Overnight trains (in classes where you get a bunk) will usually come with a sheet, but I prefer to bring my own. It’s also great to really tuck yourself into in case there are any creepy crawlies. I sleep in my sleep sack almost every night though, on and off trains.
And there you have it! I pack everything in my daypack, throw it on my front and I’m ready for a night of travel!