10 Important Items For Your Trip To Washington, D.C.

There are many things to do and see in Washington, D.C. So many in fact, that it is hard to narrow it down to a few top sights and experiences. There is truly something for everyone. So rather than sharing recommendations about where to go, Buddy and I are sharing our recommended items of what to pack for your trip to D.C. Here are 10 important items for your trip to Washington, D.C.

These suggestions come from our own experience traveling to D.C. We include items that we brought with us on our trip, as well as some of the items we wish we would have brought with us. Please note that these are just a few recommended items. Feel free to personalize this list, adding to it what you see fit and what makes the most sense for you and your family or traveling buddies.

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10 Important Items for Your Trip to Washington, D.C.

1. Bug spray

If you visit D.C. during the warmer months, chances are you will need something to protect you from the mosquitos.

I traveled to D.C. for work in September. Then, Buddy and I returned for our trip in October. There were many more mosquitos biting during the month of September than October. While bug spray was less necessary in the fall, we did get a few nibbles during our October visit. We traveled with this bug spray in our carry on. However, you can also buy a bigger bottle at a local drug store when you arrive in D.C. if necessary.

2. Rain poncho

Make sure to check out what the weather forecast for the area prior to your trip to D.C. If you see rain in the forecast, a poncho is an essential item to pack for your trip to D.C.

View of the U.S. Capitol lit up at night. 10 Important Items for Your Trip to Washington, D.C.
View of the U.S. Capitol at night.

Rain was in the forecast for D.C. when Buddy and I visited in October. However, being from the desert, I did not take the 30% forecast seriously and did not pack rain ponchos or an umbrella. Sure enough, within the first hour of our arrival, we were caught in the rain! We had to duck into the nearest CVS to purchase an umbrella to make it back to our Airbnb.

While the umbrella worked well, we recommend rain ponchos because you can walk around hands free. In our case, we were carrying groceries when it began to rain. It was challenging to hold an umbrella for two and carry groceries. Rain ponchos would have made the task of staying dry much easier. Also, Rain ponchos can go over a purse or day pack, protecting items from getting wet. And they are generally lighter than an umbrella thus easier to carry around.

This is my rain poncho; however, we have also used these disposal family rain ponchos for a summer trip to Disney World and they worked well.

3. Daypack

If you plan on spending a long day site seeing, visiting museums and monuments you will want to take a day pack with essential items like rain ponchos, jackets, chargers, snacks, your Passport To Your National Parks® passport book, and any other items you may need for Washington, D.C.

During our trip to D.C., we did not intend to take a day pack with us. In the past, I was able to fit all our day trip items into my old and trusty Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Essential Messenger Bag. However, now that Buddy is a teenager and eats more snacks than he did as a child, the snacks needed to sustain Buddy for a day of site seeing no longer fit in my purse!

For that reason, Buddy’s carryon backpack became our day pack. He carried our lunches, water bottles, newly purchased umbrella and his passport book in his pack throughout the trip. He even filmed a Movement Postcard wearing his backpack!

View of the Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Memorial on a clear and breezy day in D.C.
View of the Lincoln Memorial from the Washington Memorial in D.C.

4. Water bottles

You will walk a lot in D.C. And depending on the season in which you visit, it may be hot and humid during your trip. A refillable water bottle is essential item to pack for Washington, D.C. It will keep you hydrated, and it is better for the environment.

Buddy and I brought our water bottles from home. We refilled them at the various water bottle filling stations inside the Smithsonian Museums. There are also water fountains where you can fill up your water bottle at the many water fountains around the National Mall.

5. Reusable sandwich bags

If you plan on packing snacks, or even your lunch, when you are visiting D.C., you may want to consider investing in these reusable sandwich bags. They are light weight and easy to fit in your carry on. But the best way to pack them is full of snacks for your plane ride.

Bonus important item for your trip to Washington, D.C.: These eco collapsible meal kits are very helpful for packing lunches on the go!

6. A small first aid kit

Because you will be doing so much walking, another essential item to pack for your trip to D.C., is a small first aid kit. This will come in handy in the case that you or one of your travel companions get a blister from all the walking. Having band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and the like, on hand in your daypack could be a life saver.

Speaking of lots of walking, this next item is most definitely an important item for your trip Washington, D.C.

7. Comfortable walking shoes

You will walk a lot during your trip to D.C. Comfortable walking shoes are a must!

Pack comfortable shoes that are already broken in. If you are buying new shoes for your trip, try wearing them around town or walking around the neighborhood to get them broken in before you travel.

I wore these Teva’s  around D.C. The first day we walked approximately 25,000 steps and my feet felt fine!

w of the Kennedy Center from Georgetown Waterfront Park on a clear in Washington, D.C.
View of the Kennedy Center from Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, D.C.

8. Sunscreen

Especially if you are traveling during the summer months, pack some sunscreen for your day pack. This will protect your skin from the sun’s rays as you explore outdoors.

Buddy with his daypack, water bottle, and a carabiner clip eating breakfast at Jimmy T's Place in Washington, D.C.
Buddy with his daypack, water bottle, and a carabiner clip eating breakfast at Jimmy T’s Place in Washington, D.C.

These are the sunscreen’s I pack for me and Buddy when traveling.

  • A solid sunscreen in our carry-on when we are fly to our destination. This is the sunscreen we used while visiting D.C.
  • A bottle of Blue Lizard Sunscreen. We use this sunscreen on road trips when we do not have TSA limits on the size of the bottle we bring. This is also our go to sunscreen when we go hiking and we hike near our home in the Sonoran desert.
  • I also use MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Crème SPF 30 under make up when traveling for work or as a foundation when camping. This bottle is TSA compliant travels with me in my 3-1-1 liquid bag.

9. Passport to Your National Parks® passport book

If you do not have a passport book, consider purchasing one during your trip. They are for sale at the many national park run gift shops at the D.C. museums and memorials.

We bought Buddy a Passport to Your National Parks® passport book a few years ago and he had a great time collecting stamps in D.C. He usually gets 1-2 stamps per domestic trip, but during our trip to D.C., he at least tripled that number!

10. Carabiner Clips

Carabiner clips can easily clip a jacket, a water bottle, even an umbrella or a rain poncho to the outside of a backpack or purse. These clips are very helpful when you want to go hands free during your travels.

I know that I have mentioned them in previous posts, but I find them especially useful. I travel with a handful, and we used them in D.C. to attach Buddy’s water bottle to the backpack since his backpack only had one sleeve for water bottles.


Buddy at Kennedy Center REACH. 10 Important Items for your trip to Washington, D.C.

Buddy Recommends

  1. A Jacket – Depending on when you go to D.C., you should pack a jacket. A light jacket for the spring and fall and a heavy jacket for the winter.
  2. A backpack – You want a backpack for snacks.
  3. Snacks – Pack a lot of snacks because you will get hungry.

Overall, we had a great time in D.C.! We look forward to our next trip to our nation’s capital.

Have you traveled to DC recently? What would you add to this list? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below!

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To learn more about our  Washington, D.C. adventures, check out our Vlog.

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20 thoughts on “10 Important Items For Your Trip To Washington, D.C.

  1. Thanks for sharing the Great tips for a trip to DC! Makes me want to book a trip today😊. Loved the movement postcard too! You have some awesome photos!! Keep sharing!😊

  2. I love those reusable sandwich bags, such a good idea and definitely better than the throw away ones. I also like that so many places you can visit now also have refillable water stations – makes it so much easier when you like to carry your own water bottle

  3. Thank you for such a useful list — that can be used anyplace on the planet!

    A few things I would add:

    * A bag in which to keep any trash, until you find a suitable place to toss it.
    * In these Covid times, and for places where mask use is still mandatory (as is the case in much of the developing world):
    — extra masks
    — alcohol (spray, gel or wipes) for your hands, spritzing money
    — your vaccination card / certificate

  4. These are such great tips! I used to live in DC years ago Snd these tips will be so helpful. I went to college there so wasn’t there in the summer which must be why I don’t remember the bugs! 😱

  5. I can’t wait to get to Washington after we cancelled 2 years go! I honestly never thought to pack bug spray – great advice!

  6. I lived in Washington DC for almost a decade and can say that I agree with all of these! Especially the water bottle. In the summer, there are no fountains walking the National Mall and it’s HOT! Great guide.

  7. This is a great list! Comfortable walking shoes is a must. There is so much to see and do in Washington D.C. that you’ll spend a ton of time on your feet! I visited in the winter, so I didn’t bring sunscreen, but I can imagine that’s a must-have item for visiting in the summer. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I went to DC and definitely would have benefited from this list . . . especially the day pack. One thing I really wish is that I’d had a pack with water and snacks when we were on the mall since there’s so little food available there.

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