What To Pack For Washington DC Trip

Let’s help you with your Washington DC packing list! Planning a trip to Washington DC can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to packing. Let’s make sure you have a seamless trip by making sure to bring all the essentials. 

Washington DC Packing List: Outdoor Essentials

As the capital of the United States, Washington DC is a bustling metropolis filled with historical sites and world-class museums. Whether you are traveling for a school trip or a family trip, it’s good to have certain important items on hand. 

You will be traveling between many historical sites, memorials and monuments, which are mostly outdoors. This means you will be exposed to the weather often.

Summer & Spring Packing Essentials

The summer in Washington DC can be hot and humid. Especially in June, July, August, and early September. On occasion you can have a very hot day in May as well.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Comfortable walking shoes that are water resistant: You will be walking a lot! Avoid any shoes that could become uncomfortable with time.
  • Flip Flops: Pack a spare pare of flip flops in your back pack as a back up if you need
  • Refillable water bottles: These are essential: You will get thirsty and there’s plenty of opportunities to refill your water in tourist sites. 
  • Sunscreen: Summers and even spring in DC can get hot. Be sure to carry sunscreen so you can reapply as needed.
  • Sturdy Umbrella: A compact, collapsible umbrella is always a good idea to keep in your bag while exploring the city. Make sure it is sturdy and can withstand windy conditions which can sometimes happen during heavy rain in DC.
  • Rain Jacket: A lightweight, waterproof or water resistant rain jacket is a must-have. It will protect you from rain and wind, keeping you dry and comfortable.
  • Rain ponchos: A spare rain poncho is a convenient and easily portable back up in the case of very heavy rain. They can be folded up to fit in a small bag or pocket, making them perfect for travelers who prefer minimal packing.
  • Sweater Or Sweatshirt: If you are someone who gets cold indoors, be prepared. While the outside may be hot and humid, the air conditioning is on full blast inside D.C. area musuems. as the weather can fluctuate
  • Something To Wear For A Night Out: If you enjoy nightlife or great restaurants, the nation’s capital has tons of opportunities. In the summer especially, the nightlife scene here is very vibrant. From upscale cocktail bars to chill happy hours, there’s plenty to do. While people in Washington DC do not get quite as fancy as places like LA or NYC, there is still an opportunity to put on your finest for a night out. 

Winter & Fall Packing Essentials

Winters in DC can be variable. Some winters Washington DC will see a lot of snow.

DC has also occasionally had temperatures in the 60s and 70s during the winter time.

January is the coldest month, followed by early February. Then, December and November. It’s best to be prepared no matter what time of year you are visiting.

  • Walking boots that are snow and waterproof: You will be walking a lot! Avoid any shoes that could become uncomfortable with time.
  • Extra Socks: Pack extra socks in case you experience very wet or very snowy weather
  • Refillable water bottles: Always a good idea to have on you
  • Sturdy Umbrella: A compact, collapsible umbrella is always a good idea to keep in your bag while exploring the city. Make sure it is sturdy and can withstand windy conditions which can sometimes happen during heavy rain in DC
  • Winter Jacket: A lightweight, waterproof rain jacket is a must-have, as it offers protection from rain and wind, keeping you dry and comfortable.
  • Something To Wear For A Night Out: In the winter months, the pressure to be dressed up is much less. But, if you are going somewhere very fancy at night, you may want to check to see if there is a dress code or not. It’s not very likely unless its a fine dining experience. 

Washington DC Packing List: Tourist Essentials

When visiting Washington DC, you’ll likely spend a considerable amount of time exploring monuments and museums. One must-visit location in the city is the National Mall, a huge green space with iconic landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial. To maximize enjoyment during daytime activities, consider the following essentials:

  • Travel backpack or travel sling: An essential item is a travel backpack or travel sling that you can crossbody and wear across the front of your body for long periods of time. This will give you easy access to credit cards, phones and other essentials as you need them, but also keep them from being pickpocketed.
  • Portable Phone Charger: Depending on how quickly your phone battery dies, you will also want to invest in a portable phone charger. This is a great way to ensure that you will have enough power to take pictures of your travels as well as navigate your way through DC easily with your maps feature.
  • Public Transportation Pass: Washington DC has an extensive public transportation system that can take you to great neighborhoods and attractions throughout the city. Strongly consider buying a pass to quickly move around.
  • Snacks: Snacks in and around tourist sites are expensive and tend to be limited in choice. Pack small, non-perishable snacks to keep your energy levels up and to avoid paying high prices the entire trip.
  • Tourist map: While smartphone maps are convenient, having a physical map can be helpful for identifying landmarks and attractions. Many are available for free at the local tourist information centers.
  • Travel-sized Toiletries: Only necessary if you are not staying in a hotel that doesn’t already provide these.
  • Government ID: Some places may need to see your ID. While this is usually the first thing people pack, some do forget. Don’t forget to pack your ID which clearly lists your name and date of birth.
  • Sunglasses: Even in the winter months, DC can be bright and sunny. Make the trip easy on your eyes by packing sunglasses into your small backpack no matter what season you are visiting in.
  • Clothing Layers: No matter which season you are traveling in, pack some layers. Weather in DC traditionally follows the four season model, however, we have seen some unusually hot weather in the winter months and some unusually cold weather in the summer months (this is less common). Pack some layers in your suitcase that you can use if needed. 

Washington DC Packing List: Health Essentials

Comfortable shoes are crucial for a successful trip to Washington DC, as you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking while exploring the National Mall and various national parks. Be prepared for extensive walking by packing the following:

  • Comfortable walking shoes: We can’t stress this enough. You will be walking a lot. To avoid foot and heal pain, choose a pair with good arch support and cushioning. Many visitors prefer sneakers or athletic shoes, but supportive sandals are also popular during warmer months.
  • Blister Prevention: A small travel-size pack of blister bandages can save your feet during those long walks.
  • Insurance Card: While you hope that nothing health related happens on your trip, it’s still important to take your insurance card. Luckily, DC has many urgent care centers if you do run into any health concerns. Even a digital copy on your phone is good enough.
  • Band Aids: For minor cuts and scraps and to avoid having to buy last minute.
  • Over The Counter Pain Medication: When you are busy sightseeing and you get a headache, you don’t want to have to run around looking for a pharmacy. Especially because pharmacies and convenient stores are not easy to find in the areas where the monuments and museums are. They are located more in the areas of DC where there is lots of food and shopping.
  • Anti Nausea Bands: If you are someone who is sensitive to nausea, then consider packing some of these. The Potomac River is a popular place for people to go boating and enjoy the DC sites from the water. The DC Water Taxi is also popular amongst tourists and it can take you from the DC Wharf to Georgetown as well as to National Harbor. 

Washington DC Packing List: Summary

When deciding what to pack when visiting Washington DC, on the top of your list should be comfortable, weather-appropriate footwear due to extensive walking around the city. For summer and spring, the list includes water-resistant walking shoes, flip flops, refillable water bottles, sunscreen, a sturdy umbrella, a lightweight rain jacket, a spare rain poncho, a sweater for air-conditioned interiors, and attire for evening outings. 

In contrast, winter and fall essentials include snow-proof walking boots, extra socks, a winter jacket, and suitable evening wear. We also suggest using a travel backpack or sling for security, along with a portable phone charger so that you can take pictures and navigate the city easily. Don’t forget health essentials like blister prevention aids, an insurance card, band-aids, pain medication, and anti-nausea bands. 

Being well-prepared for your visit to Washington Dc and the great D.C. area will help you have a memorable experience and an enjoyable trip. 

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