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what to pack for washington dc
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What to Pack for Washington, D.C.

One nice thing about D.C. is that nobody gets too hung up on style. It’s the practical things that count, so keep that in mind when deciding what to pack for Washington, D.C.

What to Pack for Washington, D.C.

Particularly if you’re spending a day (or more) out on the National Mall, visiting D.C. can be a bit like going on a long hike. Here are 10 things that should be on everyone’s packing list for Washington, D.C.

Portable Charger

Your phone is your lifeline, from snapping pics for your Instagram to getting you out of an unexpected jam, so you don’t want to run short on juice. Pick up an Anker PowerCore 20100 and make sure you keep it charged.


Whether it’s drenching summertime thunderstorms or winter sleet that the forecasters don’t see coming, D.C. can sometimes try its damnedest to drown your phone. One of the cheapest and easiest forms of protection is the AquaVault. Once you seal your phone inside, the waterproof baggie will keep it dry but still allow you to use its touch screen—and hold an actual conversation.


Tumi voyageur tristen crossbody

If you’re hitting all the museums, be prepared for airport-like security procedures at each of them. A large backpack can be a liability, but a small handbag that you can easily toss your phone, keys, and wallet into is a huge asset—particularly because guards are far less likely to ask you to check it while you’re inside.

Fanny Pack

Wear a fanny pack
Ansis Klucis/Shutterstock

When you’re trying to figure out what to pack for Washington, D.C., remember this: There ain’t no shame in a fanny pack. A discreetly sized butt pack is a great place to stash your phone, a backup battery, or rain poncho. It’s hands-down the best way to keep the things you need close. (Just remember to keep it facing forward, so you can see those butterfingers headed your way.)


The ultimate accessory in a city known for shady deals? Sunglasses. Sunclouds have always been a solid mid-range bet—not so cheap that they break the day after you bought them, but not expensive enough that you need a mortgage.

Fitness Tracker

travel products fitbit

Give yourself credit for all those miles you’re going to walk around the Mall: Pack a Fitbit. Now you’ll have the excuse you need to hoof it to just … one … more … museum.

Reusable Water Bottle

Especially in D.C.’s muggy summer months, you’ll want to do plenty of hydrating. Consider a water bottle that is good for your body and the environment, and collapses for easy packing.


Want the ultimate earbud so you can fully appreciate your favorite beats on the Metro or your flight? These puppies will make you think you’ve got premium seats at the Kennedy Center.


Headlamps are one of those uncool inventions that are easy to write off until you really need them. Don’t be a hater: Compact and powerful, these can be used for navigating your way to the bathroom in an unfamiliar hotel room or getting some reading done without disturbing a sleeping partner.

A Good Book

Speaking of reading, when deciding what to pack for Washington, D.C., don’t forget that a good book can be a great travelling companion. For an inside look at the power behind the throne of the American presidency, check out Chris Whipple’s The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. Recently updated to include the Trump White House, the book has a wide readership even among Washington insiders.

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—Original reporting by Matt Jenkins

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