Essential Packing Tips for Traveling by Bus

bus packing

Written by Caroline Eubanks on

Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia whose work has been published by BBC Travel, Afar, Thrillist, and National Geographic Traveler and is the author of the book This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States. You can follow her work at

bus packing

Traveling by bus may be more sustainable but it presents additional packing challenges. We’ll show you what essentials you need for long bus rides!

It’s safe to say that for many of us, the travel bug is hard to shake. But it’s more important than ever to consider the environmental repercussions of transportation. The majority of travelers are used to traveling by plane and even by train, but traveling by bus is a more sustainable method, usually taking longer but requiring less fuel than flights. Bus trips are the preferred method of transportation in Southeast Asia, Central America, and even the United States.

But traveling by bus presents additional challenges in terms of packing. There is generally no way to check your bag like on airlines, but instead bags are stored underneath the carriage, stuffed under seats, or even strapped to the top of the bus. The space you have to store your bag is also smaller on a bus since overhead bins don’t usually fit a full suitcase. You also might want to add a TSA-approved lock to avoid potential theft on long bus rides. Remember, entertainment and food aren’t usually provided on bus trips, so you’ll need to bring your own. The same goes for travel pillows, blankets, and those handy amenity kits—you’ll have to bring your own creature comforts.

Wondering what else to pack for a long bus trip? We’ve got you covered with three essential bus ride tips.

Bags for Bus Travel

It’s important to travel light when traveling by bus as you might have to lift it on and off. A duffel bag or carry-on backpack is ideal for long bus rides, especially one that allows you to tuck in the straps or has a stain resistant fabric (you should also pack a rain cover if your bag might travel strapped to the top of the bus). Make sure that you won’t need to access anything inside until you reach your destination.

You also might want to have a “bus bag,” or a small backpack that will fit under your seat with your essentials like tickets, passports, a water bottle, snacks, and electronics. Put the items you’ll want to access towards the top so you don’t need to remove everything to find one item. And don’t put your bag out of view to risk getting robbed. Keep it under your seat, consider attaching it to your seat with a cable lock, or even use it as a pillow!

Entertainment for Long Bus Rides

I’ve taken dozens of long bus rides over the years and very few had any sort of entertainment like television screens. The ones that did, like an overnight bus ride in Turkey, had televisions but all shows and movies were in Turkish. That’s why I always pack something to keep myself busy during the long hours.

Paperback books, e-readers, and a movie or television show downloaded onto your devices will keep your mind off the hours left to go. If you’re traveling with a friend, a deck of cards might also be useful on your long bus trip. Colored pencils and paper can also be a nice distraction.

Other Bus Ride Essentials

If you’re on an overnight bus ride, you’ll also want to bring a travel pillow, a scarf you can use as a blanket, an eye mask, and earplugs. Melatonin and other sleeping aids are also helpful for getting some shuteye on a long bus trip. Pack hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes as well, and don’t drink too much water to avoid having to get up. Before you know it, you’ll be in your destination!

Looking for sustainable gear for your trip? Eagle Creek has you covered.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

How to Survive an Overnight Bus Trip Traveling Abroad

How To Pack For Southeast Asia: The 5 Step Solution

How to Reduce Your Air Travel Carbon Footprint