Knowing you have to spend time in the hospital can feel stressful and overwhelming. This is especially the case during times of uncertainty when you’re quickly trying to determine what to pack in your hospital bag. Perhaps you may even feel a sense of panic. Like anything, feeling prepared is a great antidote to stress.
Nobody really wants to “prepare” for a hospital stay, with the exception of expecting mothers perhaps. However, bodies are bodies and if you find yourself in this position, you will want our hospital bag must haves at your fingertips, so let us help you with our ultimate guide on what to pack in your hospital bag!
The main takeaway here: bring a piece of home with you. Your bag should include a cozy sweater, your favorite essential oils, and your own pillow. Comforting things are going to go a long way to ease the stress of being in the hospital and ultimately aid in your healing. First though, you need to choose the right hospital bag.
Picking the Best Hospital Bag for Your Stay
Duffel bags tend to be the go-to for taking your essentials to hospital, but the trouble with most is that they don’t offer much in the way of organization. Generally, they offer one large drop zone so it’s up to you to keep your stuff organized in packing cubes. Packing your pillow and your shoes into the same compartment also leaves much to be desired.
If you expect to stay in the hospital for some time, bringing a rolling luggage-style hospital bag might be the right choice for you. It may also be good to be able to roll your bag, depending on your medical condition. If you go with this option, make sure to keep your pillow separated from everything else for hygiene reasons.
Backpacks are great for use as a hospital bag because they can be more securely carried than a duffel bag and often offer great organization as well as free up your hands. If you plan to bring a laptop or a handful of small items, having good organization is going to make you feel calmer during your stay - having your hospital bag essentials well organized creates a more peaceful environment and peace makes space for your healing.
Whatever choice you make, here are the 3 most important features to consider:
- Washability - Consider whether it can be easily washed when you return home.
- Organization - You want to find a bag that allows you to keep your pillow separated from the rest of your stuff, as well as pockets and compartments to keep your essentials clearly organized so that you can find them all easily.
Collapsibility - Hospital rooms tend to be small, so it’s a good idea to choose a bag that can squeeze into a corner when it’s not in use, or better yet, can be either folded or rolled up.
Once you’ve made your choice, it’s now time to determine what to pack in your hospital bag. Here’s our list of hospital bag essentials that will help make you feel more at home.
What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag
Hospital pillows are at best firm and at worst covered in plastic, so it’s definitely a good idea to include a pillow as part of your hospital bag must haves. Research shows that the right pillow (or the wrong one) can be a major contributor to healthy sleep routines. As if sleeping in the hospital wasn’t already difficult, don’t let your pillow add to the discontent. Also, include a fun, brightly colored pillowcase to 1) make sure it doesn’t get lost in hospital laundry and 2) brightens your day.
Cozy Sweater or Robe and Pajamas
Hospitals are kept cool to inhibit the growth of bacteria, so make sure you bring something to keep you warm. A robe can help keep you covered in case you have a shared room and are feeling a bit exposed. Depending on your procedure, you may not be able to wear a cozy sweater from the get-go, but things you can wrap around you like a Pashmina scarf should be fair game. And make sure your sweater and pajamas are loose fitting… and snugly soft.
Even if you’re just walking to and from the bathroom, having slippers with rubber on the soles to keep your tootsies toasty and protected from whatever germs may be lurking on the hospital floor, might also just encourage you to get up more. Try to find some that you can slip on and that are also machine washable.
Remember using the dorm showers in college? Now put those in the hospital and you’re going to be stoked you brought your own flip flops for the task. They take up very little space in your hospital bag and can be purchased very inexpensively. Choose a color that makes you happy and imagine yourself wearing them on a sunny day in the Caribbean. Plus, they’re very easy to slip on too.
Personal Care Products
Yes the hospital is going to provide you with the bare necessities, but who really wants to use a 3 in 1 shampoo-conditioner-body wash? Using familiar products that make you feel fresh and clean will help boost your mood and further support your healing through mind-body connections.
Grab a full set of travel sized toiletries (use a small utility pouch or quart sized plastic bag to keep them organized). Perhaps you even want to take that a step further and bring your fave makeup and hair products - for those of us who use lipstick, a little can go a long way in giving you more pep in your step.
Ear Plugs & Headphones
If you’re a sensitive sleeper, you might want to consider grabbing a pair of ear plugs as part of your hospital bag must haves. The medical devices in your room may be an annoyance and ear plugs will help block it all out.
On the same note, don’t forget to pack your headphones or earbuds. Whether you use them for watching movies (make sure your Netflix and Hulu accounts are active!) or listening to calming music (Spotify has some great playlists), they’ll help you escape into whatever you’re immersing yourself in - and while you’re spending time in the hospital, that can be a beautiful thing.
A List of Your Medications & Close Contacts
The hospital will likely have a list of your current medications, but this is good information to keep on a printed sheet of paper and kept in your hospital bag in case of emergencies. Also helpful is to include the names and contacts of your doctors ready to share, as well as any friends or relatives you would want contacted by hospital staff.
Socks and Underwear
Just like a good pair of cozy slippers, having your own soft socks is gonna feel like a hug for your feet. Bring a pair for every day you expect to be in the hospital. Depending on your procedure, undies may or may not be warranted but if they are, having a couple of changes is a good idea.
Phone & Charger
You’re going to want to stay connected to the outside world, so remember to pack your phone AND your phone charger. If you need to work or want to be able watch movies on a larger screen, pack your laptop too. Bonus points if your hospital bag has a laptop sleeve that can safely store your technology when not in use. One word of caution is hospital security - make sure you have a plan for how to make sure your valuables are kept safe so what you put in your bag comes home with you.
Though hospitals definitely have policies against using certain fragrances, packing a couple of your favorite calming oils (with a plug in diffuser if the hospital will allow it), will not only aid in your healing but also give hospital staff a nice reprieve from the hospital smells they are immersed in daily.
Our favorites are lavender, frankincense, and ylang ylang. Just be sure if essential oils are included when packing your hospital bag, you’re mindful of the sensitivity of any patients who may be sharing your room and always make sure to check with the hospital on their policy.
Also, having a hospital bag printable checklist, will help you feel more prepared and you’ll be ready to head to the hospital in confidence, knowing that at the very least, you’ll have a bit of home with you.