12 Best Items to Pack for a Hospital Stay

Ava Lopez at hospital speaking to patient

If your loved one has an overnight or extended hospital stay, you’ll need to bring a few things. The question is: what should you bring?

Here are 12 of the most important items to pack in your hospital bag for a long stay:

1. Pillows and Blankets from Home

Your softest blankets and plushest pillows can help you feel more relaxed and at home, which is especially helpful during long hospital stays.

2. Extra Clothes

Sometimes, you won’t know exactly how long you’ll be staying at the hospital. Packing a few changes of clothes and sleepwear will make you more comfortable and will prevent you from making extra trips back home.

3. Books/Journal

Long stays in the hospital can mean a lot of extra free time. Make sure to pack a few of your favorite books and magazines to keep your mind busy. Some people also find comfort in bringing a Bible or their journal to stay inspired during this time.

4. Pictures of Family and Friends

Having photos of family and friends around is a great reminder of how much love and support is in your loved one’s life. Fun snapshots from family vacations or silly photos of friends will make everyone smile.

5. Toiletries

Bring along your everyday toiletries. These include:

  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Shampoo, conditioner and soap
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • Makeup/lip balm
  • Contacts/solution and eyeglasses

6. Phone/Laptop Chargers

You want your phone at full battery to stay in touch with other family members and friends. You may also find your laptop helpful at this time, like if you need to catch up on work or want it for entertainment.

Don’t forget headphones if you’ll be listening to something on your device – to not disturb other patients.

7. Extension Cords

Extension cords can come in handy since plugs may not always be in the most convenient locations.

8. Something Comforting

Whether it be a teddy bear, essential oils or fuzzy socks, bring something that always makes you feel comfortable and safe. That way, you’ll always have a little piece of home, even while you’re away.

9. Eye Mask/Ear Plugs

If you have trouble sleeping, an eye mask and earplugs can be helpful in catching some much-needed ZZZs.

10. Medicine

If you’re fighting off a cold or are prone to headaches, consider packing OTC pain or cold medication so you can make sure you’re staying well (but always check with your doctor before taking).

11. Water/Snacks

Bringing your own food and drinks can help you eat healthier and save you money.

Important: Please note these guidelines when bringing outside food and drinks into the hospital:

  • Check with the nurse, doctor or dietitian if the food is for the patient.
  • Prepare the food safely.
  • Bring single-serve items to prevent waste.
  • Don’t store perishable foods in the room.
  • Label all food items to prevent food from being taken by other patients.

If you decide to eat at the hospital, remember quarters and dollars for the vending machines.

12. A Gift for the Nurses

They care for your loved one – it can be a very kind gesture to show them you care, too.

For inspiration, here are some fun gifts ideas for nurses.

What Do You Pack In Your Hospital Bag?

We want to hear it from you: What other items are essential during a long hospital stay? Your comments are much appreciated!

Comments (52)

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Nancy Berndt Nov 06, 2019 5:03pm
Bringing a prayer blanket or shawl is comforting and a great witness!
Barbara Nov 04, 2019 6:57pm
"If you're female and at "that age," extra panty liners may be essential. Or diapers.
Marcia Arvidson Oct 30, 2019 7:34am
CPAP machine and mask wear.
Louise Moore Oct 28, 2019 10:13am
Explore natural medicine. Take more control of your health and stay out of the hospital. Investigate homeopathy!
Rosemary Oct 28, 2019 7:29am
As a nurse , having extension cords along the floor can be dangerous. Someone can trip over them and wheels of carts may have trouble crossing over them. A battery charger for your cell phone may be better. A sone hospitals you can’t plug a devise into a hospital outlet. Usually there is a red plate over these special outlets. Check with nurses. There are many germs in hospitals, so all blankets, toys should be washed in between visits . I hope people do ask before taking OTC meds! Very important and outside food too. Put your name on every pillow , blanket , clothing or items from home because it can be stollen or mixed in with hospital laundry. If unnecessary items can be sent home please do because there is less chance of loosing it and less clutter is better in a small hospital room.
Doreen DeVore Oct 25, 2019 5:29pm
A hard copy of your medical history and list of prescribed medications and allergic reactions to drugs, OTCs and foods. I broke my elbow while in another state and only had the info on a flash drive. Now I keep a hard copy in my CPap case, so I always have it while traveling. Obviously if you use a CPap or similar equipment you need it.
Therese Principe Oct 23, 2019 10:20am
All very great ideas. Worked in hospital 30 yrs and these are all wise ideas. If anyone is good at the tied quilts, crocheted blankets and or knit blankets they are made for patients who haven’t any family. Our church calls them prayer blankets. But it’s ok just to make and send them to the hospitals pastoral care. Nurses love them. It brightens their room and their outlook. The prayers work!!!! Music helps also. Download some favorites from one of the multiple sites for free. I want to emphasize that sick patients are not on a “vacation” so don’t stay to long. They need to rest. If they are sleeping NEVER wake them up. There are tons of interruptions from staff caring for them. So just sit quietly while they sleep. Plus family / take care of yourselves the sick person needs you to be healthy! Hospitals have resources please use them.
Janna B Oct 23, 2019 8:36am
Blankets, pillows or even stuffed toys from home may NOT be okay if the patient requires sterile bedding. Ask nurses first.
Jeffrey Brower Oct 22, 2019 8:33am
Also as a suggestion take things with you to the hospital like family pictures little items that help you feel comfortable and water as well as snacks so you can stay healthy while at the hospital. Thank you so much for giving good advice on what to take to the hospital when you need to go.
Karen Hogan Oct 22, 2019 8:26am
Tablet, phone and chargers. Sleep mask, ear plugs and sox and robe. Books and magazines, eye glass cleaner, manicure set.
Adrienne Asher Oct 21, 2019 1:47pm
FOR THE PATIENT (pack everything in a small rolling suitcase--easier to move through halls, parking lots, and elevators)— C-Pap, iPhone, iPad (download movies), chargers, earbuds and/or noise-canceling headphones, toothpaste/brush, hairbrush/hair ties, lotion, lip balm, hand-wipes, dry shampoo or headscarf, eyeglasses case, small bedside lamp, meditation app, notebook/pen, "going home" outfit: soft, easy to slip on, pull-on shoes/sandals. FOR SIGNIFICANT OTHER: ziplock for patient's jewelry, wallet, and present medications (our hospital allows them), iPhone, iPad (download movies), chargers/battery backup, nose-canceling earphones, ziplock for patient's medications, toothpaste/brush, hairbrush, eyeglasses case, hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm, eye drops, sippy bottle, eye mask, soft cashmere shawl & beanie, meditation app, notebook/pen.
joyce oney Oct 21, 2019 10:17am
have been having hospital stays regular with heart problems. water accumulation on my heart
Brenda Marsden Oct 21, 2019 7:32am
If it is for a child do not give them something too challenging Give them something a little lower and easier in effort than they would do when well This advice was given to me by a ward sister when my daughter spent a lot of time in hospital
NANCY OLSON Oct 21, 2019 6:12am
I always bring a box of soft tissues and a lip moisturizer.
Nedra Catale Oct 18, 2019 2:56pm
Quality tissues and toilet paper. Lip moisturizer or chapstick. Hand cream. Slippers. My daughter has been in and out of hospitals for the past ten years. We now keep a "go" bag that fits neatly in the hospital locker. We always take a pillow and blanket (don't use white pillow cases or blankets as they can get easily taken by mistake). I agree that most of this stuff is unnecessary for short stays, but her stays are typically 10-21 days. Lately, we've started packing the single serving hand held chicken noodle soups that go in the microwave, but we always comply with diet restrictions. So often the food she is served is unappetizing. Use good sense, comply with regulations, but if you're a frequent flyer you know what your hospital allows or doesn't. Lastly, don't take anything you can't afford to lose. Our last two stays, things were stolen and not by staff, but by "loved ones." Sad.
G. Berlin Oct 18, 2019 10:28am
Great advice. Thanks for sharing.
Joyce Oct 17, 2019 1:11pm
Be careful not to bring anything valuable. My brother in law had his wedding band stolen while he was sleeping and sedated for pain.
Jean Sward Oct 17, 2019 12:46pm
A lot of these good suggestions are appropriate for long term stays in care centers too.
Grandma Kathy Oct 17, 2019 11:27am
A drawing tablet and fresh box of markers or crayons....at ANY age!
Jan Kostner Oct 17, 2019 7:34am
Bringing medications from home was mentioned but in ALL of my husbands or my hospital stays we were NOT allowed any outside drugs. ALL of our daily meds had to be brought in and given by the nurses. That is why we go through our drug lists with several people at check in, to make sure all needed meds are given daily.
allison hanson Oct 17, 2019 12:08am
Feminine hygiene products. Hospital gear is not comfortable. Nail file or cutters.
Kairn Oct 16, 2019 1:25pm
For longer stays, bring a roll of quality TP. The institutional grade supplied in hospital rooms isn't quite as nice as what you use at home.
Kathy & Mike Houston Oct 16, 2019 12:46pm
Hoping all is well with Baby Ebert & Family!!! Is there any updates on how he & Family are doing? Love, Hugs & Prayers, Kathy & Mike Houston 💏
Jodie L. Oct 16, 2019 11:31am
Chapstick!! Hospitals tend to be dry and lips get cracked!
richard g. chudnow Oct 16, 2019 7:32am
This was very helpful. Thank you. Great suggestions.
Marion Oct 14, 2019 12:37pm
No to pillows and blankets from home. Don't need more ways to transfer germs into the hospital setting. No to OTC drugs. Not allowed. No to toothbrushes, soaps etc. They are provided. Maybe limited cosmetics. Extension cords???? Books, laptops, magazines are a must to stay occupied between naps to get well. Hospitals are places to get well, not a place for vacation.
G Forgy Oct 14, 2019 10:43am
Just read earlier comments. Definitely bring sanitizer wipes, to help you and the patient stay free of any hospital-borne germs. Also, good idea not to bring blankets, etc. from home, unless you are careful about cleaning them when taking them home.
G Forgy Oct 14, 2019 10:34am
As a former 40 yr. hospital employee, I would question the advice to bring an extension cord to the hospital. All equipment in hospitals is checked-out and labeled that it is in working order. Some, if not most, are checked and labeled annually. Also, sometimes there are many wires, tubing, etc. in use on the patient, and the cord could just add to the confusion. Just recently, my husband was in ICU, and he had about 5 "connections" to various machines. Then, when he used the phone, that line got all tangled with them. Please ask your nurse first about using an extension cord.
Anita Oct 10, 2019 1:49pm
Don't take your own bedding; the hospital is full of germs and you don't want to bring any home. Most places don't allow food brought from home into the room because they need to monitor what the patient eats.
Brian Skornick Oct 10, 2019 12:00pm
Headphones. Helps drown out the noise from the hallway and allows you to mentally escape from the hospital
Zoe Oct 10, 2019 11:49am
When my dad was in the hospital we had some issues with noise, especially TV volume for the other person in the room. I got a bluetooth transmitter that plugged into the TV and noise canceling bluetooth headphones which not only blocked unwanted noise, but also allowed him to listen to phone, radio, audiobooks, TV, etc.
Richard Miller Oct 10, 2019 8:15am
Along with everything else I make sure to pack my CPAP if I know I will be spending the night.
Patricia Edwards Oct 09, 2019 11:30pm
Don't forget a hand mirror, nail file, nail clippers, a container/can of lightly scented (clean linen is nice) air freshener for the very small bathroom (you might have to share). Stay well!
Lynda Oct 09, 2019 8:30pm
The most important item to include is a big tub of Clorox wipes. That hospital table for the patient is used for absolutely everything !!! Just imagine the germs alone from a simple lab techs supply tray.
Karen L Fallon Oct 09, 2019 9:38am
I just thought of this!! Sanitzer wipes!!! For railings, phone, tv remote. You don't know what germs can lurk or when it was cleaned last.
Barbara A. Stewart Oct 09, 2019 9:37am
My book has been helpful for Caregivers with packing! https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733903100/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_1aFNDbZJX3QY5
Karen L Fallon Oct 09, 2019 9:31am
A bed jacket, or some soft top. Button front or zipper. Just in case you get cold.
Paula Oct 08, 2019 12:37pm
I like the bed lamp idea. Sometimes hospitals have a way to turn off the overheads and use only s softer hospital light. These are good ideas for the Caregiver too. I always try to take water, snack, warmth (layers), reading material, phone charger, phone with contact info for people who need to be kept informed. A notebook and pen is a must. It helps everyone remember what was said, what the plan is, etc. Also if the Caregiver needs meds they should definitely take those along. A meditation app on your phone might be helpful.
Hugh Oct 08, 2019 8:13am
This kind and compassionate article contains much poor advice, unfortunately. Many of the items suggested will be prohibited or unwelcome hindrances to caregivers. Others have detailed many of these.
Gloria Donnelly Oct 07, 2019 7:20am
Healthcare employees are not allowed to accept gifts or money from patients. All patients receive excellent care regardless of their ability to give gifts. Instead, write a letter to the hospital president recognizing the employees that provided exceptional care. Remember the first and second names of the employees that cared for you (nurses, housekeepers, dietary workers, etc.). Most hospitals have recognition programs for their employees. Also, you may receive a questionnaire from the hospital asking you to rate your care. The scale is from 1 to 5. Hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare based on scores to these questionnaires. Hospitals only get credit for ratings of 5. You may believe that no one is perfect and that a score of 4 is great, however, only ratings of 5 count.
Mary Brink Oct 05, 2019 9:31am
A cooler may be permitted in your hospital room, especially if you have an extended stay, and if you have special diet needs. I was in hospital for 23 days, and even by the end of the stay I was astounded that I still occasionally received meals that were not good for me. I am celiac (must have gluten free foods), plus also a dairy intolerance. The kitchen would still on occasion bring me trays with wrong foods on it, so I was thankful my husband made sure to keep my plug-in cooler stocked with safe foods for me.
Katherine Hyler Oct 03, 2019 4:44pm
Always bring a notebook and pencil or pens to write down the names of the caregivers and doctors you see. Use it to write down questions and instructions!!
Katherine Hyler Oct 03, 2019 4:41pm
Always pack a notebook and pencil/ pens for writing down the names of those caregivers and doctors. Write down instructions AND questions!!
Barbara O’Brien Oct 03, 2019 8:09am
Perhaps there are a few who have a long hospital stay these days, but it’s getting rarer. I am going in for a right hip replacement next week & am only allowed a one night stay. My husband was sent home after just a two-day stay twice, after brain surgery (for glioblastoma). Our instructions were to bring nothing of value (jewelry, electronics, meds, etc) & certainly not our own bedding. I would advise patients to bring minimal items with them at admission (maybe a light robe, since they’ll have you up very quickly to walk & practice stairs) & have family bring some of these comfort items later, if a patient actually turns out to have an extended stay.
Virginia Oct 03, 2019 7:34am
A gift for your nurse would be somewhat reasonable if you had the same nurse 24/7.
LADONNA JOSEPH Oct 03, 2019 7:24am
Please remember there are three (3) shifts of nurses and that they rotate their days off. I took three boxes of single serve microwave popcorn for the nurses so each shift had their own and it covered several days.
Marcia Benson Oct 03, 2019 5:53am
We brought a light, cozy bathrobe to wear over the hospital gown, long underwear, and hard soled bedroom slippers, a small prayer shawl to this over shoulders or lap, and vitamins.
Gloria Rousseau Oct 02, 2019 12:25pm
Those extension cords ... hospitals don’t allow them. One hospital allowed my personal BiPAP machine and a “heavy duty” computer type, surge protection plug-in strip. Be prepared to have it checked out by the Electronics folks at hospital though. I was surprised at the advice to take your own OTC s ...that has not been allowed at any hospital I have been in or worked at. Even some skin care products can be an issue. Check everything with the admitting nurse. Any clothing you take may be subject to loss and/or stains. Keep it to a minimum, keep it loose, soft, easily removable, disposable. Doctors, nurses, phlebotomists need to draw blood, take blood pressures, examine you ...don’t waste their time waiting for you to remove clothing. Hospital gowns are well designed for a hospital environment.
Brenda S Leininger Oct 02, 2019 11:29am
Depending on oxygen use lip balm not be allowed. I agree with the below comments. Unfortunately I had an emergency hospital admit. recently where I needed to have an airway placed because I was barely breathing. At that time my necklace was removed and my diamond pendant was lost.
Pat Robertson Oct 02, 2019 7:16am
I always take my friends in the hospital a bedside lamp. The lighting in hospital rooms is so stark. I turn off all the other lights and just use the lamplight which transforms the space.
LARedmer Sep 28, 2019 10:28pm
Keep valuable jewelry at home. Bring Pony tail holders, razor, lotion, baby wipes,
Stacy Disney Sep 28, 2019 2:47pm
First of all do not bring in any medicine. Everything has to come through the pharmacy. No self treating. If this is a planned admission check which clothes to pack it may be that you will be in hospital gowns. Next do not bring extension cord it must be checked by biomed and that is ahassel. Bring books and magazines.