However, those of us who are “frequent fliers” at the hospital have learned over time how to prepare and what to bring to make the stay as comfortable as possible. There have been times I went in for what I naively thought would be a “quick trip,” only to be stuck in a hospital room for hours. My phone died, I grew cold and hungry and literally had nothing to do except talk to myself or count the dots on the ceiling. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson; now I never go to the doctor without a backpack full of supplies.
Many others with chronic illness have similar hospital “go bags” they keep packed at all times in case of an emergency. The items we pack range from fun to practical, but all are important for maintaining physical and mental well-being during the stay.
Although hospitals should provide you with water, it can be helpful to bring your own supply or even a large, reusable bottle to make sure you always have plenty on hand.
Joanne Shabazian told us she plans to bring water with her for her next hospital stay. “It’s sometimes hard to find a nurse who is not too busy to refill the water pitcher,” she said.
Buy the water bottle above for $13.95 on Amazon.
2. Soft Blanket
Hospital bedding is often not the comfiest. Try bringing along your favorite fuzzy blanket to keep you warm and help you feel cozy.
“My blanket. Yes, I’m 31 and still need my blanket. I’ve had it since I was born. It’s still in amazing condition and it helps calm my issues. Doesn’t matter if it’s a migraine, hurt feelings, upset stomach, pain, full body itch… It helps,” said Nicole Ludwig.
Jessi Mathews Rush added, “I have a photo blanket with family and friends that I always make sure makes it to the hospital. That way I can always be wrapped in something positive.”
Buy the blanket above for $28.99 on Amazon.
3. Adult Coloring Book
If you need a way to keep your hands occupied during a long hospital stay, there are many adult coloring books out there that can be a fun and creative way for you to pass the time and relieve some stress.
“[I bring] coloring books – once I’ve had pain relief and it’s kicked in, I will generally do a little bit at a time,” wrote Rhiannon Buley.
Buy the coloring book above for $4.99 on Amazon.
4. Health Notebook
If you use a notebook to organize and store all your medical information, chances are you probably bring this with you most places anyway. But regardless of whether you keep this info in a notebook, file folders or an app on your phone, it’s critical to have with you at the hospital. That way, all your medical history, emergency contacts, current medications, doctors’ phone numbers, etc. are all readily available for the hospital staff to reference while treating you.
Ern Lee told us, “I always bring my health notebook explaining my rare condition. The front page is a cover letter written by my primary specialist. It’s worded so that someone with no medical knowledge can understand it with pages of tests, visits, and diagnoses that follow. It saves me time and frustration.”
Buy the notebook above for $21.90 on Amazon.
5. Facial Wipes
If you want to quickly freshen up without having to take a shower (which can be an ordeal if you’re hooked up to IVs, monitors, etc.), having some cleansing wipes on hand might be a good idea. You don’t even have to get out of bed to use them. Even though it’s a small thing, feeling fresh and clean can be a mood-booster.
Karen D. Tippie said, “Face cleaning wipes, or, if you’re not particular, baby wipes. Sometimes your skin just needs freshening up.”
Buy the towelettes above for $4.67 on Amazon.
6. Mini Fan
Whether you tend to feel hot and stuffy in your hospital room or just need some white noise, a small portable fan might be a good item to carry with you for your next stay.
Kayla Kaiser wrote, “I have found [a miniature fan] helps block out a lot of the outside hospital noise so you can get some sleep and is now a hospital essential for me.”
Buy the fan above for $11.88 on Amazon.
7. (Disposable) Underwear
Bringing along extra underwear to the hospital with you is a must. There’s no quicker way to feel icky than realizing you’ve run out of clean undies. My personal rule of thumb, whether I’m going to the hospital or on a trip, is to bring at least twice as many pairs as you think you’ll need. It never hurts to be over-prepared in this department.
Liliana Cook recommends taking a pack of disposable underwear. “Don’t bring home dirty undergarments from a dirty hospital!”
Buy the pack of underwear above (5-ct) for $9.99 on Amazon.
8. USB Extension Cable (for Chargers)
For many of us, phones are a lifeline to the outside world and can be a source of entertainment, distraction and communication – as long as they stay charged. In case there’s not an outlet right next to your bed, consider bringing a extension cord to make sure your phone (as well as all your other electronic devices) stay charged.
Jessica Jacklin-Neerenberg said she always brings her phone charger and an extension cord. “They put outlets in the weirdest places sometimes!”
Natasha Douglas added, “My long phone charger. There is never a close [power outlet] and I’m usually too tired and unable to concentrate to focus on a book or movie, so it’s basic things on my phone.”
Buy the extension cable above for $5.69 on Amazon.
Hospitals can be cool and dry, and the last thing you need to worry about while being treated for serious health concerns is dry and cracked lips. Throw some chapstick or lip balm in your bag just in case.
Jenn L. Bullock wrote, “Chapstick… [My] lips get sorry and cracked in there.”
Buy the chapstick above for $3.99 on Amazon.
Although we may think of hospitals as being stocked with medications, there’s always the chance they won’t have the specific medication or dosages you require on hand. You may want to bring along several days’ or even weeks’ worth of your medication (ideally in their original bottles/packaging with copies of the prescription/dosages) just in case. (Note: Talk to your local hospital about their policies about bringing in your own medication.)
“My medication! Some of my meds they don’t supply at the hospitals. Also when they’re going through what you take and the dosing, when you’re on a lot it’s easy to forget. So much easier and safer to look at the actual bottle to know the dosing of your medication. Some of my most important medications they do not have at the hospital!” said Cassidy Schod.
Shelley Christine Amos added, “Next time I go I will make sure I take my own meds. Unbelievable the number of medications the hospital pharmacy doesn’t have. And if they say they have ordered it and it is coming… something always gets lost.”
Buy the pill organizer above for $12.99 on Amazon.
11. Stuffed Animal
No one is ever too old for a stuffed animal. Hospitals can be dreary, stressful and scary at times, and there is no shame in bringing along your favorite stuffed animal to keep you company and make you feel at home. Some, such as the one shown above, are even made with aromatherapy and can be microwaved/frozen to provide hot/cold therapy.
Savannah Pittsley wrote, “[I bring] my therapy bear. It is a bear that can be used hot or cold or room temperature. It is on the heavy side but it also has good smelling stuff in that helps me relax.”
Meghan Lee added, “A stuffed animal. May sound cheesy but gives me something to hold onto from home.”
Buy the stuffed animal above for $24.95 on Amazon.
12. HDMI Cable
If you’re bringing along your laptop and plan to watch TV shows or movies to pass the time, consider packing an HDMI cable. If there’s a TV in your hospital room, you can hook up your laptop and watch on the big screen.
Endotwins recommended, “[Bring an] HDMI cord so you can watch Netflix on the big TV!”
Buy the cable above for $6.99 on Amazon.
13. Dry Shampoo
If you struggle with pain and fatigue, washing your hair can be difficult on an average day at home. But if you’re in the hospital, this can become an even tougher task to complete. Pack some dry shampoo in your bag so your hair stays clean and you feel fresh.
Brandi Stewart recommends bringing along some dry shampoo as well as a no-rinse body wash.
Buy the dry shampoo above for $4.73 on Amazon.
14. Ear Plugs
Between the beeping of monitors, people talking in the hall and nurses coming in to check on you every few hours, hospitals can be noisy. If you want to tune it all out so you can get some rest or avoid sensory overload, consider investing in a good pair of ear plugs.
Kathy Duke Richie wrote, “I’m going to say earplugs. I never get any rest when I’m there. That damn intercom and people walking in and out. Sheesh!”
Buy the ear plugs above for $6.98 on Amazon.
Hospital food isn’t always the tastiest, and if you have specific dietary restrictions or requirements, it may not be easy to track down food that is safe for you to eat. Pack some of your favorite snacks and meals to hold you over and keep you nourished.
Joanne Shabazian wrote, “Next time I go I will bring water and snacks. Several times I missed meals in the hospital due to procedures or delayed discharge.”
Pam Greenhill said she brings her own food. “Hospitals tend to look at you funny when you tell them you are vegan and gluten-free, even if it’s for medical reasons.”
Buy the insulated cooler above for $17.99 on Amazon.
16. Pajama Bottoms
While practical, hospital gowns are not the best at covering up our backsides, and they tend to be very drab. Bring along a pair of soft, warm pajama pants to keep you feeling cozy and covered. (Note: Ask your attending doctor/nurse first if you are allowed to wear pajama bottoms or other clothing.)
Elisabeth Wheeler recommended bringing comfy PJ pants. “You want to be covered when they have you walk the halls.”
Meaghan Kate said she brings pajamas that are IV-friendly as well as a robe.
Buy the pajama bottoms above for $17.99 on Amazon.
17. Eye Mask
Similar to ear plugs, an eye mask can be a great way to block out the harsh hospital lights so you can reduce sensory input and get some rest.
Jenn Landon wrote, ” I always pack an eye mask so I can sleep despite the blinking lights of monitors and lights of nurses checking on me.”
Jill Fuersich makes sure to bring both ear plugs and an eye mask. “Hospitals can be so bright and noisy – it’s nice to have a way to escape that (especially since loud noises and bright lights can trigger migraines).”
Buy the eye mask above for $9.99 on Amazon.
Books are a great way to pass the time in the hospital. If you’re like me and know you’ll go through several in one stay, an e-reader can be a great way to load up on books without adding weight or taking up too much space in your bag.
Karen D. Tippie wrote, “Kindle/e-reader and lots of books loaded and ready to go. There are many sites you can use to find free or discounted books (Freebooksy, Bookbub, etc.).”
Tiffany Leonard said, “If I have my games, books, music and Netflix to keep me occupied, then I don’t feel as anxious.”
Buy the Kindle above for $79.99 on Amazon.
19. Fuzzy Socks
I always get cold in the hospital, and the first thing to freeze are my toes. Pack a pair of fuzzy socks or two to help you stay warm and bring some fun colors/patterns to the room.
“My socks! It sounds silly but my husband bought me socks with colorful fruits on them just before I had an emergency procedure done. They bring me a sense of peace every time I visit the hospital now,” said Nadell Knee.
Cheyenne DeSpain added that she brings socks as well as gloves for when the hospital is freezing.
Buy the socks above for $6.99 on Amazon.
For many, bringing along your own pillow(s) is a necessity for hospital stays. The pillows provided by the hospital so often just don’t cut it and can be very uncomfortable or even exacerbate pain conditions. Bring along whichever pillows will help make your stay more comfortable.
Makenzie Elizabeth McDowell wrote, “When I was hospitalized I took my favorite pillow. It made it easier for me to sleep.”
Stephanie Murchison added, “A small travel-size pillow to support my neck or any other part of my body. Hospitals like to be stingy on giving out pillows and some don’t give a pillow at all.”
Buy the pillow above for $7.99 on Amazon.
21. Rubber Sandals
Rubber sandals or flip-flops might not be the comfiest pair of shoes, but they can really come in handy at the hospital if you need to quickly slip your shoes on or off to walk around. They are also great to wear in the bathroom/shower as they can get wet and be washed and dried easily.
Sheryl Chan wrote, “Always a pair of rubber slippers. Easy to slip on to go anywhere in a jiffy, and also to wear in the shower.”
Buy the sandals above for $11.99 on Amazon.
If the hospital air makes your skin feel dry, bring along your favorite lotion to keep you moisturized and smelling good. A lotion with soothing fragrances or essential oils can also be helpful for relaxation.
Kathy A. Zabliski told us, “[I bring] my favorite fragranced lotion. It always makes me feel so much better. When [I am] in bed and wearing those hospital gowns, having the nurse rub my back with my favorite fragrance makes me feel ‘human.'”
Jessica Jacklin Neerenberg added that she brings lotion and lip balm because the air in hospitals can be very dry.
Buy the lotion above for $12.47 on Amazon.
23. External Hard Drive
Watching movies or TV shows on your computer can be a great distraction at the hospital. However, if you know you’ll be there a while and have limited storage space on your computer, try loading some movies onto an external hard drive or flash drive to make sure you’ve got enough content to get you through.
“I bring my external hard drive which is loaded with over 500 of my favorite movies and TV shows and plug it in to my laptop. That is all I need to get me through the boring hospital stays,” said Ryan Thompson.
Buy the hard drive above for $23.99 on Amazon.
24. Toiletries Bag
Similar to a toiletry bag with travel-size containers you might pack for a trip, having a toiletry bag packed with small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion as well as other necessities like deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste is a great thing to have prepared in case of a hospital stay.
Cassidy Schod said, “I have a whole hospital bag that’s a duffel bag packed, with the face wash I want, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, even a razor!”
Jessi Fox recommended bringing travel-size toiletries in brands you like. Lisa Prins noted that she brings her own soap because she is allergic to the soap provided by the hospital.
Buy the toiletries bag above for $9.99 on Amazon.