Packing Your Hospital Go-Bag

by Amy

With six kids, we have our fair share of ER visits in a year. While we currently live in Germany and experience different health care than the U.S., this idea might be helpful even during these pandemic times, no matter where you are in the world. A simple trip to the ER can sometimes take a long time or it can end up with an overnight stay (or ten).

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In Germany, we joke that a trip to the ER means a 5-night sleepover. In some ways, it is true but it is actually is a wonderful thing. Our experience has always been that of thorough doctors, plenty of testing and hearing our concerns through. Many of our trips to the ER (because in our experience, there is no urgent care like in the states), if they had happened in the states, would have been completed in a few hours with a follow up recommended as we were sent home. Here, we often hear “we want to keep you overnight for observation and we will let you know tomorrow what we think is best”. Even having my tonsils removed as an adult required a 5 days stay because they choose to monitor your recovering and make sure everything is going well.

Came to the ER at 6pm and finally getting a bed at 2 am.

So in late February, before the pandemic was an actual pandemic when my 10-month-old had a 104.2 fever and was lethargic, we headed to the ER but we brought a Go Bag with us. It was a good thing because (based on his symptoms and further testing) we waited for five hours in the ER before being admitted and were locked down without warning, in the hospital for three days without being able to even leave our room or have any visitors! A few friends of mine wanted me to share what we packed in the bag, in case they found themselves in a similar situation, so here we are.

The hospital room we most recently called home for three days.

Please keep in mind, this is what we came up with but it can be adjusted to whatever you think you might need for a 1-5 day stay. Yes, this is not “enough” by most standards to last you five days but you will be surprised what you can survive on with even this small bag of goodness.

Whenever we head to the hospital, we take a bag like this with us. Usually, just a backpack that I can easily carry with a baby in tow and it has just enough to pass the hours or prepare us for a sleepover. Let’s unpack!


I put this first because it is IMPORTANT! I overpack snacks in my bag, because hospital snacks are expensive, hangry is a real thing and personally, because German hospital food is another level if you are used to American style hospital food. In this case, when we weren't even allowed to leave our room, it was so helpful to have snacks in my bag.

When you are in a waiting room for five hours, having snacks on hand is also so helpful! When you have a toddler that gets hungry in between the three provided meals each day, snacks are a lifesaver. When German hospitals only give you a tray with two slices of meat, two hard crust rolls, and maybe a fruit or vinegar-soaked veggie as a side, you appreciate your own snacks. I know hospital food is oft complained about and I am thankful for anything we are given, but German hospital food is hilarious! I always eat it and it always tastes better than it looks but that first sight is always a letdown. ;P Let me just say it makes me thankful for American hospital food!

The photo above right has a milky way bar that was added by a sweet nurse during our time of quarantine and I greatly appreciated her kind gesture!


I pack clothes according to what I know I will be able to wear for a long time and the items I will want to change often. A few pairs of my comfiest undergarments, a few pairs of socks, one heavier sweatshirt (with a hood so I can cover my ears if needed), two pairs of comfy leggings, and a few clean shirts I know I will be comfortable in. People in Germany dress a bit fancier than in the US and you don’t often see Athleisure wear unless the person is actually participating in sports. I don’t wish to stand out as an American here so the clothes I pack for comfort are also ones I would feel comfortable wearing as I leave the hospital. Not because I am self-conscious or care what others think but because I appreciate the country I live in and try to be culturally respectful/fit in as best I can.

Think about odd details as you pack. This sounds silly but I never pack grey shirts because they will show sweat easier. I never pack white shirts because they will show all the food I drop on myself. I pack clothes that don’t lose shape as I wear them because it can be a long time before you get to change/shower. I pack sports bras instead of underwire because comfort is key. I also bring a pair of flip flops or slippers (not shown) to wear around the room so my feet don’t hurt on the hard floor.

For kids, see the section below on how I pack for their needs.


It is easy to get bored in the hospital or while you wait. Here are a few ideas to keep you and your mind busy.

1. A Book – I recommend a paperback that you don’t mind getting rid of once you are finished because it can be such a gift to find a good book at the hospital. Since we are in Germany, there is a little to no chance of an English book being left for us to read BUT the paperback option is lighter to carry. During our last hospital stay, I was able to read this fantastic book on Italian events in World War II.

2. Journal & Pen – Even if just to tear out pages for your kid to draw on, it helps. Taking notes of your stay, writing down your feelings, making lists of things you want to remember or do when you get out, or doodling…a journal can be a great way to get your feelings out. It is also a great way of remembering a time in your life that might be difficult or worth recording. These are my favorite journals and I swear I have one in every color!!

For us, it was a valuable time for me to write down my feelings about being unexpectedly locked-down in a hospital with my five other kids at home and my husband on a work trip in the states. It was a safe spot for my fears to leave my brain and place to document the one-on-one time with my boy twin that I so rarely get. It was my end of the day dump for the burdens I had carried for the day and I am so thankful to have had it.

3. Book Light – If you have to share a room (which is quite common in Germany), these are very helpful. I used it when my baby was asleep by 8 since I wasn’t quite tired yet and it gave off the perfect light for me to read and him to be able to sleep.

4. Chapstick – Can never find one when I need it and I feel like my lips always seem more chapped during a hospital stay.

5. iPad – We keep ours loaded with tv shows and some games for times like these. In our experience at various German hospitals, there isn’t free Wifi (or any Wifi) and it helped to have stuff downloaded when we couldn’t rely on Netflix.

6. Multi-Port Charging Plug – The one pictured is 220v (Euro spec) but you can find a 110v here that works the same. When I needed to charge my iPad and phone at the same time, this was helpful.

7. Longer charging cables – Because the outlets are often in inconvenient places, these 10 ft cables give you plenty of flexibility with your iPhone.

8. White Noise App – We use this free app for white noise and I recommend having one on your device because there is so much noise in a hospital. The white noise app has a variety of very specific sound options (Brown Noise is my jam) that can help drown out the noisy activity of the workers and other guests.

9. To keep my cords organized, I used a hair clip on one and a hairband on the other. I don’t know about you ladies, but I am ALWAYS in need of a hair thing and this is the perfect double duty…until I have to use it of course! ;P


Since we love to travel, I keep this thing packed and ready to go at all times, just in case we want to take off on an impromptu overnight. I don’t wear much makeup and I let my curly hair air dry so my shower bag might look different than yours but here are some must-haves from our experience.

1. Shampoo/Conditioner for you and baby soap for multi-purpose use to clean you and your child if you are staying together. I keep mine in these silicone travel containers that are lightweight and flexible.

2. Small spray bottle of water for a quick freshen up of yours or your kid’s hair. Not required but so helpful for my curly hair.

3. Deodorant – You know you will start to stink!

4. Sample and Hotel Freebies – These are great for this bag because, if you are like me, you forget to pack them on trips and they take up so little space! I keep the q-tips, cotton balls, sewing kit and a shower cap in my bag because they are the perfect size for a short stay.

5. Makeup basics – I wear eyeliner and face moisturizer daily but that is it. I bought a second eyeliner to keep in this bag permanently and put some of my face lotion in a tiny jar because it is just the right amount for a weekend. I put some foundation, cheek tint and mascara in there as well because sometimes, you feel like a dumpster fire and a little touch up goes a long way to making you feel better, even if no one but your nurses will be seeing you that day.

6. Sewing Kit – I use the free ones I find at hotels and have only had to use them a few times but I was thankful for the safety pin or needle I needed it.

7. Teeth Care – Toothbrush for me (and my baby), toothpaste, floss, and not pictured and little travel mouthwash.

8. First Aid – Assorted bandaid sizes, blister pads, tweezers, and alcohol wipes. See my first aid kit in this post for more.

9. Razor – Because the ability to shave might be a luxury but it goes a long way to helping you feel better!

10. Nail Polish – I keep it in there more for a travel situation (my daughter and I always want to paint our toes when we go on vacation for some reason) but this last stay, after trying to keep my toddler entertained all day long in a tiny room, I enjoyed having a quiet minute on the bathroom floor painting my nails and pretending like the other side of the door was an oceanfront balcony! I also have an individual use nail polish remover pad to take off the old paint before my new treatment!

11. Feminine care – Include at least two days worth of your heaviest day because that would be the luck! It’s not always easy to find these and if you are like us, the language barrier can make it quite the story. I had a bloody nose in a German hospital and there was a miscommunication when I asked for tissues. She brought me a tampon instead of kleenex! ;P

12. The bag – To carry this all, I prefer the bag with a hook on it so I can hang it in the area I will be staying. Only once have we had a private bathroom and rarely is there a place to set it down so the hook has come in handy for keeping it all open on the go!

For Kids

Packing for the kids seems a little tricky but they really need very little to be entertained and cared for outside of normal diaper bag essentials. These are some things my toddler twins personally love that made the time pass by and brought them some comfort. We made use of the clean bedpan for sorting cars (see photo at the bottom), rubber gloves for balloon games and tongue depressors for playing golf with our cars. You can get really creative when you need to.

1. Fave baby/stuffie – This is something that might not be required but was for sure help when the baby needed a distraction or comforting. It was also a great toy to play with when we were trying to stay entertained.

2. An old burp rag – We don’t use them for spit up anymore but I can tell you they are VERY helpful a variety of things. Impromptu face mask/covering, snot rag, barf cleaner-upper, diaper changing pad, pretend blanket for stuffie, hide-n-seek curtain, etc. My suggestion is you pick one of these things listed and use it for only that. ;P

3. Diapers – We love Hello Bello Diapers and you can get a $15 credit by using our link! Bring at least 6 diapers. Trust me. If you do get admitted, they will usually provide diapers. If they don’t, phone a friend for a drive-by diaper delivery!

4. Fave small toys and a zipper pouch to keep them in. The pouch can also provide tons of entertainment but mostly it gives you a sense of NOT being chaotic with trying to find toys all over in your bag.

5. Books. Favorite books, books with lots to see, and books you can wipe off easily. One or two are good and kids love the repetition of reading their fave books!

6. A change of clothes AND a pair of pajamas Especially if your baby is vomiting or will need IV fluids, bring at least both if not one or two more. They always feel much better in a fresh outfit after a long time in a strange place. Make sure you do not forget socks and a sweatshirt for them, in case you feel chilly.

7. Favorite Blanket (see below, right): Wrapping them up in it is so comforting to them as it is like a warm hug. You can see how happy he is!

8. A Microfiber Towel: (not shown) Folds up nice and compact, dries fast and is helpful if they don’t have towels to share. Again, not a common situation but has happened to us on two of our overnights so it was nice to have it in our bag.

Extra Helpers

These are things I keep in my purse but I thought worth mentioning in case you didn’t also carry around weapons and 20-pound power bricks!

1. Reusable bag – Preferably one that folds up nice and small! Useful for putting dirty laundry in or carting home unexpected items you acquire during your stay.

2. MultiTool – It’s just always a good idea.

3. Headphones – Since I shared the room (this time with my toddler but other times with strangers) it is the polite thing to do and also keeps you able to listen to music or audiobooks.

4. Powerbrick – We keep ours charged up at all times and this beast is heavy but allows for 3 to 4 full charges of my phone/iPad. Very helpful if you are in a waiting room or can’t find an outlet.

Poor little guy had to be hooked up to his IV drip and didn’t understand why!

As I said before, our stay experience is not representative of all German hospital stays. While we were in lock-down, they allowed my family to pack a bag and drop it off with the staff at the hospital who then brought it into our room. That second bag had much more stuff to accommodate what we were told was a minimum week stay in the hospital but the bag you see packed above was really all that we needed.

Playing with his cars and the bed pan! CLEAN bed pan.

I hope this helped you prepare for the what-ifs of your next trip to the ER! I pray you don’t need to use it but what a blessing to have ready if you need to! Even if you can’t keep the bag packed at all times, having some of it on hand with a list to remind yourself (when you are in a rush and worrying about whatever is taking you to the hospital) of what you will need to throw in will greatly help you! Be well friends!