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Kentucky Derby Packing List

The Kentucky Derby is coming up this weekend, a spring adventure that, in my opinion, is an essential experience on any Northwestern student’s college bucket list. For those of you who plan on making the two-day trip down to Louisville sporting big floppy hats, preparing get excited over some horse races, or simply craving some insane people watching, make sure you check out this packing list to fill the empty space in your overnight bag.

Sunscreen (and aloe)

This is one of the most deceptively hot events, with hours in the sun and very few shady spaces (I spent 30 minutes last year behind an RV that was blowing exhaust in my face in a desperate search for some sanctuary from heat). Remember to lather up on sunscreen, and bring some aloe just in case—it’ll make your ride home a lot more comfortable.


Portable charger

With a 6-7 hour drive between Northwestern and Kentucky, as well as the desire to take a million pictures at the derby itself (if you didn’t Instagram, did you even go to the derby?!), you’re bound to run out of phone battery. Also, reaching your friends is nearly impossible in such a big crowd, so you’ll be thankful to have a backup lifeline!



Heat. 14 hours in a moving vehicle. Dehydration. Need I say more?


See above.


Smart snacks

Getting in touch with any form of non-packaged food during this two-day adventure is nearly impossible. Try and bring things like almonds or dried fruit to get a little variety in, and nothing that will expire in the heat. You’ll be craving something different after only eating pretzels and wheat thins for 24 hours.



Stay cozy on the drive and avoid getting grass stains all over your cute Derby outfit when you want to take a seat. It’s a win-win.



Whether you are betting on a horse or buying a funny T-shirt from a roadside vendor, you’ll want to have at least $40 on you in cash. Make sure to hit an ATM before you leave town, because you won’t want to be looking for one in Kentucky.


In a burning hot parking lot for hours on end, having access to cold beverages (alcoholic or not) is a huge game changer. A cooler might seem like a huge burden and difficult to lug around, but the difference between a warm bottle of water and an ice-cold one is drastic.


Most importantly, mentally prepare yourself for what could be the best and most fun weekend of your college career! 

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