Simple Guide to When to Pack and When to Leave for the Airport

This is all about what to pack and when, and timing your departure so you won’t be late and miss your flight. The author swears these four steps are really simple.

Step One: Figure out what to wear, what to carry

The day before departure, lay out clothes you’ll travel in:

  • Include everything – shoes and socks, underwear, belt, scarf, whatever

The day before departure, lay out items to hold or have on your person:

  • Umbrella
  • Jacket
  • Book and/or electronic device
  • Paper boarding passes and printout of itinerary
  • Passport and/or visa
  • Wallet
  • Glasses
  • Phone and charger cord
  • Snacks

Step Two: Create a Grab-and-Go Pile

Pile all of the above near your travel outfit or by the door so you don’t forget it when you leave. If using a carry-on bag (which we recommend) you can place some of the above stuff in there.

Step Three: Figure out the rest of your clothing and pack it

Good rule of thumb:

  • Bring one pair of pants (or skirt) for every three days of wear
  • Bring one top/shirt for every two days
  • Wear one pair of shoes, bring just one more (if you must)
  • Socks, underwear
  • Accessories like belts, scarves (keep to a minimum)

Make sure all of the above can be worn in any combination. P.S. Leave the good jewelry at home.

Do not forget:

  • Toiletries including shaving gear, deodorant (hotel or friends will have shampoo)
  • Camera and charger cord
  • Batteries for electronic devices, or maybe hearing aids
  • Medications
  • That thing you promised to bring your mother-in-law (you know what it is)

How do you fit all this stuff in a carry-on? Here’s how.

Step Four: Figure out your day-of-departure schedule

You already know how long it takes to drive to the airport in optimal conditions. Now, add extra time because you never know if there’ll be a problem with traffic.

  • Does it usually take half-an-hour to get to the airport? Add 15 minutes to your drive time.
  • Does it usually take an hour? Add another half-hour.

Now plan your schedule: Count backwards from the departure time, subtracting drive-time, time in the security line and time to get ready at home.

Example: This is for a 9 a.m. flight when the drive to the airport takes one hour:

  • Wake up and have coffee at 5:00 a.m.
  • Shower and dress, starting at 5:30 a.m.
  • Leave for airport at 6:30 a.m.
  • Enter security line at 8 a.m.
  • Plane takes off – with you on it – at 9 a.m.

Adjust the schedule according to your needs. Is leaving this early a pain? You bet! But the alternative – missing your flight – is so much worse.


Published: July 28, 2014