What to Pack for Last-Minute Flights

If you snag a fabulous deal on a last-minute trip, you will need to be ready to go in record time. This means packing light, packing smart and avoiding TSA-prohibited items. Here’s what to do.

How to Avoid Paying $1,000 for an Emergency Flight

Preliminary Tasks and Essentials

  • Place your passport and/or other photo ID in your purse, in your carry-on bag, or in an article of clothing that you will wear during your flight.
  • Call your bank and credit card issuers. If you do not, you could have your credit card frozen when the issuer notices unusual activity on your card, like the goodies you buy during a layover in a foreign airport. You also do not want a foreign ATM keeping your card because your bank thinks it was stolen.
  • If you are traveling abroad, have a plan for cell phone usage so you are not shocked by whopping roaming charges on your next bill.
  • Make sure all prescriptions are up-to-date and filled so you don’t run out while you are away.

Essential Carry-On Items for Any Flight

Things You Don’t Need to Pack

  • In most cases, you can buy things such as over-the-counter pain relievers, sunblock and hairspray at the hotel gift shop (OK, yes, they will be pricey at most resorts. But you are in a hurry!)
  • Remember that most hotel rooms have soap, shampoo, and hair dryers, with complimentary toothbrushes, deodorants and razors at the front desk. Most of the time you can leave these at home. Call the hotel and ask the front desk if they have some kind of overnight kits available.
  • If you are traveling somewhere warm, leave the jacket or sweatshirt at home and use an airplane blanket if you get cold on the plane. You can always buy a souvenir sweatshirt if you really need one.

How to Travel Light

Making a Minimal Wardrobe Last

  • Check the weather forecast for your destination, so you will know which clothes will serve you best.
  • Pack a shirt and undergarments for each day, one pair of slacks or skirt for every three days, a sweater or jacket if the destination is cold, and minimal accessories. One pair of walking shoes and one pair of dressy shoes will usually suffice. Choose colors that mix and match well.
  • If you are willing to hand wash undergarments, socks, or lightweight clothing items, you can cut down even more on the number of garments you pack. Just buy a small bottle of detergent once you are there, or use shampoo in a pinch. Synthetic fabrics and blends dry faster than natural fabrics like cotton.
  • A few small-sized wastebasket liner bags will not take up much room and are handy for dirty laundry and shoes.
  • If you are taking school-age kids, give each a zip-lock bag with tissues, gum and other personal items to keep in their own knapsack.

Create a Grab-and-Go Carry-On

Important Things People Commonly Forget

  • If you plan to visit certain religious or government sites, you may need to wear more conservative clothing than you would wear for other vacation activities.
  • Be sure to take the correct adapters for any electrical appliances or electronics you take to foreign countries.
  • Don’t forget your phone charger, batteries, sunglasses, and memory cards for your camera.
  • Earplugs for the plane (and some hotel rooms) are tiny, cheap, and almost always come in handy.

Often you can get everything you need into a single carry-on bag, avoiding baggage fees. At the very least, make sure you put your wallet, passport (or other ID), tickets, boarding passes, camera, glasses, prescriptions, and any mobile devices or your laptop computer in your carry-ons.


Published: June 20, 2012