When you’re running late for your flight and time is of the essence, it can be tempting to just empty the contents of your closet into a suitcase and hope for the best.
However, it’s actually possible to pack a bag the hour before your trip and still wind up bringing everything you need.
Here are a few tips for packing a carry-on or checked bag at the very last minute.
First, make sure you choose the right bag.
If you’re packing a bag at the last minute, it’s crucial that you make sure your luggage suits your needs.
Going on a spontaneous adventure to parts unknown? You’re better off choosing a smaller bag that won’t weigh you down. If you’re heading overseas for a month, a larger suitcase is probably appropriate.
It’s also a good idea to double-check your airline’s cabin and carry-on luggage restrictions. Showing up with an oversized or overweight bag might cost you a few extra bucks or even cause you to miss your flight.
If you frequently pack at the last minute, consider setting aside a travel drawer.
Paradoxically, successful last-minute packing is all about preparation. Keeping all your travel essentials in one spot greatly decreases the chances that you’ll find yourself at the airport without a passport.
Blogger Monica Stott, who runs The Travel Hack, recommended creating a travel drawer, which makes throwing a last-minute suitcase together much easier. According to Stott, she learned this trick from travel blogger Abigail King, who runs Inside the Travel Lab.
A good travel drawer includes things like passports, hotel reservation documents, and boarding passes. For extra points, consider tossing in a mobile charging pack or a few notes of foreign currency.
Of course, your travel drawer doesn’t need to be a literal drawer. Put together a travel pouch, folder, or box to accomplish the same goal of having all your travel stuff conveniently grouped in the same place.
It’s important to make a list before you pack anything.
No matter how rushed you feel, take a deep breath and sit down to draw up a quick packing list. Spending a few minutes outlining what you need to bring might save you the agony of realising you’ve arrived at your destination with seven pairs of jeans and no underwear.
You can also make a list of every activity you have planned for your trip and use that to decide exactly what you’ll need for your journey – a common feature in many popular packing apps today.
Be sure to check the weather report for your destination as well.
For example, if you’re headed to a rainy city and plan on spending most of your time exploring the outdoors, you should bring a raincoat and leave any leather boots at home.
One good tactic is to keep a copy of a basic packing list in your suitcase or on your phone. This list should include everything that you know you’ll need for just about any trip. That way, you can just add weather- or activity-specific items depending on your destination.
Keep toiletry bottles that are TSA-compliant on hand.
In case you haven’t travelled lately, the TSA requires that all liquids in a carry-on bag be stored in 3.4-ounce (100 ml) or smaller sized containers. Furthermore, all your liquid containers must be stored in a clear, quart-size, resealable bag. Any liquids in containers larger than 3.4 ounces must be packed in checked luggage.
For this reason, it’s very handy to have a collection of appropriately sized bottles to quickly fill with your liquid toiletries, especially if you’re a last-minute packer.
One important note is that even if the amount of liquid inside a large container is less than 3.4 ounces, the container must still be placed in your checked luggage.
Pack clothing that can be worn more than one way.
When you’re rushing to pack, focus on selecting versatile pieces of clothing. That means including items like soft shorts or leggings that can serve as casual day-wear or comfy sleepwear, a few basic tops or T-shirts for layering or wearing solo, and versatile shoes.
Travel blog Sparkle in Her Suitcase recommended sticking to a limited colour palette so that your clothes will all work together, and skip right over items that you don’t wear on a daily basis, unless you’re travelling for a specific event or activity that requires special attire.
Airline pilot Patrick Smith also previously told INSIDER that packing synthetic, fast-drying materials will make your carry-on weigh less. It will also make it easier to do laundry at your destination.
If you’re trying to pull together a bag in record time, you want to bring items that will cover all the bases. Don’t bother filling your bag with “just in case” items.
Pack your liquids last so you can easily take them out of your bag.
If you’re running late for your trip, you definitely want to make the entire transit process as seamless as possible. Stowing your toiletries at the bottom of your carry-on bag means that you’ll have to rifle through all your things in order to extract them at airport security.
In order to make your boarding experience as stress-free as possible, be sure to place all liquids at the top of your bag for easy access. That way you can quickly toss them in a security bin and pack them away again in a jiffy.
Before heading out the door, check your outlets for forgotten charging cables.
You might not think of leaving home without your gadgets, but forgetting a charger or two is a common travel mistake.
Before leaving your home, do one last sweep of your walls for forgotten charging cables or adapters. Placing a sticky note right above your doorknob with a reminder to grab essential items can be helpful when you’re frantically rushing out the door.
You could also just stash an extra charger in your travel drawer.
Don’t stress about packing the perfect bag.
Though it seems like there are a million videos and articles detailing how to pack the perfect suitcase or carry-on, assembling a last-minute bag means grabbing the essentials and minimising the extras.
Skip the stress of trying to get it just right and focus on packing what matters to you, especially if you’re working with serious time constraints.
If you have all your essential documents, adequate clothing, a few gadgets, and the necessary toiletries, you can consider your last-minute packing a success.
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