How to Pack for Emergency or Unexpected Travel

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Hurricane Irma recently passed through Florida, and many people in southern Florida were forced to evacuate and head up north. I live in Central Florida and we debated whether we should actually go. We ended up staying, and all was well. But it was good practice for future travel.

It reminded me of other times I had some urgen travel plans pop up at the drop of a hat, either because I had a surprise conference or sales call to go to, or had to visit family for an unexpected issue at home.

In all those times, it’s hard to know what to pack. You can either overpack or underpack if you’re not careful, because you’re in a rush to nail down all these last minute details. Here are a few things I’ve done to make sure I’m always prepared for emergency travel.

Always take a few more days of clothes than you plan on. Normally, I advise against this for business travel, but emergency and urgent travel may bring unexpected circumstances and events. I have a rule that everything I take must fit into a Travelpro® 22″ Rollaboard® (Atlantic’s parent company), which is 4 –7 days of clothes. But I can usually squeeze in a few more without any problems. Plus, if I roll up my t-shirts and jeans, I can get close to 10 days’ worth of clothes.

Knowing how to pack for urgent travel can help you find a little calm before the storm and be more comfortable once you arrive.Fill nearly-empty prescriptions at your destination. Rather than wasting time trying to get prescriptions filled at home, find a pharmacy near to your final destination, and ask your doctor’s office to call in a prescription there. You can use Google maps to locate those pharmacies, which will take a lot less time than trying to chase down refills before you leave.

Sync all your laptop files to a cloud storage. I strongly recommend taking your laptop with you, regardless of why you’re leaving. You may find that you have to fill out a lot of reports or submit a lot of information, which is most likely on your home laptop. If you don’t have cloud storage, get a Gmail address and copy your most important files to Google Drive. Better yet, get a Dropbox account and pay for the 1 TB (terabyte) account ($9.99 per month), and upload your most important documents to your account. (For 1 TB, you can upload almost everything to Dropbox!) You can access those files on your phone, tablet, or other laptops via wifi or cellular data. If you have medical information you need ready access to, this is also a great place to keep it.

Take your kids’ favorite toys or blankets. If you’re racing out of town with your family, your kids may not be fully aware of what’s going on, and this is going to stress them out. First, try to explain that you’re going on an adventure (my kids always loved adventure trips, which is what we called leaving Indianapolis at 3:00 in the morning to drive to Disney World). Next, their favorite toys will help them feel safer, so make sure they have ready access to it. Just make sure you visually confirm (twice) that you packed it before you return home.

Be sure to pack for layering for warmth. It’s September right now, which means it’s getting slightly cooler in Florida, but my old home state of Indiana is already seeing 60 degree nights, which means you’ll be cold if you only wear summer clothes. And if you drive down here in January with nothing but winter clothes, you’re going to be too warm. Check the weather for your final destination and pack accordingly. Take plenty of thin layers for warmth, rather than bulky items like a parka or heavy coat.

Pack food for the trip. If you’re driving, especially during a major evacuation, it’s going to be tough to find gas and food. If you have to stop, you don’t want to find that all the restaurants are closed because it’s midnight, or because they ran out of food (something that happened to the Florida evacuees heading north). So have plenty of food on hand for the actual car ride. If you’re flying, but have some food sensitivities and allergies, just pack a few snacks that you can take on the plane.

Finally, take something to read. There’s a very good chance you’re going to end up spending a lot of time sitting and doing nothing. Pull out a book to occupy your time and your mind. It saves your data and cell phone battery, plus it can get your mind off of whatever took you out of town in the first place.

Have you ever had to make an emergency last-minute trip out of town? How did you handle this urgent travel? What kinds of things did you pack? Tell us about it in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: 111 Emergency (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)


Erik Deckers is a travel writer, as well as a content marketer and book author. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years

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