Creating an emergency carry-on

Your carry on is key in the event of lost luggage - here's how to create an emergency kit.

packing weekend bag

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her travel low point was buying a Beijing guidebook for her visit to Thailand in 2007. Thankfully her geography has improved since then.

Touch wood, I have never had my suitcase lost for any significant length of time. This is partly because in recent years since living in London, I only fly with carry-on unless I'm going home to Australia and partly because I've been lucky thus far.

The topic has come up quite regularly recently, however, with many of my friends having the misfortune of being parted with their precious belongings at one point or another during their trips. Ranging from a day to a week or more, the tales of inconvenience are certainly scary.

And, while you're somewhat at the mercy of airlines if you're checking-in your bag, there are some precautions you can take. Aside from the obvious of naming and tagging your baggage - or even using a tracking device - your carry-on is paramount in the event of lost luggage.

As annoying as it may be to lug around extra items - it's more than worth the hassle if you do find yourself without your suitcase. Here's how to create an emergency carry-on.

Before packing:

  • gather all electronic devices you are going to take, such as mobile phone(s), Kindles / e-readers, iPads, laptops, headphones and cameras. Don't forget their chargers or any cords they may need, as well as an international adapter
  • collect all travel documents, your passport, currency, cards, and so on, in a safe place such as a document wallet
  • makeup bags should travel with you - no one needs the nightmare and expense of having to replace every item in there - not to mention the expense
  • ditto for your sun/reading glasses, wallet and house keys.

carry on bag

While packing:

  • set aside any medications you are taking. If you don't want to take the full packet make sure you have at least a week’s supply so you're not caught without your pills
  • create a small subset of your key toiletries that you can't live without. This should include small versions of any facial products, a deodorant, hairbrush, toothbrush, as well as moisturiser, dry shampoo and a fragrance if you see fit. I also never travel without tissues (helpful for crying over your lost luggage) and baby wipes - they always come in handy!

After packing your suitcase as you normally would for your upcoming trip, remove the following items:

  • any expensive or precious jewellery, it's simply not worth the risk and is arguably much safer on your person
  • a pair or two of spare underwear. This will allow you to wear a clean pair each day while you wash the worn ones, giving you some level of hygiene/self-dignity.
  • an outfit change. This is dependent on where you're going clearly. If like me, you travel in jeans and a jacket given the artic temperatures on planes, a simple black dress would be a good option. For males opt for a pair of shorts and polo shirt.
  • a pair of shoes. Given weight and space restrictions, thongs should be fine (and invaluable for hot destinations) assuming you are travelling in your more sturdy and heaviest footwear.
  • if you're going on a beach break, your future self will thank you for adding a pair of bathers. At least you can tan away your troubles.
  • a scarf. Bonus points if it is a Turkish beach towel/sarong that can double as a scarf.


Last things last; don't forget a decent book (there's no better way to take your mind off the situation at hand than trying to work out who dunnit) and snacks. I refuse to leave home without an apple and protein bar at all times because, as Snickers points out, you're not yourself when you're hungry.

Have you ever had your luggage lost? What do you wish you'd packed in your carry-on to save the situation?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    fish head
    23rd Sep 2017
    If you have to carry prescribed medication with you it must be in a labelled container that is dispensed by a chemist.Do not attempt to carry medicines loose.You will have them confiscated as you go through security and that is after being given a third degree interrogation as to what and where and why. Mine travels in my hand luggage so I know exactly where it is.

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