What to Pack in an Emergency Travel Kit

The savvy traveler learns to pack a small bag of emergency travel essentials and keep it handy. In a pinch, you should be able to grab this emergency travel kit, add a change of clothing or two and be ready to hit the road at a moment’s notice, ready to face just about anything, including the TSA line at the airport. In addition to the basics, you should also make sure that your emergency travel kit contains the essentials you need to travel safely – preferably without spending extra cash for those little items that get you through life’s little disasters looking cool, calm and collected.

Emergency Travel Kit Essentials
Emergency Travel Kit Essentials

The Essentials

Important Papers

Your travel kit, which should always go in your carry-on luggage along with you, should contain all the important papers you’ll need if you should find yourself stranded in a foreign country. That includes:

  • Your passport
  • Your drivers’ license or ID if you have don’t have a drivers’ license
  •  Medical insurance cards
  • A copy of your travel insurance (link to travel insurance article)
  • Papers establishing custody or permission to travel if you are traveling with children, especially children who are not your own
  •  Copies of any relevant prescriptions you might need to fill in an emergency
  • Emergency contact information
  • A list of emergency contact numbers for your travel agent, your embassy and your credit card companies
  •  Any important medical information, particularly if you are diabetic or under treatment for any chronic medical condition

Keep all of these important papers in a pouch or envelope so that you can grab them all at a moment’s notice without having to fumble through all your luggage looking for them.

Emergency Toiletry Kit

There’s always a chance that you and your luggage will come to a parting of the ways at some point during your trip. It’s helpful to have the basics you’ll need to make you feel human after spending a night sitting on an airport bench or pacing the floor at your  travel agency.


  • Mouthwash in a small bottle (no more than 3.4 oz)
  • Facial cleaner (as above)
  • Your most essential cosmetics – mascara, under eye concealer and lipstick go a long way to making you feel halfway human after a long night.
  • A Colgate Wisp toothbrush. While there are a number of portable toothbrushes available, the Colgate Wisp wins hands down for convenience. The disposable toothbrushes are individually wrapped and already have toothpaste applied. Drop a handful into your travel kit and you’ll never have to worry about what to do with your wet toothbrush after brushing – just toss it.
  • Downy Wrinkle Releaser – it’s a godsend if you’ve just spent the night cramped up in an airport chair and have to meet the world in yesterday’s wrinkled clothing. Just spritz it on and smooth out your garments with your hands and you’ll look – and feel – much more presentable
  • Dry shampoo for those mornings you can’t get to a hot shower. Just spritz your hair and comb it through to freshen your locks and get rid of airport head.
  • A small tube of petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly is the ultimate emergency cosmetic aid. Use it to remove makeup, smooth it on your lips to give them a quick gloss or rub it on dry, chapped skin to protect it from dry airplane cabin air.
  • Hairbrush

Air Travel Compliance

To comply with TSA rules, any liquids or gels you carry on in your luggage must be in plastic bottles that hold no more than 3.4 oz. of product. All bottles and containers must be in a 1-quart size clear plastic zip-top bag that can be easily examined visually. You can always buy travel size toiletries, but you’ll often pay a major premium for them. If you travel often, invest in an empty plastic travel bottle set that you can fill from full-size containers. You’ll save a fortune.


There are lots of reasons you’ll want to carry some non-perishable snacks along with you in your travel emergency pack, not the least of which is to avoid those ubiquitous salted almonds and high-fat chips handed out left and right on most flights. What do we recommend? Trail mix, the long-time favorite of hikers, bikers and counter-culture folks everywhere. The high-protein blend of nuts, seeds and dried fruit (and a handful of chocolate chips, of course!) can be exactly what you need to get you through a long night of waiting at the baggage check counter for a suitcase that never comes through.

Not a fan of trail mix? Pack a snack-size bag of dried cherries, which contain melatonin and may help reduce the effects of jet lag.

Emergency Clothing Repair Kit

Pack a small emergency sewing kit with threaded needles, a couple of spare buttons and an assortment of small safety pins. Add a bottle of clear nail polish to stop stocking runs in their tracks, and a few rubber bands and hair ties – you never know when they’ll come in handy.

Cordless Compact Curler

The compact cordless hair styler from Conair has a medium-size barrel that’s multi-purpose: straighten coarse, curly hair, iron out frizz or refresh your hairstyle in just a few minutes – with no need for electricity.

Duct Tape

Yes, duct tape. It comes in just as handy on the road as it does at home. If you’ve got it with you, you’ll find dozens of uses for it, from repairing broken luggage to covering blisters on your feet so you can hit the sightseeing path again.

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