Last Minute Ultimate Packing List

black and green luggage bag on brown carpet

So, you leave on vacation tomorrow (or in three hours) and you haven’t packed–let alone written a packing list. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Why else would you be reading this last-minute packing list?

It’s easy to let the anxiety take over at this point. Just take a deep breath. Packing doesn’t have to be a nightmare, we’ll get through this together. Whether you’re about to embark on a short trip, a weekend trip, or a long-awaited getaway, we’ll get you there.

The most important thing is not to panic.

Save this for your own peace of mind on your next adventure. Having a packing list handy can save a lot of time and headaches in the long run.

A brown and black duffel bag on a car seat. Your most important packing list items go in your small, personal item/bag.
A personal item to start off your last-minute packing list journey. Photo by Jens Mahnke on

Personal Item (Bag) Packing List

Here is where I make a Keep Calm and Carry On joke–sorry, it can’t be helped.

Honestly, the most important things you need off of your packing list are often in your personal item/bag. Why? Just on the off chance, your carry-on bag gets relegated to the plane’s underbelly, you’re going to want these specific, personal items with you.

Woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage--the carry-on bag will have most of your packing list items. init.
Your carry-on bag will have the most items from your packing list in it. Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on

Carry-on Bag Packing List

If you’re like me and travel on the lighter side, your carry-on bag is where the rest of your personal items will go. Even on longer trips, I don’t pack more than a carry-on because it’s so much easier to hustle through airport security or the crowded subway with minimalist packing.

It’s a good idea to make sure your carry-on bag has an I.D. tag on it, just in case, before you leave for the airport too! You never know if you’ll get to be a lucky carry-on for checked baggage at the gate “volunteer.”

While you have a good internet connection, be sure you add your destination to whatever weather app you use. It’ll help you plan your travel outfits (even in a last-minute packing pinch.)

  • Toiletry bag (opaque for non-liquids and transparent under a quart/liter for liquids)
  • TSA-approved liquids (under 3 oz.) or in reusable 3 oz. bottles
  • Packing cubes (these are my favorite and you’ll save so much space)
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Bathing suit (if it applies)
  • Swimsuit coverup (if applicable)
  • Sandals in a shoe bag (if it applies)
  • Dressy shoes (if it applies)
  • Laundry bag (even a plastic shopping bag will do)
  • One pair of underwear for each day (I rarely pack more than seven and will do laundry if needed)
  • One pair of socks for each active day (same idea as above)
  • Bras (I usually pack one regular bra and then bralettes or VAI Athletica sports bras for comfort)
  • One pant per two/three days
  • One shirt per day (again, up to a week and then laundry)
  • A purse that can be packed flat
A Pomeranian dog inside a bag. No, there aren't any doggies on this packing list.
Sorry, we don’t have any cute puppies on this packing list. Photo by Cup of Couple on

Pro Packing List Tips

Even last-minute packers can make use of these handy travel tips I’ve picked up over the years. Not only will they save you space in your luggage, but they’ll also save you money if you tend to overpack.

  • Wear your biggest shoes on the plane
  • Wear your heavier items or just carry them along with you
  • Only pack formal wear if you know you’ll need it
  • Bring a foldable shopping or smaller bag in case you need to store something in it and tie it to your personal item
  • Digitize your important documents
  • Pack clothing items that can be put into different outfits
  • Make sure you always have easy access to your important documents and money
beautiful view of moraine lake
Photo by Jaime Reimer on

Pro Travel Tips

While not packing list related, we wanted to help ease some of that last-minute packing stress by sharing a few pieces of frequent traveler wisdom with you. Hopefully, these tips help you and your travel companions have a good time away!

  • Check-in for flights online
    • Unless it’s utterly impossible, always check in for your flight online. You can skip the check-in line (another reason I always pack just a carry-on) and head straight to security. A few airlines have even implemented fees for not checking in online. I saw that for the first time this summer with Ryanair.
  • Some airport lounges frequently have paid walk-in entry
    • That’s right! Even without something like Priority Pass you can often buy your way into certain airport lounges for $20-$40. Especially if you’re stuck a the airport for a long time, it’s often worth the fee for free food and drinks. (Not to mention the lounging space.)
  • Always bring a reusable water bottle
  • Be prepared for security: have your must-remove items in easy reach
  • Be sure your phone apps are updated
  • Your phone map most likely can show you locations within the airport including gates, cafes, and toilets.
  • If you can, order ahead
    • A lot of order-ahead locations like Starbucks or Dunkin utilize that service even in airports. I’ve gotten drinks made in minutes and avoided an hour-long line in the process.
A brown leather duffel bag
Photo by nappy on

One Last Thing

In all of the adrenaline of planning a trip, I hope you haven’t forgotten to leave room for fun. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had while traveling involved a sense of spontaneity.

Sometimes we can find a lot of joy in doing things last minute or not planning at all. Embrace the newness of wherever you are headed–even if it’s somewhere you’ve been before–and be present.

Above all: travel confidently!


Published by Amanda Finn

Founder of Dream Suitcase, Amanda Finn is an award-winning travel, theater and lifestyle journalist.

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