Even the most meticulous packer will occasionally leave something at home. From the inane to the important — swimsuits to suits, and pajamas to, yes, even passports — the items we forget don’t have to define our vacation.
These 12 things are commonly left at home, but there are ways to survive a trip without them.
Shaving cream, toothpaste, a razor, deodorant, a toothbrush — pick any item from this list and you’ve probably forgotten it at least once. Bathroom products tend to be the ultimate forgotten items, as many of us leave ‘em right where we usually keep them: in the bathroom. Thankfully, most hotels are wise to our forgetful ways and offer staples like shampoo, razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes for free. If the item you’re looking for isn’t in your room, ask at the front desk. You may also get an amenity kit on your flight if you’re traveling overseas; some airlines will toss a toothbrush and toothpaste into the kit, so it’s worth checking the kit’s contents before just leaving it on the plane. Forgot deodorant? Try to find some baking soda or an alcohol-based product (like hand sanitizer) to kill the bacteria and hold you over until you can get to a store. Forgot shaving cream? Try using conditioner or make your own lather out of a heavy dose of soap foam.
How many times have you forgotten your toothbrush? (Image: ektogamat)
Vision products: Contacts, contact solution and glasses
If you’ve ever struggled to decipher letters on an eye chart, you’ll understand and appreciate what an ordeal it is to forget your glasses (if you’re wearing your contacts), your contacts (if you’re wearing your glasses) or contact solution at home. Since contacts and glasses are prescription-based, it’s going to be tough to replace them when you’re far away, though you can get a decent deal on fast-turn around glasses in markets like Beijing’s Glasses City if you happen to be in Asia. You may be able to order a new pair of contacts to be swiftly sent to you on vacation, but it will probably cost you. Instead, make do with whichever vision aid you did remember (i.e. the one you had on when you left home). While it’s not ideal (and won’t thoroughly clean your lenses), adding some salt to water (preferably distilled water, or at least bottled water) and storing your lenses in that overnight will suffice in a pinch.
Let’s go *sightseeing!* (Image: sfloptometry used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
You remembered your gadgets, but when their batteries finally die, you realize you’ve left your chargers (lifelines?) behind. Sound familiar? Today’s menu of tech items we travel with is quite long: Tablets, cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and e-readers all have chargers that are easy to leave plugged in — at home. Before you panic about being disconnected and run out to purchase a new power line, try to find a fellow traveler who will lend you a charger. It’s also worth checking with the front desk at a hotel to see if they have extras. (After all, chargers are said to be the most left-behind item at hotels.) Another option? Electronics stores are ubiquitous these days, especially in airports and cities. Consider powering up using a charger that’s plugged into a device on display. Some airports even offer charging stations (with built in chargers) that you can use for a fee. If you’re the traveler who leaves your chargers at home every time you head out for a trip, consider snagging a bag that provides all the power you need, which is more difficult to forget and will charge your devices on the go.
Charging station at the airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States (Image: sixteenmilesofstring)
Voltage converters (outlet adapters)
International travelers are privy to the fact that you need voltage converters to plug in appliances in other countries. But it’s easy to forget the ins and outs of electrical sockets and currents around the world when you’re running out the door. There aren’t any true replacements for the real thing (which you can buy in the airport, if need be), but adapters are another item hotels will likely have available for you to borrow. If not, and you’re just trying to charge a cell phone that uses a USB cable, plug the cable into the USB port on the hotel room television for a quick fix. Just turn the television on and voila: Let the charging begin.
Plug in! (Image: whatleydude)
Umbrellas and rain coats
Whether you’re heading to a destination known for being a bit damp or just encountered some unexpected rain, leaving your wet-weather gear behind can make for a pretty soggy vacation. There’s an easy remedy though (that doesn’t involve buying a new, low-quality umbrella or poncho from a street vendor). Ask someone at the place you’re staying or an employee at a local business if you can have one of their unused trash bags. Cut a hole in the bottom of the bag for your head and one on each side for your arms, and presto: a free poncho! If you’re worried about keeping your head wet, use a separate, smaller bag to make a plastic bonnet of sorts. You may not look stylish, but you’ll be dry.
Embrace the rain (even if you forgot your gear). (Image: tonythemisfit)
Makeup and makeup remover
Facing the world without makeup is usually a pretty tough task — at least for ladies. And it’s not much of a stretch to picture yourself leaving your entire makeup bag in a drawer in your bathroom, or that one product you can’t live without at home on the counter. If you’re taking an early flight or an overnight flight, you may not even apply makeup (and, in that case, may not even think very hard about bringing it with you). Fear not, makeup-less friends. Head into a makeup store or a department store with makeup counters, express interest in products you haven’t tried before and ask the consultants to apply them so you can get a sense of what they look like. Many consultants will even beat you to the punch and suggest a makeover. If you like one of the new products you tested, go ahead and make a purchase. If not, at least make sure to thank your consultant. Even if you’re not in love with the products you tested, you’re ready to join the world with a free makeover. If you forgot makeup remover, wash your face with mild soap, then try using a little bit of lotion or olive oil to remove any excess. (Just don’t get those items in your eyes.) Forgot perfume? Ask for a sample at a department store counter (the staff will give it to you in a tiny tube that’s travel friendly), or just enjoy going au naturel for a change.
Make do without your make up (Image: thamiress)
Some of us are prepared: We go to the bank ahead of a trip, grab some cash (in the local currency, if necessary) and tuck it away in an easy-to-reach area of our wallets so we can pay for things like cabs as soon as we arrive. Others of us are, um, not quite as organized. Thankfully, forgetting cash isn’t usually the end of the world these days, though you will want to remedy the situation by making a pit stop at an airport ATM — at least for an emergency stash. After all, you never know when you’ll need to give a tip or something will come up as “cash only” during your trip and you’ll be stuck without a way to pay. If you’re traveling overseas and need some cash in the local currency, an ATM is still your best bet. Sure, you may incur fees from your bank and the ATM issuing the cash (don’t skimp too much on your withdrawal amount for this reason), but you’ll still get a better rate than you would exchanging money, especially at airports.
Money, money, money (Image: Images_of_Money)
You may remember to take them every day, but did you remember to bring them with you? Forgotten prescription medicines can produce a pharmacy field trip for you, but the good news is that if you are in the United States and you have refills available at your home pharmacy, you should be able to call your doctor or your home pharmacy and have them transfer the prescription to a pharmacy in your destination. Problem solved. If you’re traveling overseas, check in with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to ask for advice. Or, better yet, if you purchased travel insurance, call the insurance company and see if they can help. It’s unlikely that the prescription can be directly transferred overseas since laws vary by country, but an insurance company or embassy contact may be able to help recommend a clinic or doctor who can evaluate you and write you a new script in your destination.
If your scripts slipped your mind, don’t panic. (Image: paul_lowry)
This one is, well, irreplaceable. But believe it or not, it’s quite popular to forget your undies on a trip. If you leave your unmentionables at home, you’ll basically have one of four choices: use bathing suit bottoms as a replacement (here’s hoping you remembered those!), go commando, snag some new pairs at a store, or wash the pair you’re wearing daily. It’s easy to quickly wash a pair of underwear in the sink with any kind of gentle soap you have available. Just hang them in the bathroom to dry overnight, or use a hotel hairdryer to speed up the drying process.
Forget your undies? (Image: superfantastic)
For many of us, our smartphones and tablets are like extra limbs, so we often have a hard time forgetting to bring them with us (if you do, perhaps it’s a sign that a digital detox is in order!). But headphones, on the other hand, have a unique ability to squiggle off into remote corners of our bags, pockets and drawers, meaning they’re out of sight — and out of mind — until we want to listen to some music at the airport or watch a movie during a flight. If you find yourself in this predicament, keep in mind there’s a good chance you can find an extra (free) set of headphones on the plane. Many airlines will provide passengers with free or cheap sets so they can take advantage of in-flight entertainment systems. Check in your seat pocket, see if the flight attendants hand them out before the flight, or if all else fails, ask a flight attendant if extra sets are available. Don’t forget to take them with you to use throughout your trip.
You’ll be happy to snag a free set of headphones if you forget your own. (Image: jdhancock)
Hotel room footwear
Turns out, many of us prefer to keep our tootsies covered when we’re strolling around our hotel room. Whether it’s a pair of flip flops or a pair of slippers, travelers tend to enjoy a solid layer between their feet and the floor when they’re kicking back. If you left your hotel room footwear behind, there are a few items that may help. While hotels frequently offer complimentary slippers to guests, shower caps (also given out readily) will do the trick. You may look a bit silly with shower caps wrapped around your feet, but if you’re desperate for hotel footwear, they’ll help. And they’ll double as protective rain gear for your regular shoes, too. Alternatively, the socks from airline amenity bags are also handy for wearing around the room.
Hotels often offer complimentary slippers for guests. (Image: _e.t used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Corkscrews and bottle openers
There comes a moment on most trips when you find the perfect spot to relax and you think to yourself, ‘Tomorrow, I’d like to sit right here and sip a [insert beverage of choice].’ It’s hard to remember to plan ahead for this moment and, unless you’re a regular old MacGyver, chances are you’re not carrying a Swiss Army knife (avec corkscrew) in your back pocket. Moreover, if you’re trying to travel on the cheap, ordering alcoholic beverages to the room is typically not your most budget-friendly option. So, you’ll probably scour your surroundings for a shop that sells wine or beer. Now comes the hard part: Getting those bottles open. If you’re at a hotel, corkscrews and bottle openers may be available. If not, give these tricks a try: In terms of wine, in the absence of a screw cap or a corkscrew, don’t forget that pushing the cork in will be just as effective as pulling it out. (Hey, we didn’t say this was classy.) Find an object that is only a little smaller around than the size of the cork and long enough to be able to go into the bottle a little bit (tubes of mascara often work well). Then, work your magic. You could also try this bottle-in-a-shoe trick. For beer bottle tops that don’t screw off, find a very sturdy, hard surface (it may get a little scratched, so make sure it’s not something like a counter or tabletop in your hotel room that can’t get damaged), line the cap up so the edge sits on top of the surface, then come straight down on the top of the cap with your hand to dislodge it. There are also plenty of hard objects (like keys and spoons) you can use to get up under the cap and loosen it around the edges.
Sometimes it is an emergency… (Image: haydn used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)