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Reader Question: What If I Forget to Pack Something?

what if I forget to pack something

It’s the source of most of my pre-travel stress and anxiety, and a common one for HPL readers, too: What if I forget to pack something?

No matter how long I’ve been traveling, every time I walk out that door, I can’t help but think I’ve left something behind.

But really, what’s the worst that can happen if I forget something?

Basic packing needs

Let’s start with the basics. If you forget your shampoo or soap or toothbrush, you will survive. All around the world, there are stores that sell the thing you forgot to pack. Just look for convenience stores, drug stores, or grocery stores to pick up your missing items.

If you’re staying in a hotel, ask at the front desk. Hotels often have a stash of items travelers regularly forget, like razors or toothbrushes. They can also point you in the right direction if you’re having trouble finding a store to purchase things that they don’t have.


Replacing clothing on the road depends heavily on where you are. Traveling to Europe? Not a big deal. You’ll find everything from chic specialty boutiques and thrift stores to big department stores in any reasonable sized city. So if you forgot to pack a pair of pants, you can easily buy a pair.

In some parts of the world, you might have a little more trouble finding your size, especially if you’re a little more curvy or a bit taller than the average local.

However, do keep in mind that whatever it is you forgot probably isn’t essential.

If you really do need something, get creative. Maybe you can’t find pants that fit you, but a skirt could do the trick for the length of your trip. Can’t find a bathing suit that fits? Go swimming in gym shorts and a tank top. You’ll laugh about it later, I promise.

No swimsuit? No problem. Wear a pair of gym shorts and a tank top.
No swimsuit? No problem. Wear a pair of gym shorts and a tank top.

Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare for a trip, you might blank and forget you need more conservative clothes in some countries. Only have tank tops? Instead of buying a bunch of shirts, buy one shawl or sarong and use it to cover your shoulders.

>> It never hurts to re-evaluate and hone in on your trip purpose in order to see what’s really important to you and your trip.


I know your laptop, iPad or Kindle feels like a must-have, but if you somehow forget to pack one of these tech items, embrace it.

Until the last 10-15 years, no one even had a lot of the electronics we use on a daily basis now, so you can certainly live without it for the length of your vacation. You might even find you enjoy your trip more without all the tech distractions.

no electronics needed for this view
No electronics needed to enjoy this magnificent view.

Possibly the biggest exception here is a camera. I would cry if I got to the airport and realized I somehow forgot to pack my camera. In that case, I think you have to decide if it’s worth the expense of buying a camera on the road so you can capture your travel memories. If you’re traveling with someone else, maybe this is one of the things you can share with your travel partner.

Medical necessities

If you have health issues that require daily medication, or even just-in-case things like an EpiPen, this needs to be the first thing you pack every time. Leave a sticky note on the back of the front door, or set a reminder on your phone. Having something you literally can’t live without means you simply can’t allow yourself to forget it.

don't forget
Make a note of what you can’t forget- yes, a physical note- and leave it somewhere you can’t miss!

But if somehow you do forget to pack your medicine? Your number one priority once you get to your destination is to find a doctor who can prescribe your medication. You might need to get in touch with your doctor at home to get a copy of your prescription (always good to travel with this anyway) along with an explanation for why you need the medication.

>>See why Her Packing List recommends traveling with travel insurance.

Outdoor gear

If your trip involves camping, hiking, or some kind of outdoor sport, hopefully you have all the gear you need. But if you do forget to pack something, look for an outdoor shop at your destination. Locations that are popular for these kinds of activities will often have nearby stores that will rent or sell you the things you left at home. You might also be able to share or borrow smaller things from other travelers depending on what you’re doing and where you are.

In general, you can live with a lot less than you think you can. Most items are good to have, convenient, or comforting, but not vital for your life. You can buy what you forgot once you arrive. And if it is something you can’t live without, like medication, well just don’t forget to pack it!

* * * * *

Challenge: What’s one thing you worry about forgetting to pack for an upcoming trip? Leave it in the comments below, but also tell how you’d try to cope without it.

Written by Ali

Ali Garland is a freelance writer, blogger, and travel addict who made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She enjoys travel planning, encouraging others to see the world, and packing carry-on only. She and her husband are expats living in Berlin. You can find Ali at Ali's Adventures and Travel Made Simple.

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Reader Interactions


  1. flo says

    Great post. I try to remember that forgetting to bring something, or leaving it behind is way better than losing it mid-trip.

    Also, unless you’re a professional, your camera is no exception.

    Try simply enjoying the moment and actively using your senses to remember it.

    Alternatively, buy a sketch pad and pencil.

    Also, if you must have a photo and don’t have a travel partner. Try asking fellow tourists/people with smartphones to take your photo and give them an email address to send it to you later. It’s a great icebreaker.

  2. Diane says

    Sometimes shopping for a replacement isn’t an option. I once forgot to take my contact lens case and solution on a camping trip and didn’t discover it until about 3am after a festive (ahem) evening around the campfire. Two plastic cups and drinking water saved me, but made for some irritated eyes that trip.

    Now I have a travel-size equivalent or duplicate for everything I need to get ready in the morning. I pack it the night before, then just use my at home items the day I leave on my trip.

  3. Patsy Bahrns says

    It seems every time we go on a vacation it is a last-minute thing and usually planned by someone else. Like to Vegas, FL or just over nite. I have the over nite one down, I keep a bag packed for that. When we go to Vegas or FL I usually have about two days to pack. So one day of getting clothes to wash and pack, then another when they decide what we are going to do. I finally got so I leave the bag for toiletries packed at all times. My mother taught me that. Thanks for the how-to pack by compacting.

  4. Sheryl Scheid says

    Passport! My SIL actually did forget hers, but fortunately she was staying the night at a hotel near the airport. We met her halfway and delivered it, I think that is the one thing you cannot forget for an international trip. I have a clear trip file folder that holds my itinerary, passports, and copies of boarding passes and tour tickets. That goes in my personal item, right on top and in my car ready to travel. It’s always the one thing I stress over.

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