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Five Worst Packing Problems

Packing Problem #3: You Left (Insert Essential Item) at Home

PassportAs you are pulling up to the airport, it hits you like a ton of bricks: you've forgotten your cell phone charger, raincoat, guidebook, wallet or some other item that you need or want to use on your trip. Don't panic. Have you forgotten an item of clothing or an electronic device? It's time to think positive and maybe even treat yourself to something new at an airport shop if you're feeling upset. Or be brave and go on without your favorite possession. (You may even be better off finally breaking your smartphone addiction!)

We probably don't need to tell you to turn the car around the second you realize that you don't have your passport. But if you've arrived at the airport with only a few hours before your flight, not enough time to get home and back, and without proper identification, you're going to miss your flight. If you're traveling to any international destination, including Canada and Mexico, there is no way you're getting on a plane without a passport.

So now you've missed your flight. You still have a chance to save your vacation. Stop crying -- everyone is staring. First, go to your airline's check-in desk and try to get on the next flight. If you're already on your way home, pull over the car and call your airline. Airlines' policies on missed or canceled flights vary, so you may find a sympathetic ear or you may end up paying full price for a new ticket. For more information on what to do if you miss your flight, read Four Common Travel Disasters and How to Prevent Them.

Packing Problem #4: Your Luggage Breaks
broken suitcase luggage

I've never seen a suitcase explode in the middle of the airport, although I've often envisioned this scenario after stuffing my rectangular bag so tightly that it ends up in the shape of a ball. We live in reality, as opposed to an animated cartoon world, so the worst thing that could happen to your overstuffed bag is probably a broken zipper, which may or may not produce a gaping hole with your underwear hanging out. Are you no longer carrying a suitable suitcase while traveling? Here's what you do:

Proper preparation is the best way to handle this situation; duct tape should be at the top of your must-pack list. But if you forgot your trusty tape and your bag has a gaping hole, find some tape! Whether you're at the airport or you've already arrived at your destination, search for shops that may have or sell tape, find help at your airline check-in counter, talk to your hotel concierge or even ask around to see if any fellow travelers have some duct tape to spare (someone will, trust us).

A broken bag is the perfect opportunity to use those arts-and-crafts skills you learned in grade school. Is your zipper tab broken? Hook a paper clip through what's left of the zipper (ask any store cashier for a paper clip if you don't have one). If the situation is dire and your bag is non-functional, ask a store employee for some plastic bags in which to pack your things until you can get to a place that sells luggage.

Poll: Which Travel Mishaps Have Happened to You?

Packing Problem #5: Something Spills All Over Your Stuff

One good thing about the TSA's 3-1-1 rule is that it forces travelers to store their carry-on liquid items in plastic bags, thereby preventing any spills from staining sweaters and dresses. But your checked bag may be a different story. If you neglect to pack your liquid items in plastic bags or to bring a travel-size stain remover (which you should always do), the rough-and-tumble ride from check-in counter to baggage claim may result in punctured plastic containers or broken bottles.

Something Spilled

Is your favorite cashmere sweater slathered with costly face cream? Stay calm. Your clothes may or may not be ruined, depending on what has spilled and how long it's had to set in. Heat sets stains, so don't dry your stained clothes with a hair dryer or use hot water on them. If possible, bring your clothes to a professional cleaner. Or, if you're staying at a hotel that offers laundry service, ask the staff to clean off your clothes. You may have to purchase one or two new clothing items so that you don't go naked while your clothes are being cleaned (but who doesn't love an excuse to shop?).

Travelers who are in developing countries or places where there are no dry cleaners should roll up their sleeves and get to work. Don't have access to a stain remover product or detergent? First, flush the stain with cold water. Dab, don't rub, so that the stain doesn't spread. Dab stains with white vinegar, a great natural stain remover, and use dishwashing soap diluted with water, which effectively removes most stains (ask the hotel kitchen staff if you may borrow some vinegar or dishwashing liquid). Before you submerge any stained item in a basin of water, press a towel against the stain to make sure that it doesn't easily come up; if it does, it could color the water and stain more of the fabric. Dry sweaters and delicate pieces by rolling them in clean towels and then hanging them on hangers or the shower curtain bar.

You May Also Like
What Not to Pack
Interactive Packing List
The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time
Choosing the Right Travel Luggage
Write About Your Latest Trip
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--written by Caroline Costello

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