Last Minute Travel Tips & Tricks

July 15, 2015

Traveling last minute can be exciting but stressful if you are not prepared. Most of my traveling experience has been last minute so I have come up with a lot of little tricks over the years to make packing and getting out the door a little easier.

Last Minute Travel

Be Prepared For Anything

I always keep a carry on suitcase in my room with most of my essentials besides clothes and makeup. Literally always – whether I am planning to travel soon or not. Having most of your essentials already packed and ready to go really saves you time and worrying about forgetting anything. Some of these last minute travel items include:

  • Headphones
  • My passport
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Eye mask for sleeping
  • Phone charger
  • International outlet converter
  • A copy of my passport, drivers license, and insurance card for emergencies
  • Cortizone Cream (This can seriously be a life saver for unexpected mosquito bites!)
  • Ibuprofin or other over the counter medicine you might need
  • Face wash & a small wash cloth (I like to wash my face after a long flight)
  • Any other toiletries

These types of things sort of just live in my suitcase. I never unpack them in between trips so I never need to repack them!
Last Minute Travel

Pack Light & Bring Basics

Packing light can make traveling so much easier. I hate lugging around a giant suitcase so I always travel light. My usual bags include a carry on suitcase, a backpack, and maybe a purse or my ukulele. I went to Europe for three weeks with only a carry on and a backpack so if I can do it, you can do it! It makes getting around so much easier and if you pack smart you can bring everything you need. Try packing clothes that you can mix and match – basics are great. I try to bring one color scheme of clothing so that most tops match with most of my jeans, skirts, or shorts. Dresses are also great! Neutrals are key and you can accessorize in so many different ways! You really don’t need as many outfits as you think 😉

Last Minute Travel

Cash Out Ahead of Time

Traveling to another country? Go to your local bank before you head to the airport for a currency exchange of the country you are traveling to. Most banks will have euros and other basics and will give you the best exchange rate. It is better to have some cash on hand than getting ripped off using the airport exchange rates or needing cash and finding yourself out of luck. It will be especially useful for things like bus or train fares when you first arrive. I like to look up how to get into the city and around town using public transport because it can really save you some money. Be careful of things like gypsy cabs that will majorly rip you off. If someone seems a little too helpful it may be a red flag. Just make sure your form of transport is a safe choice! Don’t be too trusting because people will try to take advantage of tourists.

Last Minute Travel

Use Kayak to Find Last Minute Flights

Finding a ticket last minute can be a nightmare. Flights have filled up and prices can be through the roof. I have always found the best luck using the Kayak app or website to find good deals. There are some great discount airlines out there that can save you a big chunk of money if you know where to look. I have flown from Sydney to Honolulu for $400 and from Paris to New York for under $600. These amazing deals were both same or next day flights and were both found on Kayak.

Tip: If you are traveling on a budget airline check to see if the flight includes things like meals. My flight to Honolulu was an incredible deal but did not include dinner, entertainment or even coffee. I ended up starved and scrambling to make a meal from their sad food selection because I didn’t have a proper dinner before the 10 hour flight. It is probably best to bring your own food on these types of flights or at least check ahead to know what to expect.

Last Minute Travel

Bring a Paperclip

Yes you read that correctly. Why, you ask? SIM cards. If you have ever travelled internationally you know that dealing with cell service can be a pain in the butt. I always like to purchase a SIM card while on travel so I can still answer emails, call home, and post my travel photos on Instagram. Many phones have a little hole on the side of the phone that is used for ejecting SIM card holders. You can swap your SIM card out by using a paperclip to eject the holder. The phone stores can swap it for you but I like to have a paperclip on hand to re-swap the card when I land back home. It just makes life a little easier.

If you are planning on getting a SIM card while traveling, get it at the airport. The prices shouldn’t be more expensive than regular stores and you will have nearly uninterrupted cell service. It really makes things easier if you can use Google Maps while trying to find your hotel. Or you can use it to find a hotel after you land!

Tip: If you choose to get a SIM card in a foreign country, your new phone service may send you activation texts with steps you need to follow to set up your new data or cell service plan. The problem is that these texts are often in a foreign language depending on the country. Use Google Translate to translate these activation texts and make sure your phone is set up correctly. When I went to Greece for the first time I got a SIM card and my activation texts were in Greek. My phone seemed to be working so I just ignored them. Turns out I needed to reply to activate my service and I ended up blowing through my prepaid money in 20 minutes. I had to go buy more data the next day all because I didn’t activate the service correctly. These little details aren’t crucial but can make your last minute travel smooth and stress free.

Last Minute Travel


Finding a hotel last minute can also be a nightmare. There have been so many times that I have booked hotels while on my flight to my destination or once I have already landed in the airport! Many hotels have booked up or are ridiculously expensive at this point. I have found some great deals via search engine or Airbnb, but Hotel Tonight is another great hotel app designed specifically for last minute hotel deals! This app/website can be life saving and the prices usually go down as the day goes on. Be sure to read the fine print before you book a room to avoid hidden resort fees. I also like to read the reviews within the app but also check the latest reviews on Trip Advisor to make sure its a decent place to stay. I would definitely check around to find the best hotel for the best price, but Hotel Tonight can be a great tool to use in a pinch.

Last Minute Travel

Find Insta Inspiration

Traveling to a new city last minute can be really exciting. I always try to find the coolest places to go and things to see but sometimes search engines only bring up cliche touristy results. I like to use Instagram for travel inspo because you can explore and discover some really incredible places that aren’t on those “Top 10 Things To Do” lists. You can search by using hashtags or geolocations to see where people have gone and explored. I also use Instagram when looking for last minute places to go! There are so many amazing photographers that post unique and interesting travel photos that make you want to get on a plane tomorrow.

Traveling last minute can be very stressful but these tips and tricks will make your day and your trip a little easier. Traveling is about the journey so it’s best not to get caught up when things go wrong. I have gotten ripped off, missed trains, been stranded with no service or no place to stay, but always focused on the positive and have experienced some pretty incredible last minute trips. I learned each and everyone of these little hacks through trial and error and they now make traveling last minute a breeze. It is really quite exciting to spontaneously hop on a plane to some place new! I love the adventure of it all.

Have any last minute travel tips? Thinking about taking a spontaneous trip? Let me know below!

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