How to create the perfect emergency overnight bag!

July 29 | Guest post by Ellen
Leather overnight bag by EbbandFlowLeather

My boyfriend's job isn't a standard nine-to-five, and regularly takes him away from home overnight. He's great at packing in a hurry, travelling light, and running through his mental checklist. But none of those skills are any help when he doesn't get a chance to go home before he has to hit the road. Once he arrived at the office and was despatched off-site immediately — and then his day-trip turned into an overnighter.

When my boyfriend has to travel unexpectedly, he doesn't always have the luxury of stopping to buy a toothbrush and a change of clothes — and who wants to own six toothbrushes anyway? I hated the thought of him sitting in a hotel room with none of the comforts of home, so I created his emergency away-from-home kit!

Here are some tips to prepare yourself or your other half for unexpected trips.

What to include

Something to read. I wanted a book that he could dip in and out of — so no novels or taxing non-fiction. I chose QI: The Book of General Ignorance, but he has since replaced it with Does Anything Eat Wasps? Engaging enough to keep him amused, but easy to put down at the of his unscheduled trip and forget about until next time. If you're making a kit for someone who doesn't enjoy reading, a book of Sudoku puzzles might help the time go faster.

Mini toiletries like a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, mini deodorant, mini mouthwash. Raid the miniatures aisle in the supermarket — summer is a great time to pick these up.

A mini stick of sunscreen. My boyfriend works outdoors, so I couldn't leave this out, but it's not essential for everyone. Lots of companies make these in compact sizes — I bought a Moisuturising Mini Stick from Soltan, which is about the size of a lipstick and most major brands have an equivalent (sometimes marketed for kids). Space-saving win!

Handcream can be very useful for people working outdoors in cold weather.

Teabags (I packed some that were individually wrapped, but loose bags will be fine in a baggie), sachets of nice coffee or hot chocolate to make in the hotel.

Socks and underwear

A polo shirt. Polo shirts are smart enough for work, and doesn't get creased if it's rolled up tight.

Comb or small folding hairbrush

A note or a card

Over-the-counter meds like painkillers, plasters, or indigestion tablets, if they tend to use them.

I almost included a five euro note so he could have a drink on me while he was on the road. I decided not to because I knew that someday I would face a financial emergency, break into his kit and steal it back to buy a chai latte, which defeats the purpose a little.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 5.23.11 PM

What NOT to include

I didn't bother with anything that hotels usually include as standard (shampoo, shower gel, soap). But if you are making the kit for someone who favours a particular brand, it's nice to include those too.

Chocolate. I also put in a bar of chocolate that he could enjoy with his tea. Obviously it was going to melt after a few months in his car (and, since he is an engineer, it is reassuring that he figured this out) so he broke into his kit and enjoyed it while it was still good. If you do want to include a treat, something well-wrapped that doesn't melt would be a better bet.

Full-sized bottles of toiletries — if they break or open accidentally, the whole kit will be flooded.

What to put it all in

I bought a standard toiletry bag big enough to fit the book, and then crammed everything else in around it (the benefit of choosing a shirt that doesn't crease!). These often aren't cheap, so any bag or box that can be moved easily and that won't get lost among the detritus of the trunk of a car will do fine.

Keeping it cheap

You may be counting the cost of this on your fingers and wondering how much I spent on it — the answer is that it can be done on a budget. You can pack socks, underwear, a shirt and teabags or coffee sachets that you already own, decant toiletries into smaller containers, like the plastic containers used for air travel (just make sure the lids are on tight). Or pick up bargain miniatures in the supermarket at the end of the summer holiday season.

How to use it

Keep your kit somewhere you will always have access to it. My partner keeps his in the car, but he has had to train himself to remember to bring it with him if he's using a different car for work.

If you use something from the kit, replace it ASAP. If there is a feeling worse than thinking you have clean underwear and finding you don't, I don't want to have it.

Once the kit has been assembled, don't look in it. Especially if it has a book or some treats inside. When you're unexpectedly away from home, it's nice to have a small surprise to look forward to.

The emergency kit has been great and could be a real time and money-saver for someone who regular overnights away from home without notice.

Now the question is, what would y'all put in YOUR emergency away-from-home kits?

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  1. I've been doing this for years, although not for work reasons. I have four autoimmune diseases that are a constant disruption in my otherwise outgoing life. The leading issues I have are joint and muscle pain, plus extreme fatigue, so you can imagine that the idea of driving home late at night after a full day of hanging out with my more rural and suburban friends, could cause some problems. Years ago, I realized that if I didn't develop some kind of backup plan, I'd never go anywhere or do anything outside the city. I knew I'd start avoiding invitations and not really enjoy living my life out of fear of being stuck somewhere unprepared. You see, often times, I would be out visiting a friend and realize I just didn't have the strength to drive home at night. This made last minute sleepovers somewhat awkward. Enter the "go-bag".

    I keep a packed bag with a change of clothes, including underwear, bra, ankle socks and tights, plain black 3/4-length Tee, and black yoga-style skirt in my car. Everything I need for no matter what the next day brings. Nothing to wrinkle and all adaptable. This combination can be used for everything from a picnic to a night out. The bag also contains spare meds, toiletries (lotion, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush), make-up, hairbrush and elastics, safety pins, and even a little folding hair dryer. It's an all-in-one overnight tote that is always ready in case I am not able to make it home. The best part of the "go-bag" is that it gives me such peace of mind. That in itself staves off flare ups for me.

    8 agree
    • Kristen, your go-bag sounds fantastic, some great ideas there! I love how the clothes you included are so versatile. And I love my folding hairdryer – it got lost earlier this year and I was utterly chuffed when I found it again.

      1 agrees
  2. How do you keep the deodorant from melting??

    I live in California, and it's often quite warm in my car by the end of the day, even in winter. I've ruined several kits because the deodorant I chose melted all over everything…..

    Maybe I chose a bad brand? Or should put that in a baggie? Or…….?

    • Casey, I chose a spray deodorant (not very environmentally friendly of me. . .) and I live in Ireland, where it rarely gets hot, so I don't have many constructive suggestions for this one.

      A baggie could work. Some brands used to make 'cream' deodorants – they came in a container shaped like a mushroom and had a texture like heavy moisturiser. To dispense them you turned a little wheel at the bottom of the container. They're incredibly hard to find now – whenever I see them I buy about five of them – so if you see them anywhere I recommend giving them a try.

      3 agree
      • Spray deodorants aren't really an environmental issue anymore, since CFCs aren't in them these days.

        4 agree
    • I live in DC where the summers can be a brutal 90-100 for several months, not counting wilting humidity). I keep Secret solid in my bag. It's never melted. I don't know if it's the brand, the form, or a combination that does it, but I've never had an issue with it melting.

      3 agree
  3. I did this when I commuted over an hour for work. I live in the North Eastern US and the winters are brutal here. I never had to use it, but I kept several bags of supplies in the car just in case I couldn't drive home or got stuck in a snow storm. For this reason, I also included some blankets, hats, gloves, and some snack items just in case I couldn't leave my car.

    7 agree
    • I also have this, being from New England myself. Mine includes a towel; my workplace has a shower since we are often required to stay put during storms. And a pair of keds-type sneaks, in case I have car problems while wearing heels.

      1 agrees
  4. I need to do one of these for our car trunk. I am generally one of those uber-prepared people, and we have emergency supplies (for real emergencies) in the car, but not 'what if we just have to crash somewhere for a night' supplies.

    You have inspired me to put together a little plastic box with a basic toiletries, underwear and clean shirts, etc. for the car trunk. !

    1 agrees
    • I'm glad to have helped – good to know you're sorted for the real emergencies already!

  5. Great idea!

    It's an expensive item, but maybe add a spare cell phone charger to your kit!

    4 agree
    • I was going to mention this. If you have a car charger that can help solve the problem. It would just have to be something you moved along with the kit if you are taking a different car. Another tip for people who have this because of their commute/bad weather, do some hotel research and find one that matches your budget/comfort needs and make sure you have their phone number handy so it is easy to double check availability on short notice. When I was younger my mom only had to drive 20 min to the next town for work but it was over a mountain pass that is notorious for dangerous and icy conditions in the winter. She did this and it made her feel safer as well as the rest of us in the family.

      3 agree
      • If you can get one, get the kind of charger you can hand crank or has the little solar panel on it, because if your car is stuck you do NOT want to be running down your car battery. Alternatively, they have the kind you can stick a few regular batteries in to give yourself some bit of charge. The best kind, often come in those little weather radios (which will also give you emergency information if you're stuck somewhere.)

        1 agrees
  6. A cheap USB charging cable for your phone might be a compromise if a full charger won't fit. You may not be able to borrow the right charger, but anyone with a computer will be able to give you a few minutes charging time from a spare USB port.

    2 agree
    • Very true – I take one of those everywhere with me, and thankfully the same charger works for my phone and Kindle!

  7. I've made overnight supplies part of my car emergency kit (NE winters) too, and it's saved my butt even on sunny days when I spontaneously want to stay over somewhere (which is nice for parties if I decide I want to drink more than planned). This may be stating the obvious, but I make a point of having a FULL box of tampons in my bag. I've been SO thankful to have them in my car more times than I can count after running through my purse supply, or if a friend is desperate.

    1 agrees
    • That's a great idea. I also carry a packet of tissues with me all the time because a local cafe that I love is always out of TP when I use their bathroom. Tissues can be a lifesaver.

      I forgot to mention antibacterial hand gel or wipes – also very useful on the road.

  8. I'm loving this idea. My husband has a tendency to either pack too far ahead or pack really late so having an unexpected away kit for him would be really useful.

    Now to find a polo shirt that doesn't make my biker dude gag.

    1 agrees
    • Get him a black, short-sleeved button-up (not just polo but full-button-down) shirt that has a texture to it–like a linen-look or even actual linen, especially one that looks like of wrinkly naturally. Then fold and roll it up in the direction of the texture so that any wrinkles will look intentional. Alternatively or additionally, a black collared Under Armor-type active-wear fabric shirt. I have one of each for my metal-head, and even if the active-wear one isn't QUITE his style, he doesn't mind it much. And they both look great under the black leather biker jacket!

      3 agree
  9. I love this. My husband has special food needs, so we've begun putting together a kit of disposable dinner ware in the car and a foldable cooling bag. It makes out of town trips so much easier, since instead of searching for an inexpensive restaurant to meet his needs, we can just hit the local grocery store and have an impromtu picnic.

    2 agree
  10. I used to be a bit of a nomad, I had friends who lived all over and enjoyed going visiting and staying the night. The number of times I would stay over with a boyfriend or lover when I hadn't intended to was getting a bit ridiculous, so I just started keeping a small toiletry bag and a couple extra sets of clothes in my car. LIFE SAVER! No more awkward walks of shame in half-assembled club outfits when going into the diner for breakfast at 2pm. It became quite handy when I was homeless for a while, too! Everything was already assembled for carrying into someone's house for a quick shower before work or freshening up before going out for an interview.

    3 agree
  11. I'm a little late to this but I just wanted to mention something I do. I go to school across the country from where my family lives so when I fly and have to stop in a hotel I carry some packages of instant oatmeal with me so that if I get in really late to a hotel and don't feel like heading out to find a restaurant I can make some oatmeal with the coffee maker in the room by making a cup of hot water and adding the package to that.

    1 agrees

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