En español | It happens to most of us at some point: There's an emergency, and you're needed right away — by your college student, your elderly parent, your friend. Here are some things to keep in mind so you can move quickly and efficiently.
Pack yourself a small bag and keep it close at hand. What's in it? Miniature soaps, shampoos and other sundries you collected from your last hotel stay, plus whatever amount of cash you might need to get to the airport or train station. If you're driving, don't forget money for tolls plus an accurate map or a GPS device. Have a car kit prepared and in the trunk for roadside problems.
Keep a list in your prepacked bag to remind you what to collect as you walk out the door: your wallet, medications, electronic devices and chargers. Use the list to remind yourself where to find important documents (passport and power of attorney: file cabinet in den, middle drawer). Put in a spare pair of glasses or contacts, and a book to read or crossword puzzles to work.
If you'll want to take advantage of frequent-flier miles, hotel honors programs or car rental deals, keep all those numbers together in a notebook. Or look into electronic wallet apps such as Personal.com's Fill It and Apple's Passbook, which allow you to have just that kind of information at your fingertips. Don't forget important phone numbers — especially the ones you know might be difficult to remember when you're under stress.
For clothes, follow the "rule of three": three bottoms and three tops, all of which can be mixed and matched. That will give you nine outfits. Make sure you have appropriate shoes, up to three pairs. You can save packing space by wearing layers and your bulkiest shoes while traveling.
Finally, have a backup. Think of a friend, coworker or neighbor with whom you can form a pact "just in case." This is the person who can take care of your pets and tend to other household needs while you're away.
Consider signing up for the Transportation Security Administration's Pre-Check program. You have to pay a fee, but you'll get through security checkpoints faster, and you won't have to pack as carefully. Pre-Check travelers can keep liquids in carry-on baggage, for example. Go to the TSA website for more information.
When you're booking a flight, remember that some airlines (Delta, American and United, for example) offer as much as 20 percent off on "compassion fares." Depending on the discount, however, you might find better prices on last-minute fare sites. Compassion fares often take discounts off an airline's highest fares, so in the end, even an adjusted fare may be higher than lower online fares elsewhere. Use a website such as Kayak.com to compare prices offered by different airlines. If you have more than one airport nearby, check flights from multiple locations — Kayak makes this easy as well.
If you're already on a trip when an emergency occurs, travel insurance can help soften the impact if you need to cut a trip short. Look for plans that include a trip-interruption option or that cover you regardless of the reason for cancellation.
So be prepared! It doesn't take much forethought, and you'll avoid a lot of the stress that comes with emergency travel.