- Frequent fliers say there’s a strategy to packing for trips and fitting in everything you need.
- A flight attendant suggested asking yourself whether you need an item or just want to bring it.
For the first time since the pandemic started, I’m spending the holidays traveling to a handful of places, including California, Boston, Florida, and Las Vegas. While some are just weekend trips, for others, I’m on the go for over a month.
The first trip isn’t for a few more weeks, but I’m already trying to figure out how to pack for different climates and longer vacations.
To help make the process less stressful, I asked a handful of experts, including pilots and frequent fliers, how they pack and which items they can’t travel without.
Be strategic with your carry-on luggage
I always try to fly with only a carry-on bag — that way I don’t have to worry about paying baggage fees or losing my luggage.
But packing everything I want to bring on a trip often makes my bag nearly impossible to zip.
Tifsit Teferra, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant, said to be strategic with your carry-on luggage.
If you’re traveling during the winter and plan to pack bulky items like jackets, Teferra suggested laying them flat on top of each other at the bottom of the suitcase and rolling lighter items like T-shirts on top.
Wear the bulkiest items you want to bring with you, like a coat and boots, on the airplane, she advised.
Use packing cubes
Teferra said packing cubes can come in handy for organizing clothes not only while you pack, but after you wear them.
“When your clothes are dirty, you can use a packing cube to separate your dirty clothes,” Teferra said. This helps isolate dirty clothes so other items in your suitcase stay clean.
Pack only what you need
While it might be easier said than done, Teferra suggested that if you’re eager to pack light, first lay out all the things you think you want to bring with you, then have an honest conversation with yourself.
“Ask yourself whether or not you really need this item or if you just want to bring it with you,” she said. “If you need it, pack it. If you want it, don’t bring it.”
Follow the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule
Even if I’m just taking a weekend trip, I struggle to figure out how much to bring.
Daniel Green, a frequent flier who’s traveled the world and who founded a travel-insurance company called Faye, said he follows the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule: “Pack one hat, two pairs of shoes, three bottoms, four tops, five pairs of socks, and six pairs of underwear.”
While this method works well for a short trip, it can also work for a one- or two-week vacation, as long as there’s a nearby spot to do laundry.
Pack noise-canceling earbuds
Traveling can be unpredictable, and loud noises — whether they’re from other passengers on your flight or people outside your hotel — might surround you for longer than you’d like.
Duke Armitage, an airline pilot with 15 years of experience, said the No. 1 thing to remember when you travel is a great pair of noise-canceling earbuds.
“It will help you keep your sanity when things get rowdy,” said Armitage, the founder of Aviamonde. “Plus, you can find pairs that are under $50.”
Bring your own water bottle
Sarah Guerra, a former Delta flight attendant, suggests packing an empty portable water bottle if you get extra thirsty when you fly.
“As a flight attendant, so many people would ask me for water because they ran through the airport or had to take a pill. It was almost always when I was performing safety-related duties like the safety demo or final checks,” Guerra said. “Passengers would get so frustrated by the wait, and to be honest, sometimes I would forget by the time I had completed my FAA-required safety checks.”
Guerra said passengers can avoid buying expensive water at the airport by bringing an empty water bottle through security then filling it up at their gate. For packing purposes, she recommends a collapsible water bottle that doesn’t take up too much space.