Behind every good traveler is an organized bag
Even if that bag is more like “organized chaos.”
When you find yourself in the air a lot, whether as a flight attendant like myself or a road-weary frequent flyer, you get pretty dang good at packing and unpacking that suitcase of yours. Whatever the location, length of time, or type of weather, you can have a bag ready in about 3 minutes flat and not even break a sweat.
Whether you’re looking for ways to up your efficiency as a mileage collector, or you just want to know how to cut back on the overpacking, this one is for you.
My ultimate secret for making packing a breeze:
As a flight attendant, I obviously travel a lot for my job, but over time I’ve also gotten pretty good at traveling for all kinds of circumstances.
From work to play, I can get a realistic idea of what I will actually need for a trip and pack only that.
My secret? A few key things that never leave my suitcase. And I mean never.
1. Basic toiletries
This one seems, well, basic; but it will change your travel game. If you’ve ever gotten to a hotel after a long day and found you forgot your toothbrush/ contact solution/ face wash/ hairbrush, you know the pain.
The toiletries you use every single day – Buy two of them. One set lives in your bathroom, and the other set has its own bag and lives in your suitcase.
Get a dop kit and do not take anything out of it to use at home. Ever. It belongs to the roadie version of you now and that would be stealing. Don’t steal from Roadie You.
Stick to this one and you will never go without deodorant on a flight ever again. And the world will thank you. 🙌🏼
In my carryon I keep a small packing cube for some of life’s essentials: socks, underwear, and for the ladies, a sports bra. Just one or two of each will do because this is your emergency backup.
When you pack your bag for a weekend, for example, add a couple more pairs of underwear. But when you get back home and unpack, one or two clean pairs stay in the packing cube and will live there until your next trip.
The sports bra is an optional addition, but after one experience of being caught in the rain on a layover in Brazil, getting soaked to the bone just 10 hours before I had to work the long flight home in a bra that looked like it had been dragged out of the ocean, I was very thankful for my clean and dry emergency sports bra.
3. A small tote, backpack, or purse
After a few too many times of arriving at a layover and wanting to explore, only to realize I forgot to bring a purse, I marched on down to H&M (I know, fast fashion, bad example) and got the most packable and moderately sized all-black faux leather crossbody that money can buy.
Seriously, for about $10 you can find a decently stylish and discreet bag that can go from daytime exploring to evening cocktails in a pinch.
The main points to hit with this one:
- Size (stay small, just big enough to fit essentials such as your phone, keys, wallet, passport)
- Adaptability (neutral colors are best so it can go from day to night)
- Packability (avoid anything too structured so it can ideally lay flat at the bottom of your bag)
- Security (get something with a zipper or closure to keep it adventure-proof).
Not a big purse guy? Get a packable backpack like this one.
4. Chargers & adapters
Pretty straightforward; I have a designated pocket inside my carryon where a charging cable for my phone lives.
I use it in hotels, and then it goes back in its pocket. After a few times of moving my charger back and forth from my bedside at home to my suitcase and losing a cable or two in the process, this was an inevitable solution.
Keeping extras like these in a designated place can save you some major travel headaches.
Along the same lines, I also keep an international/universal adapter inside my bag at all times.
This one is a little different for flight crew purposes since we can be called away for domestic or international at any time; but if you travel internationally more than once per year, this may be a good one to consider.
Last but certainly not least, the one thing you can not travel without is an ID. You can get home without luggage, but you would have a really hard time getting home without some form of identification.
For me, this means I keep my passport in my carryon. You’re probably catching on by now: it has its own pocket, and it never, ever leaves that pocket except when in use.
Make it even more fun to carry by keeping it in a passport cover; I love mine from Béis (we aren’t an affiliate for them, just love their bags and travel accessories so much!)
Whether or not the current trip is international, if you have a passport it will count for just about every ID purpose possible, other than operating a vehicle.
Checking in for your flight? Passport. Going through security? You already know. Out for drinks? Flash it at the bouncer.
If you don’t have a passport, some states will allow you to possess a duplicate copy of your driver’s license. In all states, you can obtain a state ID.
If you do have a passport, you can also get an additional government ID by applying for Global Entry and paying a fee. It’s a small card the same size as a driving license and qualifies as a photo ID.
Whichever route you go, keep one government-issued photo ID in your carryon bag always; and make sure it doesn’t live in a bag that you plan to check!
The bottom line
At the end of the day, the thing that will make your travels as easy and stress-free as possible is staying organized.
Keeping the most important things in designated places will give you a sense of order and confidence while traveling, and will help make packing a breeze instead of a chore.