9 Frequent Flyers Share Their Best Flight Packing Tips

Flying can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare, so it pays to prepare and pack a few things before you have to spend hours in the air.

To find out just what we need to prepare and pack, we have talked with 9 frequent flyers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 9 have years of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

The 9 Frequent Flyers

Matthew Bailey

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I always pack earplugs and an eye mask. For one, it really helps if you need to sleep on a plane but also, depending on your accommodation, it could come in handy there as well. Another thing we bring while traveling is a headlamp. Although they’re made for things like hiking, it’s surprising how often they come in handy, especially if you are doing any type of camping or outdoor activities. If you’re staying in hostels, it can also be a good way to find your things without waking everyone up.

One thing I stopped bringing is travel pillows. First, I don’t find them that comfortable anyways but second, they tend to get so dirty as you move around.

How do you bring things with you?

Well, it depends on the trip. If we’re backpacking for a while, we bring our big backpacks. I’ve had an Asolo branded bag since my first trip to New Zealand and Australia back in 2009. I walked into a store and this particular bag was on sale for $50! So, I bought it without hesitation. It’s turned out to be a great bag and the only hole it has was created by a rat that tried to chew through it and eat some salt I had bought in Peru. I patched that hole and the bag is as good as new. The only thing I wish it had was a front zipper for easier access to my stuff. The biggest hassle of a backpack, or of a backpack without a proper front zipper, is that every time you have to dig for something, you mess up all your packing skills. So, often times, I need to dump everything out and re-organize.

If we’re just going to one destination, such as Mexico to visit my wife’s family, we just bring a normal suitcase as we love not having to have it on our backs all the time. Aside from that, we always carry a normal size backpack with us, usually packed with things like our laptop, phone, books, writing pads, pens, and other things we need more often. I also recommend packing a small daypack. We have a North Face Verto 26 that rolls up very tightly when not in use. It comes in handy when you just need a few items while roaming a city. One thing I definitely recommend for a long-term trip though is to pack light. The last thing you want is to have heavy bags weighing you down, both literally and figuratively.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

Personally, I always write a list of what I need to bring. As I pack them, I cross off the list. I have a great memory but without a list, I’m sure I’d forget something. At the same time, as long as you don’t forget the really important stuff, you could always buy it when you get to your destination.

I always like to be prepared for the flight itself. I often don’t need anything but just in case, I pack a light snack, my earplugs and eye mask, layers of clothing, Tylenol or other pain relief, a good book or an e-reader, a notepad and pen, and any electronics I may need.

Also, when it comes to the trip itself, I see a lot of people planning everything in advance. This may make sense for a one-week vacation as you don’t have time to figure things out when you get there but if you’re traveling longer, try to plan minimally in advance. Maybe book your first cities accommodation but leave the rest until you get there. Book any important things that might be sold out but leave the rest to chance. Some of my best trips were the spontaneous ones. I would meet people who would invite me to try activities with them and I had the flexibility to say yes. If everything is booked in advance, you can’t do this. There’s something really fun and exciting about seeing where the trip takes you.

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Rob Burgess

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Nothing. You don’t need stuff. Unless you are attending a formal event then a smart casual look will deal with most occasions. Hotels have laundry – better to spend a few pounds having a shirt washed than pay to check in a suitcase (and then risk getting it lost).

How do you bring things with you?

I have a Prada tote bag which I picked up at an outlet centre about seven years ago, which I use for one night stays. It takes a 13 inch laptop and the few extra clothes and toiletries I need. For 2-3 night stays I have a Dunhill duffle bag that I bought about 12 years ago and which is still in excellent condition. It takes the extra couple of shirts I will pack for a longer stay.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

Get a smaller laptop. I bought an ultra thin 13 inch one last year, purely for travel, and it has been a revelation – partly because I previously used an old (in case of damage) 15 inch laptop which was about about 3 cm thick. Get a wireless mouse too if you don’t already have one – it is one less cable to pack. For one night away, you shouldn’t need a charging cable either.

Take the toiletry bag on the plane, plus any extra stuff, and then open it ASAP, throw away the junk (lip balm ….) and keep the rest for future trips. With a mini-toothpaste, mini-moisturiser and some fragrance samplers from your local department store you have all you need for a trip.

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Rand Shoaf

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • A dry bag or waterproof backpack to keep my gear, especially camera or electronics, dry in case I get caught in wet weather. Traveling with a waterproof duffel bag has saved my belongings from getting wet when my moved from under the bus to on top during an overnight trip in the rain.
  • Merino wool t shirts and socks. I find merino wool incredibly comfortable to wear, especially when it gets wet or you are sweaty. Plus, it doesn’t smell likely polyester or other synthetic fabrics. It also dries fast when you need to quickly do laundry.
  • Flip flops in my carry on. They come in handy when you have time to take a shower in and airport lounge.

Depending on where and how you will traveling a roller bag is almost useless. I’ve seen people trying to roll them down dirt streets in South America and Asia. In some cases, it’s just much easier to carry your gear in a backpack.

How do you bring things with you?

For carry on I travel with a Tumi Alpha 2 expandable carry on or a Patagonia Black Hole backpack to carry my laptop. I definitely have to consider what I’m going to pack with these smaller bags, but I can make it work for long-term travel when I don’t want to check a bag.

For checked bags I normally use a The North Face Base Camp Duffel bag, which is huge and super tough—I’ve never had anything break on it. The XXL size is absolutely huge and provides more than enough room.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

The biggest thing is trying to plan everything before you go. I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to stick to a stick itinerary and you really never know if you will like one place better than the next. Some of my best trips have been open-ended in terms of how long and even where I will go along the route. This lets things evolve as the trip goes on and you can easily alter your plans vs booking everything ahead. I also find it less stressful to not feel bound to a strict itinerary.

Don’t over pack. You can pretty much by anything you would ever need on your trip, it’s better to pack light to travel easier and buy something along the way if you find that you really need that extra gear.

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Jarrod West

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

The three things I bring that are the most helpful are a portable charger for my cellphone/camera batteries/anything else that can be charged from USB cable, a tripod, and a reusable water bottle.

The portable charger comes in handy almost every day as using your phone and camera for photos, videos, and navigation can drain their batteries quickly. A tripod is perfect for getting the perfect shot or video. Regardless if you’re using a DSLR or just your phone, there are tripods for all devices that help stabilize your shot and don’t scream, “I’m a tourist!” like a selfie stick that I see others carrying.

Finally, the reusable water bottle is perfect for just about everywhere I go. From plane rides where they just want to give you a tiny cup of water, to restaurants that want to charge you for each glass, having water with you when you need it can be a real lifesaver.

How do you bring things with you?

I travel exclusively with one piece of carry-on luggage and my backpack. My carry on is the 20-inch hard side spinner from AmazonBasics. I chose this because it had a really affordable price and dimensions are perfect for all European airlines, which can be pretty strict when it comes to your luggage. My backpack needs to be multifaced to fit all of my camera gear and any other supplies I’d need for the day. For this, I use the Evecase Canvas DSLR Camera Travel Backpack. I use this because the bottom portion unzips and has space for my DSLR along with 4 other lens compartments; the top half of the backpack opens up to give you room for your laptop and any other accessories you’d need for the day!

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

My biggest tip for frequent flyers is to get a travel rewards credit card! By far the two biggest expenses when it comes to travel are flights and accommodations. When you’re able to get these things for free via travel points it allows you to travel cheaper, farther, and longer! Most people’s hesitation for why they can’t travel is how much it can cost just to get somewhere new, well when you can do it for free you have no choice but to get up, get out, and start seeing the world!

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Scott Mackenzie

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I bring my own power adaptor, since many free adaptors do not work well. I also bring ear plugs to sleep with and my own eye mask, since the free ones provided are usually uncomfortable. Nearly anything else other than clothing is useless. It’s either available to borrow or can be purchased when you get there. Shoulder pillows, umbrellas, and any more than two pairs of shoes (one of which you should be wearing) is a waste of space.

How do you bring things with you?

I pack all my things in a Tumi Alpha carryon with two wheels. It’s a high quality bag that fits every overhead bin, and there are Tumi stores in most major cities to make free repairs if necessary. Bags with four wheels that swivel are a disaster since they don’t roll over cobblestones and take up extra space inside the baggage. Backpacks might work well for carrying your luggage, but they don’t maximize the dimensions of a carryon sizer, and they end up hitting other people on public transit. My bag has been with me for four years, and I always fit everything I need without expanding it, even on trips of two weeks or longer.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

I recommend packing as little as you can. Then, once you’re packed, take out two or three things. Trust me, you don’t need them. Most people overestimate, but a variety of blue and white shirts and grey or black sweaters can be rotated for days without repeating the same look. On longer trips, I’ll pay $50 or $100 for the hotel to do my laundry rather than carry twice as many clothes from the beginning. Socks and underwear can be expensive to launder, so I’ll sometimes just buy new ones.

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Andrew Bussa

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

My suitcase has a standard outfitting of things I will need for my trip. My quirks focus on what I keep handy while in air or airports.

• Sleep Kit: Earplugs and an eye mask come on every trip. Earplugs are great in airports and on board and an eye mask helps me sleep on flights of any length. On flights longer than 2 hours I bring along my Cabeau Memory Foam Evolution Pillow and a travel sized blanket. They help me relax even in new thin line airline seats.

• Bathroom Kit: This set of little things fit in an amenity kit bag. I take Charmin toilet paper, Charmin wet toilet wipes, and a single use toothbrush kit with floss. These few little things go a long way to help make a long flights or long connections relaxing.

• Extra ID: I do not want to be that person who left their driver’s license at security because I will need that on my trip and obtaining a replacement in California takes half a day of waiting in line. Instead, I have a state ID card and leave it in my backpack. I can lose that without needing to replace it or affecting my travels.

Bed pillows are clunky and not comfortable on aircraft. Don’t bother bringing one.

How do you bring things with you?

I always carry a The North Face Yavapai backpack and keep it loaded with my basic travel kit. My travel plans assume it will always be handy. I’ve hard it for seven years and it’s great.

My carryon bag is a Tumi Alpha Continental Carry On. It fits wheels in on 737’s and can hold two weeks of stuff. It’s well built and keeps my pressed shirts looking sharp. It does look like every other bag, so I added a bright bag to it. This replaced my Briggs & Riley carryon because my old bag needed to go into bins sideways on about half my flights and I didn’t not always find the space I needed.

My largest bag is a Briggs & Riley Baseline Wheeled Wardrobe. I expect it to last forever and the B&R warrantee will make that happen. I’ve never run out of room in this bag and it is brilliantly designed.

When I started travelling frequently, I used a cheap Macy’s bag and it failed in less than six months. I decided to invest in quality and I haven’t needed a new bag since. I have broken some bags, but the B&R warranty is unsurpassed.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

Have two travel mindsets. I used to travel as a business traveler worried about using the least amount of time on every step of the journey while racing the clock. It is a taxing mindset and not helpful on leisure trips or when time isn’t an issue. It’s nice to be able to flip that switch in case of irregular operations, but I don’t always race when traveling anymore. Checking my carryon bag simplifies my travel experience and I try to when time permits.

Print out your trip details. I do not like handing my phone over to desk agents or other people to share an address or confirmation number. They prefer paper too.

Keep your head down when seated and waiting to deplane. I prefer the over wing exit row, so half the plane leaves before I do. Every person could be faster leaving the plane. I stress out when I watch and analyze each passenger on how they are doing.

Be polite. Someone could be in a worse rush than you.

You don’t have the right to leave the plane before everyone seated behind you. If your carryon is in the bin aft of your seat, stay seated and wait for a break in the flow to go grab it. Don’t try to swim upstream against the flood of people trying to leave. It just annoys and delays others.

Always use headphones! I wish I could throw sets at people like a peanut vendor at a baseball game.

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Ariana Arghandewal

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I don’t bring a lot of stuff with me period, but I try to bring things that are portable and useful. This includes a portable battery so my phone is always charged, noise-isolating headphones for noisy flights, and a small drawstring bag. The drawstring bag is really perfect for long days of sightseeing, since it can fit all my essentials in a compact form.

How do you bring things with you?

I only travel with a carry-on and a laptop bag, no matter where I go. My carry-on bag is a Samsonite spinner and I think I got it on sale for $50. I’ve had it for about six years and it’s in great shape. I highly recommend spinners for people who don’t like checking their bags but also don’t want to drag a heavy bag around an airport. Spinners are easy to pull around since they have four wheels, and I’ve managed to fit everything I needed for three-week long trips. Pack responsibly and all you’ll ever need is a carry-on bag.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

Most frequent flyers are excellent packers, so I don’t know that I have unique advice to share. Pack less and enjoy your trip more. When traveling with non-frequent flyers, make sure you educate them on effective packing. Often times, their heavy luggage ends up (partially) becoming your burden. So pack light and make sure those who are tagging along do the same.

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Johnny Jet

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • I always bring multiple credit cards that allow me to get into the airline clubs and help me save money and time but also help me earn a lot of miles/points so I can fund future trips.
  • I rarely use cash anymore but I always bring is a pile of two and five dollar bills so I can tip housekeeping, bellmen and taxi drivers.
  • A travel journal so I can keep notes and track of where I went and information about my flights so I can write about them later for my website.
  • The most useless things I see people bring are expensive clothes. Leave the expensive stuff at home, it just makes you a target to thieves.

    How do you bring things with you?

    One of the most frequent questions I am asked is what type of luggage I use. If you subscribe to my free weekly newsletter or follow me on social media (@JohnnyJet), you know that one of my top tips is to travel with carry-on luggage only. I recommend this for a number of reasons: not having to show up to the airport early to check bags, not having to pay for checked luggage, not having to wait around baggage claim, having the flexibility to jump on an earlier flight, and having more flexibility to use public transportation more easily.

    Right now, I have a Briggs & Riley rolling briefcase and I put a Roots Duffel bag on top of it that has all of my clothes. Both have lasted me over 10 years. But I do feel like I have too little room so I rarely bring stuff home from a trip.

    What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

    I highly recommend that frequent flyers look into a rewards credit card that compliments their loyalty program. If they aren’t loyal to one airline or hotel the best option is to use a travel credit card that earns transferable points and receives a bonus on all travel purchases like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • Peppermint essential oil – this is amazing for nausea;
  • Travel laundry kit – I have saved so much money on laundry services by bringing this;
  • Sewing kit and super glue – this has saved me so many times!

I actually found that for me personally bringing my laptop on long trips was useless as my phone could do all the same things and I actually broke it on my last trip.

How do you bring things with you?

I have a 65-litre bag and a 15-litre backpack and a Travelon messenger bag I use as a handbag. So far they’re all holding up well.

What are your top tips for other frequent flyers?

  • Just book the trip!
  • Don’t over pack – you only need enough for a week no matter how long you’re going for.
  • Bring versatile pieces of clothing.
  • Bring a variety of things to keep you occupied – I have a diary, audio books and music on my ipod and the kindle app on my phone.
  • A good travel pillow is essential, as is a sleep mask and earplugs.

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