6 Tips for Packing for a Long Trip When You’re Just Taking It On

Traveling is a big part of my life as an airline pilot. Having a simple filling system makes my life easy.

I am a self-proclaimed mobilizing ninja. While chatting with a friend about one of my family’s many trips to Europe, I mentioned that we each travel with only a handbag. She opened her eyes wide. “Really? How?”

As employees, when we travel, we are considered non-revenue travelers and we don’t always know if we are going to get on the flight. We don’t “check” our bags. Instead, we’ve created an easy packing system for a long trip using a single lap on board. Working for an airline gives us access to the world, and we use it! Here, I’ll show you how easy it is to pack a long trip with just one handbag!

Make sure your handbag fits! (Image source: Kristi Carsten)

1. Choose the right size

The Transportation Security Administration and US carriers determine the size of the carry-on baggage allowance, and you should have these measurements on hand when selecting your carry-on. Although exact limits vary by airline, allowed carry-on items generally cannot be larger than 22″ x 14″ x 9″. Most carriers also allow a personal item that can be placed under the seat in front of you.

Weight limits are another variable that gets brought up in this packing formula. Some airlines have a maximum hand baggage weight limit. I once heard a wonderful line from a flight attendant: “Pack it, lift it!” But it seems that there is always a passenger nearby to help lift the suitcase into an overhead bin in case a situation arises.

Pro tip: International carriers and low-cost carriers often shift away from this standard size, forcing you to pay extra fees for a hand baggage.

Handbag stored in the upper compartment
Newer aircraft bins are designed to store more bags upright. (Image source: Kristi Carsten)

2. Push or pull (but don’t spin)

Would you rather push or pull your bag? I prefer to pull My foldable bag. I have found this to be the most practical, useful and useful type of handbag.

Note that if you choose a Spinner, you will lose about 4 inches of valuable packing space due to the outer wheels. About the size of a large shoebox. This is because the wheels and handle must be within the measurement to meet the standard size requirements as a handbag.

Crew members do a deep research when it comes to buying luggage. My suitcase has wheels with interchangeable blades that light up, a durable soft-sided canvas construction, heavy-duty zippers, and a ballistic plastic frame with a retractable pull handle. I hang my personal bag on a “J-hook,” and my skateboard is perfectly balanced when it glides easily over the roller wheels.

The rolling bag requires you to put your personal items on top and use the handle to hold it in place. This makes the bag heavy on top, difficult to push, and requires a lot of effort to move around. Prices vary on baggage, from a $79 rollaway from Marshall to over $1,000 in Rimowa from Neiman Marcus. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. I prefer a soft-sided bag over a hard bag because it’s easier to stuff.

3. Plan, plan, plan!

To become a mobilization ninja, planning is the key to success. I will now share the art of packaging.

When packing for an extended vacation, every item in your wardrobe is important. Create a wardrobe that contains travel pods. A streamlined, carefully selected wardrobe with interchangeable parts. Neutral shades work best with other neutral colors, and splashes of color can be added with accessories, scarves, hats, or bags.

Before I pack, I lay out all my clothes and make sure that every piece fits my entire wardrobe. Clever packing can make a few pieces into many clothes! Making a list a few weeks before the trip is essential to planning. I reduce makeup to a few basic items. I don’t carry any hair electronics.

Depending on the season, I usually have one or two pairs of pants, two shorts, two tanks, T-shirts, a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket, and a dress in my wardrobe.

Pro Tips: Leave some at home, leave some in heaven

Consider traveling with clothes you’ll donate throughout your trip, freeing up space in your suitcase to fill up on clothes or souvenirs you buy on your trip.

Leave your hair tools at home. Most hotels offer a hair dryer. US flat irons and dryers usually don’t work internationally, even with our plug adapters. Many foreign countries use 220V, and we use 110V. Trust me, it won’t work! I’m speaking from experience – don’t be that traveler who blows up the hotel’s electric panel!

4. Roll, do not fold

I recently switched and I must admit that the draping method allows for more items in the suitcase as opposed to folding your clothes. It also reduces wrinkles. I stuff my underwear into any open crevice. Lay your nightgown, if you’re wearing one, over it, so when you get to your first hotel it’s easy to get a nap.

I’ve used filling cubes before, but for me, these cubes are hard to fill. Some people swear by it and even encourage clothes rolling in the cube. I will say that staying in one place makes sense, since you can drag and drop the cubes into the tray.

Pro tip: keep clean

Pack a thin, small face cloth as most foreign countries do not usually provide towels with linens. I also pack a small bar of hotel soap, shampoo and conditioner from my previous trips, in case there isn’t a place to go for that convenience. If you’re running out of space, it’s no problem to get rid of these.

5. On-board locker

I wear my biggest shoes on the flight, and I wear sandals and an extra closed-toe shoe in my bag. I wear the jacket on the plane because the cabin always feels very cold, which frees up space in my bag and acts as a pillow.

6. Personal bag

In addition to the handbag, it is allowed to put a personal bag under your seat. This bag is limited by size limitations as well: 18 x 14 x 8 inches. Some of the options are a backpack, carry-on, or cubed luggage. I’ve used all three during my travels but prefer a cubed luggage that easily clips onto the “J hook” hanging from the top of my suitcase. Multiple pockets make room for everything, and everything has room.

I have a sturdy stainless steel water thermos that fits in the side pocket. I keep all my personal items in this bag and never let them out of my sight. I also love the fact that it can be a great bolster for my feet if they get jammed into the coach’s seat. I fill any open area in my personal bag with healthy protein snacks.

Medicines, sewing tools, and other things a pilot puts in her hand luggage
Elements pilot Kristi Carsten is always in her carry-on (Image source: Kristi Carsten)

6. Tricks of the trade

I like to think of myself as a MacGyver, and if necessary, I can lift and fix something broken down the road. Here are some of the time-tested items I always travel with and surprisingly use on almost every trip. Most of these items can fit into pockets inside the bag:

  • Ziploc bags are useful for food, wet bathrobes, and broken toiletries
  • Bandages, two pairs of laces, and a small sewing kit
  • I bought a small 99 cent store cut plastic container and filled it with just about every over-the-counter drug and labeled the box. It’s small, slim, and fits the side wall of my bag.
  • I put sheets of laundry soap and a reusable grocery bag on the other side of the box because most stores charge for grocery bags.
  • I put a travel umbrella, papers, envelopes, plastic cutlery and copies of my passport in the side walls of a suitcase.
  • I have small zip pouches containing earplugs, eye masks, and a wand, as well as a small pouch for chargers and electrical sockets for different types of outlets.
  • An iPad with the downloaded movies in case the movie screen crashes on the plane.
  • Once I reach my destination, I use a small crossbody bag that fits easily in my suitcase.

Pro Tips: Sink Wash

If you must wash underwear in the sink, use Lazy Coconuts Laundry Sheets. It’s amazing, chemical free and does a great job! They are very thin sheets of laundry soap that are easy to pack and clean well! Then hang your clothes to dry using a trouser hanger with clips in the bathroom or window.

Passengers waiting for their bags in the carousel
Passengers wait and wait for their bags at the carousel (Image source: Kristi Karsten)

To check or not to check

No one wants to hear statistics about lost airline baggage or the nightmare that someone had on the trip of a lifetime without their baggage. Holiday gift time. Don’t waste an hour standing impatiently and staring at Luggage carousel for your bag to go out. Take your bag from above and go! On an international flight, you’ll likely be in front of your 300 fellow travellers at the customs line or taxi line while they’re still waiting in the carousel for their checked bags.

scan to boot

I like the ease and low pressure option to travel with my bags at all times. I can walk around and weave easily in and around the airport. Most importantly, I don’t take too much!

We hope these tips from this road warrior in the sky will help you simplify your next travel adventure. Book your tickets now and start packing!

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