Pilots Share Their Travel Packing Tricks

Dacy Knight

With the holidays quickly approaching, you likely have a lot of impending travel. Unfortunately, especially when traveling around the holidays, you're almost guaranteed a headache from overbooking, flight delays, and undesirable seating companions. One thing you do have control over, however, is how you've packed your luggage, so erase this headache from the get-go.

Packing has the tendency to create a lot of unnecessary stress, especially minutes before you leave for the airport or once you're en route and remember you left behind some key items. In many ways, packing is an art that even years of practice might not properly prepare you for. It seems that time and time again we overpack, forget our toothbrush, or bring accidental stowaways that get confiscated in security. So who are the experts who've racked up even more miles than the most jet-set frequent flyers? Those flying the planes, of course. To improve our packing prowess for all the travel that lies before us, let's take a cue from pilots and how they pack light, smart, and effectively—like it's their job.

Before the holiday rush begins and you have bigger travel concerns to worry about—like 15-hour layovers or getting rerouted through another city nowhere near your destination—check this stress-inducing item off the list with helpful packing tips from pilots.

Rely on multifunctional items. When packing, choose items that can pull double duty. For example, bringing anything your phone can already do (act as a point-and-shoot camera, GPS, or flashlight) is redundant and wastes space. The same goes for clothing. Be sure not to repeat items that share the same purpose, and curate pieces that can be worn casually or easily elevated with the right accessories. This will help prepare you for any occasion that arises (rather than packing an entire outfit for every possible dress code).

Pack three pairs of shoes. Sylvie Benjamin, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot based in Honolulu who has been flying since 1996, tells Condé Nast Traveler, "I always have one pair for walking/exercising, one dressy pair, and flip-flops to avoid direct contact with the room carpet." This formula works for whichever kind of trip you're planning.

Wear your bulkiest pieces. Benjamin says she wears items like her boots or coat when traveling to avoid wasting precious space by packing them. KLM pilot Jonathan Franklin advises that whatever you wear on the plane should also be something you make good use of on your trip. Even if you're departing from an icy location, try to keep the heavy outerwear to a minimum if you're traveling to a tropical paradise.

Have some packing tips of your own? Share your wisdom with us in the comments, and then shop the things our editors never travel without.

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