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Friday, February 14, 2014

Packing & Travel Tips! (From a former Flight Attendant)

I was a flight attendant for 8 years, flying both domestic and international routes.  To top it off, for 4 of the years I lived in an apartment with 10 other flight attendants and pilots, called a crash pad.  That meant you only stayed there the night before your trip, instead of a hotel (since you did not live in your base city, you were a commuter).  Which also meant that on every day off I traveled somewhere.  That's the benefit of having airline friends, you knew someone in almost every state, and we all just traveled back and forth to hang out with each other.  It was such a fun way to see all of this beautiful country.  Which gets me to my point.  I truly LIVED out of my suitcase for years. 

Over those years I, like all of my airline friends, have learned quite a few tips and tricks for packing, as well as favorite products and snacks for staying healthy on the road.  Because I just happen to be packing for vacation this week, I thought I would share some with you!

Now the funny thing is that even with all that practice I still start out packing for every trip like this, much to my husband's dismay:

I blame that on being a clothes freak.  It is just too difficult for me to pick out a handful of outfits to pack, at least at first.  My sweet husband reminds me how many days our trip is, and how many bags we now have to schlep (3 carseats! a stroller!  5 stuitcases, a diaper bag, and the boys' rolling onboard suitcases for snacks and games!)  Finally I narrow it down, throw the rest of the clothes back in the closet, and get busy packing.

My first tip is something you may already do, but I didn't start until a few years ago.  Roll your clothes and line them up in rows instead of stacking flat folded piles on top of each other.  There are three reasons:
  1. Clothes stay wrinkle-free
  2. You don't have to unpack when you get to your hotel, as you can clearly see all of your clothes instead of just the two pieces on top of the pile. 
  3. You can fit more clothes, (my favorite!)

Roll don't fold!

2.  Stuff those beautiful tall boots!  Fill them with socks and underwear, anything, but don't leave them empty.  Utilize that space.

3.  Always bring extra plastic bags for wet swimsuits.  It never fails, for some reason we are always swimming the morning of our return flight, this keeps everything else from getting soaked. 

4.  Invest in a bra travel bag to protect the shape of your bras from getting smashed.  Here's a good one-

5.  Wrap long, dangly necklaces in tin foil.  Lay the square of foil out, place the unhooked necklace over it, and roll the foil around it.  It's not glamorous, but nothing I've found has worked better than this in keeping multiple strands tangle free!

6.   For the rest of your jewelry, get a good travel jewelry organizer.  My husband bought me this one from Samantha Brown's line, and I love it. 

7.  Buy a suitcase scale.  If you're prone to over-packing (guilty!), this will save you from having to pay a fee for an overweight bag at check-in.  I bought this Camry one for under $12 here-

8.  Charger Cord Organizer.  I bought my husband one of these as a gift.  No more tangled piles of cords at the bottom of your bag, this is essential for keeping everything organized and tidy in your bag, so you don't have to dig through to find what you need.  http://www.amazon.com/Skooba-Design-Stable-Roll-up-750-360/dp/B009K1Q00O/ref=pd_sim_sbs_pc_4
9. Money bags!  If you are traveling to multiple foreign countries repeatedly, make up little bags of cash and coins specific to each country.  I found it very helpful to just grab the bag of whatever country I was headed to, instead of keeping all of my foreign currency combined.  Since I rarely ever exchanged money until I reached the hotel, this ensured I always had cash for tips or whatever else I needed quickly at the airport. 
10.  Vick's Vapor Rub.  No, not in case you get a cold.  Let's face it, the world can be a smelly place.  And an airplane can definitely be a smelly place!  This is another favorite flight attendant trick that helped me survive 14 hour flights to certain countries, that shall remain nameless.  Throw a travel size bottle of Vick's in your purse.  Should you be so unlucky to be seated next to someone that hasn't showered that day, or week (hey, it happens!), use a tissue to smear some of this on the inside of your nostrils.  You can thank me later. 

11.  If there's going to be turbulence on my flight, you can bet it's going to happen as I'm taking a drink of my coffee.  Shout wipes are a wonderful thing to have in your bag.
12.  Pocket sized electronic language translator.  My other gave me one of these when I was flying internationally and I loved it.  It was perfect for words and small phrases, and the fact that you could select which language you wanted meant you didn't have to remember to pack a country specific language book. 

13.  Pocket sized currency converter.  Also given to me by my mother, this was a keychain that I kept in my purse.  You enter the current exchange rate and the amount, and it gives you a U.S. dollar equivalent.  You can find a similar one here:

*You can find apps for both currency and language now, but it is nice to have a pocket sized gadget, as opposed to carrying your cell phone which you probably won't be using in a foreign country. 


1.  I love these homeopathic remedies from Miers Laboratories.  Great for international travel, simply chew one of the "No Jet-Lag" tablets on each take-off, one every two hours inflight, and one after landing.  Use the Trip Ease tablets for motion sickness, in addition to the tips below. 

2.  If you're prone to motion sickness, (and who isn't during a turbulent summer storm at 30,000 feet?), pack Ginger pills and Sea-Bands.  The ginger is just the powdered form of the root, two before a flight or boat ride help a lot.  Sea-Bands are little elastic bracelets that apply gentle pressure at your acupressure points at your wrist.  If you've ever suffered through 1st trimester morning sickness you probably know all about these!  They are very effective.

 3.  Another homeopathic supplement that has been life changing for me is these tablets called Restful Legs.  I am prove to Restless Leg Syndrome, and it gets worse from the change of diet while traveling.  These are the only thing that has provided me relief. 
 4.  For onboard snacks, keep it simple, but bring SOMETHING!  I can't tell you how many passengers end up very hungry on tarmac delays because they didn't have time to eat before boarding, and brought nothing from home.  Times have changed and if you're lucky enough to be on a flight with food, federal regulations prohibit the flight attendants from getting the carts out on the ground anyway.  My favorite food to pack includes:
  • Bananas (wrap in tin foil, it can bump around in your bag but will not get bruised!)
  • Clementines.  Mess free and easy
  • Nuts and seeds.  Make your own healthy trail mix with dried fruits and chocolate chips. 
  • Tuna packs.  Eat this in the gate area, not the plane, unless you want the evil eye from your seatmate!  But they are a quick source of protein on the go.  I actually think I lived on these for 2 years straight.  Grab a small packet of mayo and bring gluten free crackers from home, mix the mayo and tuna right in the bag.  This is perfect for the hotel room for in between meals when you are starving. 
  • This is my favorite 5 minute granola to bring.  I make a triple batch and divide it into Ziploc baggies for everyone.   I prefer it's 5 clean ingredients to processed, soy or whey filled protein bars, and it's crazy addictive.  http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-recipes/10-healthy-peanut-butter-recipes/slide/2
  • Instant oatmeal packs.  Normally I would avoid instant sugar-filled oatmeal like the plague, but when you travel you have to do the best that you can.  You can ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water to mix the packet with in the morning, but you can't boil steel cut oats on the plane.  A for effort, I say. 
  • Roasted Coconut Chips from Trader Joe's.  My sister-in-law got me hooked on these, and you can never have enough munchies on a flight.  Every friend who has sworn they hate coconut has loved these.  Mix in some chocolate chips for an even sweeter treat.  http://www.amazon.com/Trader-Joes-Roasted-Coconut-Chips/dp/B009D5XU3C
  • Chlorella Tablets.  Swallow a few of these when you're starving on the go (you can even chew them!).  Chlorella is a fantastic source of (complete) protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that really help keep your energy up when you're weary from being on the road.  I can find them at my local grocery store, or you can order them here-  http://www.amazon.com/Raw-Organic-Spirulina-1000-Tablets-500/dp/B004MGCFWO/ref=pd_sim_misc_8
  • Roasted Dandelion Root Tea.  This is my favorite flight attendant trick.  This tea is amazingly effective at getting rid of the bloat and puffiness that pressurized cabin air, as well as salty airport food and dehydration cause.  I always felt and looked 5 pounds heavier after a trip, but a few cups of this with a squirt of lemon was very helpful in flushing all of that out. 
  • Look for these dried soup cups in your grocery store.  I also like the brand Fantastic Foods.  They're very filling, and the stews with beans and rice contain on average 14 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber.  I use the hot water from the in room coffee pot to make them.  Just add water and let steep for 5 minutes.  Healthy and filling, perfect for when you arrive too late at your hotel room for dinner. 


  1. Awesome tips Courtney. We leave for Vegas on Thursday. My uncle, who is retired from United and a world traveler, taught me that trick for rolling your clothes When packing a suitcase. It works great! Have fun on your trip cuz! :-) Di

  2. Thank you, I think it works so much better too! Have fun in Vegas!

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