Nothing sounds as simple as packing a suitcase for a trip abroad, however when you pack the same case week in week out, it becomes a skill worth learning to make sure you are comfortable and well prepared for whatever your journey brings. Generally speaking, you can perform this task with your eyes closed, but if you want to create a measure of comfort and ease about yourself in a world that has you visiting lots of different destinations with degrees of change and variety, the one thing you want to rely on is the fact that you can make it all that bit more comfortable for yourself wherever you may be. Packing is not new and we all have our preferences of how we get it done – these are my tips on how to pack with minimum effort and maximum efficiency for your career in the sky.
Plan your packing
Planning your packing supposes you have a plan of what you intend to do at your destination. This is a good starting point. While you don’t have to become a weather expert, keeping an eye on the weather can help prevent mishaps like packing for summer weather, only to land into freezing temperatures. The ground rule is only take what you need and see if anything you do pack can have a dual purpose. The idea is to get maximum use of what goes in the suitcase by using as little space and weight as is possible. You don’t have to become a clothes peg or a fashion icon but putting a bit of thought into what you intend to wear while away can help you match and marry your clothes choices without picking single use items and finding you run out of space. My top insider tip is to always pack your case three quarters full so you always have space for shopping or any other purchases that take your fancy.
In the spirit of the Boys Scout motto of always being prepared, it is a good idea to pack some items of a winter wardrobe, because you never know when a planned trip gets cancelled and crew control has you going to another part of the world with the opposite weather you were expecting.
I’m also a fan of the Guerrilla Warfare principle when travelling. Simply put, when fighting in harsh jungle terrain it was impossible for armies to bring everything they needed with them. They made do with what they could get hold of in the theatre of war…
So how does that apply to you packing?
Pack as best as you can, but realise you don’t have to take everything and the kitchen sink with you – leave stuff at home and buy what you need while away (not only will you be able to pack lighter, but you will also be contributing to the local economy). Often times it can also be an excuse to meet locals while exploring the local area.
Some of the simpler tips include:
Doubling up on certain items you use at home and away. For instance, I take supplements regularly so I always buy them in pairs, one for the bathroom cabinet at home and one for my suitcase. This means I don’t have to keep transferring items from bathroom to suitcase trip to trip, something I’m likely to forget to do when other things vie for my attention.
Choose a hard case or soft case – People often ask which is better. I prefer hard cases if it has to travel in the hold and soft luggage if I’m taking it into the cabin with me. The trick is to pack as few valuables in your hard case as possible and keep allowed valuables with you in cabin under lock and key.
A word of caution
When packing, depending on where in the world you may be it pays to check and make sure you are not “importing”any contraband goods into the country. When I say contraband I mean anything from paracetamol to magazines and much more. Local rules and customs must be respected by passengers and crew. Airlines themselves may have procedural ways of updating the crew on what the latest requirement is, but if not, the Foreign and Commonwealth website will normally have updated information on what is and isn’t allowed.
A true story for those of an excitable nature – don’t forget to pack for short trips. When I started flying my first night stop trip was a Dusseldorf split-duty (last trip out of London and the first one back early the following morning). We got into Dusseldorf and the crew decided to meet for a quick social gathering in the bar on the bus to the hotel. On getting to the hotel, I got my key, went up to my room to change and meet the crew downstairs. Imagine my disappointment when I opened my night stop bag only to realise in my excitement about my first night stop, I’d forgotten to pack a change of clothes! I didn’t make it to the bar, but the crew found it humorous the following morning.
Christopher Babayode is a former flight attendant of 20 years with British Airways, a specialist in Travel Wellness and healthy jet lag solutions for those who travel often. He is the author of Farewell Jet Lag, Cures from a Flight Attendant (on Amazon UK & US). Chris has been featured in the Sunday Telegraph and is a most -read author on Quora the questions and answers platform.
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