In more than two decades of travel, I've packed hundreds of times and flown hundreds of thousands of miles. With all those WiFi-less flights, I have had time to iterate on my travel strategy (if you can call haphazardly planning a strategy).
If you are looking for ways to improve your airplane travel experience, I've included my favorite tips to foist on unsuspecting friends and coworkers like how to get more out of your suitcase real estate, avoiding a rat's nest of electronic cables, and how to look fresh-faced (and hydrated) after a long flight.
Packing is a necessary evil of travel. Whether you pack two hours before your flight or two days before with a checklist, you can improve your experience with a couple of additions to your travel kit.
The best packing improvements I've experienced have had little to do with the bag itself. If you take nothing else away from this post, get yourself some packing cubes. My first purchase was for The Wirecutter's top recommendation, Eagle Creek Pack-It cube set. After my significant other commandeered those, I upgraded to Eagle Creek's Pack-It Specter Compression cube set.Most of my outfits end up in the full-sized cube. I find the half-cube works great for underwear, socks, and bras. I have rarely found the quarter-cube useful, so I leave it out or use it for toiletries.
Packing cubes really shine once you start unpacking at your hotel. Finding the shirt you want no longer requires unpacking half your suitcase. Repacking is a breeze since you’re placing the cubes back into your suitcase as opposed to refolding and figuring out what tetris-solution you came up with originally.
Packing cubes aren't just for your suitcase either. I put one in my carry-on with a spare change of clothes and a hoodie. If your bag is lost or the plane is freezing, then you have everything you need for a day.
How many electronic devices are in your carry-on? Maybe a Switch (plus games), a kindle, a laptop, and bluetooth headphones. If your experience is anything like mine, you left your kindle on scanning for wifi or entertained yourself by reading reddit on your phone for the last hour before your flight boards. Now that you're facing a 3+ hour plane ride without wifi and dead or dying devices, it's time to untangle the mass of cables at the bottom of your backpack.
Forget. That. Start by getting yourself a cord organizer. It is way easier to take in and out of your carry-on. While you're at it, get a backup battery. Most USB ports on planes output 0.5 amps, but many phones use some form of quick charge and require 2 amps or more. Besides, you don't know where that USB has been.
Doesn't matter if it's a one-hour puddle hop or an 18-hour trans-pacific flight, planes dehydrate everyone. With climate control, the relative humidity on planes can get as low as 4%. The Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 can achieve 10-15% (or more). By exchanging some of the metal components with carbon fiber, they can support greater humidity without reducing the life of the plane due to corrosion. All that said, 10-15% relative humidity is still drier than the Sahara.
Walk into any airport in the US, and you're bound to see a 20oz bottle of water for $2.50 or more. If you're passing through Chicago's O'Hare, it is closer to $3.40. Don't worry, you won't be shelling out for those. For $9-15, you can get a collapsible water bottle. Take it through security, pack it in your bag, or clip it on to a strap.
An increasing number of airports have bottle-filling stations. Swing by one before boarding and try to avoid caffeine/alcohol on the flight. For longer trips, you might want a second water bottle, or you can make friends with the flight attendants.
Remember the paltry humidity levels on planes? Well, your skin hates it. Transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is when water passes from the dermis through the epidermis and evaporates from the skin's surface. Low humidity conditions increase the rate that our skin loses moisture through TEWL. Basically, you're going to come off that plane looking just as jet-lagged as you feel.
The best way to combat this is with a combination of humectants (hydrator) and occlusives (moisture seal). I won't dive into the nitty-gritty of skincare science, but here are a couple recommendations to take in your carry-on for your next flight:
- The Ordinary's Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, $5.80 + shipping
- Shea butter
- Etude House Honey Cera Cream, $24 + shipping
- Cerave Healing Ointment w/ Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides, $8.50 + shipping
Trekking through airports, past security, and into a new city is exhilarating and exhausting. A few mindful inclusions can improve the quality of the experience. For your next vacation, family reunion, or business trip, try out my recommendations then sit back and enjoy.