- Tired of overpacking for trips and paying high fees to check luggage? I will show you how to pack for any flight like an ultra elite frequent flier.
Tips from Million-Mile Flyers
People who fly a million miles or more know how to pack. Moreover, they know what not to pack because they know which items are available at their destinations and which are not. This knowledge is key because elite flyers tend to pack only what they cannot buy locally.
Tip #1 – Toiletries
A trip to Europe for two weeks requires some toiletries. Should you pack that beloved bottle of lotion, shampoo or perfume? Forget it.
Each adds heft, forces a checked bag (adding fees to a trip, especially between non-US countries) and could explode en route, requiring expensive cleaning later.
Instead, pack like a pro. Bring only 100 mL of each essential toiletry in a quart-sized zip top bag and put in it your carry on bag. To save more space and weight, try picking single-use amounts in Saran Wrap. These stack very well in quart bags. (For more details on how to pack a toiletry bag to carry on, see my very popular post located at: https://mauimaui.org/2010/07/09/how-to-pack-a-travel-toiletry-bag-to-carry-on-an-airplane/ ).
Then buy what you need at a local drugstore or department store. Prices are usually comparable, and body products are higher quality in Europe and Canada because they screen chemicals more carefully. Plus, it’s fun to shop in a new place.
Tip #2 – Luggage
If you have the space, you will fill it. So bigger luggage always means more expense and more hassle. Million milers never carry big bags. Instead they only use suitcases that meet the requirements for carry on luggage. Aim for the largest bag that will fit in an overhead bin, such as the Eagle Creek 22-inch or Tumi wheel-aboard. No bigger.
Unless you are dedicated to shipping all souvenirs, you also want a bag that will expand just in case you must bring home a precious bottle of wine and some Swiss chocolate. Most soft-sided suitcases have this feature. By comparison, hard-sides suitcases rarely do.
Tip #3 – Choose Clothing Wisely
Limit the size of your suitcase, and you will have to leave behind many of the clothes and shoes that you think you need. It’s okay to do that. Million milers know and accept this trade off between a smaller wardrobe and less hassle/expense on the road.
If you’re a fashionista, you have to make some hard choices. If you’re a minimalist, make sure you have some dressy for evening occasions.
Generally, elite flyers pack three to five days worth of clothes and then plan to do laundry. So that means choosing clothes that are durable enough to launder while also flexible enough to wear twice if you have to.
My clothes list for a 2-to-4 week summer trip in Europe includes the following:
3-5 cotton t-shirts
3-5 pairs of socks, panties and bras
1 pair of jeans that work for day and night
1 pair of travel trousers or a travel skirt (for situations when jeans are not appropriate)
1 lightweight cashmere sweater
1 fleece jacket
1 rain jacket
1 pair of good walking/hiking shoes
1 pair of slip on shoes
1 bathing suit
1 beautiful scarf that goes with everything (I am madly in love with Maui artist Stephanie Sachs’ colorful, soft and durable scarves available through PreciousandPrimitive.com .)
If you are traveling on business, you will need a suit and/or work shirts, depending on your industry.
Tip #4 – Use Packing Organizers
There are many types of packing organizers that reduce the amount of space that clothes occupy. The go-to military method is rolling all clothing. If you don’t want the wrinkles, then Eagle Creek’s liming cubes or compression systems are great choices. Most suitcase makers now sell organizing systems. Just pick one that you like.