95 Amazing Tips for Packing and Flying on a Long Haul Flight: I Learned This the Hard Way So You Don't Have to

My mother lives in Buffalo, NY, my father lives in Washington, my husband’s family is in Germany. We live in China and love to travel. I pack a suitcase pretty often… My flight are also very long. You know, the kind of flight where you start to question wheather you have ever actually lived somewhere other than this airplane seat and if you are going to die of old age before arrival. But never fear. I have put together 95 useful tips for both packing your suitcase and your carry on as well as getting through that long haul flight

  1. Pack in the right size suitcase- you want to be able to got you things in but you also don’t want a ton of extra space. That is how things break. I have an expandable suitcase.I never have it expanded on the way to my destination.That is my space for things that I inevitable by.
  2. Invest in light luggage- The lighter it is the less likely that you will flirt with going overweight. 
  3. Pack small breakable items inside your shoes
  4. Wear shoes that you can take off easily- but also that you are wearing socks with.   Nothing is more gross then having to walk through security barefoot. 
  5. Neck pillows are your friends- you might get more than a few minutes’ sleep.  Try the neck pillow out first.  They are super individual.  You have to like how it feels.
  6. Eyemasks-  help you shut out your flight or just the funky light in your hotel room.
  7. Put your heaviest things at the bottom of your suitcase.
  8. Put all liquids in plastic bags- This will separate them from your other things.  The air pressure can make spillage much more of a reality than you might otherwise anticipate.
  9. Travel cubes- they make it super easy to rearrange everything without refolding.
  10. Bring about three tops for each bottom- clean shirts are a must but you can rewear your jeans.
  11. Find a hat that you love that packs well.  I am still on the search for the perfect hat. It has to actually shade your face, not embarrass you, and smush into your suitcase. I am looking into this one.
  12. Pack some sort of cross body day bag or back pack (if you are into that)- There is a large chance that you are going to be walking for hours and you need a bag that you can walk comfortable with.
  13. Samples- if you are an addict of Sephora (like me) you probably have a TON of samples laying around that you haven’t gotten around to using.  This is an incredible space saver.
  14. Sunsceen- bring it and wear it. 
  15. Several pairs of shoes- if you are on a holiday chances are that you are walking a ton.  Bring more than one pair of shoes so that you can rotate them and give your feet a break. I usually wear one and pack two.
  16. Scarves- Holy now these random separates are an outfit, batman.
  17. Friction stick- blisters are no good, my friend.
  18. Sunglasses- even if you aren’t going somewhere sunny.  You never know when you will need them.
  19. Lip balm- bring it on the plane with you.  It is best if you do not have to stick your finger in it.  Because planes are gross.
  20. Hand lotion- bring it on the plane with you.  I am pretty sure that it is possible to die of dry hands.  Unscented is best because you never know how sensitive the people around you are to smells.  They cannot get away.
  21. A black pen- if you are traveling overseas there is usually a form to fill out and some countries (I am looking at you, China) are very insistent upon black ink.
  22. More than one hair band- I have made this mistake.  Hair bands are fickle and will desert you to travel on their own.  And then where are you without a backup? 
  23. Pain pills, travel sickness pills, allergy pills- I am pretty sure that I a intensely allergic to something that they are cleaning the air with on an airplane.  Instant allergy attack which leads to instant headache. If you are sensitive to the planes jostling around travel sickness pills are a lifesaver.
  24. Keep your carry on liquids easy to access- nothing is more irritating than having to dig before going through security. 
  25. Tissues – travel packs=yay!
  26. Anti-bacterial wet wipes- much better than hand sanitizer and you can wipe off your tray.  Because…ew.
  27. Empty water bottle- in most airports you can find cold drinking water and you can get them filled on the plane as well. Don’t pack plastic.
  28. Line the bottom of the suitcase with small flat items- You can tuck them in between the bars of the suitcases handle.  Use every inch!
  29. Make sure your batteries are in the right bag- in some places your battery needs to be in your carry on and in some they need to be in your carry on. 
  30. Use small bags to keep charging cords from tangling into a crazy mess- and bring your cords.  The usually take up very little room and you can often charge them on the place and almost always at the airport.
  31. Bring something for the sound- the roaring on log haul flight can get to you.  Use sound reducing headphones if you have them, ear plugs if you don’t.  You will sleep better and generally have a more pleasant flight.
  32. Bring your own headphones
  33. Eyedrops- dehydration is a real problem, people
  34. Dress in light layers-  Sometimes planes are the temperature of a cold dead heart and sometimes they are the dry heat of a Saharran summer day.  You never know.
  35. Make sure that you are prepared for the outlets at your destination
  36. Pack dark clothes- they show wrinkles and stains way less.
  37. Use all the space- tuck small items wherever they fit.
  38. Weigh your luggage- save yourself the embarrassment of opening up your suitcase in the airport and sending six pairs of shoes home with your mother (not that I am speaking from personal experience.  Luggage scales are awesome and not too expensive but you can just use your bathroom scale by stepping onto it holing your suitcase in both hands. 
  39. Call ahead to know what your baggage limits are- I sweat these change daily and it is super expensive to figure that out at the airport
  40. Make sure that you can recognize your bag from afar- My bags are black like every one else on the planet but I have luggage tags on them that I can recognize from afar.  This is especially important if you need time to push up to the conveyor belt.
  41. Make sure your hand luggage fits under the seat- it isn’t useful to you if you have to go to the overhead bin every time you need something.
  42. Lay everything out on a bed or on the floor before you start packing-  this helps you see everything
  43. Cushion anything breakable with clothing- I once brought home two HUGE tagines from Morocco to the US as Christmas presents.  Only one of them survived the trip.  Learn from my pain.
  44. Deodorant-You know what no one ever tells you?  That it is extremely difficult to find a solid deodorant abroad. I am not an aerosol or roll on fan.
  45. Chose a color palate- ideally you should be able to wear anything that you bring with everything else in your bag.
  46. Make a list- I swear it will help you remember everything.
  47. Get it wet- if you are going to a hot climate you are going to sweat.  Check whatever clothing that you are bringing to make sure that it isn’t going to be obvious.  Grey is not a good color for this.
  48. Consolidate as many cords as you can- If it charges more than one device then only bring one.  Same goes for USB Chargers.  I have one that takes 4 cords at once that my husband and I travel with.
  49. Plan what you are going to wear but bring less than you think you need.  Actually put together outfits.  You will be much happier later when you aren’t putting random seperates together because that it what is clean.
  50. Make a Photocopy of your passport info page and visa page (if needed)- you shoud carry these with you all the time.
  51. Insect repellant
  52. Umbrella-  Some of them fold up tiny but remember you will probably be walking around outside with it for most of the day.  If you think that it will rain bing one.
  53. Kindle- If you are a traveler you need one of these.  There are some really inexpensive versions. I am a true convert.
  54. Decant your toiletries into smaller bottles.
  55. Bring in extra pair of underwear on the plane just in case of delayed luggage.
  56. Wear comfy bottoms-  You would not believe how uncomfortable that your jears are going to be during a fourteen hour flight. 
  57. Make sure that you have a bra for every occation. You can usually rotate two.
  58. Don’t fold your bra inside out- I usually fill the cups with socks and tuck it in the curves top of my bag.
  59. Wear a sports bra on the plane.  More support and your underwire won’t set off the metal detector.  #avoidbeingsearched
  60. Remember that there are usually last minute toiletries from the morning that you should bring.  I have forgotten my hairbrush a few times.  Not a cute look. Make a list of what you use as you get ready in the morning- that way you will be less likely to forget something essential.
  61. Make sure that you don’t bring all cotton fabrics- They take forever to dry and when you wear and/or wash them they are never going to return to shape again without a dryer. 
  62. Layer outfits- this reduces the amount of “heavy” clothing you need and also means you can adjudt to the days weather. Make sure that you feel like yourself and are comfortable in what you pack. Think loose.  Welcome to the puffiness that comes with a long haul flight.
  63. Check the weather forcast
  64. A travel clothesline is invaluable if you are planning on handwashing anything.
  65. Travel wallet- Keeps all your documents together. I keep my passports, tickets, and any other travel documents together.
  66. Hat and gloves- If you are going somewhere that might even have the slightest chance of being cold.  They don’t take up much space and if you need them you need them.
  67. Pick your seat- if you can you should.  No one wants to be in the middle!
  68. Footrest- I am 4’6.  I cannot reach the floor when I sit in an airplane seat.  I travel with a folding footstool.  Mine is pretty big because I am pretty little.  If you are more than 5 feet tall you can find folding fool rests that are the size of a paperback book and are not much heavier.
  69. Accessorize- Individualize your look with small touches that don’t take up much space.
  70. Think weight- pack your heaviest things near the wheels and your lightest near the top of your suitcase.
  71. Use the pillow that is on your seat as a lubar pillow.  It will make a different in how you feel.
  72. Fly Foreign-If you are American book the non-US carrier.  The planes, service, and food are almost always better. You can still get your domestic miles with code sharing!
  73. Drink water- alcohol and caffine just dehydrate you more.
  74. Wear as little makeup as you are comfortable with.  I layer on night cream as soon as the flight takes off.  Ermahgerd I am dry.
  75. The “special meals”- they all tend to be better than the main meal. Plus you get to eat first.
  76. Bring a carry on that sits under the seat if you are checking luggage- this eliminate the worry of finding space and getting it again.
  77. Downy Wrimkle Release and Febreezer- comes in a tiny travel size and makes everything slightly more wearable.
  78. Pretty much everyplace that you are going to stay is going to have access to a hair dryer.  Leave yours at home.  Let’s expand that to heat styling products in general.  Let your hair be free.  Or if it misbehaves pull it back.
  79. Laundry basket upset- the week before I fly I start throwing things that I know I am going to bring together  in a laundry basket. 
  80. Put everything on a large flat surface- The floor or the bed.  Spread everything out and start to sort through what you need and what you don’t.  This way you can see everything and can organize it together.
  81. Makeup wipes- You can put your face back on at the hotel.
  82. Toothbrush- bring it on the plane with you.  If you fall asleep you are going to need it and even if you don’t it is an instant pick-me-up.  You will feel much less gross.
  83. Portable charger- so useful. Get one that uses USB because it will charge more items rather than a dedicated phone case for example.
  84. Bring a device that you can watch movies on- my last flight to Beijing there was no inflight entertainment and I didn’t have my ipad.  Much pouting ensued during the following 14 hours.
  85. Landry bag- separate your dirty clothes from your clean and make sure your clean clothes stay that way.
  86. Pack larger items first and fit smaller items around them.
  87. You pretty much never have to dress up- all black and a fancy scarf and you can get in anywhere.
  88. Button and zip everything- easier to fold and less likely to roll into a ball and wrinkle.
  89. Lable your luggage- insode and out and make sure that you can see it from a distance.  The entire planet has a black suitcase.  Make sure yours stands out.
  90. Enough underwear- enough for the trip plus a couple bonus pairs. Unless you are travelling long term just bring enough. 
  91. Flip flops- for the shower, hanging around the beach, or even around and about the city. 
  92. Put shoes in shoe bags (or just plastic bags/showecaps)- after you fill them with smaller items of course.
  93. Leave the laptop- if you can stand it.  I find that I hardly ever use it anyway and it just takes up space and sits there being heavy.
  94. Put your guides on a kindle, tablet, or phone. Those suckers are heavy.  BTW: I am very partial to a rough Guide/National Geographic Traveller combo.  The perfect amount of of background info.
  95. Make sure you have the converter you need- chances are you won’t be able to buy it there without a whole lot of trouble.
Actual photo of what happens when I start to pack. It is a process

Actual photo of what happens when I start to pack. It is a process


Bonus book tip! I always download 5 or 6 books about my destination.  Sometimes fiction sometimes not.  I love reading about a place while I am travelling there!

Whew!  That was a lot to get through!  High Five if you make it all the way through.  We are now officially super friends.  Don’t make it awkward.  Just relax and go with it. Anyway,  I hope you found something useful or new!

What are some of your best travel tips?

Wandering Around Kashgar One Last Time

We arrived in Kashgar and were reminded that we were going on a 12 hour round trip to Karakul Lake the next day.  Since we had been at Heavenly Lake 6 hours before our response was less than enthusiastic.  Instead of, “Yay! We are so lucky” at this point on the Silk Road all we were able to say was, “Oh, my God, I need to sleep.”  In fact, we were kind of dreading the drive in an incredibly uncomfortable van with no actual bathroom for the whole day.

Unexpected Experiences

It ended up being spectacular.  Easily, my favorite day of the trip so far. We drove through the Taklimakan Desert and into foothills, stopped in the last village for melons and the started out assent.  We drove up, and up, and up. Everywhere you looked was breathtaking.  We passed a mountain that was over 7000 meters and were stopped when a herd of camels blocked the road.  For the last three hours or so I we were on a gravel road with no shoulder and no guardrail. 

The Silk Road in my head

When we finally got to the lake it felt like I had imagined the Silk Road to feel like.  We were less than 40 km from Kyrgyzstan and a old Kyrgyz woman brought us into her stone house and let us eat our picnic on her floor.  It was one of those singular experiences that don’t happen all that often as a traveler.  The moment feel important, and important, and I was truly aware of how lucky I am to be able to travel and meet people like her.  We also had the best melon in the history of all melon.  No exaggeration.  Honey melon.  Is that a thing?  Whatever.  We bought it from an old man on the side of the road and it was infused with magic deliciousness.  I don’t even like melon but if you ask me to describe ambrosia to you now I am pretty sure that I would describe the taste of that melon.

Somewhere special

We walked along this small mountain lake every once in a while assuring a local that we didn’t need a ride on his horse, or yak, or camel.  You can feel the purity of the air, see how clear the water is.  This place is probably visited by thousands of people every year.  It isn’t as if it is undiscovered.  But there remains that sense of self that some places retain.  As if it is saying to you, “You do not change me.  I shall remain.”  There is construction of a highway through the pass.  In two years you might be able to drive from Kashgar to Karakul Lake in an hour.  I wonder how that will change things.

After the crowds

The throngs of tourists were gone by this time.  Kashgar is a city just for us.  The locals went about their lives as we wandered through the old town and the new old town.  We peaked into shops where they were making copper pots, tasted the local honey that one man had brought in on a donkey cart that morning.    Kashgar is an unexpected side of China.  My idea of Chinese culture and cities has been formed by my experience of living in Beijing.  But Kashgar reminds you that China brushes up against Uzbekistan, Kygystan, Kazakstan, Afganistan, and Pakistan. 

The mosques were different in style than I had become used to seeing in Morocco.  I hadn’t realized how similar all the mosques there were until I saw these.  The minarets were different and there was something about their tile work that reminded me that I was still in China.  In Kashgar they cannot broadcast the call to prayer.  The Mosque relies, as it has for the last thousand years, on the voice of one man.  I notice that when you are that close to the man doing the call to prayer (What is the correct term?  I cannot remember.  I will have to look it up.) it becomes much more personal.  He isn’t just doing the call to prayer.  He is doing the call to prayer for YOU.

The people here looked different. 80 to 90% of the population of Kashgar is Uygur.  This is China’s largest Muslim minority but you can see a thousand ethnic backgrounds as you look at their faces.  The Uygur ethnicity seems to be a melting pot of all the peoples of the Silk Road.   It reminds you that China always has one more face to show to you.

The last thing that we did was go the the Sunday Animal Market.  If I was looking for authenticity, I found it.  Men came in from all over to sell their cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, and camels.  There were sheep coming in on motorcycles, cows shoved willy nilly into trucks, and goats were tossed around like hay bales. I got in the way more times than I can count.  It was all interesting but you can’t forget that this is someone’s real life and that you need to make sure you are messing it up unintentionally.  I didn’t see any outright cruelty but it made me think that it was time to think about becoming a vegetarian again.

And just like that it was over.  We try to quantify the experience as we pack our bags.

Do you think that travel has something to teach us?

Ten things to do in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region before you get to Kashgar

1. Try the food- Pilaf, handmade noodles, all the mutton.  So much dried fruit you won’t know what to do with yourself and the best pomegranate juice on the planet.

2.The ruins of ancient city of Jiao He in the Yarnaz Valley outside of Turpan- WHY DON”T WE LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT CHINA?*  I cannot get over exactly how much I do not know about the country where I have lived for the last three years. These ruins are larger and better preserved than Pompeii. Let me pause for effect.   We wandered through this 2000  year fortress city Eventually the river that protected the city dried up and the people were conquered.  Or absorbed.  I guess it all depends on your perspective.



3. Heavenly Lake- So I thought that I was going to die. This lake is about 2000 meters above sea level.  The rest of the parched area of Turpan is is around sea level so the climb is pretty dramatic. You also have to take a shuttle bus (it is a full sized bus) the last hour up the mountains.  This an evil twisted road that the driver’s hurtle up and down always a second from disaster.  The view at the top makes the insane ride worth it.

4. Karex Irrigation System- a 2000 year design that you can see from the air is basically the only reason that the city of Turpan exists.  There are over 3000 miles of tunnels carrying water still.  The lifeblood of the city.

5. Emin Minaret- This mosques looks so different from any others on the trip.  Is is rounded and made of sun dried bricks.

6. Erdaoqiao Market or International Bazaar-  You can buy anything under the sun.  But if you are planning on flying out of Urumqi leave the Uygur knifes.  You can’t bring it even in your checked luggage.  This region of China has the largest harvest of lavender outside of Provence.  I ended up with a ton of dried lavender and some essential oil.  There is also an essential oil made from desert rose.  Yup, I bought that,too.

7. Drive from Turpan to Urumqi- There is a vastness to the desert landscapes that make them timeless.  You can’t help wondering who has been there before you.

8. Uyghur Music- there are little stalls everywhere to buy instruments.  Some of them are beautiful works of art. 

9. The Bezeklik Caves- You can find these in the Flaming Mountains. I am actually serious.  You aren’t being sent on a quest to Mordor.  The mountains are actually called the Flaming Mountains. These are not as impressive as the MoGao Caves.  Most of the murals were destroyed by Muslim Red Guards in the 60’s or stolen away to a museum in Berlin where they were destroyed by allied bombing.  But the drive and the setting are enough.

10. Silk in Khotan-  You can actually watch silk being made.  They don’t sugar coat it and you should steel yourself to the sight of thousands of dead caterpillars.  I may have just been being overly sensitive.  It is loud and hot and you will totally be in the way.  I dare you not to buy something.

*answer: I suppose that the western bias against admitting that anyone else came up with anything despite all the evidence is the reason for this.