Flight attendants reveal their top suitcase packing tips

Flight attendant and suitcases

Packing for a trip abroad is often a struggle.

Now that it’s common practice to have to pay through the nose for hold baggage, getting good at squashing everything you need into a carry-on bag is a seriously useful skill.

With long-haul flights and more regular travel back on the agenda after being grounded for 18 months, we might be a little rusty on how to optimise our suitcase space – and you don’t want to turn up on your dream holiday without your must-have skincare, or your favourite pair of shoes.

So, we asked former and current flight attendants and cabin crew to share their top tips for packing like a pro – and making the most of every inch of space in your bag.

Daisy White, who is now a crime fiction author, was cabin crew for 12 years. Working both short and long-haul flights, she finishing her flying career doing half a decade with British Airways, so she knows all the tricks of the trade.

‘I’m so lucky to have packed in some amazing destinations during that time and met some wonderful people I now call my life-long friends,’ Daisy tells Metro.co.uk.

In terms of luggage, Daisy says crew always have to lug their own cases around, and on multi-stop trips it can be one hotel after another – so she says they always try to pack light, but get all the essentials in.

‘Roll up a pair of socks with two pairs of knickers inside each pair,’ she suggests.

‘It sounds weird, but it saves room and keeps everything tidy.

‘Bras can be folded carefully inside dresses, T-shirts rolled up from bottom to top. Get a ziplock bag for your swimwear.’

Daisy says she was always particularly careful about packing footwear, becuase it can add so much weight to your bag.

‘Try to pack minimal shoes,’ she adds. ‘Flip flops cute enough to double as evening shoes, trainers which double as gym shoes and sightseeing shoes etc.

‘If you are going somewhere cold, rather than pack a bulky knitwear collection, layer up and pack lighter camis, T-shirts and roll-necks.

‘Toiletries should all be decanted into the smaller travel-sized bottles you can buy in Boots, and shampoo bars and conditioners are so much easier and better for the environment – just make sure you buy leakproof cases for them.’

In terms of beauty products, Daisy swears by multi-use products.

‘Anything that doubles up as an all-purpose (Elizabeth Arden/Clarins/ Elemis/Vaseline lip balm – which are good on skin or hair or even first aid for blisters),’ she says.

‘Wear layers to travel, and keep a socks and knickers combo in your carry-on bag in case your luggage goes astray.

‘Essential oils like tea tree and lavender are great for warding off germs, making hotel rooms smell nicer and a small travel candle (Neom Sleep is great), is lovely when you are trying to get to sleep in the daytime pending a night flight.’

Hannah Murphy, another former flight attendant, says she spent years literally living out of a suitcase, so packing light was essential to save her constantly dragging a heavy case with her.

‘Before a capsule wardrobe became a thing, I had already adopted this method when packing for trips,’ Hannah tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Basically, a capsule wardrobe is where you only have a few items of clothing but they can be adapted (dressed up or down).

‘When packing toiletries, to save them leaking all over my case and clothes (yes, it has happened so many times) I would pack the minimum in terms of liquids.

‘Bars of soap for example opposed to shower gel and dry shampoo which was always and still is my lifesaver.’

Hannah also suggests checking out the hotel or accommodation where you will be staying as most of the time they have toiletries – which really will save on the packing.

‘I would always recommend rolling clothes as opposed to folding as this keeps them crease-free,’ she adds.

Mark Walker is the COO and director of travel company World Adventure Group, and he has done more than his fair share of travelling – and packing – over the years.

‘As an expedition leader, I have had the pleasure of moving huge amounts of equipment through airports and further afield on a single ticket,’ says Mark. ‘The biggest amount so far was 12 items all weight at least 25kgs each, and included three big (over 2 metre in length) ‘polar pulk’ bags. Packing correctly and packing light are essential.’

Here are Mark’s top tips for packing well – no matter what kind of trip you’re taking: 

Where are you going and what are you doing?

Going on a Himalayan expedition is very different to going for a city break or a beach holiday. Though the mentality before packing, of first considering where you are going and what you are doing, remain the same.

The technical equipment that is required for a remote expedition is generally not easy to come by in the country one is travelling to, so that must be packed and brought with you.

Much like that favourite shirt/pair of shoes/necklace is not something which will be freely available – so take it along, consider all else to be something which can be sorted in country – toothpaste, toiletries and even simple clothing can be bought in country and usually much cheaper.

Choose your bags wisely

I despise wheeled bags. 1) they look ridiculous 2) they are totally impractical for the type of travel that I do.

Strapping a wheeled bag to a mule, alpaca, yak etc. is not just uncomfortable but unkind to the animal. They are also a pain to strap to the top of a taxi or bus.

Now, I understand that wheeled suitcase can be easier for airport travel, but a bag with straps on – that can be worn over the shoulders a la rucksack – frees up both hands, it is also much easier to run to gets and to get over the cobbles on your way to the AirbnB.

Bags inside bags

Many will have come across ‘packing cubes’ – while these are useful for organising your stuff, and making it a little more compact, they serve no other purpose.

Dry bags on the other hand do – they keep your stuff dry, or they keep the stuff inside them wet.

A multitude of sizes, materials and colours exist. I use a colour-coded system and a permanent marker to tell me what’s in them.

Multiple use items

As I referred to with the packing cubes – one use items are a definite ‘luxury’ and something to be strongly considered when packing light.

Think about whether each individual item has more than one use.

Clothing for example – this could be a shirt or dress that can be worn both on the beach, in town or smartened up for a restaurant.

Travelling really really light

If you are travelling to and from somewhere on a regular basis – why not leave a set of essential items at the destination.

We of course do this when running multiple expeditions in one country – but why not do the same for personal items?

Most hotels will let you do this if you stay their regularly, and you can use their laundry service too.

You could also have the joy of just travelling with a passport and bank card and going shopping for what you need the first time you do this.

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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