10 Tips to Pack Like a Pilot

By: Allison Troutner  | 

pilots
Commercial airline pilots spend an average of 85 hours a week flying. They know how to pack. xavierarnau/Getty Images

Packing a suitcase for a flight is an art, and perhaps nobody does it better than pilots. Many have to jump on a plane at a moment's notice and jet across the globe.

The average commercial pilot flies around 85 hours per month, making them some of the most seasoned travelers on the planet. So when it comes to efficient packing, these are the pros who know how to pack light and smart. Here are some of their smartest tips for packing.

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1. Research Your Destination

Looking up the weather, potential activities and residence amenities can prevent over (or under) packing. No need to pack rain gear if it's sunny most of the week. If you're going to be doing a lot of walking, better to pack the trainers instead of strappy sandals.

Depending on where you're staying, you may not need to take shampoo or conditioner, but you might need some laundry detergent so you can wash your clothes (more on that below).

2. Invest in a Good Suitcase

A durable suitcase with reliable wheels is a must. Pilots prefer lighter, soft-sided luggage with two wheels that fits more easily into overhead compartments. Two-wheeled suitcases are also rolled behind you (instead of beside you), which is more considerate in crowded airports.

3. Maximize Space

When it comes to packing your suitcase, rolling casual clothes can help you save space and prevent wrinkles, too. You can save even more room by putting smaller items like socks, toiletries and underwear inside your shoes. You can then pack your shoes in a reusable shoe bag to keep dirt contained.

rolling clothes in suitcase
Some pilots swear by rolling their clothes to save space in their suitcase.
Boy_Anupong/Getty Images

4. Use Packable Accessories

Flying to Florida in March is excellent until you return to your home in the Midwest during a snowstorm. Pilots are prepared for things like that — they use things like packable down coats that are easily compressed in bags. Another packable accessory is a stowaway duffle, like this one from L.L. Bean that you can use to bring home souvenirs.

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5. Take a Reusable Water Bottle

Empty reusable water bottles can be filled once you're through security and are necessary for staying hydrated in the dry, circulated air on airplanes.

6. Stock a Carry-On

If you're packing a bag you'll check, be sure to take a well-stocked carry-on, too. It should include everything from your medications and some toiletries to a phone charger; basically anything else you can't do without in case your luggage is lost.

carry on bag
If you're checking your luggage, be sure to carry on a well-stocked bag, too, that has all of your necessities.
Pyrosky/Getty Images

7. Take Cash

Credit cards are more secure, but it's always a good idea to have cash, too, in case your bank locks your credit card to prevent fraud while you're traveling, or if you end up at a shop without a card reader. Also, you never know when a credit card machine might be down or a store might not accept yours.

8. Pack High-protein Snacks

Pilots must constantly be on their A-game, and during long flights they have nourishing protein bars or snacks to stave off hunger. This is key for travelers, as well, especially if you have to make a connection because you never know if you'll have time to grab food before your flight starts boarding. Delta pilot Nick Motlagh says his snack of choice is a protein bar or meal replacement bar.

"They don't take up much space, and they are a simple, healthy way to prevent hunger while on the go," he said in a press statement.

9. Take Laundry Detergent

This may sound counterintuitive when trying to pack less, but it's wise to take a bit of detergent. It allows you to pack fewer clothes and do some laundry at your hotel if you can. Then you can re-wear the clean clothes on your trip.

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10. Use Noise-canceling Headphones

There's nothing worse than listening to your neighbor's snores or a baby's hungry cries while trying to snooze on your red-eye flight. Headphones can help you focus while you work, sleep or try to relax to music.

noise-cancelling headphones
A good pair of noise-canceling headphones can be a godsend on a long flight.
Anchiy/Getty Images

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