A view from an airplane window, photography by Wesley Tingey
Photography by Wesley Tingey

Travel tips from the experts: what to pack for smooth flying

Words by Mhairi Mann
Last updated: February 13, 2024

These veteran travellers share their tips for travelling well, from streamlining the airport experience to in-flight entertainment and making a hotel room feel like a home

Joan Didion’s packing list – which she kept taped to her wardrobe door – included two skirts, two jerseys or leotards, bourbon and a mohair throw. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stuffed each garment with packing paper to withstand creases, and AA Gill once observed that “The richest people travel with the least.” ROADBOOK quizzed a handful of seasoned travellers on their packing essentials, and the little comforts they don’t leave home without. The overarching message? Less is more, and avoid that check-in bag unless you really have to.

Travel trends for autumn 2023 | The bar at Palihotel Hollywood
Palihotel Hollywood, which opened in 2023, courtesy of Palisociety

Kirsten Leigh Pratt, principal of hotels and branding, Palisociety

I always travel with Goop Eye Masks – they are amazing for inflight. I also put them in the mini-bar fridge at my hotel. Each morning, eye masks and espresso!

I pack Well-Kept wipes for phone and computer screen, as well as for wiping down your seat area on the plane and hands. I was a fan of these before the pandemic – it’s wild to me how much dirt there can be on surfaces on an allegedly clean plane.

For when I arrive, Astier de Villatte incense – sometimes a hotel room needs a delicate scent to make it feel like home.

If I am leaving from Los Angeles, I always use the valet service for my car at LAX airport. It makes it so much quicker and easier, and you can get your car washed for when you return. I have a membership for TSA PreCheck and CLEAR.

I give myself 30 mins before boarding to grab a bottle of water and a coffee. I never drink the water or coffee when flying, as the water tanks on planes are notoriously grimy.

JetBlue Mint has great plane food that comes from Delicious Hospitality Group (which owns Manhattan restaurants Pasquale Jones, Charlie Bird and Legacy Records). In my opinion, business or first class on US domestic airlines are average. I like JetBlue to NYC or Miami. People rave about Delta, I’ve yet to understand why.

A view from a bedroom at The Hoxton, ViennaBedroom interiors at The Hoxton, Vienna
The upcoming Hoxton Vienna, designed by AIME Studios

Charlie North, vice president of global design for AIME Studios at Ennismore

I use Bose noise cancelling headphones for flying; they are a must-have in order to zone out and find some privacy. I find it helps me relax on a plane, even if I’m not listening to music.

Typically, on a long flight I avoid the temptation to join the Wi-Fi to make the most of some focus time – I find it’s my best chance to get stuck into a good novel.

If I’m travelling for work for short periods I never fully adjust to a new timezone, and I tend to meet somewhere in the middle. When on holiday, I tackle jet lag with plenty of afternoon siestas and an evening night cap to find a rhythm that works.

When I get to a hotel, I always spend the first 15 minutes making myself at home – getting to know the lighting systems, tweaking the light levels, unpacking my wash bag. I also put away anything that makes the room feel unhomely. I love a room service menu, but nobody needs pages of collateral to sift through.

Berlin Brandenburg is my favourite airport for its efficiency and architectural design, but also Oslo for its lounge and cinnamon buns.

The monogrammed Walton collection by Anya Hindmarch
The monogrammed Walton collection by Anya Hindmarch

Paula Fitzherbert, group director of communications, Maybourne Hotel Group

I always travel with a phone charger and a favourite grey cashmere wrap by N.Peal, which is super cosy. I have a vintage Anya Hindmarch holdall that I am very fond of and her labelled travel bags are super useful; I try to avoid a check-in bag. I know all the ‘rules’ now say you shouldn’t really drink on a flight but a glass or two with an onboard movie is a favourite ritual.

Fabio Mancone, partner, chief branding officer, Lombard Odier Group

I never travel without a silk foulard. For form (style) and function (my throat is my Achilles’ weak point). I use carry-on luggage only  – it is faster and safer! After decades of travelling, I know how to maximise my luggage allowance and pack productively. I only need a cabin bag, a small hand bag and a suit carrier. While onboard, I read magazines and watch films; I avoid the Wi-Fi offers – flights must remain a bubble.

Erin O’Connor for Marfa Stance, photography and styling by Cathy Kasterine
Erin O’Connor for Marfa Stance, photography and styling by Cathy Kasterine

Georgia Dant, founder of Marfa Stance

I travel a lot for Marfa Stance, whether it’s for our global trunk shows and pop-ups or to our factories in Italy, so I am well versed in packing efficiently for travel. The idea for Marfa Stance was actually born mid-air, and centres on creating garments that could work for multiple occasions, across different climates and generally work harder in your wardrobe for a less-is-more approach.

For longer trips, my check-in bag is by Paravel and is the world’s first carbon-neutral suitcase. For my hand luggage I pack everything in my reversible Marfa Stance Signature Tote, which is designed to fit around the size of a laptop and is incredibly light.

I think skincare is often overlooked when getting continually on and off planes, which can really take its toll on your skin. My favourite brands include Tata Harper Skincare, Teresa Tarmey and Sarah Chapman.

Recycled nylon backpack by MISMO
Recycled nylon backpack by MISMO

Fouad Ghanma, co-founder at ROADBOOK

I travel with a backpack by Danish brand MISMO, which I have had for years. I always carry Apple EarPods and two credit cards in different places, so if I lose one I have a backup.

When flying, you’ll see me either on an Emirates or Swiss flight. I only ever use a check-in bag if I really have to, and I always pack enough for a couple of days in my carry-on luggage, on the assumption my check-in bag might get lost. I’m often intermittent fasting, so I try to avoid plane food.

Pier Nirandara, travel writer

I always travel with a high-quality sleep mask and noise cancelling headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM4 pair is a godsend. I’m a classic physical book collector, but recently succumbed to luggage weight limits and gave in to buying a Kindle; I like plenty of reading options to keep me busy. To stave off jet leg when I arrive, I exercise and use the Timeshifter app.

Nina Freudenberger designed White Water Cambria, drawing on the natural tones and local terrain of the California coastline
Nina Freudenberger designed White Water Cambria, drawing on the natural tones and local terrain of the California coastline

Nina Freudenberger, principal of Freudenberger Design

I always have sunglasses, a good book and my measuring tape in my bag.

I love to arrive at the airport early for my flight – like WAY early, because I hate the feeling of running to a gate in a terminal. It happened once and I promised it would never happen again. I also love people-watching in an airport so sitting for an extra hour with a coffee is actually very relaxing for me. In the US, I think having CLEAR or TSA PreCheck is absolutely critical for the airport – there is no reason to wait in that line any longer.

I love the onboard Jon & Vinny’s food when flying LAX – NYC with Delta One, and the traditional meals you get with All Nippon Airways (ANA). Generally though I try and bring my own food or eat before I get on the flight – it always beats the airline food.

New hotel brands launching in 2024 | Interiors at The StandardX
The StandardX, debuting in Melbourne in 2024

Amber Asher, CEO of Standard International

I always travel with earplugs and melatonin – simple but very effective after all these years. I am always on different time zones to visit our hotels, so I’ve hacked the way to good sleep, wherever I go. Fortunately, I’m an easy sleeper; even on those 15+ hour treks, I can snooze within the hour. When flying, I find it a peaceful time to work and catch up on emails.

I tend to check my bag in because I’d rather be prepared for what I might encounter during my travels. Plus, I love buying gifts for my kids, so I like a little extra room.



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