Travel Light, Travel Well

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on

During my years as a flight attendant, I learned several useful tricks to make traveling more pleasant.

My traveling style is comfortable, but practical. I’ve always thought of my style as fulfilling the dual nature of pleasure and business travel. Good travel management is very important for your longevity as a traveler.

Whenever I knew I’d travel for more than 2-3 days, I’d always make a pile with ‘essentials’ and a pile with ‘optionals’. Those were items ranging from all-terrain shoes to hair dryers and lace tops for one-time wear. To be honest, the ‘essentials’ pile always contained some optional items. That was one of the tricks: make an ‘essentials’ pile, or list (for those more organized than me), and look at it at least 2-3 times before actually packing. After a few trips, you’ll become more and more aware of what you actually need and discarding ‘just in case’ items will get easier and easier.

Most of the time you really only need one style of shoes, like loafers or sneakers, depending on where you travel. If the weather changes a lot, then you may want to slip a pair of flip-flops into your luggage. One of the essential items I’ve always tried to make room for, especially when staying in hotel rooms or airbnb’s, is slippers. If you have to pack flip-flops anyway, you can use those. But it was absolutely essential for me to pack slippers because you never know what kind of germs can be found on hotel floors. Just the thought of stepping out of the shower onto a hotel bathroom floor would give me anxiety. Keep your feet clean and healthy because they’re the ones taking you places. You get some sort of fungus once and you’ll never ever want your feet to touch anything unsanitary.

The next essential item: cotton socks. Try to buy some with 100% cotton content or at least 70%. The only compromise I make is for compression socks. I usually carry a pair of those to wear on the plane and at least one cotton pair for every day that I travel.

Same with underwear. Always carry comfortable underwear, for every single day. Traveling frequently makes maintaining hygiene slightly more difficult. You never know how vulnerable you are to infections or irritations until you get one. Become obsessive-compulsive about it. You can wear the same pair of pants 3 days in a row but taking care of your privates daily is a preventive measure that you may not even think about but is paramount in keeping you healthy and comfortable for this trip and the next.

I never pack a raincoat, then a flannel coat then another coat for cold weather. I make a point of purchasing all-in-one types of coats. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made was a Jones New York mid-length impermeable trench coat, with a removable fleece lining and a hood. I’ve been wearing it for years and I feel grateful every time I put it on. It’s flattering, practical, great for spring, fall or early winter. One coat, good for most seasons when unpredictable weather can make packing light difficult.

One cardigan, one sweater, 2-3 T-shirts, 2-3 shirts or long-sleeve blouses and I’m ready to go. My secret for dressing up my attire when going out while on a trip: jewelry. Big dangly earrings can make even a t-shirt look fashionable and a nice necklace will glamorize the dullest shirt or blouse you may have packed for practical reasons. One of my favorite, understated style statements: my watch. I have an old model Skagen, tastefully encrusted with crystals, that cancels the need for bracelets. Add one on and it’s too much. Any good quality watch, quartz or mechanical, with a beautiful leather band or a tasteful metal band, will stand out pretty much as well as any diamond encrusted bracelet. Not to mention that a skeleton dial may turn out to be an unexpected conversation starter. For brand names that stand out on their own, invest in a Tissot, Longines or Bulova. Conclusion: jewelry is your friend and takes up very little space.

Now, look at this list:

1 pair of shoes (which you’ll wear anyway)

1 pair of slippers (or flip-flops)



1 cardigan

1 sweater

2-3 pairs of pants

2-3 T-shirts

2-3 Shirts or blouses

1 multipurpose coat


How much space do you think this will take up? Not much, right? All you have to think about now is packing toiletries. A small bag/pouch should be enough for a toothbrush and small toothpaste, your favorite mascara, 2-3 small sets of eye shadows, 2-3 lipsticks (always include a chap stick) and a few hair pins. If you need day or night creams, buy the smallest container you can find or simply transfer cream from the big jars you have at home into something smaller. If you really must have a hair curler, buy a travel-size one, like any Conair Mini or Compact Curling Iron. If it’s a flat iron you want, I’d recommend Babyliss Pro Nano which also has the advantage of dual voltage for worldwide use.

Have I forgotten anything? Maybe, but remember, these are ‘essentials’. In the end, your list of essentials should match the purpose of your travel and it doesn’t have to be like my list or anyone else’s. If it’s for a fashion show, you’d better take that glamorous sequined dress gathering dust in your closet with you. If it’s for corporate travel, then the equation changes.

I wish you happy travels!