In my old life, I travelled constantly—and I’m not talking short trips. I’m talking Europe, Asia, and parts beyond. An eight-city, seven-day trip through Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Indonesia stands out as one of the more memorable marathons, er, I mean work trips. Planes, trains, automobiles, and tuk tuks . . .
All of which is to say, I can pack. As in, I consider my packing skills to be Olympic-level. Two-weeks of meetings all over Asia? I can fit that in a carry-on with room to spare. Overnight to NYC? Child’s play. Multiple climates? More of a challenge, true, but I did recently pack for a trip to the Middle East and Scotland with both of my daughters and I still only had to check one bag. Abayas, hijabs, winter scarves and boots, a Barbour jacket, and one checked bag . . . that’s gold-medal-worthy packing right there.
Right now, I am busy packing for a trip to Edinburgh and London to see some girl friends and celebrate birthdays, babies, and being friends for almost half our lives. Where did the time go??? PS: Keep an eye on townscout’s Instagram and Snapchat (@townscouttravels). When I’m not busy laughing so hard I’m crying, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite spots in two of my favorite cities. I just got distracted thinking about Ottolenghi and Dishoom and Valvona & Crolla. So much food, so little time . . .
But first, I have to get there! And, as you may have guessed, I have some tips for packing light and surviving long flights.
Five Essential Items for a Happy Traveler
First Up: A great bag
I’m not talking about your carry-on, I’m talking about that other bag—the one that’s not luggage. Choose wisely: this bag will hold your laptop, all the magazines you haven’t had time to read (New Yorker, I’m looking at you), your ziploc full of 3 oz. liquids, and everything else you will need for the next seven hours. My go-to is a tote bag, and I am IN LOVE with this roomy and smart tote from Neely and Chloe.
The No. 2 Large Tote has a detachable zipper pocket to keep valuables handy (and safe!) and two pockets for easy access to things like your phone and boarding pass. It’s big enough for my laptop and other essentials and, when I don’t need all that room, it has an inner toggle clasp to make it a bit smaller. Did I mention it’s also gorgeous? Perfect for the plane, the airport lounge, and a stroll around London!
Make Yourself Comfortable
Get comfortable? On a seven-hour flight? It’s possible, I promise. Even in coach! (Full disclosure: I’m short, which is a positive in only a few situations . . . like not needing leg room when there’s not much to be had. Gotta look for the silver lining, friends.)
So how do I get comfortable on a long flight? Aisle seat, socks, a scarf or comfy wrap, and my own tea. Do I sound like my grandmother carrying my own tea around? Honestly, my grandmother met my grandfather in the 1920s at a costume party when she was dressed as a man. Mama Lena probably wouldn’t be traveling with her own teabags. But I do and I’m okay with it.
Now, back to getting comfortable . . . I am always cold, especially on planes. If you’re lucky enough to turn left when you board, you don’t need to pack your own socks and blanket. If you’re sitting in coach, it’s best to follow the Boy Scouts’ lead and be prepared. I pack socks to keep my toes warm and a wrap or a scarf that’s large enough to double as a blanket.
Oh, and the tea. Sleep can be hard to come by on over-night flights; drinking something warm tells my body it’s time to rest. While it’s easy to get hot water on a plane, it’s pretty near impossible to get a mint tea. So, I make things easy and put a few teabags in my tote: ginger to tame a bad tummy, mint to help me sleep, rose to make me happy, and a black tea to wake me up in the “morning.” My favorite mint tea is from Charleston tea maker, Oliver Pluff & Co. I love the stories for each of the teas and the beautiful tins, and they also happens to taste AMAZING. Mint was also rumored to “quicken the brain” and help with absentmindedness, not that anyone I know would be needing that 😳
Look Good When You Get There
We all know that long flights dry out your skin. I drink tons of water (and tea!), but nothing feels better on your face mid-flight than your favorite hydrating spray. I am a fan of Mario Badescu’s facial spray with rosewater—it’s an instant pick-me-up, it smells amazing, and it comes in a 2oz. size that won’t offend the TSA.
Speaking of the TSA . . . given its limits on the amount of liquids you can take on a flight, I ration the available space in my ziploc bag by opting for solids and packing liquids that do double-duty. One of my all-time faves (that you will find in my purse every day of the week and twice on Sunday) is Smith’s Rosebud Salve. It’s been around forever and there’s a reason why—it works. I use it for everything: as a lip balm (it smells great and has just a hint of color), to cure dry spots, to protect nicks and cuts. It costs $6, comes in a pretty tin you’ll never lose, and lasts forever. What’s not to love?
One thing I never leave home without: eye cream. I know, I know. Surely I could rely on a good moisturizer and skip the eye cream for a week or so? Wrong. There are some things in life I refuse to skimp on and eye cream is one of them. And let me tell you this: When it’s three in the morning your time and you’re getting off a long-haul flight, take a look around at your fellow passengers. You will thank me for telling you to pack eye cream.
I am finishing this up as I sit in the lounge waiting for my flight to Edinburgh. I can’t wait to share my favorite spots with y’all soon! You can follow me along my (somewhat edited) UK adventures on IG @townscout and 👻: @townscouttravels. It’s a girls weekend–some pics will not be suitable for sharing, or that’s my hope anyway 😉