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The 10 Ultimate Essentials Airline Crews Use to Save Space

Looking for ways to minimize what you pack and maximize your next trip? Leave it to an airline crew member; living over 300 days a year out of a (carryon) suitcase, sometimes for months in a row, these mysterious creatures know exactly how to extract the most usability out of the least space. So here are the 10 top packing essentials that will help you save space and pack for your next trip like you work for the airlines.

You should read: The 5 suitcases airline pilots use - and why you need one!

1) Thinking out the box: Packing Cubes

Packing essentials 101
These packing cubes will make your life so much easier. They just compress everything.

Packing cubes are a great way to make space in your suitcase when you didn’t think there was any. Plus, they’re great for organizing your things, and make packing so much easier!

They’re especially great at compressing each individual item (shoes, jackets) so you can squeeze more in. It really makes a world of difference for packing more in less space.

2) A lightweight, warm, pack-able jacket

It doesn't have to coat your whole suitcase!
This jacket literally folds into its own pocket. How’s that for saving space?

On any given trip, I may end up on a beach on my favorite island of Dominica or freezing my bones somewhere in the Arctic tundra. Trust me, it happens more than you think.

This often means packing a winter’s jacket right onto of swim trunks!

Luckily, a few clothing companies have responded to the need for warm clothes that don’t take up an entire suitcase. In particular, Eddie Bauer has a line of jackets that literally fold into their own pockets.

No longer do you have to encumber yourself with huge jackets that take up half your suitcase. Packing made ridiculously easy.

3) Travel without a stink: pack odor-free shirts!

Odor free shirts by Icebreaker mean you can bring less shirts and pack more with less.
Personally my favorite travel hack, bringing these shirts along has saved me many runs to the Laundromat.

Though I never aim to run out of clean clothes, let’s face it – it happens! One of my favorite travel hacks has been bringing my Icebreaker Merino Wool shirt along with me. Even after wearing it days in the heat of Africa (not by choice), I found that they did not have any scent whatsoever.

4) Quick-dry shorts: a swimsuit for those in a hurry

These shorts can double as a swimsuit in a pinch.
No longer do you need to bring both shorts and swim trunks. These work as both!

One of my all-time favorite things to pack is these quick-dry shorts, which I often double as a swimsuit. They’re great whether I’m going for a jog, to the gym, walking around San Francisco on a layover, or at a beach layover in St. Maarten!

5) Lightweight, versatile Shoes: the sole of your bag

Who would've thought shoes would be such a hassle when packing?
The best way to prevent neck and shoulder injuries caused by heavy suitcases is to reduce the number of shoes you bring!

The best way to:

  1. Make more room in your suitcase
  2. Significantly reduce the weight you have to carry

is to have lightweight, versatile shoes that are ready for any situation. I take a maximum of two pairs per trip, plus flip flops.

If you reduce the pairs of shoes you bring by just one, it can make the difference between excess baggage fees or getting away fee-free.

Just remember that the next time you’re thinking of packing that extra pair of shoes. And remember, flip flops are in style!

6) Laundry Detergent Strips: packing freshness into your suitcase

The secret to living for weeks out of a suitcase is to pack laundry strips.
I personally have these sitting at the bottom of my suitcase, and they come in handy more often than you’d think!

There’s no way to pack for months on the road, and even packing for more than a week starts to make your suitcase unbearably heavy.

Luckily, these laundry detergent strips are light, super compact, and don’t count towards your liquids. In other words, they’re the perfect travel companion for those planning to do laundry on the road.

7) Foldable hat: protect yourself from the sun without filling your suitcase

Bring a foldable hat to pack. It takes up no space but is vital for sun protection!

Remember that thing I said about traveling from the arctic to the tropics? Well, protection from both the sun, and the cold, is vital.

And even better than packable sunscreen (less than 100mL) is a foldable hat. These are a gem; they’re nearly weightless and take up almost no room, but provide the best protection from the sun you can get outside of not going in the sun in the first place.

8) Power Adapter: adapt your packing to remember one!

One thing I sometimes forget when packing, even though I travel internationally all the time.
If you want to power multiple devices and never worry about not having the right adapter… well, here ya go!

I can tell you one sure thing about packing: it’s easy to forget stuff. And there’s nothing easier to forget than a power adapter/converter – especially when traveling from country to country.

Though not really a shocker (pun intended), packing a high-quality power adapter/converter is super important. It’s not something you want to break down in the middle of a long trip. Trust me….

If you are only going to Europe and really want to minimize on the space your adapter takes in your bag, here’s another great option for a slim European-style power adapter. Otherwise, just bring one of the above adapters, leave all your charging plugs at home, and call it a day.

9) Lifestraw: It’s like packing invisible water

Pack something that is life-saving, for you and others around the world.
This is literally life saving!

Having a life straw is literally life saving. Not only for you, but for the school child that gets water for an ENTIRE year with every purchase.

You can basically drink water from anywhere with a life straw. The best benefit I’ve found is when I can’t (or am too lazy to) find bottled water, whether I’m in a developing country or in a hotel where the water costs $5 per bottle. These straws take up almost no room and are super easy to pack.

10) Backpacks: the secret sauce to creating more space to pack

Sometimes when you don't have enough room to pack, you need a creative way to make more. Backpacks are it!
Having a backpack that can double as a suitcase is a great way to make more space – in case you just don’t have enough.
Back to packing!

Another great way to make more room for the things you love? Bringing an epic backpack on your trip.

Mine has saved me so many times on trips abroad, from being right above the 50lb/23kg limit to needing to bring a laptop with me onboard.

Plus, having a backpack that’s right at the size limits of carry-on size for low cost carriers, such as Frontier or Spirit, is a fantastic way to get out of some ridiculous bag fees while packing more.

Have any other essentials you never leave behind? Comment below and let me know what you pack every trip – and just how much space it saves. I may just test it out on my next trip!

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