Travel Packing Tips for Flights

Following a couple of decades of mostly staying home with young children, I’ve done a fair amount of travel in the past few years. Florida, California, Maui, Oregon, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Hawaii, Colorado, Arizona…and did I mention Florida? The Sunshine State probably wins my prize for most trips. By the time this summer ends I will have been there four times in ten months! That amount of travel never ceases to amaze me because of all the years that I stayed home, and stayed home some more. I flew to Tennessee for the first time ever a few weeks ago, and packing prompted me to share with you my travel packing tips for flights.

Tips for Packing Clothes

Make a list of outfits and which days you’ll wear them. Trust me, this will save brain space as you try to figure out how many tops and bottoms and shoes to take. Putting together outfits on paper will help you accessorize and keep track while you pack.

Take more underwear than days you’ll be gone. You’ll want clean undies after a swim or a shower, and it never hurts to have extra for unexpected monthly events if you’re in that season of life.

Dress in layers or take a shawl or baby blanket in your carry-on. Sometimes planes and airports can be very chilly. A few months ago my flight was delayed several hours in a cold airport. I almost broke down and bought an expensive travel blanket in an airport store. Note to self: always bring my own.

Tips for Luggage

Use a (very) small travel purse, preferable a lightweight crossbody to keep your hands free while you juggle a boarding pass and carry-on.  I like the kind with slots for credit cards and a drivers license so no wallet is needed. Make sure your cell phone fits in a convenient pocket. I’ve found good ones at Target and Vera Bradley.

Find a carry-on small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. This item allows you to take a seat even if the overhead luggage bin is full, and this is one of my favorite travel packing tips for flights! Look for one that measures about 18″ tall and specifies “underseat.” I LOVE my little roller carry-on! It holds my laptop, iPad mini, charging cords, snacks, tissues, delicate makeup items or jewelry, a book, writing pad and more.

When shopping for a new suitcase, consider hardbody. It took only one trip with rain-soaked luggage and wet clothing before I decided to ditch our soft-sided suitcases. Be sure to find one that has zipper or clip covers over both sides of the open suitcase. Otherwise one side will dump clothes if you open it upside down. Outside handles on at least three sides are a lifesaver when trying to lift a heavy suitcase into a vehicle.

Tips for Packing Toiletries and Makeup

Pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens supplies and glasses in your carry-on, just in case your luggage doesn’t arrive when you do. Include makeup and clean underwear if you want to be ultra-prepared.

Pack makeup as you get ready for the trip. For example, apply primer and foundation then put them in your travel makeup bag. Travel sizes of makeup and toiletries are great, especially for larger items like shampoo and other hair necessities. Non-glass containers are best but if you must pack glass items, cushion them with socks or a padded makeup bag. Makeup tip: don’t take makeup that you don’t love and don’t take makeup that you haven’t tried yet. You want to look good as easily as possible, so don’t risk a skin breakout from untried foundation and don’t wish you’d have brought your favorite eyeshadow. Take fragile items such as an eyeshadow palette or highlighter compact in your carry-on to avoid breakage. It’s okay if you don’t take expensive items, just make sure that what you do take are things that you’re happy with!

Remember supplements and medications. Pack enough for a day or two in your carry-on, just in case. Extra vitamin C or elderberry syrup is good for your immune system when traveling. I count on favorite supplements to keep me energetic and healthy for travel! Essential oils can go in the quart-size clear bag required by the TSA for liquids, but you might want to include a tissue to soak up leakage.

I’ve traveled enough by now that I can accurately gauge whether a suitcase is over or under the 50-pound weight limit, just by picking it up!

Airline flights these days can be a bit of a challenge with all of the TSA rules and weight limits and getting through security, but hopefully these tips will help with the packing part. Whatever you do, enjoy the journey!

I bet that some of you have traveled way more than I have–please share YOUR favorite travel packing tips for flights!




  1. Anonymous says:

    Great tips! Here’s another one, if you roll your clothes instead of folding them they will be a lot less wrinkled when you unpack. I have a request, Charlotte, would you please provide links to some if the examples you mentioned? I’d love to see exactly the kind of purse or suitcase that you think is great for travel.

    1. Charlotte says:

      Yes! Great tip! This little crossbody is similar to one I found on clearance at the Vera Bradley store (ever the bargain shopper!):

      And here’s an example of an underseater, although I bought mine at TJ Maxx. These bags are quite a bit smaller than the average carryon bag. I’m picky about these–I DON’T like the floppy handle that most of these bags have. It makes it hard to get leverage when you’re sliding the bag under the seat or pulling it out when it’s time to deplane. So I look for one with a stiff, close-to-the-bag handle without straps, if that makes sense:

      1. Thanks so much for the links. I have another question that’s slightly off-topic. I’m going to a homeschool conference next month and want to bring a suitcase on wheels to put into any merchandise (books, papers, etc) that I purchase. Do you have any recommendations/links? I know having a zippered pocket on the outside would be very handy.

        1. Charlotte says:

          Great idea! Carrying a heavy sack or juggling a stack gets old quick at a crowded conference! Do keep in mind that most conventions have a “holding area” where you check purchases so if you buy some major sets of books you won’t have to carry them around. If it were me, I’d take a regular carry-on size because they hold a surprising amount of stuff. The ones with 360-degree rotating wheels are nice because they can twirl around easily. Make sure it’s easy to zip open to put things in from the top when it’s standing up. You don’t want to have to lug the whole thing up on a counter to open it to add things. Enjoy the convention! If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break and ask God to show you what He has for YOUR family. Better to do a few things well than buy All The Things and not get around to them and feel guilty!

          1. Thank you! I wasn’t aware of the holding areas. Yes, I’ll look into something that is easy access from the top. Good idea!

  2. Amity Q Jones says:

    I wear one pair of shoes (and maybe bring flip flops) and pack everything around that pair! It’s quite impressive even to my husband and male friends. I was just in San Diego for a writers workshop and it was great! 🙂

    1. Charlotte says:

      That IS impressive! I think I could do it if it was my one pair of Taos Star tennis shoes that are comfortable for the foot with 2 surgeries last year, lol. You’re amazing! (I know this girl and I MEAN that!) 🙂

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