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Pack Smart for Trips – just like a Pilot

How to pack like an airplane pilot – from what to pack and how to squeeze it all in, to the benefits of roll-over folding and the weird thing you should put in the safe. Some British Airline experts share their professional secrets.

Senior First Officer Cliodhna Duggan, Boeing 777 fleet
The night before my first training day at BA, 10 years ago, I packed my uniform and travelled to Heathrow in my civvies. It wasn’t until I got dressed the following morning I realised I’d forgotten my black uniform shoes. All I had were the bright yellow trainers I’d travelled in… I’ve learnt my lesson – I now always travel in my uniform.

Travel is made so much worse if you’re tired, hungry or have a dead phone, so you should always take earplugs, snacks and a travel adapter. I recommend see-through ziploc bags too – they’re great for everything, including making sure your liquids don’t leak and for storing wet bikinis.

For work I can pack my case in 10 minutes. The best advice I’ve ever been given is always to put your name and contact details inside your case as well as on a label on the outside. And if you’re putting your passport in a hotel room safe, be sure to put a shoe in there with them so you won’t forget about it.

Project Pilot Ilkka Tahvanainen, Airbus training, A380 fleet
I live in Finland and commute to work in the UK, where I might be flying, doing simulator training or working in the office. In addition to the essentials (wash bag, my British Airways ID and my flying licence), I take swimming trunks for any impromptu dips, and travel binoculars for checking out in detail some of the remote places we fly over. The mountains in the Canadian Arctic are particularly stunning.

It’s not often I have a packing disaster, though I did once arrive somewhere to discover I’d brought the kids’ socks instead of mine. I have a neat way for folding shirts – I do up most of the buttons, then fold the ironed shirt along the middle vertical line. Then I fold the sleeves in and fold the shirt in two. The shirt comes out without needing to be ironed.


What’s in your bag?

First Officer Chloe Harrison, Airbus A320 fleet, Gatwick
My longest work trips are three days so I never carry much more than gym kit and a pair of jeans. My advice for frequent travellers is to have your suitcase ready to go at all times. When I return from a trip, I just wash whatever’s in my wash bag and put it back in. Then all I have to add is a clean shirt and my toothbrush just before I leave. The most surprising thing I travel with is tin foil. Why? So I can use the iron in my hotel room to turn a cheese sandwich into a toastie!

I’m a huge fan of the rolling method for packing – you can jam in so much more stuff. This is particularly true in the winter, when you have to pack ‘warm’. Stuffing tights into shoes and rolling up toiletries into jeans helps.

First Officer Aoife Duggan, Airbus A320 fleet
For work, I can pack my case in less than three minutes. In my bag, you’ll always find a small handbag that folds flat, a good lip balm for dealing with dry cabin air, and spare undies in case I get stuck somewhere for longer than planned. During the winter I’ll also pack a mini hot water bottle. Some hotel rooms never get warm, plus I find it hard to warm up on long night flights.

My fiancé always asks me to pack for him, though that’s not without flaws. We once arrived on holiday to discover he had no underwear packed at all.

Captain Rob Johnson, Airbus A320 fleet
Packing a case has been part of my life for 16 years, so these days I can do it in minutes. The best bits of packing advice I’ve ever received are to ask myself ‘Do you really need it?’ and ‘Can you even carry all this?’.

As an author of children’s books (Plane Characters), I always pack a notebook and pencil for when I’m exploring a new city. I use these notes in helping to compose my stories. The one thing I wouldn’t travel without is my running kit. After a long day sitting on a plane it’s great to get out for a jog and some fresh air.      @wbbrjp

For an easy-to-pack souvenir, I like olive oil. Wrap the bottle in a plastic bag and then wrap it again in some of your dirty clothes before packing it securely in the middle of your case. As long as it’s in there snugly, it won’t break.

“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

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