Aviation Travel

Rules for Air Travel

Today, I am heading off to Tokyo! I love Japan and haven’t been back for a few years. I always find Japan such a wonderful place to visit and find inspiration while enjoying fabulous food. scenery and shopping too.

For this trip, I am violating one of my “kind-of”rules of travel, which used to be: never check baggage. Now that there are two of us traveling though, I’ve found myself breaking this rule more often than not, as I like to leave lots of room for souvenirs and not stress over how to limit my packing. My husband I also usually work remotely and bring multiple laptops. So in light of that fact, I’ve decided to put together some of my revised rules for air travel:

1. Never check baggage. Unless you absolutely need to – then make sure it’s a direct flight. I still try to avoid checking baggage whenever possible – the possibility that it might be lost + the extra time tends to make it unappealing enough for me to pack lightly. However, sometimes when I have to check some baggage, I make sure that I’m on a direct flight, where there’s less of a chance that my baggage will be lost. Also always remember never to pack valuable items or electronics in checked baggage! Never!

image from this post

2. Pack a scarf. Scarves can be used when you get off the plane to look stylish and keep you warm. They can also be used on the plane for all of those things, plus as a blanket, if they’re large enough. From coach to first class I have never been that happy with the blankets provided by planes – they are either too small, or kind of itchy, or really comfortable and nice upon which my thoughts then wander over to how often they are washed. And what kind of sweaty gross person was probably using it before me. To avoid such psychological torture, I bring a large scarf now, and use it as a barrier between me and the blanket.

3. Pack PJs in your carryon. This is a new one for me. I love being comfortable – I am the kind of person who as soon as they get home, changes immediately in pajamas. However, I was always taught that I shouldn’t be sloppy in public and so have always worn regular clothes when flying. However, over the years my “flying outfit” has degenerated to the point where now it’s become leggings + long tee shirt + hoodie anyway. Combine that with the fact that Cathay and Lufthansa are already providing PJ sets for you to change into in the first class cabins, and I’m thinking that PJs on the plane are A-OK. Just bring a set to change into once you’re on the plane, in the bathroom. You have to pack them anyway right?

4. Estimate how many hours of entertainment you’ll need to bring for the plane..and then add 50% to that. There are few things worse than being wide awake on a plane with no movies left to watch and something like six hours to go during your flight. It feels like twenty hours have already gone by and now you are stuck facing a huge chasm of mind crushing boredom. Get a Kindle, or bring a lot of magazines, or download lots of shows and movies to your laptop. Since I have a very teeny attention span, I do all three.

image via this post

5. Get to know the airlines. I assume you’re already flying specifically within one alliance or another (One World or Star Alliance) – if not, please do! Airline status is always great to accumulate, though in my opinion it’s kind of overrated for international travel, where I rarely get upgraded – but for domestic it’s pretty good.

By getting to know the airlines though, I mean understand the pros and cons of each carrier, and understanding what matters to you – the hard product or soft product.Β The hard product on a plane refers to the actual equipment – the seats, the model of plane, the types of engines. Soft product on the other hand, refers to the service, food, attitude, etc. For me, the soft product is very important and thus I love to fly Asian airlines. For my husband though, the hard product is very important – he is a plane nut so is very picky about the equipment and plus prefers a truly lie flat seat. For this trip, I wanted to fly ANA because I love their service but my husband won out and we’re flying United due to the equipment.

In the past, I just used Kayak to search and then just chose the cheapest option. This worked out only 50% of the time, and the rest I was unpleasantly surprised. Usually it’s only been a ~1-3% difference in price for me to choose a favorite carrier, and I’ll gladly pay that to have an experience I know I’m more likely to enjoy.

What are some of your tips for surviving air travel? And I’m interested to hear…what are you favorite carriers?


You Might Also Like

  • Alexia
    May 11, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I just wanted to start by saying that I love your blog! I stumbled upon it when I was trying to decide if I wanted a 30 or 35cm Birkin-I typed something into Google and came across the post where you compared your Red Chanel Classic Flap, and you 30 & 35 cm Birkin. I’ve been following you for awhile now, but just officially started following you on Twitter. I just started my own blogs about a month ago and up until 2 weeks ago I didn’t even have Twitter, or Pinterest (hence the reason I just officially started following you). I love the interviews! It’s so fun to read about what other people are wearing and what they consider worth splurging for and saving on. I also love your travel tips. I also don’t check bags unless I absolutely have to! I know too many people who have had things stolen. One tip I do tell people if they HAVE to check luggage is to pack at least one outfit (or at least underwear, a bra and a new top-you could probably wear the same pair of jeans) in their carry-on just in case their luggage does get lost. This way they don’t have to wear the same clothes while they’re waiting for their bag. I also coordinate my outfits to one color scale so I don’t have to pack as much. If I pack black basics, I coordinate everything to match black, if I pack navy basics, I make sure everything matches navy, etc. Also, if I’m going someplace with cool weather, and need to pack a heavy sweater, I try to wear that heavy item to the airport so it doesn’t have to take up space in my bag….Oh my goodness, I just wrote a whole chapter book here on your blog. I am sorry about that! Keep up the good work πŸ™‚ ~Alexia

  • SS
    May 11, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Hope you have great trip! I’d never flied with ANA, but I’m pretty sure service is much better than United… recently just getting worse. One good thing recently is that after merging, they have so many movies. I’m sure you won’t be bored!

  • chocolatecookiesandcandies
    May 11, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I haven’t been back to Japan in 27 years! I used to travel light until I have a child. Thankfully, now that she’s older, I don’t have to lug around all that much. I always check in my luggage if I’m on a long haul flight. The laptop and camera gear just takes up so much space in my little trolley suitcase. My favorite airlines have to be Cathay Pacific and SIA. I’ve got to get a Kindle soon. The Kindle app on my iPhone drains the battery within a couple of hours.

  • Jessica
    May 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Hi Katherine! I love your blog! It was the first blog I started reading and not just to look at pictures haha. I am sooo jealous that you’re going to Japan! I hope you’ll have a great trip! I was actually supposed to go to Japan too in August, along with Indonesia and Singapore. Unfortunately that trip was canceled because of my boyfriend’s new job, his PTO and probation period resets, so maybe next year. I’m happy for him but can’t help feeling a little sad. You see I’ve never been to Japan and it’s been a dream of mine to visit. Also our close friends are going there right now for their honeymoon, and seeing their pictures makes me even more jealous…

    Anyway, I don’t travel as much as I did before or as much as I’d like. But I also love Asian airlines and my favorite is Singapore airlines. I gotta say, I pretty much break all the rules you have here… I always overpack, have 1 or 2 stops along the way, and reach the maximum weight, but to my defense, I usually have my relatives’ and friends’ stuff that they asked me to get from America. I always use the airline’s blankets and never gave a second thought about the people using them before me because it’s usually packaged and sealed… but I think from now on I’m going to bring a large scarf, so thanks for that tip!

    I’ve never brought PJs before lol, maybe I do when I know I have to stay the night at the airport hotel, but never thought to wear it in the plane. I usually just wear leggings, a tunic, and a cozy sweater. Now as for entertainment, I always have that covered as I am terrified of boredom! I always check the movies that are available on the planes first, and download more movies, books, games, and music on my iPad just to be safe.

    Well I hope you have a great trip, have fun, and be safe! Can’t wait for your next post about Japan!!!

    – Jessica

    • Katherine
      May 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      Aww thank you! You are so sweet πŸ™‚ I hope you can go soon!

  • amy b.s.
    May 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

    have such a great trip!

  • kiwifashionblog
    May 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Can’t wait to hear and see all of your photos from the trip! I love Japan too, have not been back since I was little! Only pass through the airport!

  • mllewanderlust
    May 11, 2012 at 10:36 am

    excellent advise on airline travelling (lots of new ones). I hardly want to take out my shoes even on long flights for not looking representative so the pyjamas would be quite a step: on the other hand a good silk one would be perfect. I have the habit of taking sheetmasks in order to keep the face hydrated, which, gets some stares from other passengers every now and then

  • laura f
    May 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

    we are pretty loyal to United/Star alliance. We have silver status with them and have accumulated enough miles to use them to book our entire honeymoon. if for some reason anything goes wrong their customer service has always been accommodating. my only gripe is that we can’t get into the red carpet club with our amex cards any more….

  • DSK Steph
    May 11, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I love changing into “at home” clothes after a long day out and about. πŸ™‚ My roommate in college always thought I was weird. lol

  • Jan
    May 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Katherine – what good does downloading shoes do?


    • Katherine
      May 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      LOL thank you! I fixed it! πŸ™‚

  • New Petite
    May 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

    You are right. I fly with the constant fear of losing my baggage and hence pack enough clothes for 2-3 days in my carry-on. But while flying to India I have no other option.

  • Amy
    May 11, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    We’ve been traveling a lot more, and it’s made me more aware of the things I am packing and how efficient I can get with it. I love your recommendation about not checking any luggage (if I can get away with it) and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve had my luggage misplaced several times, and it’s always made me worry that it’ll never be retrieved or that someone out there is going to enjoy all the stuff I have inside! Needless to say, it makes me want to buy the ugliest suitcase out there so that no one will mistaken it or no airline will lose it. Just saying …

    I always bring a small makeup bag with me full of moisturizers, eye drops and an eye mask. I’ve found that my skin looks terrible after flying – whether it’s a 1-hour flight or 20-hour flight. It’s been a lifesaver for me to carry some serum along and do a quick rinse before I get to my destination. Neiman’s actually has a Korean skin care line that smells wonderful and has travel sizes for that purpose.

    Anyway, cheers and safe travels! Have fun in Tokyo!

  • adele
    May 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Love this post Katherine! Drinking plenty of water & sleeping on the flight helps avoid jetlag. My favourite airlines are Virgin & Emirates, having travelled alot on both business & pleasure!
    Have a fab weekend Hun xoxo

  • Michelle
    May 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    This is quite an amazing post! I’ve been pushing myself to stop packing so much and just pack essentials.


  • Lamia
    May 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    What a great post, always learning interesting things from you !!
    Don’t forget to post about your stay in Japan !! πŸ˜‰

  • alison*elle
    May 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve been a member of Star Alliance since 1992 (since I was 6 years old!) so I am pretty loyal to them. Singapore Airlines in my personal favourite carrier though I don’t get to fly them too often due to their limited routes for me as a Canadian. Hope you have a great trip!

    xo, alison*elle

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    May 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Yay for your WordPress transfer (sigh and I am way behind you because I am still looking for a good designer!)
    Otherwise, I definitely follow most of these tips. I’m a Star Alliance lover and am hoping to get to 1K. It helps that I am now in a regional role at work. Upgrades and FF status can be addicting!
    Have fun in Japan!

    Chic ‘n Cheap Living

  • Sarah
    May 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    These are great tips, and perfectly timed for me (I’ll be flying in a couple of months). Have a safe and fun trip! πŸ™‚

  • Girlie Blogger
    May 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Good advice. I completely agree with #1. Some airlines even charge for carry ons.

  • Latkesanddimsum
    May 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I am partial to United (Continental)/ Star Alliance but we’ll see how things really shake out after they sort out the integration and all the resulting changes.

  • Jessie
    May 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    So true for the first one and love the wearing PJ’s to airplane! Have to make sure to bring extra appropriate attire to change in the airport if you are heading straight to work / meeting people after you landed.

  • hera
    May 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Yes, right on dot! I really never ever check my luggage. What happen is that, people steal things and I checked my luggage once for my first class flight – and my whole luggage is GONE! How sad, they compensated me $2000 dollars only which can’t even cover for anything in there! T-T.

    Since I travel really light these days, I don’t really bring anything, not much entertainment for me. But I will bring PJ too (if my flight doesn’t come with one), and bring anti-bacterial wipes. I bring a few of those medical anti-bacterial wipe sand wipes the seat and the head cushion with it. You will be surprised how dirty it is…esp for some U.S. airlines..

    and I wear hoodie from time to time too. Just don’t want my skin to touch anything..argh..!!!

    • Katherine
      May 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      I cannot believe that happened to you! What airline was it on?

      • designerdoc
        July 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

        OMG! The same thing happened to me where my bag completely disappeared too! The money offered to compensate did not cover even one piece of the designer wardrobe in my suitcase. My husband and I still never fly Delta because of it and avoid flying through Atlanta because it seems to be the land of lost/missing luggage. I wonder if someone out there is having a great time with my old designer wardrobe…. I laughed as I read Katherine’s tips for packing light out of fear her luggage will get lost because i can truly relate! I have it down to a science now and can travel to Europe for two weeks with merely one large tote and a carry on! I learned my lesson, Ha!

        • Katherine
          July 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm

          I’m so sorry to hear about this! Thank you for sharing your experience though, I’ll be careful about flying on Delta with luggage going forward.

  • audrinajulia
    May 12, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Enjoy your trip to Japan and can’t wait for your post about it. This is again a great and informative post. I can say that like be on a soft product because of the service most importantly. These post will be a great guide soon. Love it!

  • Jody Brettkelly
    May 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Hi there nice to meet you, came through Chocandcookies. Despite traveling all my life, I’m a hideous packer and am so impressed you stick to the “no check in” rule. I never wear half of what I pack and I never learn…

  • Call me M
    May 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

    All fantastic tips! I’ll be thinking of them the next time I travel, which will be really soon! So thank you so much!

  • Mrs C
    May 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Great tips! I travel Emirates all the time and they have the best pillow, duvet and PJ πŸ™‚ Its the best airline for me (well, I am a bit bias here ;D) Enjoy your trip Kat, I’ll have to wait another week for mine πŸ™


  • wei
    May 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Katherine~

    I just started watching “Baggage wars” on the travel channel. It’s amazing to see how much unclaimed luggage there is. It’s even more traumatizing to watch how they go into a bidding war at during the auction, they’re like sharks! One of the guys found a Gucci purse in one of they luggages they won…I was just thinking…OMG…I would just die if one of my lost luggages got auctioned off!

    Enjoy Japan!

  • phiphis blog
    May 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    bon voyage Kat! i loved this post – and agree with the PJs and scarves additions. we really try to not check luggage, but sometimes you have to! i hope you have a great trip!! xox P

  • Jessy
    May 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Great tips, Katherine! I have this post saved now. : ) Have a safe and fun trip to Japan!

  • Diva In Me
    May 13, 2012 at 4:41 am

    Definitely useful tips especially the scarf. They definitely come in useful. Have a great and safe trip! =)

  • Annabelle
    May 13, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Oh, I’m so jealous! I hope you have a great trip!

  • TC
    May 13, 2012 at 10:13 am

    As a former frequent flyer, I was militant with my travel rules: never check luggage and pack only as much as you can carry – literally. It was a huge irritant for me to see women who couldn’t lift their heavy suitcases into the overhead compartment – imagine them dropping the suitcase on your head! I’ve seen it happen. I used to pooh-pooh those wheelies because I can move faster through a crowd with my bag on my shoulder. Wear shoes that are easy to take off for security. All liquids in one bag and placed near the opening so it can quickly be pulled out as needed (usually not). I always travel with a cashmere throw – because, like you, I am suspicious of those blankets even in first class – noise-canceling head phones with extra batteries, japanese toe socks, and flip flops. I wash my face and brush my teeth before we land so that I don’t feel too icky. I use the stuff provided by the airlines and don’t need to dig through my bags.

    Now that I’m strictly a recreational traveler, I’ve relaxed one rule: I converted over to the wheelie (Rimowa suitcases are very easy to maneuver). I still don’t check in luggage unless I have ski or climbing gear. I use the hotel laundry if I have to.

    The one thing I missed about being a frequent flyer is elite status which helps with faster check-ins, cutting security lines and lounge access. However, I rarely took advantage of the lounge unless I was making connections (I did have a nice nap and shower at Heathrow and Incheon). I’m now down to Star Alliance Silver and it doesn’t offer much of a benefit.

    • Katherine
      May 13, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      How is the Rimowa? I’ve been thinking about one! And yes, I never overpack my suitcase (unless traveling with my husband) – I am always fearful of doing exactly that, dropping it on somebody’s head! Did you watch Up in the Air? I’m totally George Clooney when choosing which security line to go into as well!

      • TC
        May 14, 2012 at 9:18 pm

        Yup, I laughed at that scene because I am totally George Clooney in “Up in the Air” too (minus the racial profiling).

        I highly recommend Rimowa. It’s several pounds lighter than other luggage of the same size, which helps where there is a weight limit (as when we were flying a local airline within the Middle East). The wheels are super smooth. I also like that it is waterproof. My brother likes it better than his Tumi so he borrows mine for his business trips even though it’s a loud purple color!

        Have a good trip!

      • T
        May 15, 2012 at 2:12 am

        Sorry for butt in – but check out Samsonite’s cosmolite range as an alternative to the Rimowa. I considered Rimowa for the longest time (LOOVEEE how it sleek it looks, and still do!), but several reviews I read on FlyerTalk said that the wheels aren’t very sturdy and many have had to get them replaced (albeit, free) after just several months.

        Since I like to load my suitcases with shopping, that wasn’t a very good option for me. So I went with the Samsonite instead; it’s about the same price point.

  • Rola
    May 13, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Good reminders, Katherine! Have a fabulous trip to Japan, it is such a great country to visit! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  • Jess L
    May 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I love your globe trotter. Have fun in Japan!

    I wish I had a layover in Japan the last time I went to Taiwan like my mom (she bought me some cute souvenirs).

    I always carry my valuables in a carry on and check the things I don’t mind losing/can easily replace.

  • Urban Jungle Fashion
    May 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Great post. I especially loved and laughed your segment about the scarves.

  • keepsakesetc.
    May 14, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Hi, my rules for travel… wear all black , its elegant easy and hides dirt. Bring a full set of clothes on your carry on incase your luggage gets lost or delayed. On short flights (3hrs tops) —->no eating or drinking= no bathroom visits (yaay) ! Katherine I am with you on bringing an oversized scarf to use against the harsh airplane coldness, the blankets a a bit….iffy? oh packing is another story.. help me leaving next week I’m stumped!

  • anne
    May 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Great post!
    These are great tips for traveling.
    I wish I could limit myself to just traveling with a carry on, but it’s too hard.
    And, now that we have a baby in tow, it’s even harder.
    Can’t wait to see your photos from Japan!

    xo Annie

  • Joanne Vuong
    May 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    Love the traveling tips! I literally bring my whole library on my long haul trip. I don’t know how my hubby does it. Whenever he’s bored, he walks up and down the plane, it annoys me so much. Lol.

    xo Jo


  • Liz
    May 24, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    You can get pyjamas which look like casual clothes but are designed to be comfortable sleeping in (soft stretchy leggings and a nice light cotton top). I splashed out on some last year. They are great for staying in hostels too, so if you have to get up during the night, or early in the morning, you look ‘clothed’ enough. I’ve gone to have breakfast wearing mine because I didn’t want to wait for a bathroom to be free in order to shower & change. Can just do it later after the rush.

  • seeweedz
    August 25, 2012 at 11:12 am

    FYI for airline travelers. I learned that wearing a hoodie as a shirt of any kind as a female will make security have the right to ask you to remove your shirt in order to search you. I was told your hoodie should be removable but we all know women AND men wear hoodies without other shirts beneath. I was expected to remove my only shirt and refused causing quite a conflict. I had already been subject to wanding and walked thru the scanner. I am less than 5 foot tall, had my two children in tow on our way to a football game. I was able to avoid having to remove my only shirt but I warn women to be prepared to be instructed to remove your hoody. My shirt was searched thoroughly, the hood was searched, my back and underarms and still i was told to remove it. Wear a SHIRT under your hoodie if youre an innocent female trying to travel by airline.

    • Katherine
      August 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

      seeweedz, Thank you for sharing your experience! What a nightmare. I will remember that and only wear zip up hoodies in the future.

  • Promosi Jubah
    August 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Saya adalah seorang dari peminat setia blog awak…
    harap awak dapat kerapkan post dalam blog nie…