Frog statue toting rolling suitcase luggage.

Getting Organized for Travel

Air travel these days is almost always stressful. Extended comforts or luxury are gone as airlines struggle to stay afloat financially. And staff seems to reserve what little courtesy remains for first/business class passengers and frequent flyers. For everyone else, being herded onto the plane and talked down to is the best we can expect.

As passengers, we also bring more than physical baggage with us. From clearing security to arriving at the gate, the experience is fraught with fear. Will I make my connection, will we crash, will there be room for my carry-on luggage?

There’s much we have no control over. But for those things within our grasp, how can we make traveling easier on ourselves?

Pack less. And pack smart.

Start by asking yourself, what do I absolutely need to have with me and available on the flight?

If you don’t check bags, it’s that much more important to ensure that anything you need is easily accessible in your ‘personal’ item.

Leave everything you don’t need at your fingertips either in your suitcase or at home.

The night before a trip, I lay out all the things I want accessible that will make the flight more comfortable.

Here’s my list:

Noise-cancelling headphones, an eyemask, a neck pillow, and a current book. Reading glasses, computer and computer charger (for longer flights), a pen that works, a notepad. Any work I hope to do while in transit. A jacket or shirt for cold planes.

If the headphones need to be charged or the battery replaced, do it now.

The day of the flight, I review the above items.

Is it a short flight? Have I overestimated how much work I’ll actually do? Do I even feel like working? Would I rather watch a movie or read? Or nap?

I run through these questions, weeding out any unnecessary items – if they’re things I’ll still want on the trip but not on the plane, they go into my suitcase. Remember, when packing for the plane, ‘someday’ or ‘just-in-case’ is not your friend.

I also pack some snacks and maybe a meal.

And stay hydrated.

Why is it that a bottle of water can’t clear security, given that flight personnel can bring water with them? Just asking.

Back to food. Even flying business or first class, what’s offered is often disappointing. Selections are overly processed and loaded with salt, fat, and sugar. So I always pack some nuts and maybe some cheese and some fruit. And chocolate!

For flights longer than two hours, I’ll make a salad or sandwich as well. I bring just enough for me and a companion (when applicable), but not enough to feed the entire coach cabin. Remember, we want the trip to be easy.

We may not be able to do much about surly, harried clerks or unhappy flight attendants, but we can control how much we load onto our backs and drag with us.

Conclusion: Yesterday’s flight to Houston was crowded but my backpack wasn’t.

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About The Author

Andrew Mellen's picture

Andrew Mellen is an organizational expert, public speaker, and the #1 best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!

Andrew has helped tens of thousands of people worldwide to declutter and simplify their lives while regaining time for the things that matter.

A sought-after authority on organizing and productivity, Andrew's addressed audiences from The Great British Business Show to TEDx. 

Corporate clients include American Express, Genentech, NetApp, Time, Inc., and the US Depts. of Education and Homeland Security.

The media has dubbed Andrew “The Most Organized Man in America.” He writes a featured column called “Ask The Organizer” in Real Simple. In addition, he has written for and/or appeared in: The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, America Now, The Lisa Oz Show, The Nate Berkus Show, Oprah & Friends, Martha Stewart Living Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CW11, HGTV, DIY Network, LiveWell Network, KnowMoreTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, GQ, InStyle, All You, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Healthy UK, American Way, numerous trade and travel publications, and NPR.

He leads workshops and speaks internationally while maintaining a private practice working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, and non-profits to CEOs, award-winning filmmakers, and authors, as well as overwhelmed parents everywhere. 

In 2013, Andrew founded Unstuff U®, the world's first completely virtual personal organization training center, offering classes, workshops, and other online resources for businesses and individuals. 

Andrew is a member of the Experts Collective and serves on the faculty of the New York Open Center in New York City. He speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at places including Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan, and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others.

Previously, Andrew was an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and director and the former Artistic Director of Alice B. Theater (Seattle), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and Shuttle Theater Company (New York). He is a contributing author to Yes Is the Answer: (And Other Prog-Rock Tales).

Andrew lives by his motto: More Love, Less Stuff!® 

Find him on the web at

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