Life in a Suitcase

Training is the biggest part of my job. But one aspect of training that I enjoy most is the travel that comes with it. I always look forward to layover (and sometimes remain overnight) flights. After crossing the ocean for hours, we need to rest before flying back to home base. Unlike the rest of the “working class,” I work inflight. It’s a menial job and between work shifts, I enjoy my crew meal and coffee at 30,000 feet. The view is priceless.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

Before taking on a layover flight (depending on the destination and flight frequency), I always check two important items on my checklist: weather forecast and my luggage. My colleagues will agree with me when I say our lives are dependent on our crew luggage. I will explain why…later on. The weather, on the other hand, dictates what type of clothes to pack in my luggage — it has to be weather-appropriate. This is crucial because every inch of luggage space is very important.

As an airline crew, I must have one set of extra uniforms. I always wear fresh uniforms on my flight back to Manila. It is a mortal sin to re-use some of your uniform items because hygiene is paramount to a cabin crew. I don’t want my uniform to have that coffee or galley smell.

My life depends on my cabin luggage. It has to have:

  • Important documents. I have photocopies of all my important travel documents: passport, company ID, and crew license (before). It’s no joke to lose your passport in a foreign land. It needs to be replaced immediately otherwise you will not be allowed to fly back home.
  • One set of casual clothes. Again, I always check the weather forecast before packing so that I am decent and appropriately dressed when I do my window shopping and ‘walking tour’ of the city where I stay. Of course, everyone wants to look good at dinner time. On layover flights, it is nice to unwind with your co-crew over a glass of wine (or bottle of beer depending on your preference) and I have to dress the part.
  • Toiletries — at least I still feel ‘homely clean’ after each shower. I do not use hotel toiletries unless it’s the same brand as my toothpaste, mouthwash, or soap. I always use my provisions. Moisturizer is “life” for Middle East flights. Lip balm is “lifer” during winter in Japan and Korea. Cologne is “lifest” for all destinations.
  • Rubber shoes (with thick socks) are my basic footwear. Cabin crew are the greatest walkers on earth. They do Instagram, Facebook, video, and chatting while walking. It doesn’t matter whether they walk under the rain, scorching heat, or even freezing weather just to have that Instagram worthy picture.
  • Slippers are not essential. The hotel provides disposable eco-friendly polypropylene nonwoven fabric slippers, thank you Google!
  • Extra set of underwear — the most important item on my list. I always bring two sets, just in case.
  • A messenger bag is a necessity. I stuff all my important items there including those souvenirs that I buy while touring the city.

I do not consider myself as light nor heavy traveler. I bring all the essential things that I need when I travel including my vitamins. I am not comfortable traveling with only the barest essentials in my luggage.

Over the years, I have mastered the art of packing. I have tried (with an equal amount of success and failure) to pack my stuff neatly organized with the idea of saving space so that I can put more. I already did the rolling method, vacuum/airtight style, and compartmentalization. I also applied the mathematical equations of addition, subtraction, and division. I add items in my luggage which I think are essentials. I substitute big items for small items if they serve the same purpose and use. I equally divide my stuff between my check-in luggage and cabin trolley. I do this with precision and accuracy.

Why is luggage space important? For two reasons: shopping and shopping. A layover flight is not complete without a visit to the local grocery. I buy local products. I patronize and appreciate these products which are different from the ones back home. I know which cities have the nicest locally produce goods that I can bring home to Manila. This is how I express my gratitude towards my host city.

Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed the role of a cabin crew in “A View From the Top.” It was her dream job. In the movie, she set her sights on Paris. Initially, she enjoyed her layovers in “la Ville Lumière.” She was always gorgeously dressed like a Parisian. But she outgrew her fondness for Paris after visiting it a couple of times. Her life was boxed in a suitcase.

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