What 6 Flight Attendants Consider a Must-Pack, From Coffee Makers to Eye Drops

After all, the frequency with which they pack is unrivaled.
Stewardess in plane cabin. Flight attendant checks passengers and carries water. Aircraft board interior. Comfortable...
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Packing quickly and efficiently is a skill that takes years to hone. As travel editors, we feel pretty confident in our levels of expertise when it comes to packing, and we’ve done the reporting to prove it—from quizzing our fellow travel experts on the one item they don’t travel without and creating foolproof packing checklists to coming up with space-saving packing tips, sustainable packing guides, and specialist guides for travelers with ADHD or visual impairments. But we can only dream of the levels of packing expertise that cabin crew maintain. So we asked flight attendants from some of our favorite airlines to tell us the one item they never travel without, so we can attempt to create the ultimate packing list for effective, speedy packing every time.

A smart watch

Andy, flight purser, Cathay Pacific

“A smart watch is useful to keep track of my time zones while in the air. I tend to pre-set my watch to the time zone of the country I’m flying to before taking off—this helps my body clock to adapt more quickly. Having a fitness tracker on my smart watch helps me keep track of my physical wellbeing, by tracking my steps and the amount of time I spend standing up. A regular watch is also useful if a smart watch isn’t for you; passengers tend to ask cabin crew for the time so it’s helpful to have a watch so you can tell them straight away. This also allows me to practice good time management and make sure that my team starts the next service on schedule and provide impeccable service.”

Fitbit Versa 4
Casio Collection A168WG Watch

Packing cubes

Becci Pickles, flight service manager, Virgin Atlantic

“The one thing I can’t travel without are my packing cubes! As crew, we tend not to check in a suitcase to save some time, so being able to fit everything into a cabin bag is an absolute must. The packing cubes make my bag seem like Mary Poppins! You can squeeze a huge amount into them, yet they take up so little space, so it’s a game changer. They also keep your things super organized, so you know exactly where everything is rather than having to dig to the bottom of your bag to find something.”

Calpak packing cubes (set of five)
Béis The Packing Cubes (set of six)
Bagail packing cubes (set of six)
Peak Design packing cubes (set of three)

Noise-canceling headphones

Dave Morris, cabin manager, easyJet

“Sometimes you need to be able to switch off the outside world and have that moment of silence to reset, so I always pack a set of noise-cancelling headphones. Even if you're not listening to music, it’s really helpful to have a moment of silence in an aircraft for a few minutes and enjoy the whole experience. I also always pack a travel sewing kit—you never know when a needle and string will save the day. Safety pins are so useful, whether it’s for replacing the pull on a zipper, adding extra security on a bag or rethreading a drawstring on a hoodie.”

Bose QuietComfort 45 noise canceling headphones
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones

Eye drops

Sophie, former cabin crew, Emirates

“When I was an air hostess, I would always pack eye drops. You are spending up to 12 hours on a flight, so your eyes do dry out from the low humidity in the pressurized air. It’s helpful to put in eye drops throughout the flight so your eyes don't get dry—I would reapply every few hours, including after I had a nap in the crew rest compartments. I would also always take hand sanitizer and lip balm with me because your lips really dry out, especially on long-haul flights.”

Optrex Double Action eye drops
Refresh Contact Lens Comfort Drops


Maze, flight attendant, Cathay Pacific

“Flying, especially on long-haul flights, can really affect our skin as it is very drying and it can cause sensitivity. That’s why it is essential for me to carry moisturizers and lip balms on flights to give my skin a little moisture boost. I always use SPF to protect my skin from sun damage both on the ground (Hong Kong is very hot and humid) and when in the air—planes are the one place everyone should be wearing SPF but lots of people forget.”

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen
La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Sunscreen
Supergoop! Play SPF 30 lip balm
Aquaphor Lip Repair Stick SPF 30

Coffee machine

Valentina Prezzavento, cabin manager, easyJet

"My own concept of packing has definitely evolved since I became a flight attendant and there are items that I would never have thought of taking with me before that have now become my top travel essentials. I always pack a silk pillowcase when I’m going on any night stops, and my lavender and rose geranium pillow spray to feel home when away from home. I’m Italian and I can’t help but enjoy a cozy moment sipping my creamy macchiato every morning, so I pack my portable mini coffee machine for early shifts. I never travel without my brightening face serum in capsules, a dry oil Huile Prodigieuse for my body, and last but not least a hydrating floral face mist to be used during the flights to help face skin glow and feel hydrated.”

AeroPress coffee maker

This article was originally published on Condé Nast Traveller UK.