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Ah, the age old debate of flat packing vs. rolling clothes for travel; a mainstay conversation topic of hostel bars around the world. While some travelers swear that rolling your clothes is the best possible method, others shrug and say it doesn’t really matter.

Online, I sometimes wonder if we’re making this claim blindly — following the advice of others without having stopped to compare the two methods. So, curious to know the truth, I set out to run a test and find out: which really is better? Flat packing or rolling your clothes for travel?

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I ducked behind a tree planted in the sidewalk. Down the block, our friend chatted with an older man. His hands gestured as they talked.

I felt so guilty. Like I was buying an illicit substance.

“Do you think he found some?” My friend asked. It was her husband chatting with the guy down the block. He had done this before. We were newbies.

Her husband and the older man’s hands exchanged something.

People flowed past us on the sidewalk, heading in the same direction. Excitement tingled in the warm night air. The first day of May, to my winter-chapped skin, felt like the warm caress of June.

“Looks like it.” My husband said. “We’re on.”

The San Diego Padres were playing the Colorado Rockies in the baseball stadium two blocks away. And we had just bought tickets from a scalper.

Oooh, dangerous!

I’d never gone on spring break, but this is what it must feel like. Sunshine. Alcohol. Freedom.

Two days before had been my last day at my job of 8+ years. The day before, I had hopped on a plane, luxuriated in day-drinking, wandered the U.S.S. Midway, and gobbled up finger-licking pizza in Little Italy.

San Diego, the city spooning an ocean, is a destination for all twelve months. (Not just for when you quit your job. But if you did, I highly recommend going to San Diego.)

Things You Should Always Pack for San Diego

Flip flops

Some natives — of the male persuasion — swear they live year round in flip flops and shorts. Regardless of your gender, you’ll want flip flops in this casual-cool city. If only to get your toes more quickly into the sand. Click to continue…

Air travel can be especially daunting for many travelers. Today’s version of air travel differs greatly from that of yesteryear. Today, people travel in comfortable casual clothing instead of wearing their Sunday best. Today there are restrictions on when to arrive, what to carry, and how much ‘stuff’ we can pack; as opposed to when travelers would show up, talk to an agent, carry on their paper ticket and check whatever luggage they thought they’d need.

My husband and I look forward to those long haul flights (and we regularly travel in economy class). I know it may sound strange, but it’s true. Once we can get ourselves to the airport, we let out a long sigh and know that the journey has begun. Once in flight, we’re stuck, but in a good way. There’s no gym to go to, no dishes to do, no errands to run, no hikes to go on, and (most of the time) no way to respond to those last minute emails. You’re officially tuned out. What you can do is enjoy this time to read what you like, watch what you like, play games, rest, snack, meditate, eat, chat and unwind. Let the pilot fly the plane while you get to go along for the ride.

What you pack for these flights will go a long way towards improving the experience and creating joy in the journey, whether it’s the food you bring or the comfort items that soothe you hours into a long haul flight, give some thought to the air time on either end of your adventure, and pack specifically for it.

Packing for a Long Haul Flight

What’s a long haul flight? In my opinion, anything over 5 hours. That 23 hour marathon to Thailand with a crazy layover in Abu Dhabi certainly counts. When planning for a long haul flight, comfort is key.

The Basics

Channel your inner Santa: Make that packing list and be sure to check it twice. Essentials and necessities make the cut, the rest is optional. What do you throw on when you get home after a long day to be your most comfortable? Make that feeling your goal of in flight.

  • Comfortable, loose clothing
  • Extra layer for warmth on those often freezing flights or roll them into a pillow for sleeping comfort
  • Slip on shoes that are easily removable for those TSA line moments and to allow room for in flight swelling
  • Clean feet and clean socks: Smartwool for warmth or dryness or check out compression socks as a possibility
  • Eye mask and ear plugs for those moments of much needed silence and darkness


No matter where you’re going or for how long your journey, you need proof of who you are. Grab those forms of identification and make and copies of everything from your passport and credit cards, to your driver’s license and health cards. These copies should be in the bag you have with on the airplane. Don’t make the mistake of checking them in your luggage. Some travelers even store an extra copy on their smartphones. Don’t forget to call your banks ahead of time to add those travel notifications and double check that you’ll have no fees abroad.

  • Passport
  • Local ID
  • Boarding pass
  • Copy of itinerary
  • Copies of important documents
  • Extra passport photos
  • Petty cash
  • Debit card/credit card(s)

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