Magpie Travel Tips: A Crowd-Sourced Guide to Easier Travel.

By: Jen Shoop

There were so many excellent travel tips that floated through my inbox, DMs, and comments in response to this post a few weeks ago, and I decided to collate them into an easier-to-skim digest format. I already put many of these to use when I flew down to Atlanta for a girls’ trip last weekend, and was thinking of so many you while doing so! (For example, I actually added a reminder to my calendar so I’d remember to start taking Emergen-C three days before the trip thanks to one of you.) I’ll personally be reviewing these lists in advance of all upcoming travel.

For Easier Travel Logistics.

+To extent possible, fly in and out of the closest airport to home on the most direct route and at convenient take-off/landing times. Obvious but can be tempting to choose something more cost-effective when booking. I’m always so thankful to have paid for convenience when traveling. Plus, traveling at odd hours makes me nervous for safety reasons, and it’s nice not to have to worry about that.

+If traveling United, book a window seat. They just instituted a new protocol boarding window seats first. Ed. note: I find this only matters if you are trying to make sure you will still have space to stow your carry-on in the overhead bins, which routinely run out in the later boarding groups. If you have already checked your bag and only need space for a small bag, I advise booking the aisle seat and boarding as late as possible to minimize the amount of time you’re crammed in like a sardine. I also like an aisle seat because I pee so much! I hate troubling other passengers. You also get a little extra leg room since you can have your legs spill out into the aisle.

+Keep a separate pouch for phone and all travel documents (tickets, passports, bag tags, etc) so you can easily find them. Ed. note: I like the clear pouches from Truffle for this kind of thing. Slim and easy to see everything in your bag. Also have a few of the TSA approved sizes for corralling liquids for security.

+Rechargeable battery is a must — not having to stress about outlets is so great. Ed. note: I completely agree with this after traveling to Atlanta last weekend with this one for my iPhone 15.

+Slip on shoes are key, especially as there is a chance, even with TSA Pre-Check, that you may need to remove your shoes for security screening. Corollaries: 1) Always travel with socks just in case you need to remove shoes — gross to imagine walking barefoot in the security area, and you might get cold on the plane. 2) If you are packing a bulky pair of boots/sneakers/etc, it may be better to wear them onto the plane so the shoes do not take up as much space in your luggage, which obviates the earlier point on slip on shoes, but may be worth it!

+Sign up for TSA Pre-Check (or Clear) and, if traveling internationally, Global Entry! Even if you only travel abroad 1-2x/year, it’s really worth it. The immigration lines in NYC airports can be hours long and being able to breeze through after a long flight is such a relief.

+If possible, make use of airport lounges using credit card / loyalty programs.

+United enables you to pre-check your bags. This means you can avoid the standard check-in kiosks and go to a designated “bag drop” area that is much less trafficked.

+Keep your laptop in the front zippered compartment of my carry-on suitcase (a “Continental” Tumi — she ain’t glamorous, but she’s a workhorse! She’s still in great condition after years and years of often intensive travel!, and I love that she can expand if necessary). I find lugging my laptop around on my shoulder so unpleasant, so instead, I stow the laptop in the rollaboard front pocket until the very last possible moment before boarding and then transfer to my bag so I can use it while in flight.

+Stow all important travel numbers / codes in 1Password — things like your known traveler number, your COVID vaccination card (no longer as urgent as it once was, but you never know), frequent flier number, etc. You can then access these from your phone any time you might have a need.

+My Dad has always typed up itineraries with all travel details in one place — flight number, departure/arrival times, hotel address and phone number, reservation confirmation numbers, etc. He used to do this so we could reach my parents if in need, but I also think it’s good practice for longer trips anyway. I did this for my most recent trip to Calistoga, when we had restaurant reservations, winery reservations, spa reservations, etc. So helpful to see everything at a glance. On the flight over, Mr. Magpie and I reviewed it together.

For More Pleasant Dining on Travel Days.

+Place a mobile order via the Starbucks app to beat the line for coffee in the airport. I routinely shave off about 15 minutes of time in line this way.

+Pack healthy snacks so you can bypass airport food (expensive, not nutritious). If traveling with kids, my whole travel carry-on is snacks.

+Pick up a sandwich from a favorite local restaurant the day before travel and pack it for on-plane dining. This means you aren’t scrambling to find something semi-decent in the terminal, or without food.

+Scope out a place to get a good quality coffee/lunch/dinner (depending on time of day) once arriving at the destination! That way you’re not scrambling to find something that will end up being mediocre and have something to look forward to. Ed. note: Mr. Magpie and I also heavily use the Google Maps “flag” feature. Any time we read about a great restaurant, we’ll flag it on a shared map, even if it’s somewhere we aren’t intending to travel in the immediate future (or ever!). This has come in handy more often than expected! Sometimes we’re even in a local neighborhood we’re not familiar with, and can reference this to learn if there’s anywhere good to test.

+Have a big breakfast the morning of a travel day and pack snacks/fruits on the go for lunch.

For Travel Health/Wellness.

+Start taking “Emergen-C” a few days before your flight to build up immunity.

+Nuun tablets for rehydrating before/after flights. Game changer.

+Always have a pack of gum for the takeoff and landing in case your ears bother you.

+Keep Afrin in your carry-on if you have a head cold. Ed. note: I learned this the hard way traveling back from California. The ear pain from the air pressure was excruciating.

+Obvious, but always keep hand sanitizer in carry-on.

+Certain areas of the plane are rife with germs. Always carry antibacterial wipes. Wipe metal part of seat belt, and the tray. When using the tray, put the safety card on top…as we know, not many people take those out to read!! Just another layer of cleanliness. The bathroom door handle and the faucet handle are full of germs, so use a wipe, or a soapy towel when touching those.

+Period underwear. I find these to be especially helpful on long flights when you’re on/think you might get your period! Lots of absorbency and I’m not worried about leakage.

+I permanently have a travel medicine bag ready, so I don’t need to pack it every time.

+Buy a full bottle of water at a concession stand as soon as you get through security. (Or, bring an empty water bottle with me and fill at a water station.) I find travel days so dehydrating.

For a Comfortable In-Flight Experience.

+Soft pants always. Magpie reader top rec: these Uniqlo pants, which are comfortable but have polish to them. Jen recs: the last few flights, I have worn these Gap kick flares. They are stretchy and ultra-comfortable, but I also love the look. My mom will be undertaking a lot of upcoming travel and asked for elevated loungewear. I advised either Gap’s CashSoft line (a rec from the very well-traveled Habitually Chic) or Kilte’s washable cashmere sets, for a splurge (heavily endorsed by a chic friend of mine). If traveling in the summer/warm weather, I still adore my fleet of nap dresses or this Maxwell and Geraldine. Soft, comfortable, non-restricting. I layer beneath a cardigan.

+Layer, layer, layer. I like a cotton base layer, a cardigan ($25 off with code MAGPIE25), a wrap, and a pair of socks at my disposal.

+Pre-charge and pre-load Kindle (Ed. note: my Kindle Paperwhite is my most prized possession) with books and ensure that several options are downloaded already (e.g., you will not need WiFi to access them). Three corollaries for travel reading, from readers: 1) “Pick a great book that you’re excited to start or keep reading (maybe two). It’s not the time to push through something you’re only so-so on.” 2) “I love having a “comfort” book series to read while on planes.” and 3) “I love reading novels set in the city I’m visiting. Unbearable Lightness of Being while in Prague, Hunchback in Paris, Shadow of the Wind in Barcelona, etc. It really adds a new dimension to the sightseeing.”

+Download “comfort” albums to listen to via Spotify or Apple Music. You will likely not have WiFi during parts of the flight; better to have these locked and loaded. Reader comment: “My favorite is Tony Bennett’s Silver Lining, as recommended by you! So cozy.” Ed. note: STRONG agree. I also downloaded my Thanksgiving playlist for this most recent trip.

+Bring noise-canceling headphones — they muffle out a lot of the exhaustingly loud white noise on planes, even if not listening to anything. Bonus points: bring the aux cord to plug them directly into the seatback for entertainment.  Ed. note: These have totally changed my working and travel life. I don’t know how I lived without them. I bought these Sennheiser Momentum 4s after we did a fairly thorough review comparing those to Bose, Apple, and Focus. The virtues of Sennheiser: ultra-light-weight; very long battery life (60 hours); can be turned entirely off (Apple’s stay on at all times – probably explains shorter battery life); comes with packing case (you must buy separately with Apple) and aux cord that plugs right into plane seat back).

+Wear compression socks. From a Magpie: “why I never wore them before this trip is a mystery to me…they really work!”

+Keep cords/chargers in your carry-on. You never know when you’ll need to recharge your laptop/phone, or you may be stuck on tarmac longer than you think. Ed. note: I like this tech case for all of my cords, chargers, airpods, etc.

For Optimal Packing.

+I keep a packing list in the ‘Reminders’ app on my phone so that I don’t have to make the same list over and over for various trips.

+The Dagne Dove carryall has a nice slipover your roller function, which helps avoid backaches.

+If checking a bag, put anything you need for the first night in your carry on. That way, if your bag is lost/delayed, it’s at least tomorrow’s problem.

+Have a small zip up rectangular pouch that has core items that you will always need that you can move between bags as needed but your core essentials are close-to-hand: think small amount of go-to meds, floss, disposable toothbrush, spare contacts, claw clip/scrunchie/hair bands, bandaids, head torch, pocket tissues, wet wipes, polarised classic-style sunglasses, and compact mirror. (A variation on this theme from another Magpie: “Keep a small separate cosmetic bag for the nightstand at the hotel – lip balm, hand lotion, Kleenex, any medications, eye drops, etc. This is my #1 tip because I never see it mentioned. So nice to just set it on the nightstand at the hotel and have everything on hand when in bed, just like at home.”)

+Carry a backpack rather than tote — not as stylish, but more comfy / easy laptop storage. Ed. note: I still love my M.Z. Wallace backpack for day trips with kids. Other picks: have heard great things about the Dagne Dover, Calpak has fun colors, and Leatherology has a great, sleek look. Also like the simplicity of these ones from Brevite.

+If there is even a remote chance that it may be cold during a trip where I expect it will be warm, I’ll pack a non-bulky sweatshirt (Lake and Alice Walk have great options) and comfy pants (pj pants, sweatpants, etc.). I typically don’t end up needing these items, but when I do, such as on a cold night, I am so grateful to have them. Ed. note: I would add a pair of sleep socks to this list. I usually pack these ones from Nike.

+Jewelry and medication in my hand bag. Always. You never know when a carry-on will be checked, and when a checked bag will be lost. Ed. note: I also always carry-on any high-end handbags — for example, I like to bring my Chanel bag or a dressy clutch with me for dressier evenings, and I will carry this onto the plane inside my carry-on bag. I will keep my jewelry in a small pouch inside this bag, too, to optimize space in my suitcase. (My bag is truly like a Russian nesting doll – pouches inside pouches inside pouches.)

+Have a packing list per family member, so it can be adjusted depending who’s joining the trip.

+Decant your favorite beauty products into smaller containers. (Upgrade pick: Cadence.) Keep all of these containers in a prepared toiletry case so it’s ready to grab for travel.

+Have a designated “overnight” cube if you’ll be doing one night stints while on a longer trip. That way you don’t have to take multiple cubes out and makes packing up the next day much faster. I usually include pajamas, underwear, and the next days outfit.

+Packing cubes in general for keeping clothes organized. I like to buy a set per family member (each in its own pattern/color) so it’s easy to find what you need. The brands I like: Neely & Chloe, Paravel, E.Z. Packing (the clear factor can be SO helpful), these cheap Amazon ones (great for kids), compression ones (when space really matters).

For Longer Trips.

+For overnight flights, wear a cozy matching set, preferably Vuori.

+Pack an eye mask for better chances at sleep. Ed. note: I did a little research on this matter, and both Tempurpedic and Manta came up as highly functional choices with top reviews, but I also own a few of these Slip masks that are conveniently slim and lightweight and would be easy to throw into a cary-on with less bulk.

+You must have an international travel converter with USBC outlet. So nice bc you can charge all your devices at once!

+The Ursa Major face wipes are a must! Don’t require water/wash cloth but can remove all makeup/grime in a second.

For a Better Traveling Headspace.

+Always anticipate at least one thing going wrong and shrug it off. It’s just part of the jig! And then when it’s smooth sailing it really feels like a win.

+Plan for extra time at the airport in case there are long security lines or another bump, so you can remain calm pre-flight.

+Eliminate stress by checking a bag. Then you aren’t worry about where to store carry-on, and you’re unfettered by stuff when moving through airport.

+If you’re a nervous flyer, pay for a seat by the wing (less turbulence).

+Let go of food rules while traveling.

For Travel Safety.

+Your luggage tag should only have your phone number NOT your address.

+I have a monogram decal on my navy Away suitcase given how common these suitcases are.

+Keep an AirTag in your suitcase. Not only helpful in case your suitcase goes missing, but also helps with waiting at baggage claim. You know when your bag should be coming out and can mobilize. You can use these holders to clip it to the interior of a suitcase so it’s not roaming free.

Upon Arrival Tips.

+Bring slippers for the hotel room. I typically take ones that are offered in the higher end hotels and use them over and over again.

+Sink-sized packets of Tide (found on Amazon), just in case.

+Pack a laundry bag to separate all used clothes from clean clothes at destination. Ed. note: I usually steal the “laundry bag” from the hotel closet for this purpose, but you can also find reusable ones to keep in your suitcase.

+An LED travel mirror. There are situations where hotels have sub-par lighting, or you’re sharing bathroom with friends/loved ones and need to do your makeup on the bed!

+Pack a quart sized Stasher bag with my favorite teas (cold care, night time, dandelion chai), backup instant coffee packets (Mount Hagen), raw sugar packets, and tiny Chocolonely circles. I like the certainty of having my favorites with me even if it means one more pouch in a tote bag full of other pouches.

Magpie Travel Gear.

best travel gear


best travel day gear

My most recent trip (to Atlanta, GA): cardigan, comfy jeans, Leset tee, Tumi, Chanel flats (not my most comfortable but the most versatile to pair with everything I packed), and my M.Z. Wallace Medium metro tote, which remains my most practical travel day bag. It has a zipper, is ultra-lightweight on its own, has an internal zippered pocket, and is big enough to fit laptop, headphones, and all my other preferred travel day must-have. Earrings are Margaux. Because who doesn’t love a little everyday bling?!

P.S. I stowed many of the recommended travel products from this post in this section of my Amazon shop.

P.P.S. Three sales you need to know about: 1) Hill House is offering 30% off sitewide with code EVERYTHING30. Perfect time to buy some holiday tartan; 2) Aligne is offering us 20% off with code JEN-20. I shared all my favorite picks here. Magpies have been loving this iconic camel topcoat. and 3) Lily & Bean is offering us 15% off with code JEN15. I know many of you loved this Hettie bag (I own in black!), which you saw in last week’s “What I Loved Wearing This Week.”

P.P.P.S. What advice do people seek you out for? Loved seeing the comments on this.

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18 thoughts on “Magpie Travel Tips: A Crowd-Sourced Guide to Easier Travel.

  1. Agree with so many of these tips here, especially CLEAR/TSA Pre, disinfecting surfaces on the plane (even pre-COVID!), having a change of clothes in my carry-on, and using hotel slippers (I have a designated pair of flip-flops that I use as hotel slippers). Hotel room carpets are not the cleanest, even the higher priced ones! I finally convinced my husband of this when our little one walked all over the hotel room in socks and later we saw her socks were filthy. Eww. And yes to shoe bags! I sometimes see those IG posts showing what is packed inside their luggage and seeing the shoes touching the clothes… cringe. Same with putting suitcases on the bed!!! (ok I have issues, haha)

    One thing I’d like to add: apply and re-apply sunscreen in flight. I read somewhere that the UV radiation (and resulting sun damage) in flight is significantly higher!

    I love the laundry sheets by Clean People. Being allergic to some ingredients, I like having my own detergent to use in AirBnB homes/vacation rentals. So easy to pack too!

  2. Hi Jen! I wanted to share this delightful
    charger dock for the iWalk chargers, having 4 always ready to go has been such bliss, it lives on our console for when we walk out the door: https://www.amazon.com/iWALK-Portable-Charging-Multiple-Family-Sized/dp/B0BN81XGG7

    Shoe bags, always. I can’t stand shoe bottoms touching clean clothes, and I save the bags from my high end shoe purchases to use. If you haven’t tried Kizik sneakers that you step into, I think they’d be a game changer through security. I bought a pair while pregnant and they’re comfier than my ankles, truly the only sneakers I reach for.

    The EO hand sanitizer spray is my favorite for travel, it smells terrific and isn’t sticky, it’s easy to spritz down your tray table, and you can even use it as deodorant in a pinch.

    I always bring two soft pashmina scarves to use as blankets on the plane, they’re not bulky and can be rolled up as pillows, and I don’t mind wearing them through security. Uniqlo’s airism shirts pack absolutely tiny and make a great spare layer in your carry on if you’re traveling with a toddler. I wear a massive duster cardigan with big pockets so I always have somewhere spare to put a baby bottle, my kindle, my snacks if they need a temporary home. Pre-pandemic we traveled internationally to see family nearly every other month, so I grew quite particular on what comforts I’d prepare!

    1. These are SO helpful! Love the shoe bag note. Totally agree on this – I’m especially grossed out after a trip to NYC.

      Thank you for chiming in!


  3. This post is a treasure trove of information! Do you, or anyone else, have a suggestion for a container that could hold small portions of Advil, supplements (never leaving home with the cranberry ones you mentioned the other week), cold & flu, etc.? I love the look of the Cadence containers, but would like a less expensive option.

    The other unicorn product I have been on the hunt for is a pouch/container/holder for both my toiletries and makeup. I bring minimal of both on trips and find my toiletry bag (Hudson Bleeker) and makeup bag (Cuyana) to take up so much room in my carry-on suitcase. I need more room for clothes and shoes!

    Thank you!

    1. I had the same dilemma as you before a series of recent trips and found this on Amazon: MEACOLIA 3 Pack 8 Compartments Travel Pill Organizer Moisture Proof Small Pill Box for Pocket Purse Daily Pill Case Portable Medicine Vitamin Holder Container (Blue+Green+Khaki) https://a.co/d/8eBwtTh
      I wrote the name of the supplement in sharpie on the inside compartments. SO not fancy but it has worked perfectly.

      1. Alison, this looks like it would work perfectly. Thank you for sharing! I noticed there is a 30% off coupon on Amazon too. A deal too good to pass up!

    2. Hi Erica! Alison jumped in with a great suggestion for pill box / supplements, but I also wanted to mention that I actually have used these flat ziploc top bags for holding small amounts of medicine/vitamins (https://amzn.to/3ub1vTH). They look like mason jars but are actually baggies. All cuteness aside, I think the size and flatness of them makes them really handy for keeping small amounts of things separate and easy to pack. Re: bags for toiletries and makeup, I seriously love the Julia Amory ones because they come in three sizes and I find I will either stuff everything into the biggest one if a short trip (cosmetics and toiletries) or separate into two separate pouches (usually the medium and small) for longer trips when I’m carrying more products. I love the Cuyana ones but they are bulky and sort of unforgiving to pack. These are squishy and can be wedged in a bit easier. They’re also lined, have a few pockets on the interior, and I throw them right in the wash and then leave to air dry when/if they get smudges of makeup / spills / etc.


      Happy travels to us!


      1. Adding the Julia Amory toiletry set to my holiday wish list now! Or more likely, watching for a BF sale and gifting to myself. 🙂

        Unforgiving is a great way to describe the Cuyana cases. I need something I can stuff into spaces!

        1. Yes – totally! Cuyana are like my “treat” if I’m traveling by car without children. They look so chic and spark joy but are not as great if you’re short on space.

          Will be keeping my eyes peeled for a J.A. sale too!


  4. All fantastic tips! Thanks for putting this together.

    I used to travel weekly for work, and am now fully responsible for packing my family for trips. Similar to your suggestion of the reminders app, I utilize the notes app for packing. I have two notes with standard packing lists (work for me, family for the other). I have a third list with packing reflections from trips. Just a few bullet points from most trips: “only wore 2 of 4 pairs of shoes” “didn’t pack enough wipes” “wished i had a reusable tote.” Doing this has really fine tuned what is packed. It also takes a huge mental load off me for future trips and make’s packing much faster.

    If one spouse travels a lot for work, I can’t recommend enough having one dedicated work suitcase + gear that is only used for work.we do this for my husband now. No double dipping his steamer or shaving cream so he is i prepared for his next work travel.

    1. These are BRILLIANT. Love the idea of leaving notes for myself to review at the next point of packing, and the separate suitcase makes complete sense! I so deeply appreciate how strategic you are!


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