Hand luggage only: how to pack for any trip
Beat the queues and the airline charges: travel writer Tim Richards shows you his carry-on bag packing secrets.
Airline amenity kits are one of the many treats awaiting any flyer on admittance to the pointy end of the plane.
But as you clock up those miles above the clouds, in business class and even in first class, your own bespoke amenity kit begins to take its own shape, and will over time become the preferred option to the bags that airlines hand out.
After all, few travellers' needs are fully served by even the best 'washbag', to use the genteel British term.
So the best inflight amenity kit? That will be the one you assemble yourself.
Pulling together your own amenity kit also saves time ahead of flights – this part of your packing is reduced to a grab-and-go exercise. Having gone through several iterations of a DIY amenity kit, the current state of mine may spark a few of your own ideas.
A bag for your swag
First up, you need a decent bag: one that can hold your assortment of items, ideally with a few pockets or compartments to avoid clutter.
Plenty of brands and online stores will take your money for a swanky or even relatively basic amenity bag, but with airlines themselves offering so many great bags – especially in first class – I've never seen the need to buy one.
I'm using a Payot amenity kit, issued by Qantas first class until the airline switched to SK-II. The Payot bag has a tri-fold design so you can lay it flat and flip open both sides to see everything at a glance, rather than need to dig around within hidden confines.
Keep your kit a cut above
Shaving gear is the starting place for most gents. Don't rely on the disposable razors supplied in most airline kits – especially business class – or in hotel bathrooms, for that mater. They tend to be cheap and unreliable and even painful to use.
What you want first thing in the morning, as you set about taking a razor to your skin in a cramped plane loo, is familiarity. Your hand needs to be able to run on auto-pilot as your brain wakes up. And for that, you need a razor that's no stranger to your skin.
The cartridge razor you use at home every morning? Buy another one and pop that in your amenity bag, along with a set of refill cartridges, and you'll be set for months.
As for shaving cream, I'm a fan of shave gels or oils rather than foam, which can be messy and difficult to rinse away in the basin. Throw in a gentle aftershave balm (Payot remains my pick) and you're set for the day.
You also need a good moisturiser, to use both during the flight and once you land. Those long hours in a relatively dry cabin take their toll on your skin.
At the end of the flight, give your face a quick cleanse and then slather moisturiser (Biotherm Homme Aquapower is my go-to) onto your face and neck.
The eyes have it
My inflight kit also contains a small bottle of 'rehydrating' eye drops to combat dry-eye, another side-effect of long overseas flights. (Because you'll only use a few drops at a time, make sure the bottle has a long expiry date).
And while we are talking of rehydrating, throw in some Berocca or similar for a handy way of resetting your body clock with a quick wake-up hit of Vitamin B.
Doing the 'do
If you use hair styling product such as a gel or a clay, you'll only be allowed to carry small travel-sized packs aboard. Your hairdresser may have some free samples; otherwise, check the 'travel size' section at Priceline and US drugstores such as Walgreens, CVS and Duane Reade, as well as Amazon.
Perfume is another area where free samples come up trumps. These compact vials are much more convenient than carrying a regular-sized perfume bottle, and also let you try out new fragrances or use different ones depending on the occasion or even the weather. Next time you're shopping for a fragrance, ask the sales staff for a few samples.
Giving it back
If you're a frequent flyer who accumulates a surplus of goodies from your flights and hotel stays, consider sending them to Every Little Bit Helps.
This registered Australian not-for-profit charity accepts unused toiletries from hotels, airline amenity kits and other sample-sized cosmetic and sanitary products to distribute to people in need in homeless shelters, women's shelters and youth shelters as well as 'rough sleepers'. For details on how you can help, click here.
What do you pack in your personal in-flight amenity kit? Let us know in the comment section.
Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business tripler magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of 51698009 readers.