Once upon a time, a self-proclaimed Archaeology-Lifer got a job as a flight attendant. No one knows quite how it happened. Here's what happened next...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How to Pack for a Pairing

Packing for a pairing can be a challenge.  It’s always going to be different, based on where you are going and how long you’re going to be away for.  This particular crew bag was prepared for a three day pairing which took me from Ottawa to Toronto and St. John’s with a few stops in between.  It had been a while since I did any flights, so I actually had to put some thought into this.  However, in the winter my bag was never really unpacked, and I used to just throw in whatever extra I needed.

So here are the basics!

Main Suitcase (carry-on sized)
  • One Pair of Jeans  - A staple of most outfits.  However I never wear them when deadheading.  I like to look a little smarter.
  • Three versatile shirts and a cardigan.
  • Three more pairs of underwear than required. - I have been on parings that I had expected to last only two days and ended up away from home for six.  I was thankful for those extra undies, when one of the other FAs remarked that she had run out and was going commando.
  • More pairs of nightshade-coloured pantyhose than I am likely to need.  -The rule of thumb, for me at least, is that I will go through more pairs than I have if I don’t bring lots.
  • PJs.  Something lightweight.
  • Bathing Suit - Hotels have pools…and of course you never know if you’re going to get stuck somewhere sunny!
  • Gym Clothes - I like to take advantage of the gym facilities in hotels if I have a decent enough layover.
  • Mini hair-straightener
  • iPod charge cable.
  • Flight Attendant Manual (the black binder in the middle.  It takes up more space in my case than anything else.
  • Boarding shoes, galley shoes, gym shoes.
  • An extra uniform blouse (or two).
  • Toiletries bag - The best advice I can give any new FA regarding toiletries is to buy those mini travel-sized toiletries and fill them up yourself at home with your favourite products.
  • FOOD.  - I always try and pack a selection of travel-friendly food…juice cartons, granola bars and dry-packaged soup are my favourites, although I have been known to stuff pita bread in there, and, on one occasion, a pot of hummus.  Carefully wrapped up, of course.  The trick to getting the most out of your Per Diem (daily food allowance paid by the airline) is to not have to buy three full meals a day.  I usually have breakfast and snacks from what I brought, lunch is a crew meal on board, and then buy dinner out.
  • Lots of socks.
My aim is to leave enough space in the case for the clothes I plan to wear while deadheading.  I try and pick something lightweight - tights/leggings and a tunic or something, which won’t take up a lot of space.  And in the winter, it invariably includes the uniform boots, as they take up too much room in the case.  My uniform I carry in a garment bag as a carry-on.


  • Reading material - in my case, I packed it with my flight training resources.  I had a lesson prior to my flight.  
  • Diary - I can’t imagine living this life and not wanting to write it all down!
  • Scheduler - You need to know what you’re doing, day to day.
  • A little notebook is always handy.
  • Air Crew Restricted Area Pass/Company Identification - not the kind of thing you want to pack in your suitcase, but not something you aren't supposed to have on display if you are deadheading.
  • Advil.  Pain meds of choice.  Midol.  Gravol.  Etc.
  • Small jewelry wallet.
  • Glasses, Sunglasses
  • iPod, cell phone
  • More snacks
  • Main wallet - the blue one with the flowers is my travel wallet.  It has space for both my passports, the certifications I have to carry, debit/credit cards, IDs and money.
  • Small make-up wallet.
  • Folder - useful to keep flight details/charter advices/timesheets/expense sheets, etc.
  • The Flight Attendant Survival Kit (liquid edition, non-liquid edition).
  • Of course, a CAMERA! - You will never regret taking it and not using it, but you will ALWAYS regret not having it.  Case in point - Boxing Day 2009.  Ice storm in Ottawa eventually led to me getting stuck in Punta Cana overnight.  I didn’t have my camera (or most things, actually… just a spare pair of underwear and an extra uniform blouse…) and I had to take photos on my phone.  It SUCKED.
I used to use a large sized handbag for this, but now I use my flying club bag, as it has lots of space.  Plus if I tried to pack my flight training resources into a handbag it might not work out so well, and I can’t bear to be parted from it!

The Flight Attendant Survival Kit
Liquid Edition:

  • Hand Cream.  By the gallon if necessary.
  • Perfume - those little sample perfumes are great here.
  • Contact Lenses and eye drops
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip balm/gloss
  • Antiseptic cream (I’m clumsy).
  • More perfume.
  • More hand cream
  • Clear nail polish - a God Send.  I have saved countless pairs of pantyhose with just a dab of clear nail polish.  Apparently hairspray also works wonders.
Non-Liquid Edition:
  • Nail File
  • Make-up - for me, it’s concealer, pressed powder and blush.
  • Pen
  • Batteries
  All packed, and ready to go!

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