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5 best tips on how to pack for long flights to europe

"You always look so put together in your images. Love your style. How do you manage to walk out the house très chic every time? Do I need to go to France before learning the secrets!!? Hopefully not, because after seeing so many of my friends take the plunge and go slow travel the world, I want to follow suit. Just how does one do this in the most polished way possible?" -Heather, fellow miss minimalist and eternal optimist

Dear Heather,
Wow I'm blushing! How kind of you to notice the obvious. Yes, I am indeed très chic, because I wake up looking, quite frankly, like a homeless single chic thanks to my hair extensions being perpetually unruly not to mention my skin is more oily than fried chicken corner store, which leads me to of course call upon my entourage of minions who begrudgingly transform me into deux chic... and then magically, as if witnessing a mystical butterfly emerge from a cocoon of wonder, I set sail on my daily journeys as the most très chic of them all! 

And you too can achieve such a feat for the small monthly installment of $499, one maid of undetermined minority origin to lint roll all your belongings (not just clothing obviously, face tissue needs to be lint-free as well) and one mute assistant who will adjust your corset each day Jessica Alba style, since we all know you cannot look polished weighing anything over an American size 2.

Look, jokes aside, long flights to dreamy and fantastical destinations such as European villages or quaint French countrysides are exciting because it usually means you’re going somewhere amazing! 

But those long, international flights can also take a toll on your body. For anyone feeling intimidated by a 7+ hour flight, there are a few tricks-of-the-trade that will get you through your flight and feeling like an elegant champion.

Here’s my stylish survival guide for long-haul flights to europe followed by long-term stays!

Packing smart is key when you’re traveling. Plan exactly what you will need during your flight, ahead of time. Depending on your type of travel, you may or may not need a piece of carry-on luggage for your clothes, but you’ll almost always need a chic personal bag that can go from plane to hotel to Mediterranean beaches with no one the wiser.

Now of course I bring this up because for a long time I fell into the trap that many novice European travelers do which is assume that as a woman, my purse should suffice as a lovely little personal item. But as you'll soon learn my fellow long distance, slow traveler...the more carry-on real estate you possess the better. Can you really fit dry shampoo, a bamboo hair brush, a change of shoes, a makeup bag, fragrances, and any other essential makeover items in just a purse? I think not. And after an overseas journey, the first thing any woman wants is to feel like a human again. I always head straight to the airport restrooms, find the biggest stall, and begin my short yet sweet transformation!

For shorter trips: I recommend bringing a tote that can also function as a day bag on your trip. I'm a sucker for a good canvas tote. And recently I've finally succumbed to researching backpacks that are feminine enough to warrant throwing money at. So if you need recommendations of totes or rucksacks that don't make you look frumpy or androgynous hit me up in the comments!

For longer trips or business trips: I personally bring my camera backpack to safely carry my laptop and camera equipment sometimes too. So if you're a digital nomad or working woman who just so happens to do workations, this is something to consider. There will be sacrifices for function over style.

A great personal bag for travel should have plenty of space, zipper closures, and pockets and compartments for organization. While it is important to keep those liquids handy for staying moisturized, it is also important to make sure you pack them correctly. Make sure they are under 3.4 ounces and put everything in a single clear plastic bag no larger than 1-quart to avoid any headaches.

Throwing away a brand new bottle of expensive French face cream (ask me how I know!) is never fun, so don’t forget to use those travel-sized containers. I keep a list of the best travel beauty products handy at all times, and now I'm sharing with anyone who asks.

By the way, can we go back to emphasize how it is SO important to stay hydrated when you’re thousands of miles up in the sky! Airplanes dehydrate your whole body quickly and will not only make you feel bad but can also do a number on your skin and eyes.

I suggest a good hand moisturizer, a tinted face moisturizer that can also act as a concealer, under eye cream, lip balm, and a re-useable water bottle. Vapur water bottles are awesome for your travels as they roll up small enough to fit in your pocket when empty yet they hold an entire liter of water when full. How sweet is that! Nothing is more unsightly than a woman who looks decrepit and aging before her dream trip even starts!

Helpful  Tip To Remember: An in-flight cocktail is much more potent and dehydrating than on land. Be sure to limit your alcohol intake and double up on water while flying!

Flying takes a toll on everyone’s freshness, but do not just yourself, but those around you a favor by having travel-sized products that will freshen you up before and after your flight. Especially if you're prone to being anxious. Anxiety has been known to ruin many a good outfit. Nothing worse than a smelly sweaty flight neighbor. Again, ask me how I know!

I also highly suggest Colgate Wisps for your teeth and a facial cleansing wipe for your face. Because let's be honest, the makeup you have on your face before a trip definitely ain't gonna be the same face you have upon landing. 

A travel-sized deodorant and breath mints are other easy steps to helping you feel fresh and clean before during and after your flight. If your long-haul flight includes a long layover, head to an airport lounge. You may qualify for access depending on your airline status or type of airfare ticket. If you don’t qualify for free access, consider paying the fee (usually around $20 USD) to hang out in one— most offer free food and drinks and even have showers so you can refresh between flights. It’s worth the money! Trust.

Just because you have a long flight ahead of you doesn’t mean you can’t be cute AND comfortable at the same time. I suggest veryyy stretchy jeans (I'm looking at you muffin top waist line that despises tight button closures while sitting!) or loose-fitting bottoms, such as leggings, a comfy natural fabric top (the options you see me pictured in above are linen blend or tencel mixed with rayon which is superbly wrinkle-resistant) and a cozy over-sized sweater or cardigan that can also act as a blanket. Those planes be cold cold!

Slip-on shoes are good for the security line and getting comfortable on your flight. You’ll also want to pack a pair of compression socks to avoid any health risks such as blot clots and DVT (deep vein thrombosis.) Yeah, it's a thing.

Truly though, it’s quite simple to accommodate a chic yet simply wardrobe for the sake of traveling around the world as I announced in this post I would be doing. The key is to start at home, cultivate a method of madness with surgical precision, then take that philosophy with you wherever you go. I can’t pretend to be an expert when my very feminine aura rests upon the many help of others, but here are some ideas and tips I've heard through the grapevine from years of being surrounded by fabulous folk in my former life as a fashion editor:

  • Truth be told, polished women, (even the French ones!) spend years on their signature style: What do Kate Moss and the editor of Paris Vogue undoubtedly share in common? They got that speed dial on check! Don't think for one second that flawlessly polished women are born on a hereditary pedestal. It is an acquired skill, like learning to fake a good orgasm. Everything from the haircut to the skincare regime is a strategic chess move that has been perpetuated over time, only to be occasionally interrupted by gifts and swag bags brimming with [enter trendy new item here]. Not to mention the grooming of their nails, body hairs and facial elasticity is down to a science! In short, they know what works for them by testing and testing like there's no tomorrow. Become a loyal groupie of trusted products and habits, specifically the ones that earn you compliments and winning comments on Facebook albums. This is where your essential travel routines list begins.
  • Adjust and Touch Up: You're either in or you're out, there is no in between. A true polished woman discreetly excuses herself like a leaf in the breezy night to go reapply powder, rid herself of excess oil, tie a scarf around wine stains, and tousle her  bedhead tresses. But being a diva does not a comfortable traveler make. To save yourself from all the fuss, invent a time machine to travel back and just be born naturally stunning. No time machine? No problem. California has tons of specially trained doctors I can recommend for that. Though well-crafted makeup routines would be cheaper. Just sayin.
  • Invest In A Tailor and a Rich Husband: Stepping off the plane with mascara running down your face like Beverly Hills housewife Erika Jayne in that episode we shall not speak of, will definitely make a statement- it just might not be the right one. But that's the least of your worries if you're caught dead in frumpy ill-fitting clothes. Yes vintage is in. No, it's not okay to look like your grandmother. Even if she is Sophia Loren. For heaven's sake, just try a day at the tailor already and stop making excuses. Would $15 really kill you? If so, there should be a website with a sugar daddy calling your name. Good items to keep in your carry-on for the polished look are a structured blazer (hello waistline, remember me!) tinted moisturizer, lip balm, and some cream shimmer from quality beauty brands, not the drugstore mmkay. Just kidding, I love those national drug dealers. 
  • Polished Women Pack Tightly: That is, their cosmetics fit into the case snug as a bug so that they don’t spill open and create a soupy mess of Moroccan oil conditioner and organic coconut oil body butter. Ask me how I know! You also never see a well-kept woman in whatever that mistake of an outfit Beyonce was wearing. Wardrobe minimalist = polished. How do you cull your wardrobe like a french woman? Buy quality and actually use it. Editing your wardrobe and belongings is tough, but you don't need 33 different types of jeans. Just the ones that will make your derrière look slim while binge eating cheese and olives in Greece. Keep it .simple. stupid. As my father always said.
  • Keep Your Travel Documents Handy: Does my bag sometimes eat items that I need? Yes. Let’s not pretend that my lipstick doesn’t sometimes fall into the folds of my bag, cracking open, and painting the town red. But nothing is quite as unsightly as watching a disheveled woman rummage through her purse like a bag lady to find tickets and identification in the security line! And be sure to pare down your wallet to what you need and leave the rest at home. A minimalist knows that the less you bring, the less you can lose and a polished woman won’t be juggling old receipts to find her bank card. Become a swan and gracefully glide through security checkpoints, taxi lines, and crowded Italian market stalls with ease sweet friend.

start training your elegance muscles at home I did in these photos where I pretend you can't see me posing for no reason!

Hair & Makeup

As silly as it sounds, remember to drink water on the plane- especially if you have a long overseas flight. Cabin pressure is dehydrating and will do nothing for your skin. In terms of cosmetics, you don’t need a lot to look beauteous. If you are wearing too much, not only is it not simplistic (we are after all aiming for ease + simplicity) but you just end up looking a bit like sun dried plastic, and showing the world how many hours you spent in plane cabin is the epic fail. Cosmetics that are cream-based have more staying power and are much easier to reapply on-the-go than their powdered relatives. Waterproof mascara and long-lasting lip colors are de rigueur as well. Needless to say, it's foolish to believe you'll be casted out of society if you lack an obnoxiously bright nail polish. A manicure isn't defined by an array of color options, so keep nails trimmed, healthy, and hydrated with a nude color in your bag just in case. Well groomed nails and eyebrows are actually your quintessential accessories. The secret is out.

Now when it comes to your head, let's all be seriously honest here. Hair can be a travel problem. It’s hard to maintain while out and about, but you can look very sloppy and unpolished if you don’t do something strategic with it. So pull an Anna Wintour and plan a signature look before departure. Stop putting off that resolution of getting a dramatic haircut and use round the world travel as your reason to see it through. Whether a bob, a pixie, or box braids, a polished look is led by the low maintenance hairstyle. Plus you have to ask yourself: what tools am I really willing to carry around with me in a suitcase? Also, if your hair gets greasy or needs a touch-up, dry shampoo might do the trick. 


When it comes to traveling like an elegant French model off duty, ignore the myth that polished means boring and instead stick to what complements your skin and body by building your traveling wardrobe around two or three neutral colors and silhouettes. These items can always be combined with patterns but classic really doesn’t go out of style (however it's up to you to define your own classics as it were). Rock your natural fibers because these babies are lightweight, easy to fold, and they won’t wrinkle on the plane. Synthetic fabrics might indeed be more wrinkle-free and low maintenance, but what I always remind myself of is they'll also bleed all kinds of toxic nonsense into your bloodstream when you're under the baking Mediterranean sun! Though the real lesson is to care for your belongings, the little that will be left. It all goes back to quality over quantity. Even a nylon day dress can look mesmerizing once ironed, but a wrinkled and fraying APC jacket will leave you blending in with the "average" folk. So déclassé.

Travel Accessories: Play nice and make friends with scarves, you'll be thankful later. They are extremely versatile, foldable, easy to travel with, and can give your outfit a little pop of color. In terms of jewelry, it is a shame statement jewelry always seems to be called a trend, because good personal pieces can add a lot to your wardrobe without taking up too much space, and shouldn't be viewed as a fad so much as an investment to project any look from plain Jane to "who's that girl?"

Remember that you are trying to simplify. A sleep mask for an overnight flight and some earplugs can do wonders. Becoming très chic means being reflective. 

Traveling can be an excellent way to start prioritizing your desires in life. Are you really wearing this hoarded t-shirt from college? Or might it be baggy, unbecoming, and taking up room in your closet? It may take a bit of money, time and effort to look like an effortlessly stylish vagabond, but it also requires sense and intuition. 

Don't feel overwhelmed love. You got this! Make it a weekend ritual to touch up or mend items you absolutely can't part with, schedule fittings with a tailor, (even a cheap local dry cleaner will do, that's usually my go to) and slowly but surely develop a grooming routine. By this time next year, you'll have only one carry on to your name and still be as chic as Jackie O.

How do you stay polished at all times? Would you be ready to minimalist travel with just one bag by tomorrow?


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Letitia Elizabeth is the author of EUROPE NOMAD, the travel blog for daydreaming fellow travelers who love cheap countries in Europe, beautiful countrysides, and magical quality of life. Here you'll receive packing lists + guides, Europe travel tips, digital nomad working life advice & living in Europe as an American stories. Welcome!