American Airlines is my preferred US-based airline, especially for Asia-Pacific and Oceania travel. I’m fortunate that my day job as an analyst pays for business-class travel for flights over 8 hours. But one area that American’s business-class service lags, and this is going to sound petty, is amenities. Namely, the pillows are useless. The stuffing is so loose that your head sinks through the pillow and into the seat/bed.
A popular cliché is that you should enjoy the journey as much as the destination. When it comes to business travel, that’s not my policy. My policy is to make the journey as painless and ignorable as possible. That’s shaped how I travel. Here’s how I get from point A to B and back.
About My Travel
I travel just over 100,000 miles a year, mostly for events that my company puts on. I need to pack a couple suits, dress shirts and training gear. I may also need to take weather gear like coats, gloves, etc. I also travel with a lot of electronics: Kindle, iPad, laptop and noise canceling headphones.
I have an unhealthy obsession with the idea of one-bag travel. There are dozens of structured backpacks that apparently work well for tourists and casual travelers, but I always travel with at least one suit and several shirts. Add in workout gear, casual clothes, another pair of shoes, dopp kit and electronics, and you’re talking about looking like a wrinkled mess when you get where you’re going. A structured suitcase is essential.
My go-to carry-on is the overpriced Tumi Alpha International. I fell into the Tumi because I got a Tumi gift card from my employer when I finished my MBA. (This was probably their way of telling me to take a hike.)
The Tumi lets me easily pack enough for a 3-day work trip and the bag has been flawless over five-plus years and hundreds of thousands of miles of air travel. The bag still looks new, but that’s not because of some special Tumi magic. It looks new because I never check it. The Tumi warranty is only 5 years and it’s fairly limited. Because of the paltry warranty Tumi chooses to put on its overpriced luggage, I check a different bag for longer trips. This is where the Briggs & Riley comes in.
My second bag is the Briggs & Riley Baseline.
I’m a fan of Briggs & Riley because of their lifetime warranty and innovative internal expansion system. The bags wear well and have quality construction. In addition to the Baseline, I have another large rolling suiter that’s been through hell and back. Once, I used a hotel sewing kit to make emergency repairs while in Sydney. I’ve also sent it in for warranty service multiple times. Wirecutter also has nice things to say about the brand.
For longer trips when I can’t do laundry, like a week-long, multi-city trip, I’ll divide clothing between the two carry-ons. Then I check one and keep the other so I’m covered if the airline loses a piece of luggage. As I travel, I move the dirty clothes into the checked bag. The B&R bag takes most of the abuse since it’s always the one I check.
Another essential piece of luggage is a lightweight daypack. I prefer the REI Flash 22. It’s easily packable, but still has great capacity at 22 liters.
If that’s too much, there’s also the Flash 18, as well as several great options from North Face, Osprey and others. These are great for tourist activities, or for carrying your gear to the nearest gym.
Packing comes down to what I take and how I organize it in my luggage. I heavily rely on Eagle Creek packing cubes. I have multiple sizes, but always get the lightest weight version. Packing cubes simplify everything about packing, unpacking and general organization. And if customs wants to rifle through your stuff, cubes make it easier to repack and get on your way.
On the Plane
This is where I try to zone out as much as possible. I’ve found two things to help make that possible:
This mask is countered so it stays off your eyes and the elastic band doesn’t bite into the tops of your ears.
I use these ear plugs with my noise canceling headphones to block as much noise as possible.
I’m always interested in approaches, products or techniques others use to master their air travel. If you’ve got a tip, please leave it in the comments.
Travel and Leisure ran an article on improving how you sleep on planes. It has some good tips, but this is a topic I’m unfortunately familiar with. Here’s what I’ve learned after several years flying over 100,000 miles.
Dress in layers
Every plane starts off with the temperature set to arctic, only to slowly creep up to an uncomfortable level exactly halfway through the flight. Another factor is your own body heat – you’re heating up the seat, blanket, pillow, etc. I start most flights in lightweight travel trousers, t-shirt, sweater, shoes and socks. Over the course of a long-haul flight, I end up in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Managing clothing layers helps me regulate body temperature, ensuring better sleep.
Earplugs and noise canceling headphones
The T&L article covers noise canceling headphones, but I like to double-up with earplugs. Don’t bother with the mushy plugs that come in the amenity kit. I like the Mack’s Ultra Soft foam earplugs. They’re low cost and greatly improve the travel experience, especially when the the infant in 16B is melting down.
I use melatonin daily for better sleep and take larger doses when changing time zones. It also works well when flying for more restful sleep. It doesn’t work for everyone; if it works for you, it may be worth considering. I buy large bottles of melatonin at Costco and take three pills when the food is delivered. Ninety minutes later, I’m ready for some sleep.
What are your go-to tips for better sleep while flying?