We read lists of "hacks" all over the internet—and some seem too good to be true. So we put the best travel tips to the test, and here are the verdicts.
Homemade Food for an In-Flight Meal, tested by Kenzi Wilbur
For a recent trip to Seattle, I took a page from Heidi Swanson’s book and tried making spring rolls before my flight—a food already leagues ahead of what I’d make for myself with much more time on my hands. I chopped carrots into neat little matchsticks; picked delicate leaves of cilantro; slivered avocado; felt really twee.
Normally, airport food for me isn't some beautiful little snack I've diligently packed away—it is bodega yogurts and bags of pretzels and peanut butter cups. Why, Heidi, would you ask me to gently sauté a ginger onion paste while I’m supposed to be packing? I hardly have the time to fold my laundry, let alone swaddle herbs in barely warmed oil.
But here's what I learned: Making proper food for yourself before a flight will likely be an emotional roller coaster. You will be annoyed, sometimes angry. If it’s late enough and you are behind enough, some of this may manifest into tears. But just make the damn spring rolls—the next day you will feel full, happy, and, most importantly, smug, like you’ve beat all the other meals sitting at your gate. And it’s because you have.
2. Lavender Oil for Stress, tested by Samantha Weiss Hills
I'm a nervous flyer—especially if I haven't flown in a while—and I admit to being skeptical when Amanda handed me a bottle of lavender essential oil to "soothe" my discomfort during takeoff and landing. As it turns out, dotting a few drops of it on the inside of my wrists does do the trick (especially if it's too early to have a glass of wine), as I recently discovered when testing it out on a flight to Chicago that required leaving home before sunrise.
To be fair, the lavender oil might have been a stretch for the violent discomfort I've felt when flying in the past, but I've gotten better with more frequent travel and the bit of oil is kind of nice to smell instead of the person sweating in a suit next to you. I think you could also mix it with some unscented lotion for extra coverage!
3. Travel-Sized Spray Bottle for Wrinkled Clothes, tested by Maryam Shamlou (friend of Ali Slagle)
Whether you’re a master packer, who makes lists and consults the weather forecast to pick out the perfect, portable wardrobe, or one who exercises less foresight, throws caution to the wind and packs 20 minutes before you’re out the door, you’re bound to encounter a shared enemy among all travelers: the wrinkle.
To keep from looking a ruffley and wrinkly mess: a travel-sized spray bottle. When filled with water, this unassuming travel hero works sartorial magic. Simply place the wrinkly garment on a hanger, hold it up or hang it up, and spray away the pesky wrinkles. I like to aim for the wrinkles and dampen the bottom of the garment to weigh it down, but any strategy will work. Once the garment dries, the wrinkles are long gone—and this works for all fabrics, too! It’s just too easy not to do.
4. Pack in a Small, Open Bag to Simplify, tested by Amanda Sims
I wasn't always a smart packer, more the type who would rather lift a whole stack of shirts from the drawer and slip them into a duffel rather than thinking critically about which two I actually might need.
But that system recently changed when I started taking simpler, more spontaneous trips. The reality of day trip travel from New York City, which frequently requires more than one mode of transportation, is that you really cannot be bogged down by a suitcase the size of your body. There are lots of tips for paring down when you pack—from rolling clothes so more will fit to mapping out your days by outfit and packing them in Ziplocs. But the most foolproof method I've found is to limit the size of the bag you travel with: Pack in an open tote bag and you will take less, feel freer.
You'll have room for one pair of presentable shoes along with a kick-around pair on your feet, a few bottoms and a few tops. Your laptop, if it insists on tagging along, can slip inside. Toiletries? Get the minis. Even on plane flights, an open tote bag can slip right under the seat in front of you, and the feeling of freedom as you stroll past baggage claim will last well beyond the return trip home.
Spring roll photos by Kenzi Wilbur, lavender photo by James Ransom, clothes photos by author