Flying standby? 5 tips on what to wear & how to pack

I’m heading on a weekend trip tomorrow morning to Portland for a girls’ weekend. And, like most trips, I’m flying standby. Standby is a great way to travel if you’re patient, flexible and accommodating. For extremely discounted travel, I’m all of the above.

Flying standby, there’s no guarantee you’ll get on your preferred flight, so it’s good to be prepared for anything.

1. Carry on only. Checking a bag is risky. Even if you don’t make the flight, your bags will. The longer you’re away from your luggage, the more risk you face losing it. Remember that most, if not all, airlines allow only 2 carry-ons max. Pack accordingly.

A medium-sized tote and a carry-on bag is all you need for your standby trip.

2. Defer to a fabric or soft leather carry-on bag. As a standby traveler, you’ll likely be one of the last people on the plane, so finding any space in an overhead compartment will be difficult. The pliability, the bend-ability of a fabric or soft leather bag will make it easier to fit into a compartment dominated by their bulkier counterpart—the roller mini-suitcase. I have this duffel bag from Hershel, and it works great. It’s extra deep, has a separate zippered compartment for shoes and is lightweight.

Lightweight cotton fabrics are comfortable for traveling. Dress it up with minimalist jewelry.

3. Dress comfortably while keeping layers to a minimum. The quicker you get through airport security and to your gate, the better chance you have at making your flight. A tee, jeans, slip-on shoes and long-sleeve tied around your waist is the way to go. I wear these Pumas everywhere with the laces a little loose but tied, so all I have to do is slip them off and on, and go—hi, 1995.

Keep the jewelry to one or two pieces. Again, quickness is key.

4. Think light. More clothes, more books, more appliances, more stuff will only weigh you down. Carrying a heavy bag through the airport, through security, to your gate, to grab a bite to eat is not only bad for your back but it’s extremely uncomfortable. Think of where you’re flying to, what the weather will be like, what you’ll be doing and what you’ll need to dress appropriately for each activity you have planned—then edit all that down to a few key items.


Add a couple of fun tops to up the trend factor. Otherwise, keep it neutral.

5. Pack like you’re going on vacation, not like you’re moving there. Of course it all depends on how long you’ll be vacationing and where, but simplicity should be the over-arching idea. A 3-day weekend in Portland, for example, should require a couple of tees/tanks, one pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, maybe some leggings and a couple of nice tops if you’re feeling indecisive about what to wear to a nice dinner. Lean towards neutrals—blacks, whites, tans can all be easily interchangeable and look effortlessly polished. Again, edit, simplify and recycle.

With these tips in tow, you should be set for a successful standby adventure. Happy travels!

2 Comment

  1. Myong says: Reply

    Thanks for the great tips!

  2. Great tips Karina!
    I love “pack like you’re going on vacation not like you’re moving there!”

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