Packing For Comfort on the Plane and a Welcome to Readers! 11

Hello to all of my readers and a big welcome to those of you joining the blog from! I’m delighted that my blog is being featured on the Traveler’s Café. This month I’m blogging about packing and travel preparedness, I hope to have some fun and useful things to share at least every other day. Please like, comment and share your ideas, I’d love to see this become a conversation. You can follow my posts here or on Facebook by liking my page “Adventures with Sarah Murdoch”.

A bit about myself: I’ve been a tour guide for Rick Steves for more than 15 years and have been traveling to Europe since I was 10 years old. I was previously an architect and studied architecture in Rome, backpacking extensively all over Europe throughout my college days. These days I tend to stay in three star hotels more than the hostels of my youth, but my backpacking days have left a big impression on how I pack. I still carry a backpack and have put my architecture skills to work in designing the best possible method for getting the most out of my bag. I have been doing packing lectures for a few years for Rick and was featured on his live broadcasts in 2013 and 2014, you can find one of them here:

I don’t claim to be the top expert, and I acknowledge that everyone has their own needs and style of travel. But my many years of professional travel have taught me a lot of lessons, and I’m delighted to be able to share my ideas and observations with other travelers. I hope you find something useful or inspiring in my posts that will help you have the best possible trip.

I started this little project because I have been doing lots of packing lectures lately and I’m a bit spontaneous when I do speaking engagements. I thought it would be nice to commit my thought process to something more permanent. This also serves as a written resource for those who have seen my talks. So far, I’ve covered how to choose a bag, my method for packing based on weight, choosing clothes, emergency kits, and panic shopping. As I have just left and my packing is complete, my upcoming posts will dissect my bag, giving you a chance to see how the advice is actually working out on the road.

On the Road Again

Today, I’m all about plane comfort. Actually, I’m on the plane to Rome right now! From my home in Seattle, it takes a minimum of 13 hours to get to my job in Italy. I’m no stranger to very long plane rides. I should also mention that I’m 6’2″ and all legs, which can make it an uncomfortable slog. I’ll be partially folded up so comfort is key, and I always choose my clothes carefully for my plane ride.

Generally, when I’m packing I think about layers. I need to have a wardrobe that can go from the steamy streets of Sicily to the top of the Alps. Most of my clothes are lightweight. Planes are almost invariably chilly, so chilly that I’ve often lamented not bringing mittens. On a long plane day, I typically wear lots of layers. As I write, I’m wearing these clothes: tank top, long sleeved t-shirt, down vest, fleece jacket, scarf, long pants (with a soft waistband), wool socks and running shoes. That sounds like a lot, but the icicles in the cabin would beg to differ.

The good news about piling on the clothes for the flight is this- that’s a whole lot of weight that you aren’t carrying in your bag through airports and subways. I try and wear everything heavy when I have a flight, it also reduces bulk to keep the size of my bag down. I’ll always choose to wear my heaviest shoes on the plane as shoes tend to contribute a large amount of weight.

Scarves are my secret to airplane comfort. A wide one can keep you warm in a variety of ways. Wrap it around your neck or use it as a blanket. I’ll often take a few items of clothing out of my bag and wrap them up in my scarf for an impromptu pillow that beats any flimsy airline pillow. If you’re traveling in colder months and want the best, a cashmere scarf will really be a pleasure. I typically carry a lightweight cheapie made of “cashmina” or some other invented name for polyester. But if it’s soft and warm, it’ll do.

My other must-have for long airplane rides is a nice set of headphones. This is one of those rare occasions that I’ll strongly suggest a splurge. Airplane headphones are usually horrible sounding and uncomfortable, so I’ve splashed out and bought Bose in-ear headphones (about $100, see link at the bottom of this post). I listen to lots of music and watch movies on the plane, but I’ll also keep my headphones in my ears to cut down on the ambient noise in the cabin. This particular set has a silicon cuff that gently sets in my ear, making them so comfy that I hardly even notice they’re in there. My recommendation is to find a good pair that fit your ears well, with decent sound. It’s a good investment as you’ll almost certainly use them often on your trip for guided tours or museum audio guides.

My plane will be touching down soon, I’ll grab my backpack, and since I’ve carried my bags on the plane, I’ll sail out of the Rome airport without waiting at baggage claim. I’m staying in Rome for a week while leading a Rick Steves Rome tour. Once I’ve settled in, I’ll be back with more tips and travels stories.

My favorite headphones can be found here://


Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.

11 thoughts on “Packing For Comfort on the Plane and a Welcome to Readers!

  • Susan Holmes

    We are leaving Sept. 1 for 30 days in Europe. River Cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg, 5 days in Switzerland, two weeks in Italy. Other than the river cruise, lots of train travel and sightseeing on our own with a few tours and drivers pre-scheduled.
    I was considering a Day Bag (backpack) or Sling backpack (to carry umbrella, light jacket, tour book, water bottle,etc.) with a cross body bag for the longer touring days and to be “hands-free” at train station with my one suitcase.
    With recent events, I have heard that a backpack/sling may not be allowed in museums and is suspicious at rail stations and public places in general. Have you found this to be true and if so, other suggestions? many thanks!

    • Post author

      Sounds like a great trip! Backpacks are not being allowed into museums in general, but any kind of purse or messenger style bag is fine. Rick sells the Veloce bag, which would be good. I also like the Cafe bag from Tom Bihn.


    I almost never drop remarks, but i did some searching and wound up here Packing For Comfort on the Plane and a Welcome to Readers! – Adventures with Sarah.
    And I actually do have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind.

    Is it only me or does it look like a few of these responses look as if
    they are left by brain dead visitors? 😛 And,
    if you are writing at other social sites, I’d like to follow anything fresh
    you have to post. Would you list of all of all your public sites
    like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

    • Post author

      You can follow me on Facebook at Adventures with Sarah or Instagram at adventureswithsarahm, new posts coming here very soon!

  • Pat

    Hi Sarah,
    You have a great writing style filled with experience, knowledge and humor. I’ll be watching for future posts and can’t wait to hear the latest Rome tips and tricks. We’ll be there in less than a month….hopefully the temperatures will have subsided by then.
    I am really going to enjoy reading about your great lifestyle.
    A faithful fan,

    • sarahmurdoch

      Thanks so much for your comment and encouragement! It’s fun to have a chance to share all I’ve learned. If you have specific topics you’d like to see posts about, I’m happy to take requests!

  • Jim Zabilski

    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your various posts. My wife and I leave for our 7th Viking River Cruise in 4 weeks. We have always done carry on even for our 32 day triple cruise last year. But the rivers are getting crowded and we are looking at a Rick Steves off season tour in the near future. Greetings from New Mexico.

  • whisper

    Delighted to find your bog ( through Rick Steeves newsletter). I really enjoy packing, planning what to packs and bags! My current favorite is also a Tm Bihn, the Synapse 25 but when I see a Black Dyneema A30 I am going to order one. I think it will suit my packing style a bit better.

    Will look forward to more posts from you.

  • Pat Frederick-Perona

    The most useful item I pack is a small anti friction item called BANDAID. It looks like a tiny deodorant and will stop a blister in its tracks. In summer I always have it on my purse and I carry a. Rey small purse

Comments are closed.