Fly With Khai: Five Packing Tips From a Travel Pro

Fly With Khai: Five Packing Tips From a Travel Pro

Khai Johannes is a true ambassador of stoke. When he's not backcountry snowboarding, climbing and sharing his love of donuts, you can find him welcoming passengers onto Boeing 737s all over the country as a flight attendant for Delta AirlinesHe often collaborates with outdoor brands as a freelance creative and recently shot a video for Ski Utah, explaining how to get from "Coastline to Ridgeline" in one day - the beach in San Diego to the mountains near his home base of Salt Lake City. 

If there's anyone who knows all the travel hacks, including what to wear and how to pack, it's this guy. So lean back, relax and read about five packing tips from an expert who really knows how to fly.

Khai spends his days off exploring the Utah backcountry.


Words & Photos // Khai Johannes 

There was a time when trips to the airport were such a novelty that families showed up in their Sunday best. As time moved on and travel became more commonplace, ceremonious suits and heels have been abandoned for comfort. 

 Ready for take-off. Khai begins his shift for Delta Airlines.

As a travel professional and professional traveler, it’s normal for me to live out of a bag for weeks at a time. I’ve been packing a wardrobe, pantry and portable gym into a suitcase for the past seven years. Over the years of concourse connecting and timezone toggling, I’ve learned a thing or two about many of the components of travel. When it comes to airport attire/globetrotting garments/wandering wardrobes/outbound outfits, these are the wisest bits of knowledge I have. 

1. It’s better to have one item that does three things than three items that do one.    

Shoes are probably the clearest example of this. A GORE-TEX trail running shoe covers a lot of territory. They’re waterproof, great for running on trails, solid for urban or wilderness hiking and decent for treadmill or street running. This is the difference between packing an extra pair of shoes in your bag or simply using the shoes you’re wearing through the airport.  

Merino wool is equally multi-faceted. My suitcase always has a couple Journey T shirts for their ability to wick sweat in warm temperatures and for comfort in layering in the colder moments. For the tightrope I balance on between working professional and ski bum, these shirts lay really well under a button-up and tie. This of course makes me feel like Clark Kent, knowing at any moment I could tear off the button-up and head out on an adventure.  


"I do not travel without a hoodie." Khai seen here in his Solstice Hoodie.

2. Dress for the lowest temperature you’ll experience in transit. 

Every winter trip I take to Hawaii. Without fail, there will be a handful of passengers dressed in shorts and tank top, forgetting winter still exists at our final destination. If they’re lucky, the discomfort is postponed until they're walking through a frosted baggage claim. If they’re unlucky? They’ll assume the fetal position in their seat and order multiple hot beverages from their flight attendants as the plane’s climate control goes unaltered.  

I live in my Convict Canyon Hoodie and Joggers in the winter. They pack away without taking much room, but they keep you warm like much heavier layers. On long flights, you want to be able to sleep as you skip over timezones like a rock over the surface of a still lake. Layer correctly, and you’ll feel as snug as you do at home. 

3. Hoods have your back. 

I alluded to my love for hoodies in my previous tip. I do not travel without a hoodie…I do not travel without a hoodie. It doesn’t matter if I’m flying from Puerto Rico to LAX with a layover on the surface of the sun, I have a hoodie. During the winter months, I don the Convict Canyon Hoodie. In the summer, I sport the Solstice Sun Hoodie. Both hoodies have large enough hoods that they can pull over your eyes and act as an eye mask. A hood can give you the ability to sleep if you have to bunk in an airport due to a cancelation or if your seat mate is keeping the window shade open.  

Expert travel tip: use your hood as an eye mask to block out harsh light.  

4. Washing clothes vs checking a bag. 

There you are, at baggage claim, reunited with all 100+ passengers from your flight. All you can think of is getting to your room and passing out. You watch, eyes heavy, as bags appear then disappear. Even the kid who practiced for the World Cup on the back of your seat manages to feel sympathy for you as everyone else grabs their bags, leaves and you're left there all alone. The only bags in your possession are under your eyes. After speaking with the customer service agent, you’re informed your bag that should have met you in SJC (San Jose, California) has managed to end up in SJD (Cabo). A simple mistake that will leave you without your stuff for at least a night or two.  

Understandably, there will be gear you won’t be able to cram into a carry on (boards, fins, etc). However, if you’re torn between managing your clothing in a carry on or checking a bag for more space, I’d highly suggest the carry on. Finding a laundromat is easier than finding a lost bag. Sinks can also make great washing machines in a pinch. 

A laundromat or sink work great when you need, but you can't beat the anti-microbial properties of Merino wool. Photo: Jay Dash

5. Bring treats for the crew. 

Bonus tip, as this clearly has nothing to do with clothing: bringing treats for the crew is a nice thought. However, the odds that presenting them a box of chocolates or Starbucks gift cards will result in a free upgrade are something like 1 in 100. A free drink is much more likely at 1 in 10. The real reason to bring treats is to grease the wheels of karma as you travel, and to bring good vibes to yourself and all who are caught in the ripple effect of your actions. 

Follow Khai's global travels and outdoor adventures on Instagram @khai_zen_ and YouTube 


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