Tips to get from plane to pool, pronto

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Packing with style for an easy airport-to-resort transition

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could travel in roomy jets, sip Champagne in the clouds, and strut from the plane to the pool at touchdown? 

While this romantic notion of travel hearkens back to the Golden Age of flight, there’s one Jet Age trick we can hang onto today: Plane-to-pool packing, a speedy and stylish way to dash from the airport to your resort faster than you can say, “Mojito, please.”

After years of editing and re-editing my travel routine down to an art (and zipping to the pool at the pace of Speedy Gonzales), I’ve settled on the following packing techniques for an easy-breezy plane-to-pool transition. Because, let’s be honest, if you’re traveling somewhere tropical, you’ve got one thing on your mind: Sitting at the water’s edge. Stat.

1. Start with a plane- and pool-friendly travel tote

The key to your jet-set success is selecting a tote (read: “personal item” in plane-speak) that’s chic and sturdy enough for the plane and casual enough for the pool. I have a few bags that I take based on where I’m going. If I’m headed to an upscale resort I pack my large leather purse, which I embellish with tassels for a tropical feel. If my destination is a sand-in-your-toes stay, I bring a hand-woven bucket purse with leather straps. In both cases, I save time and packing space by combining travel and pool tote into one, meaning there’s no need to pack an extra bag for the beach.

2. Plan ahead: Don part of your pool-wear 

The next step in arriving poolside arriba is wearing your pool cover-up on the airplane. For example, select a large scarf, an upscale poncho, an oversized button-down shirt, or a kimono that can go from home to hotel and plane to pool. This way, you don’t need to open your suitcase and select a pool outfit—you’re already wearing it! Guys: This one is easy for you, a white t-shirt looks chic in the sky and at the swimming pool.

Wearing the same top at the pool

3. Pack your essentials

The reason you need a personal item the size of a laptop bag (ladies: Think oversized purse) is to hold a few tropical essentials to get you set-up for your pool session. Basics I always pack in my purse include a high-SPF face and body sunscreen to get me started in the sun (three ounces or fewer, of course), a hat, a book, flat sandals (if I haven’t worn them on the plane), and my bathing suit. This way, all my essentials are ready and I can change into my bathing suit anywhere. 

Viewfinder Tip: Make sure you select a travel tote big enough to hold your travel documents and pool necessities yet small enough to fit the sizing requirements for your airline’s “personal item.”

4. Pack light

Now that you know your plane-to-pool tote is paramount to arriving quickly and in style, think about the rest of your packing. I recommend a small carry-on. This pairs well with a tropical trip since you don’t need many clothes anyway.

5. Minimize check-in and travel time 

Waiting at the carousel for checked luggage, waiting in line for a taxi with everyone else from your flight, and waiting (again!) to check-in at your hotel can take at least two hours of relaxation time away from your getaway. Avoid the waiting at all costs! Remember: You’re there for the palm trees and the pool. I’ve already told you to carry-on only. Prearrange a ride so you don’t have to wait for one. And instead of bee-lining for the front desk upon arrival, drop your bags at the bell desk and check-in at sundown once you’re glowing with sun-kissed serenity.  

What are your top techniques for plane-to-pool packing?

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Trip Styler

Trish Friesen chose an unlikely profession given her fear of flying and propensity toward car, air, boat, train, and chairlift sickness. Thanks to Gravol, Sea-Bands, and cruise ship stabilizers, the reluctant—yet enthusiastic—jetsetter packs her bag once every two weeks to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef or to sample the latest libation in Portland. Trish unpacks her suitcase in Vancouver, Canada, Eh! where she’s the editor-in-chief of, a travel lifestyle website for aspiring jetsetters. Find her moonlighting on Expedia, Fodor's, Jetsetter, and as a travel expert on TV while circumventing the globe with her entourage: a MacBook Air, an Olympus camera, and the biggest carry-on she can fit on the plane.

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