Frequent flyer Melissa Kieser shares her essential travel tips
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Nick Gordon
Even though we’re only four months into the year, Melissa Kieser has already travelled to Japan, Hong Kong, London and done six trips to Durban. Next month she’ll head to China for the Canton Fair and then she’s off to Majorca in June.
Heading up a supply company to two of the country’s largest retailers means that Mel averages around seven international trips a year and needs to head to Durban every month. Then, having done this routine for a decade now, Mel recently launched her own brand, Maylee, which is a sister brand to her husband Mat’s Sol Sol, and means more air miles for the frequent flyer.
Which is why we decided to speak to Mel about travel and get her advice on packing like a pro.
The trick is to stick to one airline. When I started out I quickly learned which airlines gave away the most free miles and had the best benefits. Now I’m exclusively travelling with that airline and it’s changed everything. There are free upgrades, the use of lounges, double the amount of luggage… that sort of thing.
I plan outfits for each day that I’m away. For my Hong Kong trips especially, I’ll look at what meetings I have and pack my bag accordingly so that when I arrive it’s just a case of quickly pressing and hanging in the hotel wardrobe. That way there’s no fuss when getting dressed or having to plan what to wear because I already made those decisions before I left.
I kind of wear a uniform. A pair of comfortable trousers, because you’re sitting in meetings all day and you don’t want to be wearing anything too tight or uncomfortable, a smart button up and a jacket. Those boardrooms can get really cold.
I’m quite strict with my packing style. Everything has a separate bag. I’ll flat-pack all my outfits into a garment bag, my underwear goes into a separate bag, my gym stuff goes into a separate bag and then shoes and stuff I don’t mind interacting, my charger or mouse, they all go into another bag. I’ll take an empty bag for laundry so that when I get back home I can just pop that into the wash and whatever’s not in there I’ll put back into my wardrobe.
For a trend trip I’ll pack a lot less. I need luggage space to bring stuff back. Travelling to New York in January was a challenge because of the bulkier warm clothes – so I just wore everything on the plane.
I tend to take at least three pieces of luggage per trip. A big trunk that you can fit a person in, a medium sized bag and then a little wheelie that comes with me as my carry on. I always keep an outfit in the wheelie and five pairs of underwear so that if luggage gets lost – and it’s happened to me a few times – there’s a backup plan.
I unpack as soon as I arrive. I can’t stand living out of a bag. I fill the closet. Put all my toiletries out. I always stay at the same hotels so it’s very familiar. I like to know where everything is. It just makes me feel more at home. Especially longer trips where you’re there for two weeks.
My ultimate travel items are… A pair of comfy, oversized, elasticated, stretchy pants. Comfort is key. I don’t need to look like a businesswoman when I’m travelling. I just want to sleep. There’ll be a smarter outfit in my carry on that I change into when I shower in the lounge when I land.
The typical outfits I’ll pack for a trip are… Trousers and button down and my Docs, which are now my go-to smart shoe. Gone are the days I’d pack a pair of heels. You’re spending so much time on your feet, running from your hotel room to a conference room, fetching and carrying samples… Heels don’t work.
For downtime I’ll wear T-shirts and my Vans. It’s easy to smarten that up if we go out with buyers or factory managers.
And, finally, my other travel tips are…
Don’t pack stuff that creases easily.
Don’t wear white on the plane.
Always check the weather before a trip.
Compression socks changed my life.
Get an aisle seat.
Drink lots of water.
Carry a neck pillow.
Always pack a beanie.
Bring your own headphones.
Don't pack books if you never end up reading them.
Listen to podcasts.