What to wear and pack on a mileage run

Oct 7, 2019

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Check out all of TPG’s mileage run series:
TPG challenged 3 people to fly as far as they could for $725 — here’s what happened
How and why to book a mileage run
Why mileage runs might be a bad idea

I’m back from a whirlwind four-day trip halfway around the world to Thailand for TPG’s mileage run challenge. Over those four days, I slept in a budget hotel, spent a day in Tokyo, ate bad plane food and slept an entire day away in Bangkok.

I had plenty to concern myself before and during the trip. Would I be able to adhere to the $725 budget, would I miss a connection, would I get food poisoning?

One thing I didn’t want to worry about: what I would wear. I’ve done mileage runs in the past; I’ve overpacked (and underpacked), lugged heavy suitcases through seemingly miles-long terminals, and lost more clothing items than I could count. This time, I decided to keep it simple and pack only the bare necessities. And, because I was flying on a ticket that wasn’t upgradable, I didn’t concern myself with the opinions of my fellow travelers, whom I didn’t know anyway.

Here’s what I wore.

Keep it simple & efficient

Aside from the essentials and toiletries, I packed one pair of joggers, three pairs of shorts, three shirts, four pairs of socks (including a pair of compression socks), slides, a bonnet for my ‘locs and one pair of sneakers.

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I also have a tendency to lose things while traveling, so I try not to bring clothing of significant value. The bracelet from my grandmother? It stays at home. My favorite pair of Nike sneakers? Safely in my closet in New York.

I kept it casual, arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport in my go-to travel outfit: Adidas soccer pants, a Howard University (my very proud alma mater) crewneck, a black tee-shirt and Nike slides. I had my trusty Burton backpack and a small carry-on suitcase for the journey ahead. It was efficient but more importantly, comfortable.

As a rule, I try not to travel with a suitcase (even a carry-on) but I didn’t want to lug my backpack around Asia and potentially strain my back.

Take only what you need

On this trip, I couldn’t load up on snacks like I normally do because of the strict budget. Just before departing Newark, I grabbed an Evian water and a bag of Chex Mix. I figured the Chex Mix would last for a day, and I finished off the bag on the way to Bangkok. I also took advantage of all of the snacks on the flights to get me through the day.

I didn’t bother bringing anything cumbersome like a neck pillow or blanket. All of the flights on ANA featured pillows and blankets.

I got lucky and didn’t need to use my outlet adapters at all during the trip. I found that Tokyo and Bangkok’s airports both used USB chargers. All of the flights were also equipped with USB outlets. I usually bring a book along for long flights as I am not a big movie-watcher, but couldn’t find space in my bag.

Be adaptable

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always cold. And to me, cold is any temperature under 80 degrees.

It was warm when I left Newark, but not stiflingly. I was able to keep my joggers and crewneck on without feeling too hot. The flight from Newark to Los Angeles International Airport was cold, but blankets were left on the seats so I didn’t need to remove my sweatshirt. The flight to Tokyo was much of the same. Upon arriving at Haneda airport, however, my bulky layered clothing came right off. It was so humid!

I grabbed a pair of shorts from my bag and changed out of the crewneck, but kept my joggers in my backpack in case it got cold in the evening (which it did). I was glad I did because the second I stepped off the subway I was sweating bullets.

Packing lightly has its advantages during a stopover, as well. I didn’t feel bogged down by random stuff, I wasn’t digging in my backpack for misplaced items and I didn’t have to worry about losing my backpack and suitcase.

Bangkok was even more humid, but I was only in town to recover from the journey and flew out early the next morning. In Bangkok, I wore shorts, a loose-fitting tee, and slides.

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Footwear matters

I’d say shoes matter even more than clothing. There’s nothing worse than sightseeing and looking for the nearest bench to rest your aching toes. I covered a lot of ground in Tokyo in my olive green Nike Free sneakers, which are insanely comfy and breathable. Here are some other top travel shoe ideas.

For flights, I typically slip my sneakers in my backpack and wear slides. I absolutely refuse to walk through the cabin in socks, so slides are the next best option. Just be mindful to wear actual shoes if you’re running to catch a connecting flight, or you might trip in front of dozens of strangers who gawk at you like you’re an idiot.

I’m not saying it happened to me, but it can happen.

Bottom line

Everyone is a different traveler and what works for me might not work for you. If you like to dress to impress for flights, do you, as the kids say. I’ll take being comfortable over being fashionable any day.

All photos by the author.

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