I Figured Out a Super-Easy Way to Keep My Clothes Clean at the Airport

Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty

Travel days pose a lot of stress—packing everything you need before you leave, getting to the airport on time, and surviving the dreaded security process in one piece (and with all your possessions). Too many times we arrive at the security checkpoint unprepared, chugging half a water bottle while unwrapping our winter layers at the last minute just to throw all our belongings—our coats, hats, belts, and scarves—onto the conveyor belt along with all the luggage and shoes that are far from clean.

A few years ago when I was working at Barneys, a client of mine shared a genius tip for streamlining the security process while also saving your clothes from getting dirty or roughed up along the way. Her tip was to always double-layer two large Barneys shopping bags and bring them along whenever she was flying. The extra-durable shopping bag would then serve as her one personal item (holding her purse, empty water bottle, or whatever else she needed), in addition to her carry-on. When she'd hit security, she'd throw everything else into the bag—coat, scarves, or sunglasses—before putting it on the belt, keeping her possessions clean and secure in one place. Gate agents are always asking passengers to consolidate to two pieces before boarding, which can be difficult depending on the size of your personal item. Unlike oversize backpacks and totes, gate agents are much more lenient about large shopping bags when it comes to boarding the plane. 

I've been following her tip ever since. Not only does it keep all my travel pieces clean and in one place, but I find I'm able to bring more onto flights, and I've never lost another item in the security chaos. I've even had a TSA agent comment on the shopping bag method, saying it was the perfect solution to so many women's handbags tipping over and spilling items once they hit the rubber curtain on the conveyor belt. Once you're on the plane, the strategy also keeps your items off the floor, and you can peel off or don layers throughout the flight without losing anything or having to dig through your carry-on. I promise that if you go ahead and give it a try the next time you fly, you'll be a believer too.

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