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Space-A Packing List: What to Wear and Bring on a Military Hop

7 March 2019 by

Getting ready to take a military hop?

Make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable, entertained, and travel-ready! Here’s how you can prepare for Space-A travel.

Table of Contents

  1. Documentation
  2. What to Wear on a Space-A Flight
    Layer #1: Lightweight Shirt
    Layer #2: Thin Fleece Jacket or Vest
    Layer #3: Lightweight Insulated Jacket
    Layer #4 Windbreaker
    Other Clothing
  3. What to Bring
    Small, Lightweight Sleeping Pad/Mattress
    Travel Pillow
    Travel Blanket or Sleeping Bag
    Ear Protection
    Water Bottle
    Kindle or Other E-Reader
    Portable Charger
    For the Kids: Movies and Games
    Other Essentials


Before going to the terminal, be sure to have proper identification and paperwork. Requirements depend on your category and reason for travel.

  • Military ID: All travelers age 10 or older need a military ID card. If you are traveling with children under 10 years old, bring their passport or a printout from Milconnect that shows their DOD ID number.
  • Passport: If you are traveling to/from another country, bring your passport. When visiting U.S. territories in the Pacific (e.g. Guam), you don’t need a passport, but it’s a good idea to bring yours, just in case. You may need to hop a flight via a foreign country. The same advice applies if you have a no-fee passport from an overseas duty station; bring a regular passport as well.
  • Tourist Visa: If you plan to visit a foreign country during your travels, check to see whether you need a visa.
  • Ordinary Leave or Environmental and Morale Leave (EML) Form:
    Active duty travelers must bring the applicable form and supply it when marking themselves present.
  • Unaccompanied Dependent Travel Memo: Dependents traveling without their sponsor must have authorization from their sponsor’s command. Click here for details and sample memos.
  • Copies of Your Signup E-mails: The e-mails you sent to the passenger terminals serve as proof of the date and time of your signup. Most terminals will accept an electronic copy, but it doesn’t hurt to have everything printed out.
    You may have other documentation requirements, depending on your status. See section 4.8 of DOD Instructions 4515.13 for a full list.

What to Wear on a Space-A Flight

The key to staying comfortable on a Space-A flight is to dress in layers. Most military planes are quite cold, but the temperature varies, depending on the type of aircraft and where you’re sitting. You may also spend several hours waiting in the terminal, so dress in a way that makes it easy to adjust.

When flying Space-A, I dress as I do for a day of outdoor activity: layers of lightweight, breathable clothing. Everything I wear is dual-purpose, meaning I can wear it at multiple points during our trip. Dressing that way helps me pack light.

Layer #1: Lightweight Shirt
My first layer is usually a long-sleeved shirt like this one. It’s made of “wicking” material that dries quickly, so it’s great for travel, hiking, outdoor exercise, or a day exploring a new city. 

Layer #2: Thin Fleece Jacket or Vest

The second layer is a thin fleece. Be sure not to wear anything too heavy, because it defeats the purpose of layering. This micro fleece jacket is perfect. 

If you tend to get hot easily, wear a vest rather than a jacket for your second layer. Again, choose something light that’s not too bulky, because there are two more layers coming! A fleece vest like this one is perfect. 

When selecting a jacket or vest, look for zipper pockets, which are more secure for travel!

Layer #3: Lightweight Insulated Jacket

This is another warm, yet very lightweight layer. You can stuff a jacket like this into the smallest space in your backpack. I bought a size up, because I knew I would be wearing it over other layers. 

Layer #4 Windbreaker

The fourth and final layer is a windbreaker. It keeps out the chill and fits easily over the other layers. In the spirit of making everything I pack dual-purpose, I look for a coat that is also waterproof or at least water resistant. I prefer men’s windbreakers like this one because they are roomier across the back and tend to run longer. 

Other Clothing
Next on the list: pants! Don’t wear shorts, and don’t let your kids wear them. There’s no rule that says you have to wear pants, but military aircraft are way too cold for bare legs.

There IS a rule about what type of shoes you can wear: they must have closed heels and toes. In other words, no Crocs, sandals, or flip-flops. High heels are also not allowed.

If your hands and feet get cold easily, bring gloves and extra socks.

Remember that you will not have access to your checked baggage – even if you can see it on the pallet in front of you – during the flight. Any clothing you may need has to be on your body or in your carry-on bag.

What to Bring
Plan ahead for comfort and to keep yourself and your family entertained!

Small, Lightweight Sleeping Pad/Mattress

This is a must if you hop a C-17 or other cargo plane and can lie on the floor during the flight. Having a sleeping pad is the difference between stretching out in relative comfort and sitting bolt upright while strapped into webbed seating along the sidewalls of the aircraft.

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About the author:
Hi, I’m Stephanie! In 2015 my husband retired from the Army and we took a year off to travel. I quit my job, and we set off on an adventure to break from our routine and explore the world. Military resources and Space A travel were a major part of our strategy for making our voyage affordable. The other part – immersing ourselves in the local economy – not only saved money, but gave us unique experiences we never would have shared if we followed the tourist circuit or stayed exclusively on military bases.

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