When you travel for business, you want to look clean, crisp, and professional every day, but you do not have to pack your whole wardrobe to achieve the desired effects. Just as importantly, you absolutely do not want to pay baggage fees. The expense annoys, and lost time at the baggage claim means less time in the hotel Jacuzzi. Experienced travelers follow seven simple rules, fitting everything they need into one carry-on bag—even for extended trips. The veterans recommend…
• Layer, mix and match. The business “uniform” for men and women is essentially the same: Pack one suit with two pair of contrasting pants; women pack a contrasting skirt, too. Keep everything in the same color family—navy, gray, and white work best. Pack two crisp cotton shirts in addition to the one you wear on the plane; and, if you need a heavy coat, wear or carry it on-board. Add your favorite pair of blue jeans and a crew neck or two to diversify your looks. Pack some exercise-wear, because you will need to pump oxygen into your brain from time to time. Of course, pack your comfy pajamas and your favorite sweats for your private times. Even if you have scheduled extended travel, these basics will last for the duration, and all of them will fit neatly into your wheeled carry-on bag.
• You need only two pairs of shoes. Well, okay, three if you count the ones you wear on the plane—slip-ons, of course. You will need one pair of shoes to complement all your business attire, and you will need your much-trusted, well-traveled athletic shoes. When in doubt, just pack your favorites.
• You do not need all your electronic devices. Take a deep cleansing breath and then slowly exhale. Your laptop performs all the functions of your handheld and tablet, and your laptop case provides lots of space for office essentials. Your hotel room will have a phone, or you may buy a disposable cellphone at your destination. Although you have an app for everything, the locals at your destination have apps, too. Use them.
• Wherever you’re going, they have soap and water. Most inexperienced travelers have a tendency to pack way too much underwear and way too many shirts or blouses. Nowhere does it say you cannot do laundry while you travel; in fact, you may even use the hotel’s laundry or dry cleaning service. You may divert the money you saved on baggage fees to this little extravagance. If you have planned your ensembles around simple white shirts, you need take only two—one to wear, and one to wash. Similarly, you need only two or three pair of socks or nylons. Woolite is a miracle product.
• Carry only essential toiletries. You know you will use all the cute little bottles in the hotel, and you will appropriate a few extras from the housekeeping cart. Do not pack the stuff you know the hotel will supply. In fact, the concierge even can equip you with toothbrush and razor if you wish. This plan also alleviates stress about three-ounce rules. You should, however, pack your signature fragrance for strategic business purposes, and carry whatever you need for contact-lens and dental care.
• Do not fold. Roll. Someone at MIT can explain the physics of it. Meanwhile, just accept the fact that rolled clothes take less space than folded clothes. Just as paradoxically, three pairs of pants rolled separately take less space than three pair rolled together. While you ponder great packing paradoxes, add one more: Rolled clothes are less likely to wrinkle than folded clothes regardless of fabric.
• Leave room for souvenirs. When you get home, no one will ask, “How was your trip?” Instead, they will ask, “What did you bring me?” Leave room for a few authentic souvenirs from your destination, and follow every mother’s caution: The kids know the last-minute stuff from the airport. Shop attentively for good stuff that actually will fit in your suitcase.
“You always can spot the rookie,” says James Renfro, a very well-seasoned business traveler. “He’s the one who imagines hitting the road means abandoning civilization, so he tries to pack his whole house into a suitcase or two.” Renfro, the very frequent flyer insists, “You absolutely can and should travel light and still look good.”
Photo credit: Das boot by millicent_bystander/flickr