20 essential tips to pack and travel like a pro

Summer’s here and the world – or the northern hemisphere, at least – is on holiday. So if you’re traveling on business, prepare for the joy of even more crowded airports, delays and the inevitable strikes.

All the more reason, then to reduce the stress of business travel by packing light. You’ll rarely find a seasoned traveler who checks in a bag. And everybody who travels regularly on business will have their tips for surviving with carry-on. Here are 20 of ours.

  1. Consider investing in a real ‘road warrior’ bag like a Zuca. They come with multiple pockets, a laptop sleeve, mesh pouches for clothes, which means you can squash a lot more in, and although it’s heavy, the bag turns into a seat thanks to a tough metal frame. On the other hand, some travelers swear by a soft-sided bag, as they’re lighter, and easier to push into the overhead lockers on a flight. Either way, get one with wheels and save your shoulders.
  2. Invest in a set of packing cubes or pouches – there are dozens on Amazon and they really do make a difference as to how much you can fit in.
  3. Think of aesthetics. You may be on the road but making a good impression is important. Avoid lurid, gimmicky luggage or anything with large logos, or something that’s obviously a freebie from a previous trip. Remember, you may have to take it straight from the airport to a meeting.
  4. Choose an airline that’s generous with its carry-on allowance. On British Airways, for example, you can take a wheelie bag with no weight limit and a decent sized laptop bag or briefcase. If you’re flying with an airline that’s new to you, always check first what size cabin baggage is allowed. United’s most basic fare, for example, doesn’t allow you to put anything in the overhead locker. Emirates has different hand luggage regulations for different sectors flown.
  5. Plan your outfits for the duration of the trip, assuming you know how many nights out, meetings and site visits to expect.
  6. Wear your bulkiest outfit on the plane – this saves space and will help prevent your smart jacket from getting creased. If you’re flying from somewhere cold to the tropics, wear layers to travel and make sure there’s room in your bag to put those you’ve discarded when you arrive.
  7. If you’re a woman, think of outfits that can easily go day-to-night with a few accessories and a smart pair of shoes. Black trousers, for example, or plain colored silk tops, or a sheath dress – swap a blazer for a wrap, add a blingy necklace and you have a whole new look.
  8. Pack neutrals that can be mixed and matched; bright colors and patterns stay at home. Some travelers have a rule that every item must go with at least 75% of everything else you pack.
  9. Take shoes for meetings or evening events and a pair for downtime that multitasks as footwear for walking, sightseeing and working out.
  10. Stuff shoes with underwear, ties, rolled belts or other small items. Put them in a shoe bag for protection, or the cheapskate’s version, a shower cap stolen from a hotel.
  11. Roll softer fabrics which are less likely to crease and fold stiff fabrics like shirts. Forget linen altogether. And use the hotel laundry pressing service when you arrive.
  12. Cashmere is elegant, stylish, comforting to wear on a long haul flight and lightweight. Or pack a fleece for an overnight flight in a very soft, light, high-tech fabric; it can double up as a pillow.
  13. Plan ahead for the 100ml liquids restriction. If you know where you’ll be staying, find out what brand of bathroom goodies will be in your room. Or decant your favorites into smaller, labelled bottles that fit into the regulation plastic bag. Just don’t buy travel miniatures at the airport; the mark-up is ridiculous.
  14. Swap liquid makeup for mineral powders, which aren’t subject to the 100ml restriction. Buy a tiny travel atomizer for your favorite perfume or aftershave.
  15. Keep chargers to a minimum. You can charge your iPhone from your laptop, for a start, which means you can just pack the lead and leave the plug at home.
  16. Or buy an electronics organizer for all your cables; it’ll save space and make you less prone to losing something.
  17. For the return journey, spend a few minutes culling all the promotional literature you’ve picked up on your trip. Can it be photographed on your phone? Is the same information available online, or on a memory stick? Worst case, get the hotel to mail it to you.
  18. Avoid having to empty your entire bag at security. Carry your laptop and liquids in a smaller bag where they’re easily accessible rather than enduring the shame of having to ferret through your underwear at X Ray in front of an impatient queue.
  19. Get to the gate early and make sure you’ve got proof of any frequent flyer status. Those who board a packed flight last are most likely to have to hand over their hand luggage to be stored in the hold.
  20. Most important, don’t deny yourself a luxury or two. A really good pair of noise-cancelling headphones, a silk eye mask for the flight, a Kindle loaded with books, movies on the laptop, a tiny Bluetooth speaker for your hotel room and some favorite snacks for the flight.

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About the Author

Sue Bryant

Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer and editor specialising in global business culture and travel.

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