How to Pack for Your Next Business Trip Like a Pro
One of the key things any business traveler must come to grips with is The Art of Packing. The Holy Grail of business travelers is to do away with checked baggage and fly only with carry-on luggage. It's particularly liberating to walk off the plane and straight out of the airport instead of mulling around the baggage carousel. It's not for everybody, however, and nor does it work for every trip: so don't feel you must bow to the altar of HLO (hand-luggage only). Most of my overseas trips require one checked bag, but this still demands some discipline in packing.
If you find yourself writing the same packing list over and over again, it's time to work smarter. Enter that list into a spreadsheet, perhaps while sitting on your next flight when there's time and headspace and you're in the travel mode. Put pretty much everything on the list, although what you actually pack will, of course, vary from one trip to the next. Consider different spreadsheet tabs for carry-on or work-related kit, wardrobe and toiletries. Ahead of your next trip, print out this spreadsheet and work your way through it as you pack.
PLAN YOUR PACK
Decide in advance how many bags you'll be bringing, and pack to suit. My default for 'checked luggage mode' is a smart-looking but functional laptop bag, a four-wheel cabin bag and a larger four-wheel trunk. I allow a change of clothes in the cabin bag in the event my checked luggage is delayed, but otherwise enjoy having quite a bit of space left over in both the cabin and checked bags. This keeps them both light while also leaving room for any shopping I'll do overseas, gifts I might receive, or assorted travel tchotchke I might pick up. (If there's some serious shopping on your agenda, collapse a sizeable soft weekender bag into your checked luggage, or use this as an excuse to buy that new suitcase.)
MAKE A LIST
When it comes to clothes, I print out the trip itinerary and draw up a separate 'wardrobe list' based on the appropriate wear for each day and event (with specific items for flying, meetings, evenings and any casual days off). This encourages a mix-and-match efficiency in choosing shirts, pants and shoes. I know it sounds laborious to some, but I'm a little of a clothes horse and I quite enjoy my little ritual. Once you've got that packing plan in place, be ruthless about following it.
Adding that one extra jacket and that other pair of jeans is fine if there's ample room, but if your suitcase is already getting quite full and heavy then you need to be thinking about taking stuff out, not cramming more stuff in. Any time my checked luggage is almost bursting is usually a sign I'm flying to a chilly North American, European or Chinese winter. You need to make allowances for this: choose the right bag and the right cold weather clothing, then resist adding too many 'just in case' extras. The best real-world tip: putting heavier items (such as shoes) at the bottom of your suitcase, where the wheels are, makes it easier to roll the bag through sprawling airport terminals.
PACKING AND PROPER FOLDING
Packing cubes and folders arguably take up more space than loose packing, but are great for organizing items in your checked luggage. Instead of digging around for particular items, these soft fabric containers keep everything together, making it super-easy to unpack and repack at the hotel. There are also other options, when it comes to efficient and wrinkle-free packing, roll. Actually rolling your clothing instead of traditional folding will allow for more space in the suitcase but most importantly, will keep clothing wrinkle-free.
SLIP INTO PJS ON BOARD
An increasing number of airlines supply pajamas in business class. Consider slipping into these very early in the flight so that your regular clothes – be they casual wear or dressier – can be hung up to avoid wrinkles. If you're flying on an airline that hasn't joined the PJs club, bring your own. And no, it doesn't matter if they're from another airline. If you've recently been upgraded to first class and handed some really premium PJs as a result, bring those on your next flight.