Business travelers spend a good portion of their year on the road. The biggest challenge while packing for trips is carrying the essentials effortlessly in one bag. The secret is to strike a balance between comfort and convenience. Luckily, there are “hacks” to fit everything you need and maybe a little more.
Luggage has come a long way since the days of the carpet bag and steamer trunk. Most business travelers today are looking for bags that are durable but lightweight and easily maneuvered through crowded concourses. The best luggage boasts cabin-sized dimensions, business-like aesthetics and built-in TSA locks with plenty of zip-up pockets and laptop compartments.
Invest in a suitcase with wheels that glide smoothly across airport floors (or any surface in case your hotel is on a no-car street). Most corporate travelers on short trips prefer carry-on luggage to escape unpredictable delays at the baggage carousel. In case you’re traveling with a laptop bag, make sure it has a long strap to hang over your shoulder, an outer pocket to easily slip the passport in and out, and isn’t stuffed with unnecessary items that would make it heavy to lug around.
Of course, among business travelers these days, what all the cool kids seem to be carrying are backpacks. As our digital tools became mobile, the hard-sided, leather-clad briefcase of yesteryear morphed into the soft-sided laptop bag; now it’s been jettisoned in favor of roomier and more versatile backpacks capable of carrying laptops and a whole lot more.
Of course, all that extra gear means more pounds, and if a bag doesn’t have wheels, the most efficient way to carry the weight is to see that it’s distributed equally on both shoulders to avoid back and shoulder pain. While no one size or make of backpack will please everyone, it pays to look further than the $20 back-to-school specials.
A high-quality, business-grade backpack can run $200 or more, but considering you’re entrusting it with your valuable electronics – not to mention your even more valuable spine – it’s worth the investment. Make sure the shoulder straps are wide, well-padded and comfortable, and that zippers are all high quality, waterproof and durable. Finally check the overall construction; it should be strong, rugged and able to stand up to the rigors of the road.
Most hotels are generous with toiletries; all decent ones have the basic shower gel and shampoo. However increasingly we finding these items in larger dispensers affixed to the shower wall (to limit the use of plastic) instead of the little bottles so convenient for taking away. If you’re partial to a particular brand of beauty products, carry them in 100ml bottles to save space. These are available in plenty on Amazon.
Additionally, to save time, consider keeping a toilet kit packed with the basics, including a toothbrush, toothpaste and comb. One handy trick: An airline amenity bag from a previous flight is perfect for that small kit.
If you are traveling to a cold climate, it is advisable to carry just one heavy coat and build all your outfits around it. Black has proved to be the easiest to pair with many options. Hold the jacket in your hand to save precious space in the bag. On boarding, the cabin crew will take it from you, or find a convenient spot in the overhead next to your carry on.
To avoid creases and costly hotel shirt pressing charges, it is advisable to roll – rather than fold – your clothes in the suitcase. This keeps them wrinkle-free and smooth for when you hang them in the hotel wardrobe. Shoes are always a problem to pack. Carry no more than two pairs – wear one pair on the flight and pack the other. Stuff socks into your shoes. Roll ties and accessories into the empty gaps after you’ve filled the bag. Line leather belts along the inner periphery of your bag.
When making your wardrobe selections, think versatility and utility. Minimize the number of separate clothing items you have to take by sticking with neutral colors, black and white. Mix and match clothing combinations, with the focus on smart casual attire. For example two blouse options for one pair of slacks.
5. GO DIGITAL
Instead of carrying a lot of printouts, e-mail those files to yourself or load them on to a thumb drive. An added benefit is alleviating the fear of losing pages or spilling coffee all over them. Instead of printing out addresses, enter them into the map app on your phone and take screenshots. A visual aid is always better than textual instructions.
Itineraries can be easily synced into the phone’s calendar. Even boarding passes are now available via e-mail. Instead multiple power adapters, carry a universal one preferably with USB ports. For your device chargers, it’s good to keep all of these bundled together and stored in a compact case. An old airline amenity bag usually works well for this purpose too.
6. GO CASHLESS
Cash is required in emergency situations, so be prepared. Stash a nominal amount in your wallet or between cards in your money clip. For even more peace of mind, think of splitting your money in different compartments. Or even consider a money belt so that you don’t have to stow it away under the seat in front of you or the overhead while you sleep.
For payments, use credit, debit or travel cards. E-wallets are pretty handy too. Just make sure you choose to pay in the local currency so you’re not charged exorbitant exchange rates. In case you must carry a lot of folding money, make sure your travel insurance covers you for theft and loss of cash.
7. THINK WORST CASE
Although the Air Travel Consumer Report issued by the US Department of Transportation assures us that there is less than a one percent chance of a major airline misplacing your bag, it does happen. Bring along a small carryon bag when you travel. Fill it up with a pair of clothes, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. You don’t want to be caught in a messy situation should your bag be misplaced.
Throw in a medicine kit too – just the basics for illness or tummy upset. There’s no need to carry the entire package; simply empty a few pills into a small ziplock or medicine organizer.
And despite assurances to the contrary, lost luggage can be a real pain point for the frequent traveler. So luggage manufacturers are beginning to come up with more high-tech innovations to help you keep track of your bags. These range from tracking devices that can be attached to your luggage and wirelessly connects to your smartphone app via Bluetooth. Others are equipped with chips that used GPS to tell your smartphone app where the bag is.
On a broader scale, many airlines and airports are busily creating a new baggage handling environment in response to the International Air Transport Association’s Resolution 753 on baggage tracking. The resolution, which became effective June 1, requires IATA member airlines to track every piece of baggage from the start of the journey all the way through to its finish.
That means each checked bag needs to be identified at four key points: When the bag is handed over from the passenger to the airline, when it’s loaded on the aircraft, at every transfer point and finally when it’s returned to the passenger at the destination. Global aviation has had since 2013 to implement Resolution 753, and while handful of airlines have made great strides, actually putting it into practice industry-wide continues to be a slow process.
In the meantime, personal bag tracking technology can still be a helpful solution for the frequent business traveler.