If you’re a backpacker, it’s a no-brainer. Throw a few loose items of clothing into a small rucksack, wear your heaviest items and away you go.
But the caveat for business travel is that it’s all very well to travel light, but you still have to look the business when you arrive – and that means ensuring you have a variety of clothing, smart items like suits and jackets (which are bulky and take up valuable space and weight) and all your favourite grooming and electronic gear.
But, if you’re organised, you can have the best of both worlds. So here’s the APX guide to packing light, but packing smart.
1. Know your limits: There’s nothing worse than being pulled up for having over-size or over-weight carry-on luggage just as you’re about to board the plane. Check the restrictions for your specific ticket and additional information such as maximum dimensions of both items if you’re allowed two bags in Business class, or dimensions of a folded garment bag, or whether any connecting or flights during the trip made with a different carrier might have alternative regulations.
2. Choose the right bag: The stiff-sided, wheeled cases are the most popular but they’re not perfect for suits and jackets. Just remember that whatever you choose, this is what people will see you with so make sure it’s smart and business-like. Your carry-on luggage can be as important for a first impression as your clothing.
3. Choose the right clothing: Everyone has their own favourite combinations for business travel – the trick is to cover all bases with the minimum amount of items. For a week, you’ll likely need at least three jackets (one can be worn on the plane), with one slightly more casual to double up for informal meetings. Although business travel is not a fashion contest, it pays to take good quality items like shoes, shirts, blouses, trousers and skirts, which can then be mixed and matched into different outfits. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking six nights means six complete outfits – and certainly not six pairs of shoes!
4. Learn the tricks of packing: There are a few simple steps – such as shoes around the edge, and roll up your lighter items of clothing that will help save you space in your carry-on – just remember that you’ll still have to stick to the airline’s luggage weight restrictions so don’t try to jam-pack everything in. The trick isn’t just clever packing – it’s clever selection. When you are playing Tetris to find the most efficient way to pack your carry-on, though, three good tricks are to put heavier items in first so you can fit the lighter ones around them, pack socks into your shoes and to roll anything you don’t want to wrinkle in pillow cases – satin works best!
5. Leave space: It might seem counterintuitive, but try to choose enough clothing for your working week while still leaving about 20% of your bag free – there’s always the chance you’re going to pick up something nice on your travels or need to bring back something business-related and you’ll need to be able to fit that in too.
6. Know where everything is: Organisation is the key to travelling light – and you don’t want to be rummaging around in your carry-on every time you want a mint, tablet (either medicinal or electronic) or wet-wipe. Keep toiletries in an outside pocket (it’s easier for international flights when you’re going to have to screen them separately), and use zip-lock bags for underwear, jewellery, ties, handkerchiefs, cufflinks etc and electronic items such as adapters (the bags will be useful for dirty or wet items while you’re on the road).
7. What to wear on the plane: The temptation is to wear all your heaviest items of clothing on the plane to lessen the weight of your carry-on. But it’s important to remain smart and uncrumpled during the flight so wear a good jacket (which you can stow in the overhead locker) and smart trousers, and possibly a multi-use polo shirt that won’t crease and will help keep you warm during the flight while keeping that corporate look.
8. Make the most of your laptop bag: Although airport shops are brimming with good books, resist the temptation to snap up a 1000-page epic. Instead, check that you’re allowed a laptop bag as well as your carry-on and then make the most of it my using it for additional electronic gear such as a kindle or tablet and any business papers you might want to read during the flight.
9. Get your money’s worth at the hotel: In-house laundry and ironing services can be a god-send for long business trips. Once you can fit a week into your carry-on, that should serve you well for a few nights more if you can access somewhere to wash and press your shirts – even dry clean that business suit.
10. Many happy returns: Be strict about what you buy during your trip – and don’t blow your restrictions for your return flight just because you’ve picked up a lot of business literature on the road. Sort through what’s necessary and what’s not before you leave – and if you’ve still got too much, post it back to your office.
KEY TAKE-HOME ADVICE
Pack a variety of clothing – but make sure it’s all about business.
Don’t try and cram too much in – be selective and smart, and most of all, organised.
Make sure your carry-on luggage and what you wear on the plane keeps to that corporate look.
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