How to travel light for a business trip

Business Travel: Packing Light (Carry-on Only)

There was a time I travelled so little that I would almost always check a bag. But as I’ve grown older and have begun to travel more, I now strive to be the guy in the National Car Rental commercial, a business pro. You think that guy checks a bag?

So in our ongoing quest to make life as efficient (read: be lazy) as possible, we thought it was high time to talk a little about travel. To travel efficiently is to travel lightly; that is something of which we can all agree. This sounds fairly simple too. Packing less means packing lighter.

Not so fast, compadre.

Types of travel require different types of packing, by which I mean a business trip and bachelor party in Vegas require different essentials. That’s fairly obvious, but I think packing for a business trip is the block upon which most men stumble, so that’s what we’ll be tackling today.

Heading down to Raleigh-Durham for a conference can require quite a few different looks. It’ll require something business appropriate, something business-casual, as well as something casual for all those drinks at Chili’s after a long day of discussing what it means to be a good corporate citizen.

Trying to fit a number of different looks into a carry-on seems like a tough task, which is why there should be a few essentials to focus on; ones that can make all this packing nonsense significantly easier.

Below we’ll discuss some of the essentials and essential methods to dressing for a business trip. None of these things are rocket science, as we are decidedly not rocket scientists, but perhaps a few things that might be new or previously overlooked.

It’s easy to not think through a pack as these things are usually done at the 11th hour due to apathy and a general disdain for organization (mostly speaking for myself). Anyway, here’s what we believe are the essentials to packing light and how to achieve that moment of self-satisfaction of breezing through security stylishly and efficiently.

We can all long for the days when aviation was a gentleman’s pursuit, but those days are long gone.

What to Pack: One Plain Suit

This is probably the most important step in packing efficiently.

A simple suit (keep it dark and relatively unadorned by pattern) will work in multiple ways and won’t take up that much space.

First off, it takes care of the need for a suit which is something that should always be on hand on a business trip.

Secondly, by bringing something plain it can be broken up into separates and the jacket paired with another pair of trousers. The jacket can also be worn with a pair of jeans or chinos for those business casual moments that require dressing well, but no one is really sure how well.

Even the trousers and just a dress shirt can work in a lot of situations as we turn towards more casual business attire.

Essentially what we’re getting at here is that a suit can be worn in any number of ways and is the most efficient garment(s) that can possibly be packed for a business trip. Keep it plain, keep it simple, and it will be the best thing in the bag.

As an aside, packing a suit can perplex some. Putting one in a garment bag as a carry-on is easy. If not, roll it up and gently put it in a carry-on bag, trying to give it a decent amount of room.

What to Pack: Two Additional Pairs of Pants

Another little trick that can save space and time is to pack two pairs of pants in addition to the suit. You might even be able to get away with one extra pair of pants.

As we mentioned above, an extra pair of trousers that can work with a jacket should be one of them, as well as a pant that can work as both somewhat dressy and casual. For this we recommend a pair of chinos, perhaps in a fun colour. The right pair of chinos, as we’ve mentioned before, can work quite well in a business casual setting with an oxford and a jacket, as well as with a t-shirt or that same oxford untucked with some sneakers.

Two pairs of pants won’t take up too much space in a carry-on bag if laid flat along the bottom. Be sure to fold those trousers up along the crease as well. For a few days of business and the occasional evening out, the additional two pairs of pants is all that’s required. There’s no reason to bring anymore pairs, unless this is some sort of fashion-based trip, which it definitely isn’t.

What to Pack: A Few Shirts

Packing shirts can be difficult because they can only be worn once, in all likelihood. Which means packing a shirt for each day. For this, go back to what we said earlier and try to pack shirts that can be worn two ways.

A nice button-down oxford can work in two ways- under a jacket as well as untucked with a pair of chinos. At certain drycleaners, they will fold shirts properly if requested, so this is certainly something to consider inquiring about when taking shirts in to get cleaned.

Shirts will probably take up the bulk of the space here due to their abundance and necessity. It can’t be avoided just be sure to not overdo it, unless sweat is a major issue in which case, you’re checking a bag.

What to Pack: Miscellany

A few tricks for packing will save space and keep things light and efficient. First off, when packing ties and socks, roll them up and put them into an extra pair of shoes.

No one wants to wear dress shoes for the entirety of a trip so having an extra pair around makes a difference. Also, wearing the suit jacket to the airport will save space and time as well.

Suit jackets are quite handy as well as they will have all the pockets necessary to hold all of the junk travelling requires, and saves from potentially packing a garment bag with a suit.

We can’t, unfortunately, offer any advice on how many socks and underwear need to be packed. These things are completely personal, and perhaps there’s a persistent odor issue that needs to be handled with multiple changes.

If this does happen to be a problem, perhaps a fresh five-pack of Fruit-of-the-Looms might be the best plan of attack. They can easily be discarded at the end of a trip without a second thought. We try to avoid taking our best undies on any trips as the cuisine and facilities can often be unpredictable.

Some of these ideas may seem obvious, but putting them all into practice will save a lot of space and energy and time going through the airport. There will be no trouble lifting a bag into the overhead bin and no time wasted at baggage pickups and looking for lost luggage.

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