In the 2009 move Up in the Air, George Clooney plays a frequent flyer who's just a few trips away from making it into the elite "10 million miles club".
As a corporate “downsizer”, his life revolves around airport terminals and hotel suites as he criss-crosses the country firing people and giving motivational speeches on how to rid yourself of relationships and possessions that are holding you down. In other words, how to pack light.
For business travellers who spend one- to two-thirds of the year on the road, knowing how to pack efficiently and effectively for trips is an essential skill. As Clooney's character – who travels 270 days a year – says, the difference between having to check luggage and fitting everything into a carry-on is a week's worth of time spent waiting in line.
While he hasn't quite reached the "10 million miles" club, Quora user Jeffrey Davis is also a frequent flyer whose regular trips abroad as a senior vice-president and general manager at German chemical company Evonik have taught him the best ways to pack for any business trip.
Davis outlined a number of business travel packing hacks on a recent Quora thread, and we've picked out some of our favourites, lightly edited for clarity and reprinted here with Davis's permission.
1. Ditch the colours
“Black is your friend,” he writes. “It matches everything. Johnny Cash was a visionary. I've yet to hear the compelling logic for any sock colour other than black. One pair of black jeans, two black t-shirts, and business attire will get you through a long trip.”
2. Never check your bag
"I never check my bags, even if I'm going to China for four weeks,” Davis says. “I travel with a Hartmann roll-aboard that fits in the overhead. The reduced hassle of never having to wait for bags, being the first guy through customs, and never dealing with the nightmare of lost luggage, will make you a believer. A suit is a suit: two is enough. Wear one on the plane with a t-shirt or casual shirt, and pack the other. Also find a pair of workout shoes which can be casual walking and touring attire.”
If you're concerned about packing the second suit, Quora user Martin Roell says to turn the jacket inside-out (sleeves get pushed through), and wrap it around softer items like t-shirts and underwear. “This prevents it from getting creases.”
3. Don't bother with zip-lock bags, store liquids in tiny containers
“Transfer contact solution into an old Visine bottle or a two-ounce sampler contact solution bottle,” Davis writes. “Unless you are a chronic alcoholic or have some kind of medical condition, question the need to take any liquid that can't make it through the x-ray unannounced. Save space and snag the mini toothpastes they put in your room every night.”
4. Splurge on laundry
“Look at your travel agenda and make sure you are staying at least two nights in a row in the same hotel at least once in every seven-day window,” he says. “Even though it's expensive, hotel laundry will get you through. You can get by on 'Five of Each' (five pairs of socks, five undershirts, five pairs of underwear, etc.) almost indefinitely if you buy into the hotel laundry doctrine.”
5. Use back-saving luggage
“A roll-aboard with a hook that holds your briefcase counterbalanced so that you can literally cruise a mile through ORD [Chicago O'Hare International Airport] or DTW [Detroit Metro Airport] with only fingertip pressure is a back and shoulder saver. Don't knock it until you've tried it,” Davis says.
6. Test your batteries
“Know the capacity of your batteries in your rechargeables (shavers, cameras, iPods, etc.),” he writes. “You may be surprised by how long of a trip you can make without bringing the charger if you leave home with a full charge.”
7. Always bring back-ups
“Have a high-resolution scan of your driver's licence, passport, visas, and credit cards on the SD card of your smartphone or on your computer HD,” Davis advises. “It's a lifesaver if you ever lose anything.”
8. Reduce, reduce, reduce
“Once every three months, take EVERYTHING out of your briefcase. Challenge everything. When was the last time you touched it or used it on a trip? Throw it away or leave it at home if you will not need it overseas,” he says.