Master the art of packing for a work trip

Hand luggage only: how to pack for any trip

Beat the queues and the airline charges: travel writer Tim Richards shows you his carry-on bag packing secrets.

One of the key things any business traveller must come to grips with is The Art of Packing.

The Holy Grail of business travellers 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.

Get organised

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.

Climate considerations

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.

The biggest challenge for Australians is when heading overseas into cooler climates – that's when you'll need the thicker jackets, the gloves and scarves.

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.

Buy packing cubes and folders

Packing cubes and folders arguably take up more space than loose packing, but are great for organising 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.

You'll find them at Muji and Kathmandu stores, and many online stores in the US sell the popular Eagle Creek brand. But they're expensive, so shop around.

Slip into PJs on board

An increasing number of airlines supply pyjamas in business class.

Consider slipping into these very early in the flight so that your regular clothes – be they casual wear or more dressy – 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.

What are your top tips and personal strategies for effective packing? Let us know in the comment section. 

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

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