I used to travel a lot for business purposes. And I mean a lot. And by traveling, I mostly refer to flying; I have used most of the airlines operating in EU (save the low cost ones) and have been through various hard circumstances during my trips; lost luggage, missed flights, traveled sick and unprepared for meetings etc.
One of the issues when traveling (especially when flying) is proper packing; it’s always nice to travel with only the minimum but you always need to ensure that everything needed will be packed and travel with you, being available when needed. Packing efficiently and light is crucial when flying with low cost airlines (or when the cost of checked luggage is not included so only hand/cabin luggage is an option), where every centimeter of the luggage and every gram counts.
So what are the most essential items that need to be included when packing and what could be avoided in order to save space?
- Gadgets: Since I am referring to business trips, a laptop, charger and all peripherals are essential. So apart from my laptop I usually need to take with me a mouse (to work more efficiently), headphones with mic (when Skype calls need to take place during the trip), my external hard disk (which hosts my >21GB email inbox, working files and movies if time allows). I also take a paper notepad and pens with me (to keep notes when using a laptop is not an option), a couple of USB flash disks for sharing files and my mirrorless Olympus E-PM1 camera with a spare battery and its charger. I also take my Philips MP3 player with me, which doubles as a USB flash drive if needed. During my last trips I replaced my 17- or 15-inch laptops with my 10.1-inch WinTab (a Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard); this allowed me to save space and weight while at the same time I managed to work really efficiently – even during the flight. It only takes a couple of cables (a microHDMI to HDMI for projecting to larger screens like hotel room TVs and a microUSB to USB one for making use of all tablet’s extension ports) to make up for the tablet’s limitations. In addition, if space and weight is an issue, I opt to leave my camera behind and use my Nokia Lumia 735 smartphone for taking photos; it never lets me down with its wide-angle Zeiss lens and 6,7MP sensor.
- Clothes: This is what takes the most of space and weight of a luggage. Depending on the length and type of the trip, a different number of outfits are needed. As a rule of thumb, at least one extra pair of trousers is needed (accidents happen), a couple of shirts and a smart combination between them (i.e. make sure that most of them match).Pyjamas, slippers, underwear (1 set per day plus one extra) and a casual outfit (e.g. jeans and a hoodie) are handy for free time/walks during trips with spare time included. An extra pair of shoes never hurt by the way, if space is not an issue. otherwise a comfortable pair will do the work for all days. In order to save space, I tend to wear jackets and suit (if needed) during the trip (it saves on wrinkles, too!) and leave all light clothes in the luggage.
- Toiletries: This is also tricky, especially in the case of cabin luggage only. In this case, all liquids need to be in <100mL containers, so I have to spare my Detol disinfectant spray (replaced by a small bottle of disinfectant) and my deodorant spray (replaced by a roll-on). Toothbrush & toothpaste, shower gel and shampoo come anyway in small containers; the latter are usually available in hotel rooms anyway but I take them with me just in case. A bottle of perfume is always needed and a nail clipper can always come handy.
- Other stuff: One of the things that I carry with me during business trips is a folder with printed material; this includes e.g. the agenda of the meeting/workshop/conference, related material that I need to go through during the trip, a notepad for taking notes, a map of the city I am visiting or the directions from the airport to the hotel, boarding passes and hotel vouchers etc. In some cases I need to carry a poster with me and since I want to have my hands free while traveling, I try to squeeze the poster box inside the luggage. Last but not least, I usually feel nice when using my own towels so I get a couple of them with me if space allows. Last but not least, I like to take my Klean Kanteen insulated water bottle with me; this allows me to keep hydrated throughout the trip days and avoid disposable plastic water bottles.
It is obvious that depending on the length and type of the trip (some trips are more formal than others), I try different combinations of stuff that I carry with me and the option of a checked luggage expands possibilities. In any case, I always try the pack the least I can so that I carry the least with me – traveling light is convenient!