I’ve been on the road a lot lately. That many miles make you stop and ponder anything that might make life in the fast lane easier. I came up with observations that cover three blog posts. First was luggage that eases a road warrior's lot; then accessories; and now clothing.
The lesson that I've absorbed in the osmosis of car to plane to taxi to hotel to office and on is that a breathtakingly limited wardrobe can last a pretty darned long trip if you (1) pick it right and (2) pack it tight.
Note: Those of you who are checked bag enthusiasts — all two of you — save your eyesight. Disregard this read. Just come prepared to the baggage carousel. I suggest a lengthy romance novel or perhaps a legal pad on which you may sketch ideas for further Russian roulette using belongings you don't mind loaning out more or less permanently.
The old Mission: Impossible TV series is one of my inspirations for the challenge of fitting what I need into a carry-on bag: "Good morning, Mr. Phelps..." Realize up front that the hotels are going to nail you when it comes time to use their laundry service, but that’s part of the Impossible Mission life. At least that's what I told myself as I wrote this somewhere between Spain and the Urals on a two-week trip with one roll-on case.
Men: Consider the suit/sport jacket. Because it's tough to pack a suit jacket, why not wear it onto the plane? Suit jackets also serve a double purpose, because they provide a place to pack passports, mobile phones, iPods watches, change, etc They store it all for the trip through the airport security detector or conveyor belt. Plus they're darned comfortable and practical for both business and casual travel.
Women: My female informants tell me that more important than style is fabric (is that true?). In my highly unscientfic survey, I'm told that non-wrinkle jersey knit is best. Consider the Diane Von Furstenburg-ish wrap dress. These don't wrinkle and they dress up/down well for business casual evening wear. A little bit of spandex in the cloth delivers the wiggle room and comfort for even the most hectic trip. Roll it, fold it, squish it into your suitcase. It looks the same, i.e., splendid, no matter what. Still, there is a balance between comfort and not too casual, fitted but not too tight, multiuse but appropriate. Catalogs like TravelSmith cater to travelers with both business and business casual clothing. A bit pricey, but worth it.
Men: Decide if it is a black- or brown-themed trip. That is, simplify your belt/shoe/tie selection by sticking with one color. Hint: if it’s Europe, it's a brown trip. If you work for the government, it’s a black trip. Ah-hah, so you’ve discovered the clever reversible belt, have you? Not to worry — nobody cares. Shoes are the issue here. Shoes rule.
Women: Heels that match an equally versatile handbag can be kicked off immediately under your airline seat because, although tennis shoes or flats are more comfortable on the plane, heels are tough to pack.
Men: Revel in the road skill of shaving using just hotel soap lather. It helps to carry a small but good non-aerosol moisturizer; no one wants to carry aerosol cans or large quantities. Peruse your local Walgreens.
Women: Don't let your YSL perfume be confiscated (yes, it happens). Carry a nice three-ounce fragrance container — or less — and be safe.
Men: White non-iron shirts are simplest. Don't mess with colors and prints unless you know what you're doing — or are over 50. Whites travel well and respond to the shower steam trick on a hanger. White works with any other color or pattern. Brooks Brothers Slim Fit non-iron shirts are my preference because they last for years and can handle extreme abuse. If you discover something better, buy it!
Women: My co-workers confidently informed me that when it comes to perfume, their new favorite is the Beauty Minis offered by Sephora. These are smaller versions of your favorite designer 'fumes. They are perfect to fit into your carry-on Ziploc baggie. I am told that a good choice is the Calvin Klein Euphoria Rollerball.
Men: If you're going somewhere warm-ish, leave your winter coat at home or in the car and sprint to the terminal. No way do you want to be carrying a heavy overcoat to Miami or Rome, even if you just came from subzero Chicago. That is, unless you plan to spend wild amounts of time outdoors. And normally no one does a PowerPoint outdoors.
Corollary to the Outerwear Rule: If you feel naked without a winter coat in a warm weather destination, and if your coat is not terribly bulky, here's a suggestion for shoehorning it into your wardrobe. What I do is grab a medium-size plastic bag (say, from any mall store). I then fold/rollup my coat and either place it under my seat or in the overhead. This prevents it from flailing around or falling out; but most of all it keeps it from getting soiled under the seat or in contact with a neighboring item. It also means that I don't have to fold the coat in my lap for the whole trip. Moreover, when I'm migrating from cold climate to warm, I can just hook or stack the plastic bag on my Rollerboard.
Women: Disregard the above rule. (Rules are made to be broken, right?) Outerwear is usually valuable in an ensemble wardrobe. My informants think outerwear is not only flattering, but essential. The flight attendant will hang your wrap if you ask nicely. Oh yes — scarves are your friends. Select patterns that are subtle. Pashminas are great. Scarves can wrap a neck on a cold airplane, serve as a shawl in a dinner meeting, and be a blanket for an impromptu picnic.
Men and women: Versatility is a synonym for jeans. No secret there. No matter where you're going or what you're doing, jeans rock. Jeans are dominant but so are non-wrinkle khakis. Check out TravelSmith.
Men and women: Resist the temptation to wear anything resembling pajamas or workout apparel on long flights. Clothing like that wastes valuable packing space. Whether you can sleep on the plane or you can't, PJs are unnecessary and look embarrassing. If you're a workout fanatic, you should be over your self-esteem issues by now, so pack skimpy space-saving stuff. Make liberal use of the hotel laundry.
Men and women: Pack thongs — sandals, that is. Gee, no one’s ever accused me of being a germophobe, but I don’t enjoy tromping about barefoot in hotels. Plus, if you have the opportunity to enjoy some pool/terrace amenities, you'll have the option to give your feet a break from the work shoes. Sandals take up a minimal amount of space. Often you can fit them into the outside pockets of your luggage.
Road Warrior • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com