How to Pack When You Are Traveling for Business

It’s easy to overpack. These tips will help you take only what you need.

According to legend, Mark Twain said, “I would have written less, but I didn’t have time.”


By the same token, consider taking time to pack less: Underpacking may be problematic when you are searching for that much needed pair of socks, but overpacking can create its own obstacles, too. Here’s how to ensure you take only what you need:

Lists, lists, lists. Don’t just make one list of what to bring; make several. The first list is your schedule. Block out the dates you’ll be flying, the dates and times (and occasions) of your meetings, and when you expect to have free time. Then jot down what you’ll wear each day, along with the tools and technology you’ll need. Remember, even though you ought to have a toiletry case always ready to go with the personal items you’ll want, checking it against a list ensures you won’t be running low on an item like toothpaste.

Lug not what you can ship. More business travelers are taking advantage of the fact that it has become easier to ship things to and from a hotel. (Business centers usually stock UPS and FedEx boxes). Smart travelers figure, “Why lug through the airport, on the plane, and in the cab stuff I could have sent ahead?” Consider shipping those items you’re only going to need at your destination. Whatever you don’t have to take on the plane makes life easier all around. Carry only your essentials.

Check the forecast. Before you stuff the first rolled pair of socks in the shoes you pack (which, by the way, is a great way to save suitcase space), check the long-range forecast to see what the weather has in store. Planning to dress in layers is one way to keep your baggage bulk down and still be prepared when the forecast proves wrong.

Just the basics. So where do you draw the line on what gets packed and what doesn’t? Top of the list of must-packs is any medication you might need. Since traveling means walking, consider packing a business shoe that’s also a good walking shoe; or, you may decide to bring an informal shoe that does double-duty in the gym and when you’re off the clock. If you’re going to work out, of course you need gym clothes. Think about selecting outfits so they are interchangeable within a basic color scheme. Choose casual clothes carefully. If you pack smart, you’ll have room to tuck in a few snacks, which are great not only on the plane but to help avoid the temptation of the overpriced goodies in the minibar. I also like to make room for a tiny collapsible umbrella in an outer pocket of a carry-on.

Likely leave-behinds. Yes, the tennis courts at the four-star hotel is said to be better than any you’ve known. But consider whether it’s realistic you’ll have time for a match before packing your tennis racket (and giving up precious luggage space). On other items, make choices: sunscreen and sunglasses instead of a hat? One of the easiest ways to go overboard is to bring more gadgets than you really need. Yes, pack a global phone if your own cell isn’t enabled for international dialing; and don’t forget the overseas converters for your phone, PDA, and laptop chargers. But consider items that’ll do double-duty, like a USB cord than lets you tap into power from your laptop to charge your cellphone or digital camera. And you can lose those luggage locks because — unless they’re TSA-approved — they cannot be used going through airport security.


Force of habit. A few simple tricks can keep your trip on track and slimmed down, particularly if those tricks become habit-forming. I’ve learned the hard way that I’ll invariably misplace things, even when I’ve packed them, unless I pack them in the same place. A regular strategy for packing will prevent you from over-stuffing your suitcase each time.