7 Tips from Travel Pros on the Best Way to Pack

October 14, 2021

For business travelers, it’s essential to pack smart. Arriving in wrinkled garb at a meeting makes a poor impression. And time is short: Running out to a local drugstore to replace toiletries might not be doable.

We reached out to travel pros — flight attendants, startup founders and other road warriors — to get their best tips on how to pack for a business trip. 

1. Don’t procrastinate 

Although packing likely isn’t the most exciting item on your to-do list, don’t put it off until the very last minute.

“Packing the day of your flight can lead to increased levels of stress or, in the worst of cases, make you miss your flight,” says Laura Fuentes, operator of Infinity Dish.

Plus, you’ll be far more likely to forget something important if you’re still shoving items into your luggage as you run for your Uber to the airport. 

2. Go in with a plan

A little bit of organization will make the packing process easier and ensure you don’t arrive at your destination with five tops and only one pair of pants.

Start with a list, recommends former flight attendant and etiquette consultant Julia Esteve Boyd. Think through every activity you’ll do — dinner meetings, conference presentations, one-on-one meetings, sleeping, workouts at the hotel gym, and so on, she says.

“You can then consider daywear and evening wear and try to find items of clothing that can be dressed up or down. Then, make a note of shoe wear, accessories, night wear and toiletries,” Esteve Boyd advises. 

3. Choose the right luggage 

Every travel expert agrees: You’re better off sticking with a carry-on bag and avoiding checked luggage. That way, you can be nimble making your way through the airport, points out Christine Keeling, a former flight attendant and founder of Long Haul Spa, which makes skincare products designed for in-flight use.

“This is super important when ground transport is in short supply. [You want to] get there first,” she says. Plus, if you’re carrying your bag, the airline can’t lose it. You can also easily transfer to earlier flights, she notes. 

4. Opt for neutrals

Filling your luggage with clothes in neutral colors (shades of black, gray, white, beige and navy) will make it easy to recycle outfits, allowing you to pack less overall.

“I guarantee no one is going to notice you’re rewearing your items precisely because they’re nondescript enough that they don’t attract attention,” says Nelson Sherwin, manager of PEO Companies.

In Motion Marketing Head of Marketing Bryan Philips opts for what he calls the “Steve Jobs hack” to simplify getting dressed. “I pack double or triple of the same outfits,” he says. “This way, I don’t have to think about what shirt or tie matches what sports coat. It makes life a lot easier when you’re far from home.”

But do try to add a splash of color to that neutral canvas with accessories, such as ties, hats, bags, and so on. “One pop of color makes your outfit go from drab professional to fashionable professional,” says Mimi McFadden, travel expert and founder of California travel website The Atlas Heart.

5. Limit your toiletries

Your dopp kit, or toiletry bag, can easily start overflowing. “Pack only what you need,” Keeling recommends. “Toiletries add weight and volume that you don’t need,” she says. Opt for travel-sized versions or decant your favorite products into travel bottles.

It can also help to have a set of toiletries permanently packed for work travel, says travel writer Nikki Webster of Brit on the Move, who flies around 60,000 miles annually.

“I don't ever take this set out unless I need to refill an item,” she explains. That way, you never have to wonder if you have the products you need in your toiletry kit, she points out. 

6. Choose a packing method

The best way to get the most out of your luggage space is to use packing cubes or roll up your clothes. You’ll find fierce proponents for each method.

Tightly rolling up clothes prevents wrinkles and conserves space in your luggage, says Nerissa Zhang, frequent traveler and CEO of The Bright App.

But packing cubes can help keep your bag organized, says Francesca Nicasio, content marketer at Payment Depot. “Before I started using packing cubes, my bag was a disaster,” she says. Now, she uses different-sized cubes for different purposes, stashing undergarments in small ones and using medium ones for shirts.

Both packing options are effective, so go with the strategy you think will work best for you. 

7. Don’t place items in your luggage willy-nilly 

Put your heaviest items at the bottom of your bag, recommends Tashieka Brewer, a public relations consultant and founder of Pink Girls Run The World. 

Shoes are often a good candidate to go in luggage first, Esteve Boyd says. You can place belts around shirt collars to prevent them from getting crushed, she adds. And, if you have jewelry, you can use a plastic or velvet bag to pack it away, using straws to store necklaces tangle-free, she says.

If your company is a Deem customer, don't forget to download the Etta app for iOS or Android.

Main image courtesy of JEShoots at Unsplash.

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Deem Editorial

The Deem editorial team brings important, informative commentary and data to travel managers and everyone interested in technology and the corporate travel industry.

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