If there’s one area of business travel I needed a crash course early on, it was packing like a pro for business travel.
Now, this is ironic because I grew up with a father who traveled and was a master at the art of packing. Not a square inch was wasted on the Buckley family vacation. Each item fit like a puzzle piece and my father passed that mad skill on to me as well. It was the opposite of Clark Griswold in the movie, Vacation, packing their family truckster.
But when I first started traveling, I was a chronic over-packer. I don’t like to be caught off guard and as a result I always took too much.
Over time, I watched other road warriors and just worked to improve this area of efficiency for business travel.
There’s a science but also an art to packing and we’re going to break down the difference and the importance of each one.
What you’ll use to pack is the science.
What you bring beyond the essentials and how you pack is the art.
Now, this article focuses on the new business traveler, but you would be surprised how many tips even a seasoned road warrior can learn by having an open mind and being willing to improve.
Packing Like A Pro for Business Travel
There are two major elements to business travel packing:
1. Luggage – aka: Carry On
There are seasoned road warriors who won’t check their bag even if they had to give up their spouse or child. It’s a non-negotiable.
Some do all the time for the freedom of not pulling a bag or worrying about bin space.
Some are forced to because of what they need to bring for work to do their job.
The point is learning to maximize a carry-on bag every chance you can. It’s always easier to add than to minimize.
Get the essentials down first.
A few articles ago I listed myself preferred carry-on called the Genius Pack G4 22″ Carry On Spinner Luggage.
It’s designed for the business traveler: from the durability to the packing compartments. It’s costly, around $250 but worth every penny for me since I take it everywhere on every trip.
The key is finding something you like that enables you to be more efficient. If there’s a place to spend money on you, it’s right here.
2. Work Bag
This is where anything work-related goes and your second allowed carry-on.
- Anything paper-related such as presentations, files, etc.
- Pens / Highlighters
Then there are two different road warrior camps or schools of thought here of what kind of work bag works for them:
This is for the more casual business traveler or who cares more about functionality.
Backpacks are notoriously known for compartments. The one I’ve used is the eBags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack and prices range between $70-$85 on Amazon depending on color.
What I love about this backpack is what’s called the junk drawer and allows for the ideal place for chargers and plugs. It also has a number of sleek and spacious compartments.
Depending on the type of trip, I will use this backpack.
- Traditional Computer Bag
The more corporate traveler or simply those who dress up more for their travels lean towards the traditional computer bag.
This is where I’ve landed most of my business travel career.
I prefer the compartments of the backpack but my role/look is definitely the computer bag.
I’ve also struggled to find “the ideal computer bag” and have tried so many through the years.
Currently, I’m using a leather Wilson’s bag that has a number of great compartments and ideal for me right now.
One last comment on your work bag choice. Either way, make sure it has a strap that allows you to easily attach your backpack or computer work bag to your carry-on. You need it to be seamless and easy.
Next major consideration: Packing Lists.
Create a Packing List especially when you’re starting out for two reasons:
1. To not forget anything
2. To determine what you need and don’t need
Categories For Your Packing List. This list was provided from JetSet Genius and a good list to work from:
- Medications & Vitamins
- Tech & Office
- Casual Clothes
- Business Clothes
- Pool or Beach Trips
- International Trips
- Special Events
My suggestion is to use my list for a while then create your own that fits you exactly.
Let’s reference key accessories for a moment:
- Headphones – you may be a Bose or Beats fan. You may prefer in-ear or over the ear. No matter what you choose, don’t skimp in this area. I highly recommend Noise-Canceling Technology as well.
- Power strip – this may seem unusual or even a luxury but I’ve had many a time where I’ve needed to charge at the airport, restaurant, or hotel lobby and the one outlet within a mile is already in use. A power strip that “shares the wealth” is the perfect solution. I found one called the NtonPower Travel Power Strip that has 2 Outlets, and 3 USB Ports. It’s a 15 inches Wrapped Short Extension Cord for only $17 on Amazon.
Key Elite Road Warrior Accessories
- Water Bottle – I don’t want to keep using disposable plastic water bottles, so this reusable one is a must. I can always bring it on the plane with me, and keep hydrated.
- Flat Kiddos – an absolute must in my work computer bag that I can pull out at any point on my trip to take a picture of my Flat Kiddos. This has made a MAJOR difference staying connected with my kids in a creative way on the road
- Frame the Fam Pics – I have two 5×7 frames in my carry-on and I pull them out when I unpack in my hotel. One is of me and my wife, the 2nd is a fam pic. I put them in two places in my hotel room to remind me of what is important at all times. Quick tip: take the glass out of the frame. #BadPersonalExperience
- Not Forgotten Journal – if there’s one choice that I made on the road, it’s to take just 2 minutes a day to write something, anything, just not nothing to my wife to let her know she’s not forgotten while I’m on the road. I put this NFJ in my carry-on so even on a busy day, I can pull it out on the plane and write her something in just two minutes.
Let me leave you with four pro tips to pack like a pro for business travel.
- Packing Cubes – use packing cubes to maximize space. You’d be surprised how much you can get in a carry-on bag if you pack properly.
- Laundry aids – detergent pod/dryer sheet – I try to stay at as many hotels with full amenities like a kitchen and washer/dryer so any time I can wash a quick load and keep my carry-on fresh all the better. And if I know my hotel arrangements, I can pack fewer items. So taking a couple of detergent pods and dryer sheets is a great choice for space
- Shout gel stain pen – you’re bound at some point to get a stain on a great shirt, jacket, or pants and the longer it stays, the harder it is to get out so I carry with me a Shout gel pen to blot out my sin asap. I put it in the quart size bag with my detergent pods and dryer sheets. Minimal space, maximum benefit.
- Double essentials (chargers / toiletries) – One of my biggest errors that went on for far too long was forgetting at least one thing every single trip. My computer charger, phone charger, tooth brush, and on and on and on. Then someone suggested “double the essentials.” At first, I just thought about the cost until I realized I had already doubled almost everything because I had forgotten it before!
So, I’ve now doubled absolutely everything I possibly can and just leave it in my carry-on:
- Computer charger
- Phone charger
- Computer mouse
- Toiletries – tooth brush / toothpaste / floss / hair cream / deoderant / essential oils
- Workout Clothes – shoes / shorts / shirts / socks
1. Determine if you’re a Backpack or Computer Bag kind of road warrior and upgrade as necessary
2. Pick up a copy of my packing list at EliteRoadWarrior.com/095
3. Double everything essential you can
4. Purchase key accessories such as packing cubes, power strip, etc.
5. Purchase Elite Road Warrior accessories here.
You Got This!