The One-Bag Business Trip

At some point in your career, you could be required to travel for business. And while the company may be willing to pick up the tab for checked luggage, traveling with only a carry-on bag will save you time and money. How do you fit everything you need to present yourself professionally into one small bag? Here are a few tips to get your started.

1. Check with your airline’s carry-on restrictions and pick a bag accordingly. You don’t want to be that jerk holding up the boarding process because you’re trying to shove an oversized bag into the overhead. In my experience, although “wheelie” bags are convenient, a duffle or similar bag is more likely to squeeze into tight spaces. There’s also the chance that the crew will begin checking luggage at the gate if the overhead space is running low, and the majority of the time “wheelie” suitcases will be selected. Regardless, make sure that whatever bag you use is regulation size, and try not to stuff it to maximum capacity.

2. Plan outfits ahead, and select coordinating pieces. I won’t pretend to be a fashion expert, but its common sense that the more you can mix and match with a few key pieces, the less you’ll have to pack. Don’t bring five unique outfits that require four different pairs of coordinating shoes. Instead, consider a few different blouses with a grey or black pair of pants, skirt, and/or suit. Dresses are a fairly convenient option because they are one piece and if you find the right material, wrinkles will be minimal. Bring at least one casual yet professional outfit (think clean, un-ripped jeans and a nice top). Pack a pair of heels and a pair of flats, and you should be good to go. Obviously the articles of clothing with vary based on your destination, the nature of your trip, and your company’s dress code, but with a bit of effort beforehand you’ll find you can minimize the number of pieces you need to bring.

3. Heed the 3-1-1 rule for liquids. The TSA limits the amount of liquids, aerosols, and gels in carry-on luggage to 3.4 ounces in a 1 quart bag, 1 bag per traveler. That’s hardly enough space for the makeup, lotions, and hair products that most women use on a daily basis. Again, a bit of advanced planning can go a long way. Hotels will provide the basics: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. Try to get travel-sized portions of your necessary liquids, or buy empty travel-sized containers and get creative. Having these items in the properly sized clear plastic bag, ready to be taken out of your luggage, will save you time at security checkpoints.

4. Make the most of your “personal” bag. Nearly every airline allows for one personal item per traveler (e.g., purse or laptop bag) in addition to a carry-on bag. Use this space for any spillover from your carry-on: books and notebooks, non-liquid makeup items, a lightweight cardigan or jacket, etc. This bag should fit under a plane seat, and is a good place to stash anything you might want during the flight. You don’t want to look like a pack mule trudging through the airport, but you can definitely use the second bag to its fullest potential.


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