How to pack for an out-of-town conference.
July 14, 2013 § 3 Comments
Today I want to share with you my formula to work assignments all over the world while only carrying what I really need. There is nothing more annoying than having to cough up excessive weight fees at the airport counter or arriving sweaty and tired from dragging heavy luggage from terminal to terminal to hotel and back to your home. I know that many of you travel as much as I do and I am sure you have a system that works for you. My first rule is: When you already have a method that yields a light bag without being deprived of the basics, don’t change anything; but if you struggle every time you pack before a trip, or if you cannot figure out why your stuff doesn’t fit in the bag when you pack at the hotel, even if you were able to put it all in there at the beginning of the trip and you haven’t bought anything else, then this posting may be for you. Second rule: My system works perfectly for men, but women would have to make some adjustments as you have to pack items that we do not. While the little shampoo and conditioner bottles at the hotel bathroom may solve a man’s problem, many women will need to carry (or purchase at the point of destination) bigger bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Men can travel for a month with a pair of shoes; women cannot. But even if you have long hair and need to pack high heels and booths, these tips can help you with the rest of the items you throw in the suitcase and never even use during the trip.
I have been traveling all my life, and when I say traveling, I mean it. Last year I was on the road for 320 days, and rarely stayed home in Chicago for more than a week at a time. This means that I have learned how to live with less without being deprived of life essentials.
If you are going to be away for a week or less, you need a suitcase, ideally a garment bag so that your clothes are protected. My favorite is the 46” Zurich wheeled garment bag from Swiss Gear. It is affordable and of good quality, plus you can get it at places like Office Max and Target. You can always bring a collapsible bag inside the garment bag in case you need more extra room on your way back. You will also need your favorite briefcase. This will be your carry-on and it is where you will keep your electronics. If the trip is longer, or if you need to take more shoes, shampoos, or other items, take a second suitcase. I prefer the 20” Swiss Gear Zurich upright spinner because I like to take it on the plane with me, but if you prefer the 24” one, that is fine, just document it together with the garment bag. I like these collection because it looks good, it is durable, and the price is right. I learned many years ago that there is no need to buy expensive luggage if it will last you, at the most, one year (Have you seen how they handle your bags at the airport?) I suggest you fly an airline where you have a frequent flyer plan. This way in most cases you can take two pieces of luggage in the plane’s underbelly at no extra charge. You will also board before most passengers, even when flying coach, so you will have plenty of overhead compartment room for your carry-on luggage. Get your electronic boarding pass sent to your iPhone, store it in Passbook (the application is free) go to the airport, document your bags, and relax at the airline club. Domestically I prefer Admiral’s Club over United, Delta and other smaller carriers, but we all have different tastes. The important thing is that you want to find a place where you can charge your gadgets and enjoy a drink before the trip.
What to pack? Men need to pack three wrinkle-free blazers that match the season at the place of the event. Remember, you may live in the northern hemisphere where it is winter, but if your assignment is down south you will need summer clothes. Take three of the classics: navy blue, black, grey, dark brown, light brown, etcetera. Take 6 pants. Same rules apply. You will need 5 wrinkle-free pants and one set of jeans. Remember that you are wearing your sixth wrinkle-free pants during the flight. These items, plus six wrinkle-free long sleeve dress shirts in assorted colors will give you all the combinations you need for a month-long trip. I would also take 9 ties, a two-way belt (the kind you turn around to go from black to brown) and enough underwear for a week. Hotels have laundry and dry cleaning services that are often cheaper than the same services in a big urban area. My laundry and cleaners are always more affordable at a hotel in Virginia than at home in Chicago. After that, all you need are three polo shirts, one T-shirt, shorts for the gym, a baseball hat, and a pair of snickers. You are already wearing your dress shoes. Take comfortable good moccasin-style shoes. No shoelaces when going through security at the airport; for the ladies: No boots when dealing with TSA. Remember, you are already wearing the extra jacket or winter coat during the flight.
It is essential to pack your toiletries in the garment bag as well. Less items to show at the airport security point. Always take travel size items like deodorants, shaving gels, hair products, after shaves, toothpaste, and others. Do not forget your toothbrush. Men: Don’t bother with shampoos, conditioners, mouthwash, or body lotion. Hotels provide them. They also furnish other toiletries when you request them at the front desk. My experience has taught me that you should also take a small pair of scissors, nail-clippers, a sewing kit, shoe-shine cloth, and yes: a corkscrew. The worst thing after a long day in the booth is a bottle of wine in the room and no corkscrew. Finally, a small collapsible umbrella and your vitamins and prescription medications need to go in the big bag. Save some for the carry-on if you will need them during the flight, plus an extra set in case of an emergency. The rest can travel with the checked in luggage.
In your carry-on, ideally the same briefcase you will take to the event, take all your work tools: i-Phone, i-Pod, i-Pad, computer, all necessary chargers and cables, a portable electronic dictionary (in case there is no internet) your headphones (the best ones for music and the best ones for work) a few of your favorite pens, all your hotel, airline, car rental loyalty program cards, plenty of business cards, your passport (if traveling abroad) some cash and foreign currency if applicable, your official identification card, an ATM card, and a couple of good solid credit cards (from a travel plan so you get credit) That’s it. All other documents should be scanned and taken electronically, your reading materials, for work and for fun, should be on the i-Pad. Finally, lock your home when you leave and put your home keys away for the duration of the trip. Most briefcases have a place where you can hang clip them. Do this so that you can easily find them when you get back after a long trip.
I know we all have different habits and needs, so this posting may not
completely solve your problems; however, I hope it gives you some suggestions
that you can incorporate to your travel routine the next time you are hired to
interpret an event away from home. Please share your comments and suggestions on this issue that is crucial to so many of our friends and colleagues.