The Complete Business Travel Packing List

Packing minimally is a sensible approach to business travel, but which items are so important you can’t afford to leave them behind? We highlight the most important requirements as Business Travel Week continues.

Picture by Jingles The Pirate

For any trip that lasts less than a week, I’m a great believer in only taking carry-on luggage. Ever since I did the Hand Luggage Only project a few years back, I realised that you can get a remarkable amount into a standard-sized carry-on bag. On Qantas and Virgin, you can generally get away with a carry-on bag plus a handbag or laptop bag; Tiger and Jetstar are fussier (Tiger even weighs carry-on baggage), so you might need to be more careful. But even if you do send your bag to the hold, you don’t necessarily need dozens of outfits and loads of equipment in your case.

Clothing Dress codes vary a lot between professions, so I’m not going to set prescriptive rules about what you do and don’t need. Make sure you take the exact number of outfits you’re going to need, and no more than that. (I have over the top tendencies in this area and will sort my clothes in my hotel room in the order I’m planning to wear them, but you might consider that over-the-top.)

My other suggestion in this area is to avoid packing multiple pairs of shoes if you can, as they take up a lot of space. (If you’re a fitness fanatic, consider barefoot running to avoid one potential packing dilemma.) In extreme circumstances, you can travel without even a change of clothes, but that’s not an approach many people are going to adopt. That said, if you’re staying somewhere for a few days, hand washing outfits, or taking advantage of the hotel laundry, can cut down on what you need to travel with. (For hand washing, you can use the shampoo.)

Appropriate technology. We covered this in detail in yesterday’s post about choosing when to use a computer, phone or tablet. The big picture lesson is this: for brief trips where you won’t have to do a lot of creative work, you can probably survive with just a phone or a phone and a tablet. But if you’ll be writing or designing a lot, then a computer will be worth the extra weight.

Powerboard. If you’ve only got a phone (and charger), this might not matter, but once you’ve got more than a couple of devices, travelling with a powerboard makes a lot of sense: you won’t suffer from a lack of power outlets, or ones that are located in an inconvenient place. if you’re travelling overseas, combine your board with a global adaptor and you’ll be powered up pretty much anywhere. Added bonus: if you go to a conference, having a powerboard will help you make new friends when everyone races for the handful of available outlets.

Two USB sticks. I routinely carry an 8GB stick so that I can exchange files with other people if need be, and a second stick with a bootable copy of Ubuntu — useful if my computer (or that of someone I meet) decides to play up and doesn’t want to start. If you travel with a 3G dongle, you can often also use that for file storage and transfer.

A sink plug. I never cease to be amazed at how many hotel rooms don’t have a sink plug. A full sink is essential for shaving and washing, so I keep one in my washbag. On that point . . .

The most minimal washbag you can manage. What you consider “essential” will vary, but don’t go overboard. Unless you’re staying at a Formule1, you’ll generally get soap, shampoo and conditioner, so there’s no need to pack those. As Lifehacker commenters often point out, you can use conditioner as shaving cream as well. Try and avoid packing aerosol cans in carry-on luggage, as you need to take these out for security screening. If you’re travelling overseas, remember that there are restrictions on the size of liquid containers — I either pack toiletries in my checked baggage or buy them at my destination to avoid those kinds of hassles.

A plastic bag. I place dirty clothes in the plastic bag as I go, so I can then empty it straight into the washing machine when I get home.

What I no longer take. For many years I used to carry a spare Ethernet cable, but I’ve given that up because Wi-Fi is so prevalent these days, and when it’s not available I usually resort to using a dongle. I’ve also stripped back the amount of stationery I take — these days, a pencil, a pencil sharpener and a binder clip cover most of my needs.

What items do you consider essential for business travel? Tell us in the comments.

Throughout Business Travel Week, we’re looking at strategies to make business travel more productive.

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