Luggage-Free: Business Travel For A Week With Only A Phone

Luggage-Free: Business Travel For A Week With Only A Phone

Keeping luggage to a minimum is the goal of many business travellers, but how far can you take it? Can you work on the road for long periods without a computer and a spare pair of shoes? We’re about to find out. Next week I’m taking on the Luggage-Free challenge, travelling to a new city in the region every day and trying to do my regular job as Lifehacker editor armed only with a BlackBerry Z10 and without any meaningful luggage.

Long-time Lifehacker readers will recall that I performed a similar experiment back in 2011, spending a week travelling around the country doing my regular job but with only a BlackBerry Torch to do it, and without any change of clothes on me. A phone, a charger, some toiletries: I had nothing else.

That went surprisingly well, but I was curious to see if I could pull off the trick again with a touchscreen phone. I’m a huge keyboard fan — I’ve never had a permanent phone which didn’t have a physical keyboard and I’m a keyboard shortcut junkie on my desktop.

I’ve liked the predictive keyboard on the BlackBerry Z10 ever since I played with the prototype, so this seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the concept. I also wanted to throw in some overseas travel to stretch the idea further, though time constraints meant that overseas ended up being no further than New Zealand.

BlackBerry was happy to sponsor the trip, so come next Monday I’ll head off on a route that includes Auckland, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. I’ll do my regular journalistic tasks — writing, editing, interviewing people — and I’ll post regularly on Lifehacker about how the trip is going. I’ll also aim to test out as many relevant apps as possible, though I know that email, WordPress and the browser will dominate my day, just as they do when I’m at a desk.

What The Rules Are

Last time around, I had literally no luggage whatsoever; I washed the clothes I wore each night and put them on again the next day. Everything I had needed to fit in my suit pockets. I’ve proved that was possible, but there are three reasons I didn’t want to repeat it in exactly that form:

  • Simply put, I know it can be done, so doing it again purely for its own sake doesn’t add to my knowledge base. Adding in the touch element provides a new technological impetus, and throwing in overseas adds a fresh travel challenge, but laundry remains exactly the same issue.
  • Having no change of clothes effectively blocks you from going out in the evening, which is something most business travellers need to do. A plan which allows for that is going to be more informative for others.
  • Finally, many readers found the idea of me sitting around wrapped in nothing but a hotel towel while my clothes dried deeply disturbing, and I didn’t want to put you all through that again.

So this time around, I’ve allowed myself one change of clothes (shirt, underpants, socks) and also a T-shirt and shorts to sit around in the hotel room in. That in itself is enough to mean taking a small bag becomes a practical necessity, but I’ll still be carrying less than many people routinely grab simply to leave the house for a quick shopping trip.

So this is what I’m packing, including what I’m wearing:

Tech: BlackBerry Z10, charger, headphones

The charger has a detachable USB cord so I can also get power on planes which have a USB connection in the seat.

Clothes: Suit jacket and pants; belt, shoes; 2 T-shirts; 2 pairs underpants; 2 pairs socks; 1 night T-shirt; 1 boxer shorts

I can wash clothes as soon as I hit my hotel and either throw them in a dryer (if available) or hang them (after rolling in towels, a useful trick I picked up last time), knowing I still have something to change into. In a business travel context, the suit is the obvious choice. I’ll be doing plenty of walking so I don’t see the need for exercise gear.

The shirts, socks and underpants are all standard-issue gear. Last time, I experimented with specialist clothing from camping stores, but in practice it cost too much and didn’t dry any quicker.

Toiletries Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor All enclosed in a plastic snap-lock bag, for convenience and to sate the security gods at international airports. Everything else I’ll get from the hotels. Last time, I took a shave stick, but as I’ve since grown a beard, using conditioner from my hotel should be sufficient for the small amount of trimming I’ll need to do each day.

Other: Wallet, passport, pen, keys I’ve stripped out all the non-essentials from my wallet. Last time, I took a pencil, but I’ll need the pen for filling out landing cards if nothing else. The passport is needed for international travel and airport ID.

Everything is prepped and ready for Monday, when I’ll head into Lifehacker HQ to work in the office for a bit before making the trip to Auckland. In the meanwhile, suggestions for things to do, stuff to test or questions are welcome in the comments.


  • I call foul.. 🙂

    I think you should wear the 2 pairs of underpants at the same time and strip the outer layer off as required and swap them over as required.. and the same for the socks. Though for these two, you could probably fit them in your pockets anyway. You can wear the t-shirt under the suit jacket until you reach the hotel, then if you have a business meeting can take the shirt off and just have the business shirt. Same for the boxers.. these can go over the two underpants.

    Having this much stuff doesn’t make it much of a challenge beyond the norm in my opinion. 🙂

  • I am travelling the US in August and I’m curious to see how this will go and if it will affect how I pack

  • Not seeing much of a challenge here.

    And as it’s easier than the last one you did, presumably you aren’t either….

    For me the most interesting part last time was the gear you chose to allow the experiment to succeed (I really wanted one of those suits). This second attempt could have been interesting if the requirements were even more burdensome (e.g. going out in the evening, and perhaps more intensive work to do…?) but the restrictions remained the same.
    That way you’d have been stepping the challenge (and interest) up, instead of toning it down.

    • For me, the main challenge is really in using the technology — not just managing the luggage. There’s a big difference in working entirely in a touch environment, and that’s what I’ll be concentrating on. Making the requirements more extreme would make it even less likely that the lessons would be relevant to the average traveller. As for more intensive work? My workdays are already quite long enough, thanks!

  • Last time, I experimented with specialist clothing from camping stores, but in practice it cost too much and didn’t dry any quicker.

    Hmm. From the previous experiment:

    The quick-dry gear lived up to its name. On Thursday night in Adelaide, I finally tested out a suggestion that popped up frequently in the comments and on Twitter — rolling the newly-wrung garments in a towel and twisting that to extract more water. It worked a treat, and my garments were wearably dry even before I went to sleep. Definitely a technique I’ll use again in the future.

    • What I’m mainly impressed with in that quote was the towel technique which (as I mention) I’ll use again. What I’ve learned since is that non-quick-dry gear actually dries just as quickly.

  • I need to get back into this. I pack WAY too much at the moment for a simple weekend away, when I managed to travel around Canada for 3 weeks with just a carry-on bag and a handbag, and went to a wedding. This did require research.

    I want you to recruit a female lifehacker to try a similar challenge, as it’s a bit harder for us to have 1 outfit, due to social pressure (whether it’s real or perceived would be interesting to find out.)

    Having a ‘man bag’ should count as ‘wearable’ and ‘no luggage’ as you don’t need to deal with it, really.

  • I am a frequent traveller and still haven’t worked this (mostly because I travel with an electric shaver!) – have they relaxed restrictions for carrying razors onboard aircraft?!

  • Travelled around the US last year for 6 weeks with only a carry on backpack. Pretty sure I could do it with even less but since this was my first try I went with some extra t-shirts that probably weren’t necessary.

    The touch screen test should be interesting as although they’re good, they’re not perfect especially for large slabs of text or finicky editing or effective multi tasking.

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