5 Tips for Traveling Light on Extended Business Trips

When you travel for work, you have to pack light. Doing so will make it easier to get through airline security, and you won't have to worry about lugging a heavy suitcase between presentations, meals and meetings with clients. Plus, reduced baggage fees will save your employer money.

Here are five ways to pack smarter for your next business trip:

1. Downsize your luggage

Checking a bag might make it easier to get to your seat, but it will slow down the rest of your trip. You'll have to check it before you can go through security, wait for it at your destination and wheel it to and from the hotel. A small carry-on bag, however, is easy to transport, and if you pack strategically, it will usually give you enough space for everything you need. 

As a general guide, most U.S.-based airlines restrict carry-on sizes to 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 in, and most E.U.-based airlines restrict their carry-on sizes to 21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8 in. Carry-on luggage weight is usually restricted to a maximum of 40 pounds. Choose luggage made from lightweight material to reduce its overall weight.

To maximize your space, fold your clothes as small as possible, starting with your undergarments. Fold shirts and dresses at the seams and lay them flat on top of everything else to avoid wrinkles. There are some travelers who swear by rolling their clothes to save space. Other people like to use packing cubes or compression sacks to keep everything organized and neatly condensed. Keep small items in bags organized by product type so you can find everything easily without rummaging through your entire bag.  

2. Plan your outfits in advance

When you plan your outfits around every client or social interaction, you stop yourself from packing unnecessary items. If you have many different business meetings over the course of several days, consider bringing outfits that you can mix and match: the same suit but different shirts, or a few blouses that go with the same skirt. Consider sticking to one neutral color that can anchor your travel wardrobe like black, brown or navy to ensure you can easily mix and match pieces as needed.

Don't forget about casual client meetings, such as business dinners and trips to the golf course. Packing too many options will weigh you down and make it difficult to find the things you do need.

To further optimize your outfits, consider doing laundry at your hotel. Many hotels offer affordable overnight dry cleaning services. This way, you can bring fewer outfits and always look sharp.

3. Remember your chargers

Try not to forget to pack charger cords for each of your devices. To keep all of your cords from becoming tangled, use rubber bands, hair ties or twist ties to keep them neat and organized.

Before you buy and pack a large, clunky voltage adapter for your next international trip, make sure it's absolutely necessary. Many modern smartphones can switch voltage on their own. According to Lonely Planet writer Loren Bell, devices that say "Input: 100~240v" on their labels do not require a separate converter. To charge those devices, all you need is a small plug converter. Many hotels now also offer in-wall USB ports, which follow an international standard.

4. Limit your shoe selection

If possible, bring only several pairs of shoes with you. Shoes can bulky and heavy, plus they get bent out of shape if packed tightly with other items. In order to utilize the space to maximize your packing, roll up your socks and stuff them inside your shoes. Not only does this save space, but it also helps your shoes maintain their shape.

Try to limit yourself to two pairs shoes by bringing one casual pair and one formal pair. Choose neutral colors that will go with most of your outfits. Women should consider swapping their heels for a pair of dressy flats. They take up less room and are far more comfortable.

5. Let past trips guide you

Draw on previous trips to guide your packing strategy. Remember that time you packed three pairs of shoes and wore only two? Then it's safe to assume you'll act similarly on the next trip.

As you travel, pay attention to the items you use and don't use. Over time, you can perfect your packing strategy and become a pro at preparing for last-minute trips. You may even want to choose certain outfits that become your go-to pieces because you know they are versatile, easy to pack and less likely to wrinkle. Once you figure out a packing method that works for you, it will save you time and energy in the long run and make for a smoother business trip.

Busy travelers have a lot more than just packing to think about. For more tips on how to optimize your next business trip, check out our resource center.