For most of us, there comes a time when our job requires us to pack up and head out of town for a conference, a sales call, a training meeting, or a host of other reasons. This is commonly known as: the business trip. Many aspects of business travel are unpredictable, such as flight delays, missed connections, and lost bags, but a little bit of smart prepping and packing can lead to less stress and smoother travels. If you are unprepared, you may find yourself stuck in Pittsburgh for the night with nothing but the clothes on your back and a couple of pity items provided by the hotel, such as a pre-packaged single-use toothbrush that snaps in half if you brush too hard, and one of those flimsy black combs they used to hand out on school picture day in 1979. I know this because I once found myself stuck in Pittsburgh for the night with nothing but the clothes on my back, a pre-packaged single-use toothbrush that snapped in half, and one of those flimsy black combs they used to hand out on school picture day in 1979. It wasn’t pretty. Here are some guidelines that will help you prepare for your business trip and set you up for success before you even leave the house:
If the trip is short, such a s a day or two, try to pack light enough so you can avoid checking any bags. The airline can’t lose your bags if you keep them in your possession, and you won’t waste valuable time standing around baggage claim. If you need to bring a coat, try to wear it on the plane because packing it will take up a lot of room, and you can always just fold it on your lap or put it under the seat. A small carry-on (with wheels if possible) can fit a reasonable amount. Check with the airline for size guidelines. If you must check a bag, keep some essentials in a small carry-on in case your checked bag doesn’t make it on time. It happens, trust me.
Choose business attire made of wrinkle-resistant material (this is not the time to pack the linen suit), and darker colors are smarter in case you spill something on yourself. If possible, pack one extra shirt, and always an extra tie since they take up minimal space. For the men, a simple navy or dark gray suit can be worn more than once, and the same suit will look different if, for example, you wear a conservative dark-colored tie one day, and a bright orange tie the next day.
If your trip involves you giving a presentation that requires hand-outs, ship your materials out ahead of time so you don’t have to drag them along with you. If you find yourself with a lot of extra things to bring home from the trip, it might make sense to have that shipped as well. Don’t overburden yourself with lots of dead weight to drag around.
Some things, such as shoes, can take up valuable space in your suitcase. Try to pack comfortable and versatile shoes that can be worn with multiple outfits, rather than a specific pair of shoes that only match one particular dress. Although you need a different top for each day, you can probably get away with fewer pants/skirts as long as you pack things that mix and match well, such as a black skirt, or a pair of khakis.
In addition to these guidelines, make sure to pack your phones, tablets, laptops, power cords, chargers, toiletries, make-up, and sleepwear. If you forget anything, don’t panic, you can always buy it, as long as you don’t forget the most important things: your identification, money/credit card, and tickets. So travel smart, travel safe, and always keep a positive attitude. And if you happen to land in Pittsburgh, say hello for me.