Compliments of Bright Tal via Flickr

[The following is a guest blog post from Dr. Norma Carr-Ruffino, Professor of Management, San Francisco State University].

The travel savvy of George Clooney’s Up-in-the-Air character has inspired many business travelers.  Like me, you may be asking, How can I too arm myself with the right bag that’s well packed with the right gear?  Here are some travel-savvy secrets that I discovered.

Choose the Right Bag

Savvy travelers don’t struggle with big, clumsy bags, and they don’t waste time in baggage claim—at least not for short trips.  Instead they use the 22” Spinner Carry-on.  For longer trips, you could check a larger Spinner Garment Bag and carry-on a small wheeled bag.  In all cases, be sure you have adequate baggage identification.

 22” Spinner Carry-On:  Bags with spinner wheels, meaning 4 wheels rather than 2, are much easier to handle.  As for size, the primary airline rule for carry-on bags is that they must be small enough to store under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment.  Typical specific limits are maximum height 22 inches, width 14 inches, depth 9 inches, and weight 40 pounds—so you might look for a 22” spinner bag. 

Liquid or gel toiletries are not a problem with checked luggage but become an issue with a carry-on.   Rules keep changing but currently require liquids, gels, and creams to be placed in 3oz containers, which are then put in Ziploc or net baggies. Use similar baggies for dry toiletries, medicines, electronic accessories, and items to keep by your seat during the flight.

 To pack, layer everything but clothes in the bottom of the bag.  Last, put in clothes on hangers in plastic dry-cleaner bags; bind hangers together with a baggie tie,  hold in one hand, and fold clothes to fit on top of the bottom layer.  The plastic keeps wrinkles from forming. 

Spinner Garment Bag: For longer trips, consider using a larger Spinner garment/wardrobe bag, which zips opens to lie flat.  Inside, a hanger trolley holds several garments on hangers, which can be inside plastic dry-cleaner’s bags, or you can layer the bags between garments.  When you arrive, simply remove garments from the Spinner bag and place in the closet.  Typically, you can pack other items in removable corner pockets at the top of the bag and in a flap with removable pockets at the bottom.

 14” Carry-On Bag:  If you check a larger bag, consider a small wheeled carry-on that fits comfortably under your legs when seated.  Stow in it valuables such as billfold, jewelry, electronics, and paperwork, as well as other things you may need in flight, such as water purchased after security check.  For overnight flights, you might pack sleep aids such as Melatonin, Sominex, sleep mask, and earplugs along with mini-toiletries.

Take-Home Duffle Bag:  If you plan to collect some items on the trip, consider including a strong but sturdy nylon duffle bag, rolled up inside your main bag, to provide the extra packing space you’ll need.

Baggage ID:  On the outside of each bag, secure a leather ID tag; also tie on colorful ribbons or strap for quick identity.  Inside each bag, place your business card and trip itinerary– in case the bag goes astray.

Pack the Right Stuff

Traveling right means traveling light.  The challenge is figuring out how to lighten up and still have what you need.   Two keys are 1) miniature sizes and 2) layering.

 Clothes:  For jackets, pants, and skirts, choose excellent lightweight fabrics that resist wrinkling, in dark tones; bring washable blouses/shirts that dry overnight in colors that provide variety along with ties, scarves, jewelry.

 Sleepwear, underwear:  Pack 3 or 4 changes that dry overnight; for cold climates, add silk long-johns.

 Toiletries:  In travel-size bottles and jars organized into plastic or mesh zipper bags.

 Media:  Examples: computer, cell Phone, AT&T phone card, Camera, DVD-CD player, iPod, Kindle—and the necessary chargers, batteries, extension cords, plugs, and converters, all organized into baggies.

 Other Electric:  Small LED lamp, alarm clock with backlight, Sanitizer UV wand for killing viruses, bacteria, bedbugs.  Rarely a need for hair dryer, nearly always provided onsite these days.

 Paperwork:  Files, reservation confirmations, itineraries, maps, passport/visa, reading material.

 Money:  Cash, ATM card, credit cards. 

 Medicines:  Examples are pain reliever, sleep aid, laxative, relief for diarrhea and nausea, cold preventive/relief.

 Jewelry:   Women may need jewelry to complete their outfits.  Take good fakes, not expensive jewelry; loss is more likely to occur when you are out of your element.  Prevent damage by packing in a divided hard-shell case. 

 Bathing suit:  For pool, hot tub, beach.  Why not?  It takes so little space!

 Small umbrella:  Retractable handle.

Warm carry-on jacket:  For cold climates, take a substantial coat or jacket.  But even in warm climates, temps can be cool in the evening, on boat excursions, and in the mountains; a dark fleece jacket or a stole won’t wrinkle, can do double-duty as a blanket or pillow, and can be stashed between your carry-on’s pull-up handlebars.  

Extra shoes, optional:  Shoes are real space hogs, but if you must take an extra pair, wear the clunkier pair and pack the lighter pair, stuffed with underwear.

Food, optional.  Items such as string cheese, nuts, and chocolate can come in handy in-flight, upon arrival at your hotel, or at bedtime.  They take up space, but only until you eat them. 

Bottom Line

Traveling light can be a challenge—and so much fun.  My main inspiration has been a story I read years ago about a couple who travelled around the world on a year-long sabbatical.  Their rule:  we each carry one bag, light enough that we could be late for the train, make a run for it, and make it.  Back then, I had to figure out how to get everything into a small triangular nylon duffle bag.  Today, it’s the 22” Spinner Carry-On.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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