2019 Update: We still stand by these tips on traveling for work — you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of business travel must-haves.
Traveling — whether for work or pleasure — can be a harrowing experience. We thought we’d try to summarize some of our best tips that, we’ve found, make everything go a bit more smoothly, from planning, to packing, to enjoying the experience — including how to pack a suit jacket!
1. Draw what you plan to pack. If you’re anything like this author, in the days leading up to a trip you’ve got a zillion thoughts racing around your head for what to pack. I should bring that great dress! Oh, can’t forget my laptop cord! And yet, if you actually start packing a bag several days ahead of time, you have no idea what’s actually IN the bag when it comes time to close it up and head for the airport. So I picked up this great tip from one of my best friends, who blogs at stellou.com — she draws what she plans to pack. This solves so many problems — you can add to the drawing over several days. You can see how things work together and where you can reuse different items of clothing. And yet, when it comes time to physically packing the bag, you can do it in one fell swoop, so you know exACTly what’s going in there. Pictured: This is one of our friend’s packing lists from a trip to Paris. They can be less fancy than this, though; one of my own I-have-no-artistic-ability illustrated lists is here (weirdly, also from a trip to Paris).
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2. Know how to pack.
a) Heavy things should always go on the bottom of your bag — so for example, if you have a rolling bag, your shoes, books, and whatever else should be closest to the bottom wheels as possible. This way, none of your clothes will get smooshed by heavy things.
b) Roll your tops, skirts and pants instead of folding them — if any of the pieces have lining you may want to turn them inside out before you roll them.
c) Suit jackets can be the trickiest thing to pack, though. We have forgotten where we got this little gem, but it actually does work. We try to walk you through it in the video below, but if you’d like a written explanation, here goes: take one sleeve of the suit jacket and turn it inside out. Then, take the second sleeve, and push it through the first sleeve. Get it as smooth as possible. The jacket should be almost entirely inside-out now, with both sleeves on one side. Fold the jacket on the vertical so the uber-sleeve lays as flat as possible. Then, fold the jacket on the horizontal until it’s the size you need it to be. Wherever possible, keep the suiting material from touching the suiting material — for example, the collar should stay on the “outside” of your little folded package so it isn’t touching anything else. Pictured Pin: Deposit Photos / mavoimages.
Our Video on How to Fold a Suit Jacket
3. Keep your toiletries with you, as well as one change of clothes in case you are separated from your checked luggage. A corollary: on overnight flights it’s a good idea to pack your toothbrush in your purse — when you arrive at your destination you can brush your teeth in the bathroom and feel like you’re starting the day afresh (no matter how little sleep you got on the plane).
4. A few lightweight additions can really make a difference in your trip. For example, flip flops are great to go wherever because it gives you something to walk around in your hotel room if the carpeting is gross; they’re also great to use if you end up using the hotel’s pool. Travel candles can give you a real sense of home and get rid of any weird hotel smells. Also, if you’re staying at a lower-end hotel and doubt you’ll have one of those comfy spa robes, a lightweight robe can be a great way to feel more comfortable in your home — for example, Hammacher Schlemmer offers a lightweight robe that was rated “best overall” by the Wall Street Journal. (Pictured: The Lightweight Travel Robe., available for $69. This jersey robe at Nordstrom also looks great!) We also swear by our LeSportsac weekend duffle — we keep it in the front compartment of our rolling bag, and have found it to be incredibly useful in two different situations. First, you’re on a trip and end up buying far too much stuff while on vacation — if you end up having to check a piece of luggage, this one is incredibly durable and has a lock on the zipper. (We actually just leave the keys on the bag so the TSA can get into it if they need to, but the locks help assuage our fears of our luggage splitting open while it’s being handled by the airport.) Second, it can also be great if you’re confronted by someone from TSA who insists that you can’t carry your rolling bag, your purse, AND your magazines on all at once — we’ve just stuffed our reading material and our purse into the Weekender and been allowed through. The distinctive colors on the bags (and they come in basic black as well as a wide variety of colors and prints) also make it super easy to identify as yours. (Pictured: these LeSportsac bags are awesome!)
5. Finally, keep an envelope in your purse for travel receipts. This way, during your trip you know exactly where all of your receipts are going, and you can even write on the outside of the envelope what the receipts are that you’re sticking in there. Then, when you get back to the office, you can just hand the envelope to your secretary and have her put together your T&E. (Pictured: our own lists from our recent trip to Louisville.)
Bonus tip: Be sure to ask, when checking into your hotel, if they partner with any airlines for rewards points — staying at most chain hotels will get you more frequent flyer points.
Readers, what are your top tips for traveling? What are your best tips on how to fold a suit jacket, how to keep track of expenses, and more?