Packing Tips

Let’s face it….most of us take too much stuff when we travel. I found out how little I could get by with when I went on a business trip to Asia and my luggage was lost (by the airlines) for 5 days; all I had was my briefcase and the casual clothes I had worn on the plane! I got what toiletries I could from the hotel and then, hoping my luggage would soon show up, I bought two of all the necessities: underwear, dress shirts, ties, socks, pants, and just one pair of dress shoes. It’s not easy finding size 12 shoes in Malaysia. It’s amazing how far two outfits will get you. Of course I had no suitcase and bought a duffel bag in which to carry my purchases (I was traveling to several cities). As luck would have it, one pair of pants had a faulty zipper, which is really great when your job is to stand in front of audiences all day. I learned the value of a having a safety pin handy in these circumstances. I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier than when I got my luggage back, even though it was at the end of my trip.

Travel LIGHT. You’ll be happy you’re not lugging large bulky suitcases around airports, taxis, rental cars, ferries, or whatever.  So, what to pack?

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Just a few tips from someone who has traveled well over a million miles:


  • Of course, these will depend on the travel destination. Think layers, thin and no wrinkle. Even a man’s suit can be rolled up and still look great. Remember that in most places you can either do wash yourself or have a hotel launder a few things for you. Take a travel size (1-2 oz) bottle of liquid detergent to wash in your hotel room tub/sink.
  • Shoes: One pair of shoes goes a long way, but two pair is ideal. Find shoes that are flat or compress easily. Leave the bulky and high fashion shoes home. Flip flops are lovely for around the hotel room, showers, and heading to the pool or beach.
  • Outer jacket: Take an all-purpose light jacket that can protect against wind, rain and cool weather.

For the Airplane:

  • Toothbrush for the airplane: If you’ve packed your toiletries away in checked luggage, throw an extra toothbrush & toothpaste in your carry-on bag–doesn’t take much space. Fresh teeth and breath are morale lifters on long flights.
  • Snacks: I’m amazed how little food is provided in Economy class on 14 hour flights across the Pacific (Business class is not much better). Two tiny meals and maybe a ramen bowl is the extent of what you get. Bring whatever you like, but be sure it’s easy to pack and won’t be a mess. Also be aware that many countries will ask if you are bringing food into the country. Don’t lie.
  • Noise isolating earphones: Yes, many business travelers have the expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones. Why take all that bulk everywhere?  I bought noise isolating (fit in ear tightly) ear buds that reduce the noise about the same amount (I’ve used both, trust me), and sound great for $25. Far better for flying—in fact, they’re so quiet, it’s hard for me to the get the volume low enough for an in-fight movie.

Helpful Miscellaneous Items:

  • Small daypack: I repeat:  Small. I have a little daypack I take everywhere. It’s great for holding a camera, guidebook, iPod, map, passport, wallet and whatever else you need for day outings. No fanny-packs please.
  • Small sewing kit: (needles, thread, buttons, safety pins) can be a life-saver. I ripped a pair of paints in Hong Kong and got by with stitching the rip back together. Many hotels have these kits in the rooms, be sure to take one for the road.
  • Ziplock bags: For keeping liquids from leaking, or holding other wet items, for trash, or holding small items. Many uses.
  • Bounce:  These little sheets you throw in the dryer with a batch of clothes at home are wonderful for keeping your clothes/suitcase/shoes smelling fresh—just place them between layers in your suitcase. Take a handful of sheets with you (in a ziplock).
  • Sleeping pills (Tylenol PM for example): A great aid for jet lag and getting a good night’s rest at your destination.
  • Wet wipes: Another lifesaver. Small travel packet of wet wipes for washing up whenever water is not available.
  • Small amount of TP: You never know when you’ll have to go and there won’t be any paper. I’m not a fan of using my left hand.
  • Light nylon compressible duffle bag: We have one that folds up into its own zipped pocket about 4 inches by 4 inches. Great for expanding your luggage capacity if needed, holding dirty clothes, souvenirs, or whatever. When no longer needed, fold it back up again.
  • Small TSA locks:  These are very helpful for locking a checked suitcase, or bags left in a hotel room. It’s very unlikely someone will take the whole suitcase, so things can be stored in a locked bag if there’s no safe.
  • Tide Stick: Great for getting spot stains out of clothes and making them wearable for another day before washing.
  • Karabiners: Handy for locking zippers together, or attaching other items to your pack or bag.
  • Copies of passport:  Leave a copy at home, and put a copy in your suitcase. Helpful if you lose your passport, or for identification in a lost bag.
  • Money belt: In high risk areas, it’s best not to leave your money and credit cards in a wallet in your back pocket or purse.  Put your ID, money and credit cards in a belt that goes inside your shirt.

What else would you recommend?

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