Get packing: Preparation eases stress of business travel

Janet Arrowood
Janet Arrowood

Quick. What’s your favorite part of a business trip?

Packing probably doesn’t come immediately to mind. Packing is stressful and annoying, but it doesn’t need to be. A bit of planning and preparation goes a long way toward easing the stress that arises when you suddenly realize, “Oh, drat — I forgot that!” The same holds true for flights and hotel stays.

Planning and preparation enable savvy business travelers to go for a week or more with a legal carry-on and one personal item. So how can you incorporate planning and preparation into fitting all that stuff into two small pieces of luggage?

First, get out that one quart Ziplock baggie and fill it with just enough of each product to last for your trip. Keep in mind, most business class hotels provide personal care items in your room and maintain a stock of other items in case you forget something. Check the contents after each trip and replenish right away.

Identify and locate the clothing you think you’ll need — then put half of it back. Pick items that are wrinkle-resistant (usually synthetics) and coordinated. Wear your workout shoes and pack one pair of work or dress shoes.

Reduce packing space and wrinkles by using plastic clothing bags from the dry cleaners to cushion items and trap a small amount of air. Lay out each item and cover it with the plastic. Add a layer and more plastic. When you have three or four items insulated and stacked, fold the sleeves in and then fold into thirds or fourths. Press out the excess air, slip the entire package into a plastic bag and you’re done. T-shirts, jeans and khakis can be rolled tightly and used to fill gaps in your carry-on bag.

If you travel to many different places or internationally, make a checklist and use it every time.

For your flight, use the airline’s “where my flight is coming from” feature so you’re not surprised when your flight is late or canceled. Regional airports too often lose out when there are aircraft issues or flight delays elsewhere in the system. By checking this flight feature, you have time to reschedule your connection or even drive to a hub.

If you plan to work on the flight, book a seat that gives your writing hand wiggle room. If you’re right-handed, that usually means the aisle seat on the right as you enter the plane or window seat on the left.

Invest in TSA Precheck — and Global Entry if you travel internationally. Even with modified Precheck, the convenience is worthwhile.

Airline cabin crews get busy. If you’re not in first or business class, bring your own water. If you freeze the water bottle, you can bring it through screening — it’s not a liquid or gel until it melts. Whatever you do, don’t drink water out of the taps on the plane or even use it to brush your teeth. It’s not potable.

Stake out your seat and armrest space in a “nice” way. A magazine placed between the two seat cushions and next to your side of the armrest keeps the armrest nicely divided in half.

Pack earplugs — the kind on a string — and an eye mask. A fully charged “pocket juice” is nice to have in case there are no outlets at your seat or the power’s out.

At the hotel, ask for a room as far away from the elevator as possible. There’s something about hotels, corridors and elevators that makes people think they need to shout. Ask if the hotel has a business floor or “quiet floor.”

For security and safety reasons, a room that’s not on the ground floor is more secure. But make sure you know where the stairs are located. For additional security and privacy, a rubber wedge door stop works great. Hotel room doors open inward. So if you slip the wedge under the door, it’s easy to remove. But someone trying to enter the room will simply make the fit tighter.

Tip the cleaner a few bucks. They work hard and make peanuts.

Make these simple actions part of your travel schedule, and you’ll be amazed how smooth business travel becomes.