While packing for business trips, do your clothes and gadgets jostle for space? Does checking in your luggage or taking it into the cabin with you cause problems? If so, this guide to good packing is for you. Follow it and you’ll only need to worry about making that presentation.
Do your homework
If business travellers could learn one lesson from Ravi Kiran, chief executive officer (CEO), South Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group, it is to prepare in advance. Kiran makes sure he checks the weather of his destination city before he leaves for a trip. He either logs on to www.wunderground.com or www.weather.com, or accesses a weather channel application that’s loaded on his Palm Treo 680. “A couple of times when I went overseas, I forgot to check the weather and was forced to suffer through it or buy really expensive clothing,” he says.
Kiran always asks for a dress code for every occasion, when he’s attending events organized by a client or partner. “Never assume and never try to make a fashion statement at an event with strange people around you, unless you’re a celebrity,” he says. Another item on his to-do list before a trip is to get a haircut. “To hand yourself over to a hairdresser you don’t know in another city or country may have unsatisfactory consequences,” he says.
Forgetting toiletries on a number of trips forced Kanwaljit Singh, managing director, Helion Ventures Pvt. Ltd, to find a permanent solution to the problem. Now he has a small pouch with all the necessary toiletries that remains in his Samsonite strolley even when he’s back home. “I don’t have to bother to pack it every time,” he says. This is one of Meenakshi Madhvani’s tricks as well. The managing partner of Spatial Access has mini versions of all her toiletries in a case which remains in her bag. In addition, she also keeps some basic medication and a pair of scissors.
Keep a clothes count
For short work trips, most travellers are frugal when it comes to packing clothes. Singh takes along less than necessary— never more than a trouser and shirt per day.
When he is on a two-three day trip, his trick is to stay monochromatic, so he doesn’t need to lug around more accessories than needed. “I take clothes of similar or same colours. My trousers, shirts and turban will be of the same colour family, so I don’t have to take along more than one belt, turban and pair of shoes,” he explains. Madhvani takes along saris of the same colour, so she can wear the same petticoat and shoes for a short trip.
Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., carries fewer trousers compared to shirts. “My evening shirts are also more colourful, so I make sure I take along a purple, red or yellow linen shirt,” says Bijoor. For Kiran, it’s one pair of formal clothing (shirt and trousers) for each working day, two pairs of shoes (black and dark tan), casual clothing such as a pair of jeans and sweatshirts and something that can work as evening wear for light occasions. Advertising professional Piyush Pandey’s packing style is a bit more complex. The executive chairman and national creative director of Ogilvy and Mather India, normally packs two sets of shirts and trousers per day, but for a four-day trip, he’ll take six pairs, not eight. “I try and keep the ratio to 1.5 sets per day,” he says.
Check-in vs take in
Checking in luggage or opting to take it into the aircraft is a dilemma many business travellers face. Bijoor travels with a bright purple Dunlop sports bag. He doesn’t check it in while travelling in India. “I’d rather take it on the plane and wheel it out myself,” he says. But when Bijoor does check it in, he’s got a handy transparent case that he uses as hand baggage. “I bought it in London and it’s a big boon because I put in anything that could raise questions at the security check. I always put my cellphone in this case as well. I’ve realized that when you put it in the tray to pass it through the X-ray, you invariably forget it there,” Bijoor says.
Madhvani carries her laptop case and handbag into the cabin, so her Samsonite strolley gets checked in. “I don’t mind because baggage handlers at Indian airports are outstanding compared to international airports. They get your luggage out in no time,” she says.
Pandey prefers to check his in instead of struggling to take it into the cabin and fitting it into the overhead compartment. He has never lost his bags, but he does have a Plan B, in case his luggage is misplaced. He takes along one set of fresh clothes, a toothbrush and fresh undergarments in a laptop case that he uses as cabin baggage, “so you’re not completely jacked”.
Kiran takes his bag into the cabin whenever possible, but checks it in if it gets bulky and heavy. “I have seen too much inconvenience to other passengers, when one passenger is trying to dislodge several pieces of baggage to accommodate his,” he says. But for an overnight trip within the country, he does check in, since toiletries are not allowed in cabin baggage. “I don’t see any point showing off your smartness by trying to sneak it in,” he says.
When executives save space by packing less clothes, they make up for it by loading up on gadgets. A sampler: Kiran always takes along his laptop, headphones, a portable hard disk, Skype phone, mobile phones, chargers and a universal adapter; on long trips, a portable media player is added to the list, while an iRiver MP3 player goes along for short ones. “Sometimes for a short trip, I take fully charged batteries instead of chargers. They reduce the weight and everything doesn’t get entangled,” he says.
Bijoor says the first thing he packs is his laptop with an Internet card that has connectivity anywhere in the world (it let him down in some areas of the Philippines, though). He protects his laptop by packing it in the middle of the bag, sandwiched between layers of clothes. It is also encased by a light sponge cover for further protection.
Of course, a laptop bag is a more ready-to-use and popular option.