We live in a world filled with options. For example, "Would you like that latte decaf or regular? Low-fat, nonfat, soy, almond, regular milk or half-and-half?" However, where packing for a business trip is concerned, the fewer choices you have, the happier you will be.
Given today's TSA screening, limited overhead space and propensity of airlines to taxi back to the runway canceling a flight, carrying light has become an essential survival skill. According to many of the stylists (and travel experts) I spoke to, the average business traveler packs approximately twice the amount of clothing they need for a business trip.
I've traveled to more than 50 countries, and most of the time I can do up to a two-week trip with one roll-aboard carry-on. How?
I learned a long time ago to borrow a lesson from Hollywood and use storyboard packing. In the movie business, storyboarding refers to creating a visual map of the story. I use a similar process to do the same thing with my business clothes before I board a plane.
Try these four steps, and your next business trip will be both lighter in suitcase and more substantial in style.
1. Pick your color palette.
One of the best ways to travel light is to limit your color choices. By choosing basic neutral colors--black, navy, tan and gray--you can combine various pieces for more choices. Stylist Brenda Kinsel, author of Brenda Kinsel's Fashion Makeover, suggests adding a hint of color with a tie, scarf, sweater or accessory to create some visual interest and flair.
For men, try packing a dark suit and a second pair of trousers in a lighter shade, allowing you to transition from a formal business meeting to a relaxed dinner with minimal wardrobe changes. As for wearing jeans at business off-sites, just make sure they are business-level jeans--dark and well fitting. "Unless you are managing a rock-and-roll band, no low-rise, embroidered or sequined jeans," says Kinsel.
Don't forget to consider the season and climate of the destination you will be traveling to--lighter materials and brighter colors for warm climates, denser materials and darker colors for cold climates.
2. Mix and match.
Next, start putting together outfits by trying on the clothes you have chosen and the accessories (belts, shoes, ties, jewelry, scarves, etc.) that might work with them. While many women are used to planning outfits, it's just as essential for men to think about what they are going to wear on a business trip. Taking the time to look put together and successful gives the impression of being trustworthy and competent.
3. Create your storyboards.
Once you have determined what clothes are needed for all the different business events you will be attending for an upcoming trip, write them down. Each page should include all the pieces in the outfit, all the accessories and how the item will be used; for example, business-casual daytime, business-dinner evening, team playtime. Take the sheets with you for quick reference.
4. Keep your clothes looking crisp.
To achieve wrinkle-free clothes upon arrival, try putting your jacket in a dry-cleaning bag: Lay your jacket (buttoned up) out on a bed or flat surface. Next, fold the arms back and place the entire garment inside a dry-cleaning bag without the hanger. The plastic acts as a buffer while the jacket shifts around in transit and prevents that awkward crease down the front.
To further prevent wrinkles, avoid putting garments directly onto the shoes and toiletries at the bottom of your suitcase. Instead, use a packing board as a barrier. This creates a flat surface clothes can rest on.
In this day and age of high-security screening, lost luggage and delayed flights, traveling is no easy task. If you practice storyboard packing, at least you can negotiate these challenges while flying lightly and looking your business best. Just don't forget to pack your most important accessory--your sense of humor.