I love to travel -- but I hate packing and hauling my stuff through airports and across the globe, which is why I pride myself on being a "light traveler."
I am such a fan of traveling light that at one point in my life, while living in Central Asia, I kept a blog called, "A man, his Minolta and his Marlboros," because I would take jaunts throughout Central Asia on a train with literally only my journal, camera and a pack of cigarettes (while not a smoker, everyone smoked on trains and it was a great way to make friends).
These days, as airports become more of a hassle and airlines begin to implement more fees for bags (which I support), learning to travel light is becoming more important. Here are a few tips I have picked up over the past decade of logging miles all around the world.
1. Choose garments wisely.
The key to traveling lightly is to choose garments that are light and wrinkle-free and can be dried quickly -- this is so you can can wash your garments quickly and easily in the sink or shower after they have become soiled. Hang to dry, and you have one less garment to pack.
Men, if you are going to pack a suit, then pack a grey or charcoal colored suit, white shirts and black shoes. Then, you add three different ties and -- wallah -- you have three different suits.
For women, a grey or charcoal business suit with a few different color blouses achieves the same result.
For casual wear, choose color tones that match and can be easily worn with different outfits. Also, choose one accessory color (brown or black).
Lastly, understand that many parts of the world wear the same outfit for several days in a week. Unless you are going to see the same people every day, it is fine if you wear an outfit more than once on a trip.
Once you have gained your composure at this suggestion, you can move on.
2. Choose exercise gear wisely.
For some, exercising on a travel trip is optional. For me, it is mandatory.
I do not pack matching workout outfits and carry all of my gear (I don't own much more than a yoga mat anyway). The only thing you need is one pair of shorts and a shirt, as you can get a great workout in your room. In fact, shorts and shirts are optional in this case -- just make sure your curtains are closed.
If you plan on running or going outdoors, pack an exercise shirt that will dry quickly after a wash in the sink or shower and a light pair of shoes. I am a big fan of Vibram shoes, as they do not require socks and can also be rinsed off and dried.
3. Choose clothing accessories wisely.
I like watches and ordinarily wear a couple of rings. When I travel, however, all of that is left behind. The only thing I take is a high quality hooded rain coat (in lieu of an umbrella, which is bulky and difficult to pack). Anything that is not meant to keep you safe or dry is unnecessary and does not need to be packed.
4. Take only your phone and ear buds.
We all travel with electronics these days, but you don't need to lug your laptop and huge camera with you. Most of us have a smart phone, and while doing things on your device can be cumbersome at times, it truly has everything you need to access the digital universe and take photos and videos.
Also, as long as I am carrying my phone, I might as well have my music and podcasts. And while I know many people love wireless headphones, the truth is that they take up too much space, and you are still packing a charging wire or additional batteries with them.
Instead, opt for a good pair of lightweight, wired and noise-reducing earbuds.
5. Limit ancillary items.
From my experience, there are very few additional items you need (emphasizing "need" here) to take. What you must have are:
- Your passport
- Phone charger
- Compact 4-1 international adapter (if you are traveling internationally)
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, feminine products, hair gel)
Anything else you may need on a trip are rare or one-off needs, which do not require you to pack and take with you. Most of these items will be provided by the hotel or be available for purchase.
Of course, if you are traveling internationally, some additional considerations may be required, but as someone who has traveled the Silk Road with a camera, journal and pack of cigarettes, I can tell you what you need -- versus what you think you need -- is much less than you think.
What do you think? What other tips do you have for busy business travelers. Please share your feedback in the comments below.