Originally published Meetings Today
Travel is exhausting; it didn’t used to be.
My first flight was in the late ’40s, which means I’ve been a frequent flyer for more than 70 years albeit not earning frequent flyer points until the start of the programs in the ’80s, with my Dad on a prop plane from Ohio to New Jersey.
I only remember it from photos commemorating my first flight.
That first flight took place during the days when we walked on the tarmac and up steps to board planes and when we arrived, those greeting us came to the tarmac as well.
For that first trip, I didn’t have to pack and I’m sure what was in Dad’s suitcases for both of us was far different than what I later needed as an adult for my travels!
Being a prepared and well-packed traveler allows us to make one part of the experience less stressful. After months of writing about critical industry issues, this April 2018 edition of Friday With Joan is taking a break from issues that impact our industry to issues that impact us and our sanity as individual business travelers.
For those among us who are experienced; for those still acquiring business travel experience; and for the hospitality and meetings students that are in this to travel, here are some travel and packing tips.
My esteemed colleague, Marlys Arnold, has written and prepared an interactive CD-ROM entitled “Pack Your Bags: Tips and Tools for Savvy Travelers”—and it’s currently on sale!
She provides lots of information for non-business travelers as well including a reminder of “3-1-1”, the TSA travel rule for liquids and gels where each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of 3.4-ounce containers.
Keep in mind that you may know how to travel but for your meetings and shows there will always be a first time traveler for whom basic information is useful. Note too that the rules do keep changing especially for international flights.
1. Buy good luggage: Though the initial investment may be greater and sturdy luggage may be a bit tough for all to afford, if you plan to travel more than a few times a year, it’s worth every penny.
Frequent travelers have learned that luggage takes a beating whether it’s checked or carried on. Ensure what you buy meets the carrier’s requirements and can be locked with a TSA-approved lock.
Sometimes gate-checking is required when a plane is full and your hoped-to-carry-on bag has to go below. You want to make sure your valuables (which for me includes medications, makeup, clothing, emergency radio and files) are as safe as you can make them if you cannot carry them with you.
When you consider a wheeled bag, if possible, test it first. Handles are of varying length and depending on your height, may be awkward to pull through an airport. And there are different types of wheels, too.
And if you think a bag over your shoulder is a good idea, take it from me: the damage to your neck and shoulders from years of schlepping shoulder bags is now terribly painful.
Roll, don’t carry.
The most useful device I recently acquired is a Bag Bungee. It has allowed me to attach my backpack with laptop inside to my rolling bag far more easily than I had before with the hook on the suitcase or sliding it over the suitcase handle.
2. Ticketing: Whether traveling by air or rail, booking through discount websites may be a great way to save money. I don’t. I’ve heard and read too many stories of those denied boarding or not having the seats they thought they had when doing so.
Or if a flight is canceled or changed, the inability to then change other legs of trips, including changing carriers, may not be as easy as booking elsewhere.
I prefer booking using a travel agent or directly with the airline.
For train travel, I book directly with Amtrak on their websites or by phone.
Note: some airlines charge an additional fee to book using their reservations agents. Decide if it’s worth it by checking the airline’s website or asking when you call if there is an additional fee. Amtrak now too has fare rules similar to airlines regarding cancellation or changes.
Check before you commit.
Like many business travelers, I’m very picky about seat location. The sooner a ticket is booked (on most airlines) the more options one has for flights and seats.
Caution: there are now as many classes of seats and fees for specific seats including seats allowing you to sit with traveling companions as there are airfares. Check frequently. Aircraft changes for your flights may cause seat reconfigurations.
If you are flying on a commuter jet or smaller plane, find out the ability to take carry-on luggage on board. This will also help you decide which luggage to purchase and use.
Additionally, it will help you decide what to pack.
3. Boarding: If you are in a “priority” boarding class, arrive in time to do so. This is more likely to ensure space overhead for luggage.
And if you are traveling by rail, most Amtrak stations have great Red Caps who can board you early especially if you want an Amtrak Quiet Car seat which quickly fill.
Do remember to tip those who assist you.
What’s in your suitcase?
It was delightful to learn what colleagues pack for business trips. Each has different priorities. Of those queried, none noted required medical devices such as a CPAP machine, which is not included in the two-bag maximum for most carry-on luggage on U.S. flights. It may mean you have to schlep a bit more and you should plan accordingly.
I try to limit what I take with me. The ability to do so goes back to my dad, of blessed memory, who traveled by car as a salesperson.
Dad limited his wardrobe to easy, interchangeable items.
Like him, I have a “uniform.” His was khaki slacks or, in winter, gray flannel, button-down collar shirts and navy blazers of different weights for different seasons. Mine? A black jumper dress, good T-shirts, and shawls along with jewelry, the latter two the equivalent of Dad’s tie changes to create different looks.
Make a list
I’ve learned that without a list, something is forgotten. And even with an always-packed-with-essentials suitcase, items (shampoo and soap* for example) need to be replenished.
For me, writing the list helps me think versus using a pre-printed list to check things off. I think from head to toe, literally, and what I’ll need, always planning at least one extra of most items “just in case” a connecting flight is canceled and I need to spend a night.
In addition to the usual for some (laptop, iPhone, chargers, medications, makeup, underwear, something to wear to sleep, and clothing accessories—for me, jewelry, for others, belts or ties), I take:
- Unscented or scents-I-can-tolerate toiletries*: hotels if you’re reading this, please have an option for unscented products! Some of us have chemical sensitivities and cannot use the soaps (or shampoos, conditioners, lotions) in the rooms.
- An emergency radio for its many components (There are other brands and places to purchase).
- A travel-size white noise device. Yes, there are apps for that and sometimes no convenient electrical outlets. Having this makes a difference for a good night’s sleep.
- Traveling duct tape. It comes in rolls or flat packs and can be your best friend for anything that needs to be fixed from hems to tacking down electrical cords in your guest or meeting room.
- Multiple small flashlights (in my luggage and purse), extra batteries and two battery-operated alarm clocks, one of which has a flashlight built in.
- An extra pair of eyeglasses, or when I wore them, contact lenses plus eyeglasses.
- Antiseptic wipes to wipe down armrests, tray tables, hair dryers, TV remotes and other items where germs flourish.
- “Emergency” (Mylar) blanket(s) like a shawl or sweater, this is great for flights, delayed flights sitting on cold tarmac, or cold meeting rooms.
- A small personal fan for flights delayed without air conditioning on or in over-heated meeting rooms, or, well, you know, women of a certain age!
- A collapsible wind-resistant umbrella and a hat that repels rain.
- Face masks especially during flu season.
- My passport, D.C. ID [I don’t drive so it’s a non-driver ID] and TSA Pre-Check card because even though my boarding pass shows I’m Pre-Check, it always pays to have, as Timothy Lam notes, extra ID.
What about packing clothing?
Above I noted that my dad was very simple in what he packed.
I’m fascinated by those who take many multiple outfits and shoes while I travel with minimal clean clothes that can be mixed and matched and try to get away with one pair of shoes that can look fine for business or casual wear.
If I worked out, I’d ship the extra items that I would need. As Reiko Tate said, a large shawl is great as an accessory and an airplane blanket or warmth in a cold meeting room.
Like others have noted and Marlys Arnold stresses, roll your clothes.
They are neater and take up less space. Use the inside of shoes, if you take extra, for smaller items like sox, jewelry, belts, and scarves.
What about checked luggage?
Only when absolutely necessary.
Waiting for checked luggage is for me a colossal waste of time. Years ago, on a trip to the neighborhood dry cleaners, I ran in to a colleague who was picking up her clean clothes to be put in a box to ship to her next meeting.
I began doing the same.
There are now luggage services that ship and some airlines provide that service.
I put clothes and other items that may be too bulky for a carry-on, like a small battery operated table fan for stuffy rooms, neatly in plastic bags and directly in a box and send them by overnight or two-day service.
If you do this, check ahead to ensure the availability at hotels for accessing your box if you arrive late or on a weekend and the handling charge for their receiving (and reshipping) the box (with dirty clothes and other items not needed) for the next stop.
Hotels with in-house UPS and FedEx outlets can, even when you have an account with the service, charge a significant fee for handling and delivering the box to your room.
As a number of those interviewed said, check to see if you can do your own laundry at the hotel [for that I have to send unscented detergent and softener or dryer sheets] or the cost of dry cleaning. It may be worth it to take fewer clothes.
Hot shipping tip
Although I love USPS Priority Mail flat rate box service, I learned the hard way (is there any other?) that not all mail addressed to a hotel goes to the hotel itself. Rather it may go to a post office to be picked up by the hotel … and never seen again!
Ask before you mail or ship what the services are.
Ensure your box or luggage has additional labels (to the shipping label) inside and on the outside with your name and arrival, hotel name and address (An inside label is smart for inside your checked and carry-on luggage too).
If you’ve read my blogs and comments long enough you probably wonder if I’m worried someone will see that information and have more than I want them to about my whereabouts.
Yes, I do think about it and yes, I still ship.
Lastly, as others noted, take less than you think you want. Overpacking is easy and causes overstuffed or too heavy bags. No one is going to care if you wear the same outfit with different accessories (ties, jewelry, scarves or shawls) daily.
Pack in a way that allows you some flexibility.
Now, tell us your travel, and especially packing, tips in the comments below.
We all learn from each other.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.
Any products or services noted are for reference and do not constitute an endorsement.
Related Reading From the April 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan