Travel light

I’ll come clear at the outset: this is disingenuous, because I am amazing at traveling light, so this is basically just an opportunity to brag. You’re going to be so impressed by my command of this essential and valuable skill, just like everyone else at the cool parties I am regularly invited to.

I travel a lot for work, mostly domestic trips here in the USA with one or maybe two nights away from home. I can usually get everything I need in a laptop bag, for a night at least. Shirts admittedly need patient ironing, but it works. Top tip: don’t take a laptop charger. Most modern batteries will do you 6-8 hours, which may be more than you need for a one-day trip where you’re in meetings some of that time. Two nights away, well, a laptop bag is a bit of a stretch, especially when there are suits and shoes involved.

I had a run of trips lined up, ending in a two-day trip, and a plan. It will help if you read the next bit while imagining you’re looking at blueprints on a table in a dark room, under a low hanging lamp, with some shady but cool characters who may have done time in prison but are nevertheless somehow endearing and relatable.

  1. Take only what I need. Not just the exact clothes, but everything else too. Two cotton-buds for two nights, and a mini tube of toothpaste that’s almost almost finished, packed in a ziplock bag. Leave the computer mouse at home. Remove unnecessary cards from my wallet. That last one was totally unnecessary, but I’m a completionist.
  2. Wear my suit on the flight. Much better than trying to stuff it in a suitcase, despite the willfully misleading name. Just be really careful not to spill any airline food in my lap.
  3. Wear a shirt too. Put it on over a t-shirt worn for the journey, then take it back off when I arrive. No harm and it’ll need less ironing too.
  4. One pair of shoes. No comfortable footwear for the flight. It’s an improvement anyway because you can kick off slip-on shoes, once you’re airborne and the passenger next to you can’t see your socks with the threadbare ankles.
  5. Pack socks with threadbare ankles. Take burner underwear. Neat folded clothes travel well, but bunched up laundry takes up a lot more space. So I’ll dig out the socks with the threadbare ankles, the shorts I’ve never really liked and a t-shirt I use for painting. That way I don’t have to bring them home. You’re welcome, hotel maid.
  6. Rely on my iPhone. Or Android, or other, I’m not being brand loyal here. But the point is it can easily replace books and other bits and pieces you might otherwise have taken, especially now you can leave it turned on during the flight.
  7. Dress like a drug mule. I draw the line at body cavities, but you can stuff a surprising amount of things in your pockets and on your person instead.

By following through on this beautiful dream, I managed to do a two day trip, maintaining professional dress standards, packing everything not just in a laptop bag but in a laptop case. A big folio thing just large enough for a laptop, a charger and some papers.

Sadly this perfect, amazing plan was somewhat undermined when I sat on the plane, buckled my lap-belt, looked down for the first time that day and noticed that there was a two inch hole in the crotch of my suit pants/trousers. My burner underwear was quite clearly visible. I waddled awkwardly through the airport and into a cab, and strode into a luxury golf resort with little shuffling steps until I managed to get to my room and ransack the drawers for that precious, formerly-misunderstood sewing kit. I spent the next hour or two trying to remember how to sew, before remembering that I have never known how to sew, and then watching YouTube videos about how to sew (a sentence which, I suspect, may tell you everything you need to know about me). I just about managed to restore some dignity to the trousers/pants I would need to wear for the next two days, then ironed everything I’d now gotten all creased.

Now, if I hadn’t been attempting this pointless exercise, would I have had alternate clothes? Probably. Would I have spent less time in that luxury resort in my room sewing and ironing, and more time luxurying? Sure. But it didn’t matter, because I had packed light. Yay! I’m the coolest!

  • Difficulty: Moderate, unless you’re an elite packer like me, and then super easy.
  • Worthwhiliness: Medium. Joking aside, it’s quite a handy skill, and it feels pretty good getting on and off planes without messing with overhead lockers.

Header image by dougww used under by-sa 2.0. Thanks dougww.