Best packing hacks for business travellers

Most frequent business travellers develop their own hacks for making air travel as efficient and stress-free as possible. For many, it starts with the right luggage.

Travelling for business can present a world of problems, but with these few handy packing hacks you can ensure each trip runs a little smoother.

By Katrina Lobley

In the rush to pack, even frequent flyers can come undone. Hotel executive Gaynor Reid learned a lesson the hard way when she mixed business with a little souvenir shopping.

“I once had to watch as Customs in New Zealand threw away a very expensive wooden Maori statue because I only had carry-on – they said I could have used it as a weapon on board,” says Reid, Singapore-based head of communications for AccorHotels Asia Pacific. 

Since then, she’s developed her own mantra for double-checking what she’s packed in carry-on luggage.

“Now I use the acronym WWCS – ‘What Would Customs Say?’ – before I zip up my bag, so that I know every time it will pass security,” she says. “It’s saved me from losing items many times.”

Most frequent flyers develop their own hacks for making air travel as efficient and stress-free as possible. For many, it starts with the right luggage.

Mark Tarring, Hobart-based managing director of Thomas Cook Money Asia Pacific, prefers travelling with only carry-on.

“I’m currently using Flylite [a UK brand of lightweight luggage] as it helps with the weight restrictions,” he says.

Passing the packing test

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE tests and reviews carry-on luggage for durability, stability, water-resistance and more. Flylite’s Pro-Lite 54-centimetre carry-on bag is one of its recommended models.

Showing that price doesn’t necessarily reflect quality, CHOICE also gives the thumbs-up to two budget models from Kmart, as well as others including three Samsonite bags.

“Now I use the acronym WWC – ‘what would customs say?’” Gaynor Reid, AccorHotels Asia Pacific

Samsonite Australia brand manager, John Mavroudis, says if you’re checking in a bag, it pays to add an emergency bag that can become cabin baggage if you’re returning home with extra items.

“A fold-up duffel or backpack doesn’t take up much space, and will help you avoid any expensive excess baggage [charges],” he says. He’s also a fan of using packaging cubes and compartments to organise items within a suitcase and to reduce creasing.

Innovations in travel luggage

Don’t discount names you might not associate with luggage, such as The North Face, which offers business travellers nifty options such as the Overhead – a 35-litre roller bag that fits most airlines’ carry-on size requirements. Those keen not to strain their backs should look at the company’s Access Pack – a moulded commuter backpack with a spring-release main compartment and fleece-lined media pockets. 

Sweden’s Fjallraven, renowned for its back-saving Kanken backpacks, also offers the Splitpack – a two-compartment, zip-up duffle bag that’s carried like a backpack.

But if you really want to stand out from the crowd, Virgin Australia staff members Mark Muhandiramge and Anna Ng say they see guests collect the wrong bag out of the overhead locker or from the baggage carousel almost every day – consider something bright and unique, such as Crumpler’s Credential tawny “briefpack”.

As for the most unusual baggage identification method Muhandiramge and Ng have seen, they nominate the “suitcase with a very large sticker of a penguin that almost covered the entire bag, which was definitely an easy one to spot”.

Professional Development: CPA Q&A. Access a handpicked selection of resources each month and complete a short monthly assessment to earn CPD hours. Exclusively available to CPA Australia members.

New smart bag rules

Passengers also need to be aware that rules have recently changed for “smart bags” that require lithium batteries to power features such as USB charging stations and location trackers.

Virgin Australia says these bags will only be accepted for carriage if the lithium battery can be removed.

Bags with a removable battery can be taken aboard as carry-on (subject to size and weight restrictions – be aware that many carriers are now strictly enforcing the seven kilogram carry-on allowance). If your smart bag is being checked in, the battery must be placed in carry-on baggage.

Bags with wireless tracking and connectivity systems must have their transmitting functions turned off during flights.

Straighten up and fly right

Mark Tarring of Thomas Cook Money travels internationally up to eight times a year to the UK and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and domestically every other week to Sydney,

Melbourne or Brisbane. His top tips are:

  • Book a hotel with cleaning facilities to reduce the amount of clothing you need to take.
  • Going through security can slow you down: pack electronic devices and personal hygiene items in the front pouch of the case for easy retrieval for checks.
  • Whenever possible, use carry-on luggage to speed up check-in and departure when you reach your destination.

Travel hacks

As head of communications for AccorHotels Asia Pacific, Gaynor Reid travels about 150 days of the year – usually within the Asia-Pacific region but also to London, Paris, New York and Berlin. These are her top packing tips:

  1. Roll instead of fold, and use dry-cleaning bags to cover each layer so that clothes don’t become too crushed. Pack non-crushable items – no one has time for ironing when travelling.
  2. Colour coordinate your wardrobe with just two or three colours that can be worn together – black and white are perfect. They can be brightened up with colourful accessories that don’t take up much room.
  3. Have a spare toiletries bag at the ready with toothbrush, toothpaste and makeup items in small containers. Remember to refill after each trip, if necessary.

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