Packing light and smart for travel: Why & How

bags.jpgJust because you travel business class does not mean you have to use the generous baggage allowance it comes with. More so since airports are the great levellers; all but a few treat passengers and their bags equally, irrespective of the class they are travelling in.

This should prompt you to think of some reasons to pack light and smart. How are the following for starters?

  • Airlines are getting more stringent with allowances. No bags over 32 kilos even if your limit is higher for most. If British Airways says one bag in the cabin, they mean it. No extra bag for a laptop anymore. They also make you pay for the extra check-in bag, even within overall allowances.
  • A penny saved…Light bags mean you might not need porters, or may be able to take public transport instead of expensive taxis.
  • Greater mobility: Even if you can afford to otherwise, a tube or train gets you to the airport within the specified time; taxis may get stuck in jams anytime. And those with only cabin baggage can also opt for earlier flights if seats are available last minute. “To truly travel light, I ensure my perfect bag has ample space and lots of compartments. For comfort and practicality issues, a single bag in my hand guarantees mobility and lesser responsibility,” says Ashish Taneja, CEO of the Indian arm of UK based BPO Vertex.
  • Bags are developing a habit of going on their own trip. In other words, the fewer the bags, the lower the probability of losing them somewhere between checking-in and reaching the baggage carousel at your destination.
  • Feel at peace. Those loaded with bags are always looking uneasy, as if they have forgotten something. Lighter bags also mean less energy spent. Remember, even senior executives may not have an army of drivers and peons to do their sweaty work overseas!!
  • Save time at security. Pack smart to ensure everything can be taken out and put back quickly if need be.

[Click here – 3MB PDF file -to read this piece published in Outlook Business]

Packing can be an art
Ask seasoned travellers – yours truly included – and they will all tell you how they have learned the art of packing light. Try these tips:

  • The one page Bible, your packing list: This is a foolproof idea. Make a master list of what all you may need for your travels. And when you pack, refer to this list. Take what you need for sure, nothing else. This list will ensure you don’t forget anything important, nor take extra stuff. Remember the belt or tie you once forgot?
  • Decide what you will wear in advance. And take only that much. “I have seen people carry 10 shirts when they need five; they decide what they want to wear once they reach. I carry exactly the number I need,” says Jose Felix, Senior Vice President Sales,
  • Try the laundry in the hotel. Especially if your expense account allows it. Or do something you may be loathe to admit but may have indulged in: use the wash basin in the bathroom. Globetrotting around the world for his game and business, well known billiards player Geet Sethi believes in carrying only minimal clothing, using the hotel laundry services to the full.
  • Buy when you can. Chances are we are tempted to shop for clothes when travelling, so why not do so at the beginning of the trip and use those only? “My principle is, if it can be bought don’t carry an extra piece of clothing, particularly within the country,” says Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, Brand-Comm.
  • Ladies special: Pack fewer shoes, and carry clothes which you can mix and match in different combinations. Rest assured, no one will notice you are wearing the same clothes. Or make it simple like Meenakshi Bhalla, President, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, India. “I take the one jeans I am wearing, and carry some extra shirts and tees. So no problem,” she says.
  • You don’t need all those toiletries. Hotels usually keep good quality ones. Even for the ladies. “I just use whatever they offer; it’s so much more convenient,” says Mr Felix. Also a good idea to keep toiletries in separate zip lock bags; these prevent spillages and can be ticked into spaces in the bag. A single big toiletries bag can be cumbersome.
  • No need to look like a bear wearing heavy coats in cold climes. Wear layers, like the latest inner thermal wear. They work wonders, and are more weight / bulk efficient. “It is important to be pre-informed about the weather and the activities, and then pack the right clothes for the climate and according to the events or meetings. Pack less do a good mix-and-match of your clothes,” says Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group.
  • Have your bag waiting for you. If you go to a particular destination often, leave a bag there only says Ravi Shankar, Director, Natural Search.
  • Bag-in-bag: If you expect to be doing some shopping, carry a smaller bag inside the other one.
  • A separate documents bag helps to keep these secure and handy. “I have a special folder containing all necessary documents, kept in the topmost compartment of my bag to ensure easy accessibility,” says Mr Taneja. Best to carry a belt pouch with documents and metal items including coins. Just put this through security instead of wasting time emptying pockets.

Don’t forget to pick the right bag
All the packing can come together easier if you pick the right bags. Go for the right mix of design, functionality, organization, durability and, of course, price when choosing a bag. The tote design can double as a carry-on and a working bag, with enough space for even a laptop. Invest in a good garment bag to keep the suits wrinkle free. Bhatia prefers one he can check-in, even though cabin sized ones are available too. Seek out bags with pockets and compartments, all with a clear purpose. “For easy, convenient & hassle-free travel, I prefer structured bags with wheels to protect the contents within and offer independence in airports or while in transit,” adds Bhatia. Top of the line brands like Tumi would feature grooves for all suit hangers, extra pockets and even a compartment for shoes in their suit bags.

If one is willing to carry them, bags without wheels reduce weight and leave more storage room. Sridhar says he prefers the leather ones as they are light and easy to carry. Leather may be more stylish, but nylon is more durable. Expandable front pockets in his bags is what Kunal Banerji, President (Marketing), Ansal API prefers. Frenchman Emmanuel Cantegrel, General Manager in India for the international luxury furnishings brand Somfy roots for strolleys with space for a laptop and one change. A good buy can be a rolling duffel bag with a smart ergonomic design to pack it all in, preferably with compartments for shoes and dirty laundry. Bhalla says go for hard top suitcases, given the way bags are handled.

Does this talk make the arms used to carry your bags feel liberated? “Business travel is a necessary evil. You don’t have to make it worse by poor planning,” sums up Mr Sridhar.



  1. There are two kinds of travelers in the world: those who packed light and those who wish they had. To include everything needed in as little space as possible.Now that the wardrobe is thoroughly planned, stick with it. When packing, lay out the items you intend to take and reexamine your packing list. If possible, weed out single-use items and extras.
    Set aside the pieces you intend to bring and ensure that they are clean and ready to be packed. Contact your travel agent about the hotel’s in-room amenities – such as a hair dryer, an iron and board, soap, shampoo etc. – so you’ll know what to leave behind.
    Jewelry – don’t take what you don’t want to lose, and leave behind the flashy pieces that could attract thieves. Keep makeup to a minimum to save space, and leave the perfume behind when scented lotions will work just as well.


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