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Tip Sheet: How to Pack Light for Your Next Business Trip

Dan Nainan wakes up in a different city almost every morning. As a comedian based in New York and Beverly Hills, he performs all over the wo
January 31, 2011

Dan Nainan wakes up in a different city almost every morning. As a comedian based in New York and Beverly Hills, he performs all over the world and clocks more than 125,000 miles each year.

What are his rules for packing light?


Roll everything


While many business travelers roll their clothes to save space, Nainan takes the practice a step further.


“I put rubber bands around everything,” he says. “It makes things a whole lot tighter than just rolling. Things are neater that way and they don’t unroll and get mashed up.”


Send ahead


“If there is something big I’ll need at a destination, I will FedEx it to the hotel before I get there,” Nainan says.


Never check a bag


Nainan shies away from checking bags for three reasons:


1. Wasted time

“You waste an average of 30 to 45 minutes waiting for the bag when you get to the destination,” he says. “When you travel as much as I do, that can add up to more than a week per year.”


2. Potential lost luggage

Checked bags are more likely to get lost, he says. “And when I’m carrying CDs and DVDs, which can add to my income stream, I can’t take that chance.”


3. Stuck with airline

“If you check your bag, it is hard to change flights midstream; your bags can’t fly with you and that can be a big hassle,” he says.


Like Nainan, Lisa Merriam is a frequent flyer and sticks with a carry-on bag, regardless of a trip’s length. As president of Merriam Associates, a marketing consultancy in New York City, she’s spent the majority of her professional life on the road.

What are her tips for packing light?


Streamline your beauty routine


“When I first started traveling, it was in the 80s and I had 80s hair,” she says with a laugh. “It was incredibly high maintenance and always traveled with a curling iron, gel, spray, all of it.


“Now I have a hairstyle that fits my lifestyle. I recommend choosing a style that won’t require a lot of perming or maintenance.”


As for makeup, Merriam sticks to moisturizer, powder, lipstick, and mascara.


Stick to thin layers


For her honeymoon, Merriam and her husband ventured south to Argentina—a place where cold and warm weather exist within miles. How did she do it?


“I packed thin layers and multi-purpose pieces that didn’t take up too much space in my suitcase,” she says. “For the cold weather climate, I layered on a thin, silk shirt with another shirt, a suit coat, and then a wind breaker on top. I was really warm.”


When not on leisure trips, Merriam swears by knit suits that don’t wrinkle.


“I always bring St. John suits,” she says. “They are easy to pack and still look high end when they come out of my carry-on.”


Maximize shoe space


Lets say you absolutely have to bring your five favorite pairs of shoes on your next business trip. Would this be considered over packing? Not necessarily.


“Shoes are full of air, so pack them tight with your underwear,” Merriam advises. “Separate clothes that need careful folding from those that can be scrunched up. Put in the folded clothes first and then fill the air around them with shoes and clothes that can be scrunched up. Don’t leave any empty space.”


Wash as you go


Which is better: packing your entire wardrobe and coming home with a bunch of smelly, dirty clothes? Or packing light and arriving home with a suitcase full of clean items?


It’s a no-brainer, according to Merriam.


“Bring Woolite and wash as you go,” she recommends. “You don’t need different clothes for every day, but you can have a different outfit every day. Pack separates.


“Wash your clothes in the sink every night. Lay out your clothes flat on a towel; roll up the towel and twist. They will dry by morning.”


Katie Morell is Chicago-based writer and frequent OPEN Forum contributor. She regularly contributes business, feature and travel articles to national and regional publications.