Packing Light for Business Travel


Accomplishing The Carry-On Challenge

“This summer, a lady sat next to me, looked me up and down, and said ‘you’re a professional traveler, aren’t you?’”  —Jamie H., Green Sun Medical

The cardinal sin of business travel is checking a bag; traveling professionals rely solely on their carry-on. This is what we’re calling the business trip carry-on challenge. It’s hard. The 9 x 14 x 22 size of a carry-on is small, especially when you need to accomplish work without your desk, supplies, office phone, documents, etc. Luckily there are techniques to fit everything you need in a carry-on and get your work done. If you travel often for work or have a business trip coming up, here are some tips and tricks on traveling light from business travel experts.  

Wardrobe and Packing Techniques  

Avoid White

As far as wardrobe techniques go, don’t wear white. I wore a plain white shirt traveling to Iceland a few years ago, and it was the worst travel wardrobe mistake I’ve ever made. I’m not a messy person, but my shirt was soiled 10 out of the 12 traveling hours. This is why I always recommend a tide to-go pen and black colored shirts for travel.

Dark colors, especially black clothing, is best at absorbing and hiding all those pesky stains that accumulate while traveling. This is especially true for women with young children. Jasmine Mastroianna, the Director of Sales at Bantam Bagels, revealed: “I traveled for work while breastfeeding for an entire year, and black clothing saved me.” You can even sport the “all black,” Johnny Cash aesthetic. It eliminates the headache of matching colors, and it’s particularly classy and chic. If all black feels too severe, utilize a similar technique of coordinating outfits to the same color scheme to minimize the number of options.   

“Shoes. Don’t over due it. They are heavy and take up a lot of space. If at all possible, use the ‘wear one bring one’ philosophy.”

—Rachel Saunders, Entrata

Bundle Up

Travel Light Bundle Method

As far as packing techniques, there are a lot of methods out there to maximize  precious carry-on space. Jamie H. recommends a clothes folder like Eagle Creek’s to “hold a new dress shirt, undershirt, and underwear in a very thin flexible package that slides into a roller briefcase.” Personally, I’ve employed the roll technique in the past, but it seems that the “bundle method” is also useful.

“Wear bulkier items like jeans, suits, sport coats, boots, etc. to save space. To also save space, for years I’ve used the ‘bundle’ method vs. roll and cubes methods. I feel it is most forgiving, and keeps clothes most wrinkle free. And it saves space! I can pack for one and a half weeks without checking a bag.”

—Ethan Frackler, Eaton Lighting

Packing List


Traveling makes you hungry. Especially when you’re traveling through breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Because you’ll often find yourself in confined areas with limited food options, pack snacks. By packing snacks, you’ll avoid getting hangry and spending ridiculous amounts of money on airport food.

“Diet can go downhill when traveling, so I always travel with a few healthy snacks (protein bars, whole food supplements, nuts, etc.).”

—Brian Madsen, Qualtrics

(There are exceptions when it comes to avoiding airport food: I picked a route with a connection in O’Hare airport expressly for the purpose of grabbing dinner at Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera. It was delightful).

Electronic Essentials

Electronic Packing List Business Travel

Some of the most important packing decisions for business travel are electronics. Before you even begin to think about trendy traveling accessories for your electronics, make sure that you have the essentials.  These are the electronics that our business travel pros recommend always having:

Make sure that these essentials are light and top of the line. For example, Frank D. with Goliax Consulting, reminds business travelers that “heavy/big laptops kill for weight and space.” The newest technology is often the smallest, lightest, and most ergonomic. So to travel light by investing in good electronic essentials.  

“Invest in a very lightweight laptop and don’t forget to pack your bluetooth mouse and headset—your entire office should fit in your carry-on work bag or backpack.”

—Angela Marturano, Orchid Holistic Search

A Few Comforts from Home

Space is tight with business travel, but you should always pack one or two comforts from home. Traveling is hard on the body and the psyche, so packing things that are familiar will go a long way comforting you during a draining business trips. It can be something as simple as drinking coffee out of your own mug, a pillow, a korean face mask, etc.

“I can’t travel without bringing my running shoes for a good run in the new cities I visit. It’s my favorite way to experience new surroundings.”

—Dainon Haggard, Workfront

Don’t Pack Office Supplies & Shampoo

Business travel is about business, so most of your carry-on space should be dedicated to work. To keep this healthy work ratio in your packing, make sure your hotels can provide the right amenities. It’s the 21st century—don’t fill up your carry-on with staplers, pens, shampoo, umbrellas, post-its, etc.  

“Leave behind items that your hotel can provide for you: umbrellas and irons (many hotels offer ones to borrow) and soaps and shampoos—unless you’re picky. Also leave behind any sort of office supplies. Everywhere you go has office supply stores and most hotels and airports have business centers with printers, pens, paper, staplers, etc. If you have exhausted all options and really need to staple something, make friends with the receptionist at the meeting location.”

—Ethan Frackler, Eaton Lighting

Useful Travel Accessories

Roll Up Keyboard Business Travel Accessories

There are a lot of useful travel gadgets, but only buy a few. If you fill your carry-on with half a dozen travel accessories, it will defeat the whole challenge of traveling light. Here are some useful traveling tools our pros recommended:

“A wireless foldable keyboard and a kickstand turns your phone into a tablet so you don’t have to haul out your laptop on the plane.”

—Spencer Behrend, KiLife Tech

“If I know I’ll bring stuff home, I’ll put a small pack within my carry-on that will unfold and fit under the airplane seat for the trip home. Nested luggage is a good thing!”

—Chadly Erekson, Alexander’s

Pack Light for Business Trips with the Cloud

Perhaps the best tip of all is packing light with the Cloud. Angela Marturano, one of our professional travelers, recommends using “cloud-based storage and systems so that your work is truly mobile and accessible via phone and laptop.” What a great way to save space by storing documents and communications within a virtual cloud! It frees up space in your carry-on, and that’s the key to accomplishing the carry-on challenge.

You can’t fit your office phone in a carry-on, but with Jive’s Mobile App in the Cloud, you can take business calls from your computer and use your business number from your cell phone. The Cloud lets you travel light and stay connected to your desk phone while traveling.


Jive Mobile Pack Light Business Travel

Bon Voyage!

Thank you to our professional travelers who shared their tips and tricks. If you have to travel for work soon, remember to utilize the Cloud, pack essential electronics, snacks, and a few comforts from home, and bundle your clothes to maximize space. Accomplish the carry-on challenge and travel light for your next business trip.

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