Business travel expert shares tips on how to pack light

Business travel expert Bonnie Smith advises wearing your bulkiest items on the flight so you can fit more in your carry-on. Picture: Pexels

Business travel expert Bonnie Smith advises wearing your bulkiest items on the flight so you can fit more in your carry-on. Picture: Pexels

Published Apr 19, 2024


Travelling light is the biggest challenge in air travel for business or leisure travel. Airports and airlines are becoming much stricter on how much luggage one can carry when flying.

On the other hand, astute travellers who have mastered the art of packing, opt to fly with hand luggage only for shorter trips to help save both time and money.

According to Bonnie Smith, a business travel expert and FCM general manager, in a country where airfares can be quite expensive, and checked baggage is now routinely charged for, it makes sound financial sense for South African corporates and travellers to maximise their carry-on allowance whenever possible.

“Business travel is usually jam-packed with meetings, events and conferences – anywhere that time or money can be saved is like gold dust – so it’s not surprising to see corporates opting to turn up to an airport and go straight through security with hand luggage only,” said Smith.

If you’re looking for ways to avoid checked luggage when travelling and methods on how to pack light, here are some pro tips for packing for business travel.

These tips can also be used by leisure travellers.

Get the maximum carry-on allowance

According to Smith, it is beneficial to choose an airline that allows up to 14kg in carry-on baggage, either as part of the airfare or through an additional carry-on allowance that can be purchased.

She highlighted that additional baggage fees purchased online will be lower than the fee applied at the airport.

Book a hotel with a good range of amenities

The business travel expert also recommended that you reduce the need to pack all your essentials by booking a hotel with premium toiletries, skincare and hair appliances, gym and pool facilities and a spa services to give you everything under one roof.

“Pack any further essential toiletries in travel sizes, ensuring they adhere with airline guidelines on liquid items,” she said.

Avoid technology and bulky hard-copy files

“Take an ultra-slim, lightweight laptop or tablet on the trip. If you need to take hard-copy presentation documents, contracts, training manuals or other files, consider digital copies – saved on a device, USB or on the cloud – and organise to have them printed at your destination hotel,” said Smith.

She also said that Kindles are another storage idea for reading materials on your flights as they are ideal for storing large files and weigh no more than 188g, with a charge that can last weeks.

Pack multi-purpose items

The business travel expert also advised corporates to pack business clothing that can transition into leisurewear and stick to neutrals that can adapt well to different situations.

“Consider taking loungewear that can be worn on international flights and for sleep. Packing three tops for every bottom can also help you transition the same items from day to night, and work to leisure,” she said.

Utilise empty spaces in your luggage items

Smith said that when packing, cleverly place smaller valuables inside other items. For instance, jewellery or phone chargers could be stored inside shoes or coat pockets.

“Tightly roll clothing items to allow for more compact packing and prevent creasing. Some experienced travellers, however, prefer folding clothes and prevent creasing by placing tissue paper between each fold to ensure items remain neat,” said the business travel expert.

Wear your bulkiest clothing on board

She advised that when travelling to colder destinations, consider wearing bulky outerwear or boots in transit to avoid wasting limited luggage space.

“Another clever space-saver is to place loose items, such as wallets, passports and pens, into your jacket pockets, provided they have a secure zip. Many flights have hooks on seats for passengers to hang jackets,” said Smith.

Consider using a packing app

Smith added that free smartphone apps such as PackKing or PackPoint can generate a packing checklist based on the travel destination, duration of stay and planned activities, along with information on laundry amenities and other essentials in proximity to the booked accommodation.

“If your business uses a travel management company (TMC), take advantage of the expertise of their travel advisers and innovative technology, which provide in-depth information that can assist with planning your travel, including packing strategically,” she said.

After you pack, try to reduce your luggage by another 20%

And lastly, Smith said that when you have finished packing, step back and consider whether every item in your carry-on is essential and will be used well, and remove items that will not be.

“Know that you can purchase additional essentials at your destination and plan to use your hotel laundry service to wash clothing items that you will wear more than once,” said Smith.