Packing light is an art form, and it’s one that you need to master if you travel frequently. As a business traveler, you face a difficult dilemma when packing: you need to look sharp and presentable, yet you also want to travel efficiently and avoid checking luggage.

Pare down to the essentials, pack right, and you can always travel with a carry-on only. And once you start packing light, you’ll realize how much stuff you actually don’t need and you’ll never go back to a checked bag.

Packing Light

    1. Use a smaller suitcase or carry-on. The larger your bag is, the more you’re likely to pack. Using a smaller bag will force you to narrow your items down to the essentials.
    2. Choose your colors wisely. Everything in your bag should go together so that you can mix and match all your tops and bottoms. Some travelers go with all black and white – but if you want to avoid looking like Agent Smith, you can mix in some dark gray pants or skirts and a light blue shirt.
    3. Count your clothes. For a weekend trip, all you really need is one suit jacket, two pairs of pants, and two wrinkle-free cotton shirts or blouses (plus sundries – we’ll get to that later). If your trip is more than two days, you’ll probably want an additional jacket and a few more shirts or blouses – perhaps with a little color or pattern to them.
      • Business Travelers: If you bring two jackets, make sure one is dressier and one more casual, like a sports jacket or blazer.
    4. Suits make matching easy, and they can function as the dressier part of your wardrobe. Wear your suit on the plane – it’s the bulkiest item you are traveling with, and you’ll want to look sharp in case you bump into a VIP at the airport. Always pack jackets by folding them vertically, and then rolling them loosely before placing them in your bag. For women, a black or navy blue blazer works great with pants, skirts, and jeans.
    5. Assess your daily sundries. For each day of the trip, you’ll need a pair of socks, a pair of underwear, and either an undershirt or bra, and possibly a tie. Pile them up and then have a look: is there any way to reduce the space that these items take up? Can you wear shorter, thinner socks? Sleeveless undershirts? Thinner underwear? Every bit of bulk that you cut out will create more room in your bag.
    6. Simplify your shoes. Shoes are one of the heaviest, bulkiest items that you can pack. Try to get away with one pair, such as black leather oxfords or flats, which you wear on the plane. Ladies, trade the heels for a pair of dressier flats. Not only are they likely more comfortable, but flats take up less room in your suitcase. Traveling with one pair of shoes also means that you just need one belt. If you must have a spare pair, choose either casual, dark brown leather shoes OR gym shoes – but not both. Shoes should always go on the bottom of your bag, and you can maximize space by packing rolled-up socks, underwear and undershirts inside of them.
    7. Clean up with hotel toiletries. Even in developing countries, hotels still usually supply bath soap and shampoo. Nicer hotels provide a lot more. Cut down to bare bones when it comes to your toiletries. For women, leave the bag of makeup at home and instead pick out a few makeup items you want to bring.
    8. Do laundry at the hotel.  Since hotel laundry services charge by the item, you can wash every day – which vastly cuts down on the number of daily sundries you will need to bring.
      • Business Travelers: You might be able to add hotel laundry service to your business expenses.
    9. Hang up your clothes. As soon as you arrive at your hotel room, take a few minutes to get out your clothes, shake out the wrinkles, and hang them up. A steamy shower can help reduce wrinkles when there’s no time to iron – simply hang your clothes in the bathroom while you’re getting ready.
    10. Customize your packing list to fit your needs. After you return home, go through your bag. Is there anything you packed but didn’t need? Make a note so that you can streamline your bag for the next trip.

Master the skills of packing light, and never check a bag again. Breeze past the over-stuffed travelers at the baggage claim with a bounce in your step and win at business travel.