Traveling for work can be really hard.
It usually starts with paring down your wardrobe and everyday essentials to fit into 1-2 small bags, and then attempting to look polished and put together while living for several days out of a hotel room. That’s a tall order.
But it doesn’t have to be!
Ink+Volt’s founder Kate Matsudaira travels constantly for work and has super practical and useful tips to share with you, based on experiences she’s had along the way.
If you’re traveling more for work this year, or have been doing so but never found your rhythm, this post is for you!
We even put together a printable packing list to help you turn all of these tips into a super easy packing session for your next trip. Download your free packing list now!
Smart packing with I+V Founder Kate Matsudaira
I interviewed Kate for this post and she was so excited to share her packing and business travel do’s and don’ts with you fabulous I+V readers. I was definitely inspired! These tips will save you so much time and make your next trip so much less stressful.
Before you even start packing your bags…
Let’s start with some of Kate’s tips for things you can do at home before your trip to make packing much faster and less stressful. These tips will streamline your packing process and make it more efficient.
- Buy travel size bottles from a store like Target and put all of your liquid toiletries in them, like lotions, serums, shampoo, etc. Then store them in a quart/gallon sized plastic bag in a drawer that is ready to grab and go into you carry on when the time comes.
- Get free beauty product samples. At stores like Nordstrom or Sephora, Kate asks for free beauty product samples, which all come in travel-safe sizes. This works great for things like perfume and lotions, which aren’t as easy to pack into your own travel size containers, but that are still nice to have when you’re getting ready on the road.
- Keep all of your travel-related essentials stored in one place. Separate out jewelry that is easy to travel with, plus all of your travel sized makeup, shoes, power cords, etc and keep them all together in one place. Kate has one drawer in her closet that is for all of her travel items. That way she can just grab everything out the of the drawer as she’s packing, and doesn’t have to try to remember every individual item.
- Use weekly pill boxes for vitamins and medicine. (You know, the ones with little pill compartments for each day of the week.) That way you don’t have to worry about tracking daily doses or carrying a bunch of pill jars. Packing it in your carry on makes it convenient on longer flights too.
- Take advantage of all frequent flyer, reward, or loyalty accounts when you book your trips. Even if you don’t use certain brands a lot, signing up for these programs is usually worth it since the rewards simply accumulate over time for free. Maybe you don’t fly a certain airline often right now, but you might in the future; why not build up all the discounts and rewards you can, as early as you can? Kate keeps an Evernote of all her loyalty account numbers, which makes it easy to log into any of her accounts on the go.
- Utilize the world clock app on your phone when you’re traveling to a different time zone. Enter your destination city so you can know what time it will be when you land and prepare accordingly . Kate hadn’t used the feature before, but has found it to be especially helpful.
- Use a packing list. If you’re a listmaker, start making notes of everything you’ll need for your trip as you think of things. That way you’re not trying to remember everything at the last minute. You can make your own list, or use this free packing list worksheet we created for you.
Packing made easy, simple, and stress free
When Kate goes to pack her bag, she has one main goal in mind: pack as light as possible. She used to bring an outfit for each day of travel, and multiple pairs of shoes too. But that just wasn’t practical, because it took a lot of time and meant she usually had to check a bag.
Now, she does things a little differently – Kate emphasizes packing with speed. The less time she spends packing, and the less she packs and the more time she can maximize at home. It also helps get her out of the hotel with ease and to the airport on time.
How to pack light bags with everything you need:
- Packing bags that you can carry on and that serve multiple purposes. Look for a bag that has the functionality of a laptop bag, the style of a luxury handbag, and can get you through the airport, to a meeting, and in to the evening without an outfit change.
- Look at the weather in your destination city. Remember the weather might be different from where you’re starting, so dress for the weather you’ll have when you land. No need to wear a raincoat, even if it’s raining in your departure city — that’s just a bulky item you’ll have to store during your trip. And don’t forget sunglasses!
- Make everything you bring do double duty, which is made easier by choosing monochrome pieces that can easily be mixed and matched and are guaranteed to go together.
- Pack redundant clothes, like a nice pair of pants and a skirt. That spare skirt will save you if something spills on your pants!
- Pack interchangeable clothes. For example, pack only dark tops so you only need to pack one black bra. Pack a black shirt that can be paired with a skirt for your meeting one day, and jeans for dinner out another day.
- Always pack more socks and underwear than you think you need!
- If you plan on working out while you’re traveling, make sure your workout clothes are made of quick drying material. Otherwise, if you go to workout the morning of your flight home, you’ll be sticking sweaty damp clothes into your bag that’ll get mildewy mid-flight.
Professional essentials on the go:
- A notebook and pen. You never know when you’ll need to write something down, and paper can be surprisingly hard to come by when you’re traveling. Bring along your planner, if you use one, and a pen — especially if you’re traveling internationally, since you’ll need to fill out customs forms on the plane.
- Pack your business cards so you’re ready to pass them around at meetings or events.
- Bring a little something for the people you’re meeting. Kate buys local Seattle candy in bulk, and always packs a little when traveling for work. Then when she meets with people, she can offer them a small gift that has personal significance. Candy is great for this because it’s small, easy to pack, and isn’t perishable.
And in anticipation of traveling and checking in to your flight, Kate recommends only using the travel/airline apps on your phone for your boarding pass. With the app, you don’t have to wait in line to check in, and you doesn’t have to dig around in your bag for the paper version when going through security or boarding.
Dressing for the airport and getting through security
Dressing and packing for the airport is so important; you’ll be spending hours in the airport and on the plane, so you want to make sure you are comfortable and have everything you need. Kate emphasizes keeping the security screening process in mind, since that is where a lot of us get slowed down.
Make it easy on yourself and save valuable time with these tips:
- Pick shoes that are easy to take on and off. And choose shoes that you’ll wear socks with; you don’t want to walk through security barefoot! And socks have the added benefit of keeping your feet from swelling and keeping you warm on the plane.
- Pack and/or wear a blanket scarf as part of your airplane outfit! Kate loves these versatile pieces because different parts of the plane are different temperatures. You never know if you’ll be too hot or too cold. You can use the scarf as a wrap or blanket, or can roll it up to turn it into a neck pillow (one less thing to pack).
- Kate opts for wearing a t-shirt and blazer on the plane – a t-shirt in case it gets hot, a blazer in case it’s cold. The blazer does double duty by making her outfit look professional and can easily transition to a meeting in her destination city.
- Put your bag of toiletries and electronics on top. These items have to be pulled out when you go through security, so put them on top where you can reach them fast.
- Pack your phone charger in your carry on! Most planes have outlets now so that you can charge your phone in transit; that way you don’t need to worry about looking for an outlet when you land.
- Snacks! Kate packs snacks for the flight because you never know when you’ll be hungry or what they’ll have on the plane. And food and drinks at the airport are twice as expensive in the real world; it’s more frugal and you won’t be held hostage by the limited selection.
- Whenever possible, avoid situations where you’re waiting in line. Kate tries her best NOT to wait in line for anything; for example, bringing snacks means no food lines at the airport and packing only carry on bags means no lines for checked bags. This will save you so much time.
Traveling with family and kids
Kate’s got two little boys and has learned a lot from traveling with them. If you are going on a family vacation, or even bringing a little one along with you for a business trip, here are a few of her best tips to make your next adventure easier.
The hardest age seems to be 1.5-2 years old because they just want to move around, but can’t and tend to be harder to entertain easily for long periods.
However, the a new toy that your little one has never seen, no matter how simple, is worth buying for your next trip. Anything new to them is great for keeping them entertained and happily seated. Wrap it like a gift so they have to spend time unwrapping it too.
Download more movies than you think you’ll need and make sure to test them in advance in airplane mode. There’s nothing worse than being in the air without wifi and realizing you’re stuck with videos don’t work.
If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler who’s still in diapers, pack one diaper for every hour and a big pack of wipes. Always take a little more than you think you need in this department, because you don’t want to get stuck with not enough.
Dressing your baby in footies keeps them warm and cozy on the chilly plane. Plus, don’t overlook the snack tip above! Food will keep them from getting cranky, plus it is another activity that can keep them occupied.
A super helpful tip Kate shared is that most airplanes only have one bathroom with a changing table and it’s usually in the back. If you have the option when selecting seats, take this into account.
Many airports are creating mothers rooms where you can nurse your baby or use a pump, but many still do not offer them. In these situations, a nursing cover comes in handy for a little privacy.
Make sure to only pump 4 oz. at a time, as that is the current TSA travel limit for breast milk. If you’re bringing some with you from home, bring frozen milk; it is easier to get through security since it’s not in liquid form.
Once you arrive in your destination city, most hotels will let you use their fridge/freezer. Make sure you have storage bags on hand, a sharpie, and/or dark colored bag to store it in (employees may feel uncomfortable walking from your room to the hotel freezer with breast milk in hand). Label and store the breast milk clearly. And make sure you have some single dollar bills to tip the employee who helps you, since it’s usually a long walk to the freezer.
Having your own high quality dish soap with you also allows you to wash your pump in the hotel and ensure it’s sanitary; battery packs/car chargers keep your pump charged and ready to go.
We hope you find Kate’s packing and travel tips useful and, equally important, easy to incorporate into your travel routine. Let us know what you think! Share with us on our Facebook page or on Instagram with #inkandvolt.