There’s nothing like the freedom of flying with only one or two carry-on bags as your travel companion.
No checked luggage to slow you down. No standing around waiting at baggage carousels or, worse, having your bags go missing in action – or somehow end up on the other side of the world (a scenario where Apple AirTags prove very handy!)
You can walk straight off the plane, out of the airport and be on your way to your hotel, a meeting or pre-dinner drink.
Here are some smart yet simple ways to leave your cumbersome checked luggage behind and pack like a travel pro.
Write a packing list
It sounds basic, but putting down on paper everything you need is the first step to more efficient packing.
That’s to avoid packing everything you think you need – especially when it comes to your clothes – and keeping a laser focus on what you actually need.
Paring back your wardrobe, ideally to the point of a ‘capsule wardrobe’ of versatile mix-and-match pieces, helps keep the bulk out of your bag.
Shirts, tops and jackets
Invest in non-iron or crease-resistant cotton business shirts and tops from quality brands and retailers.
Avoiding cheap wrinkle-free material where artificial fibres can prevent the clothes from breathing, leaving you uncomfortable and sweaty before the day is done.
And while the space-saving technique of rolling shirts remains incredibly efficient, it’s better to fold them the same way as seen in department stores.
If possible, don’t put your suit jacket in your bag: wear it onto the flight, then have it hung in the wardrobe or gently folded and stowed in an overhead locker.
In economy, place it on top of your carry-on luggage instead of beside it, to avoid other passengers shoving their bag in and scrunching up your jacket.
If packing your jacket, there’s a clever trick of folding one of the shoulders of your suit jacket inside the other to avoid wrinkles: check out the step-by-step guide at Black Lapel.
(Adding a rolled-up T-shirt in the final half-fold will also prevent a crease from developing down the middle of the jacket.)
Shoes take up a lot of room in your cabin bag, so keep them to a minimum on short trips.
Choose one pair of shoes to wear on the plane as well as to meetings and dinners – yes, that’s a tough call, especially for women! It requires shoes which look sharp yet are exceptionally comfortable (I find Ecco is a brand that deftly merges comfort and style).
If you need two pairs, wear one on the flight and pack the other in your bag: and then make use of the space inside those packed shoes for your rolled-up socks, a small bag with your cufflinks or jewellery or other loose items.
Use packing cubes and garment folders
Lightweight packing cubes won’t necessarily save a lot of space in your cabin bags, but they don’t take up any more space – and they’ll certainly make it easier to keep everything together when it comes to packing, unpacking and repacking.
Garment folders add the benefit of keeping your carefully-folded tops and pants from getting crumpled in transit.
Keeping liquids, aerosols and gels to under 100ml is a given for overseas trips but also a good guideline for flights within Australia.
Next time you buy a fragrance or skin-care lotion, ask if they can throw in some free samples – those smaller tubes or sachets can be ideal for quick trips.
Conventional wisdom is to never pack a toiletry bag with items that the hotel can supply, but there are many sensible exceptions to that rule.
Many women prefer to bring a small bottle of their own shampoo or conditioner, lest the hotel’s product give their hair that crazed crack-addict look.
I always bring my own razor, having learnt from nicked, rashed and bloodied experience not to trust a hotel’s largely price-driven choice.
Tame your travel tech
Over the years, I seem to be carrying a lot more tech than before – and every item adds bulk.
One way I trimmed that back was to invest in a gallium nitride (GaN) charger that’s significantly smaller than the AC adaptor which came with my laptop, as well as sporting USB-A and USB-C sockets for my phone, tablet and headphones, so this one charger replaces several.
If you’re still carrying around a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, it’s probably time to swap them for smaller noise-cancelling earbuds – either super-compact wireless ones, or wired in-ear models.
Don’t pack it, send it
Burdened by a bag-full of brochures or samples to hand out to clients you'll meet on your trip?
Instead of carting those "leave behind” materials with you as Evil Checked Luggage, have them sent directly from your office to the hotel via courier or parcel post.
Choose the right carry-on bag
Not all luggage is created equal. A well-designed, functional and durable case that doesn’t tip the scales in its own right can save both time and money. It also means you can get on with your business or activate holiday mode without hassles or stress.
With that in mind, it pays to do a little research (or read Executive Traveller's reviews) on the best carry-on bag for your needs.
What are your top tips for travelling light and making the most of your carry-on luggage?