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How to Pack a Trip-Saving, Business-Ready Carry On

Even if your checked luggage gets lost, these suitcase packing tips will see you through your trip just fine.

It’s finally here: your first business trip. The boss trusts you to represent the team, and you’re up to the task. So what happens when you’ve rehearsed your presentation, shined up your kicks, gotten your suit pressed, and then the airline loses your checked luggage? Your garment bag, the suitcase with your perfectly pressed shirts, and the three neckties you packed: all gone.

You have a back-up. That’s what happens.

Whether you're headed out on a trip like that, or just a low-key vacation, the trick to air travel is to stop thinking of your carry-on as the stuff you might need on the plane, and start thinking of it as your survival kit for emergencies. Lost or stolen luggage, flight delays, or (god forbid) you have to spend the night at the airport – it's not fun, but it happens. But by playing your cards right when packing your carry-on, you'll be ready no matter what Murphy's Law throws at you.


The Flight

First, you need to dress smart for the flight. The trick is to travel in clothing that you can use on the trip, without getting too uncomfortable – so forget the tie or extra stiff shirts.

  • Navy Blazer: If your suit gets lost, you can get by with a blazer and a pair of slacks.

  • Oxford Shirt: It’s classic, comfortable, and because the collar is a button-down, it still looks sharp without a tie.

  • Dark-Washed Denim: We’ve said it before, and we'll say it again: dark indigo denim is endlessly versatile. So long as your company isn't too formal, a pair of these with a blazer is business-ready.

  • Brown or Black Dress Shoes: They match everything. Enough said.

You’re also wearing one pair of socks, one undershirt, and one pair of underwear (we hope). Beyond that, you can adjust as necessary. For example: going on a casual trip? Forget the blazer, and swap the lace-ups out in favor of some versatile sneakers.


The Carry-On

Clothes

Here's the rundown for a business-y vibe. If your bag gets lost and you need to be dressed up for a work meeting that same afternoon, you'll still be covered. But again, feel free to tweak according to your vacation's vibe.

  • White Dress Shirt: They're timeless and professional. Have your dry cleaner press it and fold it.

  • Gray Slacks: Go with lightweight wool in a trim cut. Pressed and folded.

  • Tie: Pick one with blue in it (to match the blazer) and an understated design, like a repp or pin dot.

  • One Set of Innerwear: White v-neck undershirt, socks that match the grey slacks, and underwear (we’ll let you choose the style on that one).


Dopp Kit

If you're stuck on a redeye and need to freshen up before heading straight to something important, or if you get hit with a layover that strands you in the airport overnight, don't sweat it. Grab your dopp kit, give yourself a quick touch up, and you'll be ready to roll.

  • Toothbrush – No matter how weary you are from travelling, brushing your teeth is revitalizing. Bonus points for using a charcoal-infused one, which are extra effective at fighting bacteria.

  • Face Cleansing Towels – They clean, they tone, and they’re way better than awkwardly splashing around in the airport bathroom sink.

  • Body Wipes – Hit all of your sweat spots (you know the ones). Cooling, cleansing, grime-fighting body wipes are like an instant and portable shower.

  • Deodorant - This is a no-brainer. We especially like aluminum-free ones, since they don't stain your shirts or mess with your skin.

  • Solid Cologne – There are lots of different kinds of cologne out there (here's a breakdown, if you're curious), but the solid stuff is the most travel-friendly. It uses a concentrated aroma content blended with wax, which you swipe onto your pulse points for a scent that's extraordinarily long-lasting but subtle enough not to annoy your seat mate.

  • Dry Shampoo – If your hair is looking greasy and feeling unmanageable, but you don't have time or access to a shower, this is a godsend. Add some hair powder to your mane, then comb it through. Good as new.


Other Essentials

Portable Battery – Keeping a charged-up backup battery means that if you wind up with a dead phone and no spare outlets, you've still got reinforcements.

Antacids – For when that last-minute burrito suddenly feels like a poor life decision.

No-Iron Wrinkle Releaser –Spray this onto wrinkles, stretch the fabric, and watch the wrinkles disappear. Now you look smooth.


Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive – but that’s kind of the point. These are only the bare necessities to get you through your trip without having anyone know you’ve missed a step, should something go wrong with your baggage. Of course, some substitutions may apply depending on where you’re going (e.g. if you’re heading to a warmer climate, swap the oxford for a polo shirt).

But regardless of how you tweak it, if you start thinking of your carry-on as a scaled-down, bare-essential version of your checked luggage, you’ll never have to fear stepping into your trip looking unkempt.

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