Expert Secrets to Packing Light

by Country Inns & Suites
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Give your arm a break and stop lugging that heavy suitcase around. By packing light—and smart—you’ll be in fine shape, on time and ready for any surprises that come your way. By Susan Foster
In my past career, I traveled with two large suitcases plus a carry-on slide projector to lecture to paying audiences. One fateful trip, my luggage—containing all my lecture materials, slides and personal items—went to Des Moines while I flew to Cleveland. And I was traveling in jeans. A late-night arrival meant my luggage could not rejoin me that day, and at best would arrive right before my lecture the next morning.

From this experience, I learned several travel lessons I use today: Review bag tags to verify that checked luggage will be sent to the correct destination, travel in clothing that is appropriate for work and carry on anything essential.

My packing has changed with the times. Now I pack light in one small carry-on bag that is presentable so it goes directly from airport to office, and it’s efficient—it holds my laptop and papers, too.

Careful planning is the key to successful business-trip packing. I call in advance to check appropriate workplace attire plus the daily schedule, and then I can pack the right things, such as something to wear for an important dinner with my client.

Because I’ve learned to travel in clothing appropriate for work, one outfit is always a travel-friendly pantsuit worn on the plane. The suit pieces interchange with others in my bag, and I am well-dressed for a week. The amount of clothing I take is not in proportion to the length of my trip.

Frequent travelers are always packed and ready to go. I keep travel-size duplicates packed in my suitcase of every cosmetic item I use. Basics such as underwear, sleepwear and a clock live in the bag full time. I need only add my clothing for this trip and I am packed. Restocking of basics comes as I unpack—out with the dirty and in with the clean, refill or replace toiletries, and I’m ready to go again.

What about that luggage that went to Des Moines? I was very fortunate; it arrived minutes before my lecture. I changed quickly, set up my equipment and was ready to work. But I learned my lesson. By packing smart, I can now focus more on the purpose of my trip and less on what I’ll be wearing.

Susan Foster has spent her entire career living out of a suitcase, and has packed and unpacked more than 5,000 times.

Pack Like a Pro

In her book, Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler, globe-trotter Susan Foster explains how to pack with confidence and how to travel in comfort and style—no matter where you’re headed. Foster offers advice on what to pack to avoid running afoul of cultural dress codes, checklists to remind you of easy-to-forget items and ideas for instant evening wear. Learn how to fold to maximize suitcase space and which fabrics withstand wrinkles, as well as choosing helpful travel gadgets and appropriate luggage for your particular packing needs. Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler, $19.95, is available online at or