Spend just 15 minutes thinking a little more about what to pack and you’ll carry less baggage and still look smart for that important meeting.
You are paid to fly around Europe and the world for your quick wit, not your excess kit. Every business traveller wants to hit the ground running at their destination rather than hang around at baggage reclaim. Taking your bag on board also eliminates the chance of it being lost or damaged while in transit. But the squeeze is on, with some airlines shrinking the amount that business travellers can carry on board to a bare minimum. Many of Heathrow’s airlines still permit the international standard of 56 x 45 x 25cm. But to be confident that you can take your bag into the cabin of 99 per cent of the flights you are ever likely to catch, you will need to shrink to fit 50 x 40 x 20cm. Those dimensions translate as 40 litres - more than enough, if you pack smart and eliminate everything superfluous in the 21st century, all the way down to business cards. And it doesn't have to be a roll-along case; I use a 35-litre backpack, with lots of easily accessible pockets. If you can’t lift it, you’re packing too much stuff (and possibly busting the airline’s weight limit, too).
After an overnight flight you may feel as though you’ve done several rounds in a tumble-dryer, but your clothes shouldn't look as though they have. These days there’s no excuse for a dishevelled wardrobe, thanks to the technological wonders of non-iron fabrics. And however arduous your schedule, do not be tempted to pack more than one change of clothes: if your hotel can’t organise overnight laundry, then find a local man or woman who can. In extremis, the shower and a squirt of hotel shampoo will suffice.
The rules on ‘liquids, aerosols and gels’ (LAGs) have been making life tricky for travellers since August 2006. The aviation community has plans to ease and eventually lift them, but until then you must decant the contents of your washbag into containers no bigger than 100ml, all held in a modest-sized clear plastic re-sealable bag. Consider packing none; you’ll speed through security, and I have yet to encounter a business hotel that does not dispense razors, shaving foam, toothpaste and brushes for forgetful guests. But if, like most travellers, you want to stick with the brands you know and love, keep it dainty. A great tip for toothpaste is to ask your dentist for some 20ml “sampler” tubes of toothpaste, as supplied by pharmaceutical firms.
I cherish a sign from a Sri Lankan hotel that instructs: “Please do not use any of your personal electronic gadgets in your room”. It’s not a hotel that’s popular with guests on business. The fastest way to wreck a trip and damage your career prospects is to mis-manage your charging regime: phone, tablet, laptop … all these and more need to be tended. But since multiple mains adaptors can take chunks out of your available space, go for devices that can be charged from the USB sockets of your laptop - a mother ship dispensing electrical energy, so long as you remember to pack the connectors. I keep all my leads and adaptors in an attractive red polka dot make-up bag. I haven’t left it behind yet.
Entire books have been written about how to pack a case, but if you have successfully adopted the “less is about right” philosophy you should not need to fret about the intricacies of squeezing everything in without crushing the Kindle. The most valuable elements of a trip take up little space: passport, credit card, cash (either local currency or the universally recognised dollar or euro). Pack a small plastic file containing photocopies of important documents (passport, credit cards) in case you lose them, plus travel insurance certificate, details of any medical issues and – in higher-risk areas – your nearest embassy. Pen and notebook are essential for when you’re away from wifi. Given that most of the places accessible from Heathrow are sunnier than London, I always pack a baseball cap. A printed guidebook with good maps is much sturdier than a download; it won’t ever run out of juice, and is likely to be less of a target for villains than a hand-held device. And when I get home, the bag stays under the stairs, to be recharged with fresh clothes and new prospects.
Simon Calder is travel correspondent of The Independent, and commentates on travel issues for the BBC and other broadcasters.
Leave your luggage in the ample racks near the doors and relax for your journey in one of our comfortable, spacious seats.
With a good nights sleep before your flight then just 15 minutes to the airport, Paddington is a great place to stay.
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