Up-in-the-air style business trip packing

Recently I've been traveling quite a lot, whether here in Europe or also outside of Europe (to Japan or the USA) and in a few days I'm traveling yet again to the USA (west coast, baby!). After trial and error and learning many of my lessons, I think I've finally figured out how to travel lightly with everything I need (or might need).
Going Zen while embracing constraints: Cabin luggage size and weight

Here in Europe the most used airline is Ryanair (and is the one I use very often) and they have hard limits on the cabin size and weight and they actually check it before you board... and if you don't comply to these limits, they'd make you pay $40+ for "checking-in" the baggage.

That's why in search for my perfect carry-on setup I decided to focus on complying with these limits:

Contraint 1: 20cm x 40cm x 55cm (7.8in x 15.7in x 21.6in) cabin baggage size.

Contraint 2: 10kg (22lbs) cabin baggage weight.

After all, I travel mostly here in Europe and I need to be prepared for these limits most of my time. On long trips overseas the limits are not that tight so I can buy more souvenirs when I'm there :-)

What I can take vs what I really need?

Second thing I found out is that whenever I pack for a trip, I very often pack too much stuff and I hardly ever use it. My last trip to Chicago in November was a great example of this. My carrier, Iberia, lost my checked baggage entirely (I got it back after 3 months) and I had to buy stuff to wear. Apparently it wasn't all that much stuff to buy anyway. I didn't need all that much stuff for my trip so I decided it's time for a change.

Watching the "Up in the Air" movie with George Clooney also inspired me to travel lighter and take only the stuff I really needed. And the simplicity of having only one bag became even more obvious to me. I tried it upon my last trip to Japan and it worked pretty well but I still packed too many things. Learned my lesson again and now I guess I've perfected my system. Tomorrow I'm going for a week-long trip to the Silicon Valley and I packed even better than last time.

Washing stuff is easy - so we need the same things for 1 week and for 2 weeks

That's what I also discovered. When you go for two weeks, you just wash your things more often and that's it. It doesn't mean you need more clothes. Especially that you can buy something new when there... and if you're a guy (like me) you really mostly wear the same things. The key is to wear dark colors and you can mix different shirts with different pants and have various outfits for the entire stay. It's easier than you think.

GTD to rescue - power of one master-checklist for packing

Another thing is that with the frequent travels I don't want to think again what to pack and what not to pack. I want to have one master list that is current all of the time and satisfies 99% of my needs. So after trial and error I came up with this list:

It's a public project, so everyone can use it individually without any Nozbe account, so make sure to use it, share it or let your friends (who have problems packing light) know.

I will use it and re-use it over and over again during my trips (especially business trips) and I've actually recorded a video of how this list works and how to pack into one carry-on. The cool thing is that with this list I have lots of clothes and yet I'm in the limit of the cabin size and weight. Perfect.

How do you travel? Can you add some of your tips for efficient "light" packing?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Monday, March 28, 2011 (business,productivity,travel)

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Mark Peele
Apr 16, 2011 07:44
You recently published an interview with Michael Hyatt. In his blog he has several entries (including video) on how he packs everything into 1 bag. I believe he also cited "Up In the Air" as his inspiration.
Michael Sliwinski
Apr 18, 2011 17:30
The "Up in the Air" movie is fantastic and yes, it inspired me to not only pack efficiently but also to take airport security easier. Great movie and good productivity inspiration definitely. I totally agree with Michael Hyatt on getting inspired, too :-)
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Feb 6, 2012 11:27
Sometimes I stumble upon a blog post that perfectly answers a question that brought me to perform a search in the first place - your post is a good example of such a happy encounter. Thanks! :-)
Michael Sliwinski
Feb 6, 2012 11:52
Glad my post about up-in-the-air style packing helped folks find a way to travel lightly. It's really important to embrace these concepts and travel worry-free :-)