How to optimize your travel bagBusiness travel can be a hassle, or the adventure of a lifetime. That is, if your company has a spare $23K to book you into a luxury suite on Singapore Airlines. But you can cut that headache in half simply by optimizing your travel bag. A properly packed travel bag is always at the ready with just what you need, right when you need it. And if packed properly, won’t weigh you down. Here are 10 easy tips for making your business travel bag the envy of your colleagues.

1. Pack With a Multipurpose Mentality

Packing light is crucial when traveling for business. Not only is a lighter bag better for moving about the airport, but it also allows you to deplane and get on your way without having to wait at baggage claim. And if you get stranded at the airport, you’ll have everything you need to camp out. But if you’re the kind of person who likes to bring along their entire wardrobe or packs items “just-in-case,” packing light requires some serious discipline.

To get yourself into a different frame of mind, take a second look at every item you pack and determine whether or not it’s multi-purpose. A scarf, for example, can help you dress up many different outfits, and they’re as lightweight as they come. A good blouse can also be dressed up or down with different skirts or pants. And workout clothes can fare well as pajamas. When traveling internationally, pack a universal adapter rather than one for every continent, and, if you’re really feeling hardcore, pack a liquid soap that can function as shampoo, conditioner, and body wash all in one.

2. Don’t Forget the Home Comforts

That said, just because you’re packing light, doesn’t mean that you can’t take a few creature comforts along with you to help keep your mind and body tapped into your daily home routine. What this means will depend entirely on you. Perhaps it’s a pack of cookies that you can only get at a specialty store, a small gift your child made for you, an eye mask to keep the light out, or all of your vitamins to keep your nutrient intake stable as you gulp down conference food. That said, opt for small and light comforts when you can, and try to limit them to no more than two.

3. Bring Your Office Along for the Ride

These days, knowing how to work on the go is an implied part of any job description. But while most road warriors swear by their slim laptop and tablets, there are a number of other must-have items to take along that will have you convinced you haven’t even left the office. A mobile wireless ergonomic keyboard, for example, will enable you to type comfortably wherever you go, and when you pair one with a tablet stand and travel mouse, your office will be entirely mobile office. Noise canceling headphones will shut out distracting noises so that you can concentrate, and extra external power supply will keep you working even when there’s not an outlet around. And for those moments when you’re looking for a little relaxation, tote your library along on an eReader. With so many gadgets, you won’t even realize you’ve left home.

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4. Stay Secure

Travel BagEven if you won’t be checking a bag, it’s a good idea to bring along locks in case the overhead bins are full and you have to check planeside. Make sure they’re TSA-approved so that security can open them up for inspection if they need to (otherwise they’ll just break your lock). Of course, name tags are a must in case your bag gets misplaced when it’s separated from you.

5. Do Your Laundry on the Go

Just because you’re taking a lengthier business trip, doesn’t mean you need to increase the number of clothes you bring. Just bring along a laundry kit and take care of essentials in your sink. Kits come with small packets of liquid detergent and a stopper for your sink. Even if you don’t plan on doing laundry, it’s still a good idea to bring a kit with you along with a stain remover pain, just in case you accidentally get food or dirt on your favorite outfit.

6. Be Strategic With Your Shoe Selections

Hands down, there are no items more difficult to successfully integrate into your carry-on than footwear. When they’re not bulky, they’re oddly shaped and take up a lot of extra space. As a rule of thumb, try to stick to no more than two pairs. Wear the bigger or more cumbersome pair on the plane and fit socks into the spaces around the second pair to fill up extra space.

7. Keep It Organized

With an organized suitcase, you’ll always be able to locate exactly what you need without having to tear up your bag. Packing cubes are a great organizing strategy, as you can devote a single color cube for each type of clothing. Make sure to roll your items into the cube rather than folding them so that they take up less space and stay wrinkle-free.

8. Pack Plenty of Plastic Bags

As frequent fliers know, you’ll need to pack all of your 3-oz liquid toiletries into a single quart-sized Ziplock bag. However, it’s also a good idea to bring a few extra Ziplocks in case your original bag sprouts a hole, and plastic bags for any laundry you accumulate along the way.

9. Don’t Forget the Rain Gear

The last thing you want is to walk out of a meeting and find yourself caught in the rain with only price-gouged umbrellas for sale all around you. Make sure to pack a compact umbrella, as well as a lightweight rain slicker you can fold up and fit even into a purse. On that note, if you’ll be traveling in the winter, a warm jacket is also a must, and it’s well-worth investing in the lightest, most high-tech material possible so it won’t take up too much space in the overheads.

10. Keep a Bag Packed

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you might want to consider keeping a bag constantly packed so you can just grab it when it’s time to go. At the very least, it makes sense to keep a bag filled with items like toiletries and laundry kits that you’ll use only on the road. A packing checklist will also ensure you always remember to bring what you need without having to wrack your brain.

With these tips, your travel bag will keep you working happily on the road – and enjoying your off-time, too. What are you secret packing tips? Let us know in the comments below.