Start with the right-sized suitcase
For a short trip, a small carry-on bag is ideal, and with skill, it’s possible cram all your essentials in there (here’s how to pack the perfect carry-on). But if you can’t travel light, it’s best to choose a bag that can easily accommodate everything you need. Trying to force a bulging suitcase to shut is a waste of time and energy, especially since you may return with even more stuff, if you like to buy souvenirs. When deciding which is the best suitcase for you, take a moment to assess your needs for this trip.
Get the right gear
To make your packing as speedy as possible, have a few convenience items pre-prepared and ready to go at all times. That includes a dedicated toiletry bag, preferably something plastic and waterproof, that you can toss into your suitcase at a moment’s notice. Buy sample-size containers of your favorite shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, body wash and moisturizer, or decant the full-size products into small, TSA-approved travel bottles. Have similar travel-friendly containers set up for jewelry and accessories if possible. Store them in a clear box with compartments, so you can see all the items clearly and prevent them from getting tangled. If you can’t create these pre-prepared packs of toiletries and accessories, keep a packing list on your phone for a quick reminder of the essentials you need to gather. These household items can make packing a breeze.
Coordinate your wardrobe
It may sound obvious, but plan an outfit for each day to make sure you’re covered. If you know exactly what you need to accompany each outfit, you can limit the amount of stuff you’re taking. Try to mix and match outfits—wear the same pair of pants with different tops, for example—to cut down on bulky extras. As a general rule, three pairs of shoes are all you need for a business trip: a casual pair, a professional pair, and a comfortable or snazzy pair for evenings, depending on the nature of your business. Neutral colors are best as they’ll coordinate well with multiple outfits, but don’t hesitate to toss in a pair of show stoppers if that’s what the occasion calls for. For a vacation, three pairs of casual shoes should be ample, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking. What you don’t bring can be just as important, so resist the urge to include things just in case. (Here are items you’ll always regret packing.) If necessary, you can buy many essential items, such as socks and flip flops, at your destination.