The Single-Bag Solution for Business Travel
by Kentin Waits . September 6, 2012
Air travel isn’t getting any easier or less expensive. Rising fuel prices, more competition, airline consolidation and nickel-and-dime fees all add up to an industry in turmoil. In the push-and-pull between profits and good service, it’s the customers that get caught in the middle. For those of us that have no choice but to fly frequently for business, our war stories are legion.
Over the past few years, I’ve made one small adjustment that’s taken a lot of the chaos out of flying. I’ve stored my large luggage set in the attic and embraced single-bag travel. It’s true—whether I’m flying on business or for pleasure, I only pack a carry-on. Here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed and a few tips on how to make single bag travel work for you.
Benefits of Single-Bag Travel
It’s cheaper. At a typical cost of $50 per checked bag, limiting yourself to a carry-on can help your bottom line. There’s been some rumbling about new fees for using the overhead bin, but thankfully those are just rumors (for now).
It’s faster. Not having to worry what carousel your luggage may (or may not) appear on saves time. You can beat the crowd to the cab stand or car rental counter.
It’s more flexible. Cancelled flights mean reroutes, and rerouted trips often involve multiple carriers. The flexibility to jump from airline to airline when necessary without worrying about lost or misdirected luggage makes you a more nimble traveler. And in today’s frenetic world of air travel—nimble wins.
It’s more efficient. In the end, you have enough on your mind without worrying about schlepping two or three bags everywhere you go. Single-bag travel allows you to focus on why you’re traveling in the first place, and gives you the mental space to take care of business.
Making the Most of Your Carry-On
Choose the right bag. Just because you’re traveling with one bag doesn’t mean it needs to be the size of a military duffel. Shop around and choose something that’s road-worthy, versatile and easy to keep clean, carry and stow. I use a black nylon soft-sided shoulder bag that’s about twice the size of a standard gym bag. It’s durable, has a wide comfortable shoulder strap and a few outside pockets for my cell phone, boarding pass and loose change. The dark color camouflages scuff marks and dirt and the soft sides help it fit into crowded overhead bins.
Focus on size and versatility. With the TSA’s 3.4 ounce rule for liquids, packing toiletries is perhaps the greatest challenge for the single-bag traveler. Everything needs to fit into a clear baggie, be within the legal-size limits and be small enough to not eat up valuable real estate. Unfortunately, even the containers sold in travel kits at most major retailers are much too large when you’re trying to maximize every inch. Look around and repurpose other containers (hotel shampoo bottles are the perfect size) and get creative.
For the other things you pack, focus on versatility and wearability—what pieces can be dressed up for a meeting, or dressed down for dinner out? What can be worn on the plane to avoid taking up room in your bag? If you plan on working out at the hotel fitness center, can your workout shorts double as swim trunks?
Pack like a pro. Packing is half art and half science. The method that I find works best starts with laying out everything on my bed and setting aside the clothes I’ll be wearing on the flight. Then, I explore how the remaining items can fit together to take up less room. As I do this, I roll, rather than fold my items. Rolled up socks and underwear can fit inside shoes. Ties can be rolled up inside jeans, a rolled up T-shirt can provide extra protection for a digital camera or sunglasses. My laptop case and toiletry kit go in last because these will be coming out first during the security screening.
I also pack a “break-away” bag. This is a small separate case (about 8” x 6”) that holds a good book or e-reader, any medication I might need, earplugs, an energy bar and anything else I might need quick access to mid-flight. The break-away bag saves me time rummaging through my carry-on once I’ve boarded and usually fits neatly into the magazine holder below the tray table.
I realize that many travelersmight find the concept of limiting themselves to only a carry-on much too restrictive. But after years of embracing and perfecting single-bag travel, I can’t imagine going any other way. Packing one bag strategically gives you one less thing to keep track of and worry about, one less reason to stand in line and—perhaps best of all—one less thing to be charged for. Travel safe and I’ll see you at the cab stand.
Kentin Waits is a freelance writer and marketing specialist based in Portland, Oregon. His work has been featured in US Airways magazine and top-rated blogs such as Wise Bread, the Consumerist, and MSN SmartMoney. When he’s not writing, Kentin runs a small online antiques business.