The art of packing a business-trip suitcase is a lesson learned from years of experience. Expert advice is needed to avoid heading off with a chaotic jumble of clothes and accessories that add only extra stress and fees to the trip. Recently, I reluctantly dumped a black padded jacket into a bin by a bus stop in Marbella because I couldn’t fit it in my bag and it was too hot to wear. Another time, I was very tempted to fling a large suitcase of superfluous clothes over a cliff in Amalfi. It had become an impossible beast of burden on a backpacking holiday. I ditched it on the train to Milan instead.
We all know what it’s like to sit on top of that over-packed, squashed case trying desperately to zip it up. So, what does the canny business traveller put in their capsule suitcase?
Kate Gleeson is a globe-trotting fashion buyer and the owner of Diffusion.ie. She certainly knows how to pack a bag of tricks, having spent years flying to fashion shows and fabric fairs. She recently released an online video on packing that was so popular it almost went viral. So, what's her advice?
“I could write a novel on the art of packing as it’s taken years to have it fully nailed,” she says.
“First of all, you need to have order. So I lay out a smart outfit for each day I will be away and team each look with appropriate colour-coded underwear, key tops and jewellery.”
How does she manage more cumbersome jackets and trousers?
“The key to success is to take very few on board. Many of the main pieces will be interchangeable, so two jackets can be swapped with different skirts and trousers. When it comes to tops, I always have smooth fitted tee-shirts and they can be layered under blouses. Every smart businesswoman needs two white or pastel crisp shirts that can be teamed with capri pants or a versatile skirt,” says Gleeson.
“A white Moyuru Japanese shirt, €188, was instantly sold out on the website and the other slim-fit version is excellent for setting off a suit. Footwear can be heavy in a bag so I like black suede kitten heels that are not so high they cripple your feet but not too flat either. If you’ve to leg it around a city at speed, bring trainers too.
“Pack the essential LBD for meetings and a piece of statement jewellery to zing it up a notch for dinner. I love the Bianca style that I’m wearing here. If the dress is sleeveless, grab a pashmina as you fly out the door.”
Gleeson wears comfortable trainers on a flight, such as her two-tone Technos – perfect for travelling and good if you get time for an early morning stroll. “They can double up in the gym if you have time to exercise so throw in the washable gym gear too.
“I carry on a large, warm pashmina or scarf in a neutral shade to keep me cosy on the plane as the air-conditioning can be chilly. Plus I like to pack a light ivory trenchcoat and a pair of jeans by Jeanne for downtime.”
Taste of Dublin festival organiser Avril Bannerton is also a seasoned traveller.
“I am a stealth packer at this stage. I bring a couple of pairs of shoes – high heels and flats for running around in. Plus my runners and sports gear for a workout, if possible. I wear smart casual clothes most of the time, so an outfit can take me from day to night. A good pair of jeans is essential and so is a white, crisp shirt, finished off with a colourful scarf and a classic pair of sunglasses.
“I find a good moisturiser gives my face a boost after sitting on a plane for a long flight. I use Irish brand Pestle & Mortar Serum, which is really refreshing on the skin, and I drink a lot of water. Try and bring a carry-on case whenever possible and take some hand wipes to avoid picking up any nasties. A neck pillow is great if you want a decent sleep without straining your neck.
"I am a roller packer. I hate creased clothes and need an iron in a hotel. I use Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream, which is also great to soften hands and tame unruly eyebrows."
Packing for the businessman
Louis Copeland is the holy grail for well-heeled business dressers in Ireland. Both Adrian and Louis Copeland have combined their expertise in packing the definitive business suitcase. They advise to pack light and avoid heavy luggage.
According to Adrian, packing light starts with choosing an appropriate bag or case. Obviously, you’ll want to choose as large a bag as you can while adhering to the airline’s carry-on luggage guidelines.
The most popular carry-on style is a compact suitcase “like a Samsonite, which has the advantage of two wheels for easy transport. Hard-shelled models have the additional benefit of offering protection for their contents.
"Avoid duffel bags as they offer little protection, tend to crumple the contents and lack the style of a smart rolling carry-on case. What design you opt for will largely depend on your needs and budget. I advise budget shoppers to check out TK Maxx, Dunnes Stores or Penneys. "
All in the bag for him!
Tailored suit: absolutely essential for most seasoned snazzy guys. Neutral colours such as grey or navy are ideal: smart in the boardroom and relaxed for a restaurant. Switch the jacket around with chinos and swap the trousers with a crisp open-neck shirt for downtime.
White shirt: plus an extra one in a different shade. There's no simpler way to broadcast your impeccable style and business credentials than a crisp white shirt. Look for one in a smooth cotton poplin or Oxford cotton in summertime, ideally with a slight stretch for comfortable movement and, crucially, to minimise any wrinkles.
Choose a flexible white cotton version that is crush-proof. Get to grips with an iron though, as no good shirt is wrinkle-free.
The tie: yes, I know Mick Wallace is the sartorial liberator – but still the ole tie is a must for the style-savvy business traveller. Sure, you can be more adventurous with anything from a discreet polka-dot print to club-style stripes or a dapper check, but anything with a pattern is less adaptable than a block colour design.
Silk ties in baby blue or powder grey have been known to clinch a megabuck deal. Red ties can be a bit brash and reek of corporate greed.
Dark denim: smart denim is expensive and looks good even on older guys too. Pick the right pair of jeans by Boss or Armani – classic fit, indigo blue, free of any obvious detailing, or fabric treatments – and you can team it with your shirt and blazer for a relaxed-yet-sharp look, or wear it for a more casual look on the flight home. Don't even think of the distressed, ripped look or your colleagues might think you've hit on hard times.
Casual light jacket: worth packing for downtime on business trips, like the local ale house. Pack a couple of polo shirts in case you get invited to play golf or join the boardroom boss for romantic evening drinks at the hotel.
Classic shoes: in a neutral leather or suede loafer. Nothing declares your style as much as a pair of shoes and they can catapult you onto the footsie index.
Finally: a pocket square hanky for appearing posh (also doubles up as handy scribbling pad for jotting down phone numbers). Last but not least, take a decent pair of cufflinks that glisten as you sign the coveted contract with your gold-plated pen.