post clinic icecream
Originally uploaded by renfield
best thing for a fever!
Having recently come back from 6 cities in two weeks, using one carry-on, I have decided to share my packing and business travel skills with the wider world, in the hopes of making everyone’s (and by extension my) travel experience better.
Note: this information will most likely be useless for those of you who are, unlike me, female. This is not some outright sexism on my part, but more a testament to the differences in dress and personal hygiene that exists between the sexes. For example: a guy can wear the same pair of shoes for two weeks, no matter what the suit and shirt. This is, as far as my limited experience informs me, completely impossible for a female (my sources being limited to my wife and my mom.)
Along the same lines, my metrosexual male friends will also find this regime challenging. But another way to think about it is this: I am trying to help. You really, REALLY do not need to wear a different pair of shoes every day. Really.
First of all, get yourself two critical pieces of luggage: an ass-kicking carry-on with garment capacity, and a “personal bag” that is more messenger than backpack.
For the first, I highly recommend and personally use Tumi’s you-can-have-any-color-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-black Alpha Frequent Traveler 22" Framed Expandable Carry On. I know this is an incredibly uncreative choice. Surely I should be recommending some trendy brand like Samsonite’s Marc Newson designed Scope brand or anything by Mandarina Duck. However I use Tumi for the same reason that everyone else does: luggage has to first and foremost be useful: it must lug around my oh-so-precious contents. Fashion takes a far second place. What is IN the luggage can be as hip and trendy as possible, but that only counts if your tailored suits and natural organic cotton undershirts make it through your trip in some reasonable approximation of wearable. Also, the 22” size does fit into overhead bins, barely (not expanded). And nothing fits in the overhead bin of those dinky puddle-jumper domestic US flights, so just carry it on and check it planeside.
(Digression: I also own and totally love my 10 year-old Rimowa, but alas it is not carry-on-able. I use that when I need to smuggle entire wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano into Japan.)
As for the second bag, I am more flexible. It must be capable of holding all airport necessities: mainly laptop plus addenda and TSA-approved liquids. It must also look acceptable with a suit; thus the ban on backpacks. Sorry, I don’t care how hip and trendy you are, and I don’t even care if it’s a Tumi backpack (in fact that’s even worse – you are matching your luggage?! I am trying to help my metrosexual friends, not encourage them!) And wearing only one strap on your shoulder doesn’t help. You cannot wear a backpack with a suit. This rule is important so I will repeat it: You cannot wear a backpack with a suit.
My personal choice wasn’t really my choice at all. I was given a surprisingly normal-looking gray, expandable Freitag by my good buddy. Turns out the wide strap is comfortable, even when wearing a suit, it holds everything plus room for more, is basically indestructible, and looks reasonably cool enough but not so cool as to be inappropriate with a suit. Also the handy waist strap (that any proper messenger bag has in addition to the shoulder strap) makes strapping the bag onto the expandable handle of the Tumi carry-on simple. Bags decided, we proceed to the packing list:
The packing process is simple: first, put aside one of the suits (and related shirt, tie, socks, belt, shoes, etc.) to wear – this will significantly reduce the amount of space taken up in the suitcase. Put the other suit pants on the hanger, then put the remaining shirts on the hanger one over the next, and finally put the suit jacket on the hanger on top of them. Insert this bundle of fashion into the garment sleeve of your Tumi. Double fold the ties and slide them flat into the garment sleeve pocket. Double-fold the t-shirts and undies and stuff them deep into the bottom of the suitcase. Add the non-liquids toiletries bag and the folded khakis, then stuff the over-garment of warmth into the remaining space, and insert the socks (paired) into any remaining crevices. They are 100% cotton socks; they will fit, like a rat or cockroach, into the implausibly tiniest of places. Finally wedge the cheap sneaks in, soles up, strap down the package, and close it up.
Into the messenger bag insert everything else, TSA-approved liquids last.
Passport, cellphone, wallet, and airline tickets stay on your person (aka in your pockets) at all times. No exceptions except for Security Theatre Performance (see below.)
In preparation for your Security Theatre Performance at the airport, put your cellphone, Blackberry, and wallet into your messenger bag (this is only temporary and only to Stop The Terrorists.) Take off your belt (the sensible silver buckle will invariably set off the metal detector) and put it in the messenger bag, too. Now take two trays. Put the laptop in one. In the other place (in this order) your shoes soles down, your jacket, folded neatly, and your TSA-approved liquids bag. Put your gear onto the X-Ray belt in this order: jacket/shoes tray, Tumi, Freitag, laptop tray.
As soon as you get through to the other side of security, put on your jacket and shoes and grab your TSA-approved liquids. Next grab your Tumi, put it on the floor, and extend the handle. Grab your messenger bag, strap it onto the Tumi handle, and open it. Replace the TSA-approved liquids into the Freitag then grab your laptop and stuff it back as well.
Now that your Security Theatre Performance is over, LEAVE THE STAGE IMMEDIATELY. You do not want to be called back for an encore. You don’t have to go to your gate or the airport lounge, but get the hell away from the general vicinity of the TSA. At a safe distance from that pleasurable Stop The Terrorists experience, open your messenger bag. Put your belt back on and return your wallet and cellphone to their rightful places in your pockets.
You may now proceed to the lounge and/or gate and/or plane and/or duty-free shopping, and have the option of:
I highly recommend getting your shoes polished at every possible opportunity. Since you are wearing the same pair of shoes all day every day for two weeks, they will need it. Hotels often do this for free overnight, and badly. Airports and some choice train stations provide this service for a nominal fee (usually about four to six bucks) and the generally excellent service often comes with some entertaining side chatter (though this may be in Spanish, Creole, or some West African language, depending on what airport you are in.)
Since you are flying business and generally (though not always) there are as many seats as there are people trying to sit in them, and since you have Perfectly Acceptable Carry-Ons, do not line-up early to get on the plane as soon as possible. This is unbecoming and a bit tiring. Instead, go to the toilet (better to relieve yourself in the relative comfort of the airport lounge facilities than in the in-flight closet of a bathroom.)
Once on the plane, proceed directly to your seat, through the Freitag onto the seat and using both hands immediately put the Tumi in the overhead. This should take no more than five seconds. Practice at home lifting your fully packed Tumi above your head. Too heavy? Get thee to the gym, couch potato. Bonus points if you can contort enough to do this without actually standing in the aisle. Now take your seat, removing your book/laptop/whatever as necessary and stuffing the Freitag under the seat in front of you (or in the overhead or side compartment if you are in business as under the seat in front of you is taken up by all that neat business seat mechanics and electronics.)
Give your jacket to the flight attendant so that it may spend the flight comfortably hanging in a closet as opposed to wrinkling itself about your person. If you get cold on the plane do NOT remove the over-garment of warmth from your Tumi until you have assessed the unavailability of an in-flight cardigan (ANA rocks.) DO remove your shoes and if possible socks immediately and put on the in-flight footwear (ANA rocks again) -- nothing mentally and physically refreshes like putting on different footwear.
When you land, take your Tumi and your Freitag and leave the airport forthwith. Be sure to smile smugly and knowingly as you pass the luggage carousels without stopping. Get in a taxi. Tumi goes in the trunk, Freitag stays with you in the back seat.
At the hotel, don’t get any help with your luggage as you don’t need it. Check in, go to your room, and immediately open the suitcase, remove the garment bag, and hang the suit and shirts in the bathroom. Not the closet: the bathroom. That evening when you take a shower the bathroom will get all steamy and warm – instant suit pressing. Note I am not saying to take a shower with your suit; simply use the steamy environs of the bathroom as a makeshift suit press. If the shirts are really wrinkly, call housekeeping to get the laundered or alternatively iron them yourself.
(Digression: As much as my mom and wife tried, there are two things at which I am thoroughly useless: sewing and ironing. Luckily, you only have to iron the flat left and right front of the shirt and the front of the collars, and not even the placket, because that will be covered by the tie, and the rest of the shirt will be covered by the jacket.)
Do NOT unpack the suitcase. The general rule is: when you use something, put it back. Put your toiletries case on the bathroom counter, along with the TSA-approved liquids bag. Don’t forget to pilfer the hotel bathroom’s provisions (quality hotels provide q-tips and mouthwash.) When you use something, return it to the proper bag; done brushing your teeth? Return the toothbrush to the toiletries bag and the toothpaste to the TSA-approved liquids bag. (Alternatively, use those little single-use toothpaste tubes you got from the airplane and toss it when done.)
When you have worn something and it’s dirty: flip it inside out, fold it, and return it to the suitcase. This works for all key garments: socks, undies, t-shirts, dress shirts. The corollary to this rule: when you take something out of the suitcase to wear, only take what is right-side in (aka not inside out.)
If you are attempting to be healthy, workout in the hotel gym wearing your t-shirt, stylish black socks (push the down around your ankles or be bold and leave them 80’s style pulled up to mid-calf!), bathing suit (that’s why I recommend the non-speedo type), and your sneaks.
Going to a casual dinner with friends? Keep your dress shirt on, lose the tie, and throw on the khakis. Wear the sneaks if you are on the west coast.
Before you check out, return the suit and shirts to the garment sleeve, minus the dirty shirts you have flipped inside out and folded neatly into the suitcase. It will fit; the thickness of the garment sleeve is inversely proportional to the volume of dirties stuffed into the suitcase proper (volume of clothing is basically a closed system, i.e. a zero-sum game, especially true when everything is properly folded, minimizing wasteful air pockets.) Grab the toiletries bag and TSA-approved liquids, replace laptop, etc. into Freitag, put on that day’s suit and clothing, fill pockets with passport, wallet, cellphone. Do a final idiot check before leaving the hotel room: don’t bother checking the drawers since you didn’t even use them. Do check the bathroom, desk, and closet.
If the weather is and/or you are generally cold, keep the garment of warmth out; either wear it over your suit jacket or tie it around the shoulder strap of the Freitag.
When you eat: always, ALWAYS protect the tie. Best strategy is to open up the second-from-the-top button on your shirt and insert the tie. Second-best is to flip the tie over-the-shoulder but note that an over-the-shoulder tie has a tendency to revert to its preferred stable state, usually about when you start into your tomato soup. People may think a tie in-the-shirt or over-the-shoulder when eating looks kind of dorky. People also think formal trousers should be cuffed and button-down collars looks “casual”. People are wrong. If you spill on the shirt, you can cover it with the tie. Also it’s easier to wash out or have laundered a shirt stain than it is to spot clean or have dry-cleaned a tie.
Finally, jet-lag strategy: don’t bother; power through like a real man. Whatever time zone you are in, go to bed at 11pm and get up at 6am. Whatever you do you will be tired. Deal with it. If you don’t regularly drink caffeine, business trips are a good place to temporarily abuse, even more so because you have no tolerance and so that morning cappuccino will really, really work. Beware the caffeine crash headache and mood-swings. Also eat lots of fresh fruit (apples from the airport lounge, bananas from in-flight. They have them, just ask) – natural sugar will wire you nicely to combat fatigue, keep your thirst in check, give you something to do (chewing) and is better than inhaling junk food, ensuring that your suit pants will actually fit even near the end of two weeks on the road.