Monday Start-Up: Breaking the Rules of Business Travel

by Rachel Yeomans | March 18th, 2013   

“Oh I always check my suitcase!” My mentor and previous manager said this to me during a business trip we took together years ago. I was speechless.

 Monday Start Up: Breaking the Rules of Business Travel / / CC BY-NC

Being on an airplane at least twice each week, I was the individual with the carry-on suitcase that never quite got completely unpacked. And my quart-sized Ziploc with several 3-ounce bottles of shampoo, contact solution, lotion and face wash, never left the outside pocket. Business travel was an elite club. Who could get his or her items into the security bins faster? Who had the most frequent flyer miles (and never used them for personal travel)? Who had the most gadgets for tethering Internet or delivering a projector presentation at a moment’s notice? And of course, who had the most efficient packing process?

Business travelers never checked baggage. That act would immediately secure one’s position at the losing end of the “savvy business traveler circuit”. Therefore, imagine my shock when my manager proudly admitted to check her suitcase for each trip!

Fast forward five years, and I realized that she had a point. These past few years, my business trips went from 1-4 days to around 10-30. Carry-on luggage was no longer part of my routine – it was merely the personal item. I succumbed to this fate after attempting to pack three weeks of travel into one carry-on that took me from a business trip straight to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York several years ago. I was successful, but that suitcase was the bane of my existence for those three weeks. And the worst part was that I was unhappy with most of my attire because they were my business travel clothes – clothing that existed for the mere purpose of not producing wrinkles and was appropriate (and boring) in a work setting. (I accessorized.)

I started TheWorkingWardrobe to combat the notion that we have to have two wardrobes, one for work and one for play. And here I was, the hypocrite carry-on carrier with the separate wardrobes. In addition to that, I was sick of digging through clothing and stuffing it into a too-small bag, hoisting it over my head and praying I won’t keel over, and dealing with a really sore shoulder from a too-heavy purse (yes my laptop and iPad and book and magazine will all fit!).

 Monday Start Up: Breaking the Rules of Business Travel
|| UggBoy?UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || / Travel Photos / CC BY

Rewind to my manager admitting to me (unabashedly) that she checked her luggage for every business trip, I will never forget her response to my follow-up of, “Oh God, WHY?!” Her response: Because she didn’t feel like sacrificing her style as it could never fit into a small rolling bag. I, who had spent years compromising my style on business trips, heaved a heavy sigh of defeat those years later while trying to make a business suit “work” for Fashion Week.

Now that my business trips are longer (and are usually peppered with both work meetings and fashion events), I abstain my eye roll while waiting at the luggage carousel. I now proudly check my bags because I know some of my favorite pieces are in there waiting for me. Why hello over-the-knee boots that would never leave room for my travel hair dryer and my skirt suit in a carry-on!

Yes I still heave the carry-on into an overhead compartment for my shorter business trips, but I admit sometimes even for the three-day trips I opt for my larger suitcase. (It’s good to have options with one’s footwear!)

Yet I will say this. I bet I can still beat you in the airport security line.

 Monday Start Up: Breaking the Rules of Business Travel
irina slutsky / / CC BY

My dad, who travels a lot for work, always assumes that I haven't checked a bag and rolls his eyes when he finds out that I did check a bag! These are usually for trips home from school, though, which, at their shortest, are a week to ten days and, at their longest, a month. Even when I'm taking shorter trips, I like to have the flexibility of bringing more items; I guess I just feel more comfortable with more clothing options. I try to solve this problem by having my suitcase be small enough for the overhead compartment (if I want to check it), but it expands to be several inches larger to accommodate more clothing for longer trips. And I have to say, I'm an EXPERT at stuffing the suitcase within an inch of its life! :) 

theworkwardrobe moderator

 @annedreshfield I do love options! (And I admit, I did once have to sit on my carry-on to zip it. I'm amazed that bag is still with us...)