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Leader of the pack

Date

David Flynn

Top tips for packing like a pro so you can leave your excess baggage behind and skip the queues.

Carry on ... leave your baggage behind.

Carry on ... leave your baggage behind. Photo: Louise Kennerley

There's nothing like the freedom of flying with only one or two carry-on bags as your travel companion.

No checked luggage to slow you down. No waiting at baggage carousels or having your bags head to Hawaii when you're in Hong Kong.

You can walk straight off the plane, out of the airport and be on your way to your hotel, your first meeting or your first pre-dinner drink.

TM Lewin non-iron shirts, $79.95 or four from $240 mean you arrive at the other end looking smooth. Available at: http://www.tmlewin.com.au Click for more photos

Top 20 business traveller essentials

From the latest and greatest gadgets to gear that will have you looking the part and travelling light. Here are our picks for the best flying accessories. 

Here are some clever ways to leave your cumbersome checked luggage behind and pack like a travel pro.

Shirts

Start by investing in some non-iron or crease-resistant cotton business shirts from quality brands and retailers. With cheap wrinkle-free shirts the treatment of the cotton or even the inclusion of artificial fibres can prevent the shirt from breathing, leaving you uncomfortable and sweaty.

The age-old technique for packing shirts – including long-sleeved business shirts – involved a combination of folding them with arms to the rear, and then rolling them from the bottom to the top.

It's incredibly efficient but not to everybody's taste.

“I don't believe in rolling clothes to create more space,” says Melbourne software engineer and frequent flyer Liam Rasmussen. “It damages collars on business shirts. Instead I fold my shirts the same way you see in department stores.”

The Shirt Sleeve is a compact satchel designed for a neatly folded shirt and other accessories, while Eagle Creek's Pack-It folders is a larger shoulder-bag with room for several days' worth of shirts and pants packed wrinkle-free.

Jacket

Don't pack your suit jacket. Wear it onto the flight, then have it hung in the wardrobe or gently folded and stowed in an overhead locker.

In economy, place it on top of your carry-on luggage instead of beside it, to avoid other passengers shoving their bag in and scrunching up your jacket.

If you do need to pack your jacket, there's a clever trick of folding one of the shoulders of your suit jacket inside the other to avoid wrinkles.

Check out the step-by-step guide at Black Lapel.

Adding a rolled-up T-shirt in the final half-fold will also prevent a crease from developing down the middle of the jacket.

Shoes

Choose one pair of shoes that you can wear on the plane as well as to meetings and dinners. That's a tough call, especially for women! It requires shoes which look sharp and are exceptionally comfortable.

I favour slip-on shoes or dress boots with a little extra give around the sides, so I can breeze through airport security checkpoints and quickly slip them off once the flight begins.

My current go-to shoes for light travel are from Julius Marlow's 02 Motion range, which you can see in our Business Traveller Essentials gallery.

Other brands to check out include Ecco and Geox.

If you've got room to pack shoes in your carry-on bag, make full use of the space inside them for your rolled-up socks, a small bag with your cufflinks or jewellery or other loose items.

For hitting the gym or even the running track while you're away, consider packing lightweight "bare running" shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers.

“For the sporty woman, shoe manufacturers are now making soft, foldable sneakers which saves space in your carry-on,” recommends Claudine Pache, consumer marketing manager with Intel Australia.

“Some hotels like the Sheraton can even provide you with workout clothes.”

Use a zip-lock plastic bag to keep them separate from the rest of your clothes. If you forget to bring that bag, grab a shower cap form the hotel's bathroom.

Toiletries

Keeping liquids, aerosols and gels to under 100 millilitres is a given for overseas trips but also a good guideline for flights within Australia.

Next time you buy fragrances or skin-care lotions, ask if they can throw in some free samples – they're ideal for travel. (If you're seeking something more substantial Jo Malone sells fragrances in a travel-friendly 30 millilitre size.)

Conventional wisdom is to never pack what the hotel can supply, but there are exceptions to that rule.

Many women prefer to bring a small bottle of their own shampoo or conditioner, lest the hotel's product give their hair that crazed crack-addict look.

I always bring my own razor, having learnt from nicked, rashed and bloodied experience not to trust a hotel's largely price-driven choice.

Noise-cancelling headphones

As much as I love my Bose noise-cancelling cans, they simply demand too much room when I'm travelling in carry-on ninja mode.

For those shorter trips I swap to a pair of compact noise-cancelling earbuds from Sennheiser, which take up almost no more space than a standard iPhone headset. Other brands to consider for space-saving sound are Etymotic and Sony.

Double up

Airlines allow one carry-on piece of luggage and one "personal" bag, which can range from a purse to a laptop bag or small backpack.

Make the most of this by spreading your gear efficiently across both bags.

Engineer Gordon Noble, whose globe-trotting habits have earned him lifetime Gold frequent flyer status with Qantas, packs smaller items of clothing into plastic zip bags “from the local discount shop”.

Don't pack it, send it

Burdened by a bag-full of brochures or samples to hand out to clients you'll meet on your trip?

Instead of taking "leave behind" materials with you as Evil Checked Luggage, have them sent directly from your office to your hotel via courier or parcel post.

First come, first served

Business travellers with frequent flyer status often enjoy priority boarding ahead of other passengers.

Take advantage of this to make an early claim on overhead bin space directly above your seat. It's almost a must on flights within America and Asia, and in any country during school holidays and long weekends.

If I'm travelling in economy, I always ask airline staff at the check-in desk or airline lounge how full the flight is. The more passengers there are, the more likely I'll leave the lounge early and aim to be among the first on the plane to ensure there's room for my bags.

“Attach your frequent flyer baggage tags to your carry-on bags,” suggests Brisbane app developer Peter Loh.

“Gate personnel and flight crew are less likely to say something if they think your bag is slightly too big when they recognise your frequent flyer status.”

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