Business trips can be a real pain. You’re either schlepping to places you’ve never wanted to go, or jetting off to countries you’ve always wanted to explore, but find yourself without any time to actually ‘see’ due to back-to-back meetings.
Worst of all, though, is getting there. Whether it’s via plane, train or boat, the travelling part of a business trip can be a bit of a sartorial nightmare. Not only will you need to pack all of your work essentials – including important documents, your laptop, maybe even a tablet – you’ll also need to take enough clothes to cover both that lunch meeting and a round of drinks with a client in the evening.
Still, the whole journey needn’t always be the major planning operation it often is. We can’t pull a sickie for you, but we can offer some time-saving, stress-easing tips for travelling on business, in style.
The Right Luggage
First things first, you’ll need to source the right tools for the job – in this case, we’re talking a sturdy, roomy travel bag.
Whether you’re going short-haul racing from London to Berlin for a day or heading transatlantic and transferring from Dublin to New York for a week, you should be looking for a wheeled carry-on case in a lightweight yet durable material like leather, aluminium or polycarbonate.
Alternatively, if your trip doesn’t require you carting around several changes of clothes, then you could opt for a minimal, well-crafted holdall. Easy to carry, casually stylish and usually featuring several compartments to divvy up your away from home essentials, a 24- or 48-hour holdall is the perfect size for trips that last no longer than a couple of nights.
Your Travel Outfit
Since you’ll most likely need at least one suit while you’re away, it’s worth wearing the blazer (and any coat you decide to take) when travelling. Doing so not only helps save it from the inevitable folds and wrinkles from being stored in luggage but also keeps you looking sharp and front and centre for any travel upgrades.
Team it with a pair of slim chinos or dark jeans and a plain T-shirt, Oxford shirt or polo (all items that can be mixed and matched throughout your trip) for a comfortable yet refined business casual look.
The Capsule Business Wardrobe
When it comes to packing, prioritising classic and versatile pieces not only keeps your luggage as light as possible, it also enables you to pull together outfits for any on- or off-duty occasion that may arise. Essentially, you’re looking to create an edited version of your day-to-day capsule wardrobe.
Therefore, you’ll want to stick to neutral colours for the most part – grey, navy, white, black and a little brown – and chiefly these key items:
Keeping in mind the length of time you could be wearing your clothes while travelling, it’s important to opt for pieces that are both comfortable and stylish.
A pair of chinos in grey or beige team just as well with a suit jacket for an informal meeting as they do a shawl neck cardigan or T-shirt during downtime. Also worth including is another more formal pair of trousers in a seasonal fabric (wool or flannel for winter, linen-cotton blends for summer), giving you another option when it comes to crafting smart casual looks.
Similar advice applies to your tailoring: pick the right fabric choice for the season and destination you’re travelling to.
Utilise fabrics such as tweed, cashmere and heavy wools to keep warm during wintertime journeys or trips to satellite offices in colder climates, and go for lightweight cotton and linen for those trips where you’re bound to get a little hot under the collar.
Sick and tired of undoing and retying laces at security? Only have room for one pair of work shoes in your travel case?
Opt for loafers. They’re easy to slip on and off when required, immensely comfortable, and can be dressed up with tailoring or down with chinos and a roll neck.
Aside from your suit, you’ll want a selection of pieces that go well with one another, allowing you to get ready quickly and easily, whether you’re running late or feeling a little worse for wear after one too many martinis while wooing that client.
Along with a few dress shirts (Oxford cloth versions are a solid choice due to their thicker construction, which handles wrinkles much better), we’d recommend a neutral merino wool jumper, a few basic T-shirts, a polo shirt and a shawl neck cardigan. Equally, another pair of smart shoes (Derbies and monk straps both work well), a couple of ties and a pair of black or navy jeans should comfortably cover almost every scenario that could potentially arise.
- Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino Crew Neck Sweater
- Reiss Mansion Merino Polo Shirt
- Suitsupply Green Shawl Collar
- Lim Fit Button-down Collar Non-iron Business Casual White Shirt
- Uniqlo Men Easy Care Slim Fit Oxford Long Sleeve Shirt
- Uniqlo Men Supima Cotton Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirt
- A.p.c. Petit Standard Slim-fit Denim Jeans
- David Gandy For Autograph 2 Pack 4-way Stretch Supima Cotton Hipsters
- Topman Grey Mixed Texture Socks 5 Pack
- T.m.lewin Navy Knitted Silk Tie
- Lanvin 5.5cm Prince Of Wales Checked Silk Tie
- Reiss Leeds 2 Allen Edmonds Cordovan Leather Shoes
Essential Travel Hacks
Don’t live out of a suitcase; as soon as you reach your hotel room, get everything out as a matter of urgency.
The longer clothes stay folded in your bag, the worse they’re going to look when you go to wear them. Most hotels should have an iron in the room or that you can borrow. Failing that, hang your suit up on the back of the bathroom door while you take a hot shower – the steam will relax the fabric and therefore the creases.
The Best Seat In The House
As air travel becomes less like a magical journey through the clouds and more like a big, winged bus you’re trapped on for six hours; the right seat can be the difference between Dreamliner and nightmare.
So how do you go about picking prime real estate? Extensive research shows that your best bet for a smooth ride is a seat over the wings. However, for a quiet flight, you should opt for a seat toward the front of the cabin away from the engine. Scared about crashing? Go near the back.
Helpfully, Seatguru has cabin maps of almost every flight going around the globe, with user reviews of which seats suck so you don’t get stuck with restricted legroom or eau de chemical toilette.
Available at SeatGuru, for free.
Grab A Power Nap
Losing sleep means you’re likely to touch down with far more bags than you took off with, but it can also mess with your immune system. In fact, studies have shown that losing just three hours sleep can cause the body’s immune response to plummet by half.
To stave off the effects posed by a lack of shut-eye, try grabbing a power nap. Set your clock for the magic 30-minutes discovered by experts as the optimum amount of time for napping.
Eat To Cheat
Interestingly, the body’s natural ‘meal-time’ clock has been found to run parallel to the one governed by light changes – and you can easily fool it.
If you’re a glutton for punishment and opt to eat on the flight, try doing so according to your destination’s local time to minimise the impact of switching time zones.
Up Your Fluid Intake
The main challenge while flying is keeping yourself and your skin sufficiently hydrated. So, without wanting to sound too clichéd, water is a must.
To save skin from within, avoid dehydrating tea, coffee and alcohol and if you find plain water boring then try adding a green tea or peppermint teabag into the bottle to give it some flavour. It’s much better for you than sugary juices or fizzy drinks.
Liquid restrictions can play havoc with a grooming routine, particularly when travelling without a hold bag.
To save fumbling at security, or worse, having to ditch a raft of essential lotions and potions; grab yourself a selection of travel pots (stores like Muji have a great selection) and simply scoop or squirt in enough to last either the flight there and back or the whole trip.
Travel pots, available at Muji, from £0.75 each.
Refresh Your Hair
Dry shampoo is one of the most useful weapons a man can have in his arsenal regardless of how many miles he clocks up.
However, smaller versions are particularly handy for refreshing and revitalising hair after long journeys, especially when you have to head straight from the airport to a meeting.
Batiste Dry Shampoo On The Go Blush, available at Amazon, priced £4.73.
Essential Travel Kit
Forget the lifejacket under your seat, a quality eye mask is the real onboard essential. Get some shut-eye on the red eye with this example from New York-based company Armand Diradourian.
Not only is it cut from cashmere soft enough to rival your best loungewear, but it also comes in this year’s biggest colour trend.
Armand Diradourian Cashmere And Silk Eye Mask, available at Mr Porter, priced £85.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Just because you’re vacuum-packed into a crowded box with these people, doesn’t mean you have to listen to them. Drown out sound with a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones.
Going wireless is a wise move, so you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up when the person next to you inevitably asks to get by to go to the toilet. Every. Five. Minutes.
Bose QuietComfort QC35 Headphones, available at John Lewis, priced £329.95.
Travel Document Wallet
Any man with a well-thumbed passport knows that efficiency is everything. Don’t lose extra minutes in the airport lounge fumbling for your passport and tickets.
A sleek travel document wallet, like this one from Aspinal Of London, keeps your air travel affairs in order and marks you out as a man worthy of an upgrade.
Classic Travel Wallet, available at Aspinal of London, priced £130.
Mobile Battery Pack
Swot up on your sales pitch without the risk of running out of juice over Jakarta with a portable charger.
The Mophie Powerstation offers iPhones up to seven additional charges or two extra rounds for an iPad through three USB ports, meaning you can even charge multiple devices at the same time.
Mophie Powerstation XXL Universal Battery, available at Apple, priced £89.95.
Stay organised even at 40,000 feet with a dopp kit that keeps your travel tech tip-top and tangle free.
Modelled on the grooming bags used by the US Army during WWII, this handsome leather organiser by LA brand This Is Ground features enough pockets and loops for every cord, cable and charger in your arsenal.
This Is Ground Tech Dopp Kit, available at Bear & Bear, priced £125.
General Tips & Tricks
Finally, some quick tips to make the whole process of hopping across borders that little bit less painful:
- If not in an organiser, keep important travel documents and essentials in your coat or suit jacket interior pockets, so they’re safe and always to hand.
- Store metallic items and loose change in your jacket pockets so that all you need do at security is slip it off to ensure you don’t send alarm bells ringing.
- Keep in-flight essentials like headphones, reading material and water at the top of your bag so you don’t need to awkwardly rummage.
- Flying can be harsh on your body so if you’re skyward bound don’t forget to take a few select grooming essentials. Along with travel versions of your favourite products, we’d recommend packing some gentle cleansing face wipes, a breath freshener and eye drops to keep you looking and feeling on form.
- If you want to get to grips with a balance sheet onboard without wearing headphones for the whole trip, pack a pair of ear plugs.
- Roll your clothes when packing, doing so minimises creases and can even save space if done right. Use the inside of shoes to store rolled up ties, socks and underwear.
- If you’re travelling within the EU or arriving back in the UK, check if you have a biometric passport (a symbol on the front will tell you). Automated E-passport gates are almost always the fastest way through security.
- Know what you can and can not take in your hand luggage. Restrictions are universal, so read up when packing rather than when standing in front of a six-foot-four angry security manager with the right to cavity search you.