1. Pack Light
This will be a laugh for anyone who knows and has traveled with me. I can be a heavy packer. I like to have options and outfits and shoes for every combination. But that is only when I'm traveling for fun. When it comes to work, I'm want to be dealing with as little as possible because usually I am with others and usually men. So being able to keep mobile and keep up is important.
I can pack for overnight in a small duffel bag and for a week in a pilot case. And with all the hassles between security, luggage costs, limited space on the plane and the fact that everyone is trying to avoid the baggage claim area, it helps to have only a few bags.
This past trip to Atlanta I avoided a coat which made it way easier getting in and out of the security line, the plane and the group car. I had just the small bag above so when the plane stopped letting pilot cases on, I was able to sail through. If you do bring a pilot case, make it hard-sided, as small and light as possible and with 360-degree wheels. I have a small case I never use because it actually weighs more than another pilot case I have that is twice the size. And hard-sided is key. Between baggage handlers and your suitcase sitting out in the rain, a cloth-sided case just won't do. And don't forget the TSA approved lock! I prefer combination ones so I don't have to worry about a key.
But how do you pack so lightly? Well, take a hard look at every single thing you are bringing - I didn't bring a curling iron or a bottle of shampoo. I even just brought my daily vitamin in a small piece of paper rather than bring the bottle.
For clothes I did have another outfit but I only brought the one pair of shoes that I was wearing. I wore a jacket and had new scarves and gloves to mix it up and keep warm. I try to be somewhat neutrally professional with smaller personal style accents.
2. Skip the computer.
If you can avoid bringing your laptop, do so. They're fragile and expensive and, while you may need them for a week, if you are just going overnight you can probably avoid it, especially if your phone or iPad can access the web, your work email and more. Laptops are so much heavier that this saved me tons of effort.
3. Collapsible water bottle
Cheaper and easier and lighter - enough said.
4. Bigger purse
I use an open tote style purse that can easily get into when it's under the seat in front of you and that is big enough to carry your water, iPad (and or book), headphones, a wrap and whatever else you end up shoving in there as you move from gate to plane and back again.
5. Flexible shoes
I don't mean folding flats (although I do throw a pair in my bag). Instead I mean shoes that can take you from morning to night, airport to client dinner, in rain or not and won't leave you a cripple by the end of the night.
The shoe I pick 9 times out of 10? My Aerosole buckle heel shoes. I've worn these walking all over New York during Fashion Week and I just wore them last week. I've had these shoes at least 12 years and they are still looking good. I am not sure what I'm going to do if they ever have a major problem my cobbler can't fix. These heels look dressy enough for suits but fine with heels and have stood up to rainstorms and airport running. They are around 3" high so comfortable for walking.
If you have a pair that meets all of these criteria... buy two pairs! I have this same heel in a claret color. I wish I had second pair of the black.
6. Sleep on the plane
I don't care what anyone else is doing. If you can, sleep on the plane. It can be awkward if you are sitting next to a co-worker to do this. If you can, get in separate rows, ideally behind them. I prefer the aisle too.
7. Entertain yourself
I always prefer to read on the plane and with book and game apps on phone and tablets, it's easy to do so even while you seem to be working. I find travel distracting and disconcerting enough, trying to work on a plane is next to impossible for me. One thing to note: on the last flight I was on they made you turn off your phones completely, not just into airplane mode. I was very glad I had brought an actual book with me. My iPad battery was low and I wouldn't have had music or movies to play either.
8. A good soak
Not all hotels have fluffy robes or great ambiance but almost all of them have a tub. And a hot bath with a bath bomb is a great way to finally relax and unwind after a stressful trip. Pack one or grab one in the hotel gift shop if you have that option. It may even help you sleep when you are in the strange bed without your favorite spouse/pillows/pets.
Last but not least, no matter how annoying everyone is, remember to smile and say thank you. I get a way easier time when I give people a smile.