Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Flying with McKinsey - packing light

In an earlier post I covered the importance of not checking in luggage when you fly with McKinsey consultants - especially if your boss is one of them.  This post will provide some tips on how to travel light and make the most of your carry-on bags.

Image from "Up In the Air"



The unit of measure for business travel is what you can fit into one roller board that can be carried onto an airplane and stowed in the overhead compartment.  Travel enough and you'll figure out the bare minimum you need to pack for a business trip - everything else is just a waste of space and time.  


Simplify your wardrobe

Typical McKinsey consultants aren't particularly fashionable - our stereotypical "uniform" would be dark grey pants and light blue, long-sleeve, button-down dress shirts.  That standardized look actually works in your favor when it comes to packing for a travel study.  If you keep your style and color palette simple and coordinated, you can pack fewer items because they'll all work together.  A black belt and shoes finish off your work wardrobe with minimal additions to your roller board.

Be realistic about your workouts and free time

When I first started traveling for McKinsey, I was incredibly optimistic about how many times I'd be able to work out each week.  Once reality set in, I realized I'd be lucky to workout a couple of times per trip, especially if I wanted to get at least 5 hours of sleep each night.

I also initially overestimated the need for jeans and casual tops - when you're on the road for McKinsey, there aren't many occasions for casual clothing.  You typically land Monday morning and go directly to the client site.  On Thursday afternoon you go straight from the client to the airport to catch your flight home.  Even if you are fortunate enough to go out on Tuesday or Wednesday evening, you're not going to want to waste any of that free time returning to the hotel to change.


Maximize density

If you're planning to work out, stuff your gym socks inside of your running shoes.  If it's going to be cold on either end of your trip, carry or wear your coat, don't pack it.  Not only will you have it handy when you need it, but you can save that space for other items.  Many rollerboards have ribs to reinforce the structure of the bag - pack smaller items in those spaces.


Don't forget about your other bag

If space is getting tight, you can throw some extra things into your other carry-on - usually a backpack, handbag, or briefcase.  It might be uncomfortable or unsightly to have a bulging bag, but it's probably better than waiting at baggage claim when you wish you were in a cab on your way home.

Learn over time

After each trip, identify the things you packed but didn't use and consider whether or not you can edit them out from your next trip.


By the time I left McKinsey, I could pack enough for eleven (11) days in one roller board, enough for a two-week business trip - Monday through Friday, the weekend, and the following Monday through Thursday.  That included business casual for work, jeans and casual shirts for the weekend, running shoes, and workout clothes.

Granted, part of that was made possible by using hotel laundry services.  On Friday I'd leave some clothes to be washed and return to the hotel on Sunday night to find my fresh, clean, pressed clothes waiting for me in my hotel room closet.


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