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The secrets of traveling lightly
eConnections talks with Doug Dyment of the OneBag website
For most exhibit and event professionals, travel is a major element in their careers. In fact, when someone in a recent LinkedIn discussion asked, “How do you know you’re a trade show professional?” many participants cited things related to travel.
But how well do members of our industry travel? After all, making a business trip pleasurable takes more than making the right airline and hotel reservations. Packing effectively is also essential.
To find out how to pack the right way, eConnections spoke with Doug Dyment, founder of the OneBag website. He shares his insights.
eConnections: Were you ever in the trade show business? If so, did you travel a lot?
Doug Dyment: I was in the trade show world, but I was a tech evangelist, a spokesman for high-tech companies. I traveled a lot. It varied according to my role and the company I was working with. I was on the road about half the time.
eConnections: Did that inform your One Bag philosophy?
Dyment: It was an evolution of my situation and personality. I’m analytical, an engineering kind of guy. I think about how to do things better, to be more efficient. I thought about travel a lot because it was a big part of my life.
People knew I traveled well; I always had just a small bag over my shoulder, and they’d ask me how I did it. So, about 12 years ago, I built a website for people who want to travel lightly. It’s noncommercial, so I’m totally independent and can say what I think.
eConnections: What can trade show and event professionals learn from your experience?
Dyment: They should know they can make their lives better by learning to travel lightly. Most people don’t do this well and don’t think there’s anything to learn about travel. They just buy what the salesman shows them and pack everything they think they might need for the next two weeks.
The biggest benefit of traveling lightly is not having to check in any baggage. Then, nothing gets stolen, damaged or lost. And it’s economical because you don’t have to pay to check bags. (I haven’t checked a bag in 40 years.) It also provides you flexibility. Your bags aren’t held hostage by the airline, so if your flight is canceled or delayed, you can rent a car, get on a train or get on a different flight. Plus, it gives you serenity. You know where everything is, and you’re prepared for every situation.
eConnections: Can trade show or event professionals really get away with packing just one bag?
Dyment: For most people in most situations, yes. Deciding what to pack is a question of what works for you. The secret is a packing list. But most of the “lists” you find online aren’t what I’m talking about. You need a packing list solely for you and how you’ll travel in the future. Your list doesn’t change for different kinds of trips.
Your list is a contract you make with yourself that you will never pack anything not on the list. Of course, you should modify your list according to your needs and change it as necessary over time. Not everything on my list goes with me on every trip. But nothing goes with me that isn’t on my list. Your list is about things that can go in your bag, not what must go in.
But don’t wait until the night before your trip to make your list and try to cover every possible situation. Think about it in a quiet, dispassionate moment. I provide a detailed example of list-making on my site.
eConnections: How can a traveler pack a bag in the most efficient manner? Do the same principles apply whether the traveler is a man or a woman?
Dyment: Women and men travelers are different in a variety of ways. Most people think men don’t need much stuff, but women can limit how much they pack more easily than men. Men are more constrained in what they can wear in business situations, but women can accessorize in ways men can’t to make their outfits look completely different.
But whether you’re a man or a woman, as you get better at packing, you’ll find other tweaks that can make it easier, like reversible shirts. Becoming more efficient involves common sense. Look for unused space, like putting little things inside shoes and using packing pouches for organization.
Packing clothing is also an issue that needs to be addressed. The goal is to not take up more space than necessary without getting clothes wrinkled or creased. For instance, bundle wrapping is better than folding. I describe this on my site, but basically it means starting with something like a tiny pillow and wrapping clothing around this core object. There’s an order to doing it. People have told me they can even travel with linen using this method.
eConnections: How should people pack for airline security?
Dyment: It’s an issue of what not to pack, and this changes all the time. So, check the TSA list at least a couple of times a year.
Basically, don’t carry anything that could be a weapon, and that includes liquids. I never carry any liquids. They’re heavy and bulky, can leak and are mostly water. Find out if there’s a solid version of any liquid you want to carry. Toothpaste, shampoo, moisturizers, sunscreen and more all have solid versions that are lighter and don’t spill, and security doesn’t have a problem with them.
eConnections: What kind of electronics (computer, phone, etc.) gear should they pack?
Dyment: Look for the smallest, lightest stuff you can get away with. If you bring something, make sure it’s on your packing list; don’t cheat. And leave as much home as you possibly can. For example, if you use an iPad primarily for entertainment, do you really need it? You can get your email on the road other ways. Also, will the plugs on your electronics fit sockets overseas? Or will you need an adapter? Will you need to bring batteries? Think of all the ramifications of anything you might bring with you.
eConnections: What kind of luggage is a must-have for our readers and why?
Dyment: Many people automatically choose a wheeled bag because they don’t have to carry it, and if you’re going to be carrying a ton of stuff, you may need one. But there are disadvantages with this kind of luggage. A wheeled bag is much heavier. It has less room inside, up to 40 percent less. It’s rigidly constructed, so you can have trouble getting it into overheads. It has more elements to break and snag and is harder to pack because of the weird shapes and wheel wells, telescoping handles, and other stuff inside. That said, if you’re traveling heavy, use wheels, but don’t forget to consider external ones (folding luggage carts).
If you’re traveling light, you don’t need wheels. Your bag should be lightweight and soft-sided, with good zippers. High-tech fabrics are very strong but lightweight. The bag should also be rectilinear, shaped like a box. It’s easier to pack a cube than a sphere, and you get more in. And square corners eliminate curves and their dead spaces.
For men, the bag should have a shoulder strap that grips the shoulder. Women generally have less upper body strength and are less concerned about looking cool, so a bag with straps that you can wear as a backpack may be a better choice.
eConnections: What other tips do you have for hassle-free travel?
Dyment: There are three stages to becoming a good lightweight traveler. First, build a packing list. Second, with your packing list, look for ways to reduce weight. If you’re going somewhere cold, look for lighter-weight clothing, which can be every bit as warm. If you have things with batteries in them, use lithium batteries that are lighter and last longer. Look at every item you pack and ask, “Is there a reduced-weight version?” Third, look at your baggage. People look for the optimal bag and think it will solve their problems, but it doesn’t work that way. You have to learn first how to travel lightly and then find the right bag for you.
The secret of hassle-free travel is a very large number of little things done well. It’s about learning to pack more effectively, not just how to do more with less.
Emerging from his early career as scientist and professor at the University of Waterloo, Doug Dyment spent the next couple of decades as a consultant, corporate spokesman and technology evangelist, living in three different countries and frequenting trade shows and other presentational venues in dozens more. Being constantly “on the road,” and drawing on his analytic temperament, he learned to travel efficiently and effectively and is now recognized as the leading authority on “the art and science of traveling light.” His popular OneBag website offers a compendium of practical information for those wondering if the joy of the journey can be freed from the labor of the luggage. Dyment currently makes his living as a travel speaker and author.