For exhibit and event professionals  

Feature—Travel savvy: Packing smart to stay ahead

January 31, 2014 By Editor

By April Khan

carry-on-luggage_14911519You've booked the exhibition, scheduled your staff and shipped your exhibit; you’re ready to go. You head to the airport with moments to spare, planning to touch down just in time to grab your bags and head for the show.

But there’s a problem, your bags aren’t in the baggage claim. In fact, they aren’t even at the airport! It wouldn’t be such a biggie if your thumb drives and device chargers weren’t in the missing bags! So now all you’re stuck with are toothpaste and cologne. What a disaster. This nightmare situation happens to hundreds of people each month and dozens of business travelers each day.

This is why savvy exhibit managers travel light. Instead of carrying several bags to their destinations, they choose to pack only the essentials in their overhead carry-ons. Their bags contain everything they need, and those bags especially include an emergency preparedness kit, which eases the blow if disaster strikes, which it will. It always does.

If you’re on the road a lot and want a refresher on packing light — and smart — here’s how.

How to Get Started

No doubt one of the perks of being an exhibit manager is traveling. However, traveling comes with a cost. Most exhibit managers are in a rush, so they have very little time between landing and jumping in a taxi or rental car to make it to their show. This leaves little to no room for error when checking out of the airport. Lost, damaged or delayed luggage can spell disaster for the traveling exhibit manager, so it’s best to travel light.

In fact, industry experts recommend traveling with a carry-on only. This provides the flexibility necessary for last-minute travel changes. It also helps to cut the cost of traveling by eliminating checked baggage fees and overage charges.

Once you ditch the checked bags, it can be very difficult to decide what to put in your carry-on luggage. MC2 recommends creating a travel list to help. This list should contain those things that you’ll need for every trip, like bathroom basics and notebooks.

According to OneBag.com, it’s important to be in the evergreen frame of mind when developing this list of lightly-packed essentials. This list should be good year-round, for any trip in any location. Although it may be tempting, never pack items that aren’t on the list (even if you choose to leave a few out of the bag). When creating your list, keep the weight of the bag in mind. Don’t pack it too heavy, but make sure all of the essentials are there.

What to Pack

Pack everything on the list to see how heavy your bag is. If you can’t run with it without running out of breath, it’s too heavy. You need to remove a few items. If you’re having trouble deciding what to pack, here are a few suggestions that work in every situation:

  • reversible shirts (eliminates one shirt)
  • solid colored slacks, trousers or skirts
  • personal hygiene items (toothpaste and toothbrush, sunscreen)
  • plug adapters

If you need your iPad, Android tablet or netbook for business purposes, add it to the list and pack it. (Don't forget your chargers!) But if you just use it for entertainment, eliminate it altogether if you need to eliminate something.

Now that you have a clear idea of what to pack, you’ll need to pack items in the most efficient manner possible to keep everything light and compact. The best luggage to invest in for this purpose is a square piece. You can roll up your clothes to keep them from creasing (and to save room), and stick loose items into your shoes or socks.

OneBag.com recommends steering clear of wheeled luggage. The wheels take up more room on the outside and have nearly 50 percent less room on the inside. Remember, you’re traveling light, so carrying your bag shouldn’t be an issue.

And, as an extra measure, if you want to make even more room in your luggage, pack your items in a vacuum bag! This reduces weight and mass. Vacuum bags are just as easily scanned by airport security as any other bag, so the only thing you have to worry about are a few strange looks by a few bystanders with elaborate luggage at the airport, but who cares? You’re traveling light and they’re not!

Packing Your Emergency Preparedness Kit

Once you arrive at the trade show to oversee the exhibit, there will always be something that needs your attention. Stop me if you haven’t heard of any of these things happening:

  • The reception counter needs a touch-up
  • Computer wires are poking out behind the demo station
  • The video deck controls are in a dark corner
  • Your top sales person has a spot on his tie

Whatever it is, you’ll run into an emergency situation that needs to be attended to immediately. You need an emergency kit. Make sure your kit should include a mixture of tools and first aid items. Here’s a quick list of the items you might need:

  • Health and Beauty Aids
    • Breath mints
    • Tissues
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Eye drops
    • Band-Aids
    • Antacid
    • pain reliever
    • First aid kit
    • Sewing kit
    • Tide spot remover (salesperson's tie)
  • Installation helpers
    • AA Batteries
    • Carpet tape (two-sided)
    • Gaffers tape (sticks to anything, organizes computer wires)
    • Sharpies (great for touch-ups, reception counter dings)
    • Device chargers
    • Flashlight (for navigating dark corners)
  • Showtime necessities
    • Pencils, pens
    • Paper punch
    • Thumb (Flash) drive
    • Stapler
    • Rubber bands
    • Notepads
    • Post-It notes

As you can see from the above list, you are packing for both personal and exhibit emergencies. If you’re traveling as a group and you’re all planning to stay together throughout the trip, you can distribute the items among each person’s bag to make the load lighter. List the items to make sure you have them all and can fit them into the bags. Most exhibitors carry these bags – they’re often called Gang bags – and they contain most of the tools and supplies needed to care for your display.

Last but not least, make sure to have your ATM cards and flash drives on hand. You’d be surprised at just how many people leave them behind by accident.

Traveling light is all about being flexible, economical and prepared. Things will get thrown off schedule, missteps will happen and checked bags will get misplaced in a city 2,000 miles away. Stay smart, stay ahead and prepare for the worst. Safe travels!

April Khan is a professional writer who currently holds two professional degrees: Her AA in Interior Design and her MSC in International Health. She has been writing for over 10 years, and enjoys researching topics for the most up-to-date news.


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