How to pre-pack a bag for an emergency business trip

Being prepared is half the battle

Keep a partially packed suitcase at the ready.
(Image credit: (iStock))

Imagine work on a typical Monday morning. You sit down at your desk, coffee in hand, as your coworkers chat about the weekend and your email loads. Then, all of a sudden, an urgent message pops up. It's your boss, and he needs you to travel.

Jackpot! You've been waiting for this — the vote of confidence from your boss, the chance to escape your cubicle, even a break from that same lunch spot you eat at far too many times a week. But then you spot the caveat. You need to be on the next flight out of town.

Time to panic, right? Wrong. Thanks to a few tips and timesaving tricks, you're totally prepared and already practically packed.

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It could seem silly to pack for a trip you don't know you'll be taking. It might even seem sad. But really, it just makes good sense. You can keep your suitcase partially packed at all times with certain essential items that you'll need no matter the destination.

That includes duplicate chargers for all your portable electronics. That way, you won't forget to pack your phone or laptop charger and find yourself buying an expensive replacement at the airport or, even worse, having one of those devices shut down mid-use. There's nothing worse than arriving in a new location without a working cell phone. Okay, there are worse things, but in the realm of first world problems, that's near the top of the list.

It's also a good idea to leave a stack of business cards in your suitcase. If you're traveling for work, you'll probably need them, but they might be the last thing you'll remember to pack when you're going through your wardrobe.

Also keep a stash of toiletries, vitamins, medicines, makeup, and the like in your suitcase. Don't waste valuable time (or space) packing full-size bottles of shampoo or tubes of toothpaste each time you head out of town.

Instead, buy small sample-size containers or even grab extras the next time you're at a hotel. Remember that the Transportation Security Administration limits the size of each carry-on container holding liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, or pastes to 3.4 ounces or less. And for carry-on purposes, they must be stored in one quart-sized, clear plastic, and zip-top bag.

Of course, you can check as many liquids as you'd like, but that goes against the cardinal rule of expert business travelers who say never to check a bag. Ever.

It's true that airlines are doing a better job these days avoiding delayed, damaged, or lost luggage, according to SITA, an aviation communications and information technology firm that releases an annual baggage report.

But the risk still remains. In 2013, the most recent year for which SITA published data, passengers reported 21.8 million mishandled bags. In other words, that's 6.96 bags per thousand passengers.

Tom Stuckey, a management consultant with Accenture who travels weekly for business, is insistent upon not becoming one of those statistics. Stuckey manages to pack everything he needs in two carry-on eligible bags in order to avoid ever having to check an item. A backpack is a great secondary option to pair with a traditional suitcase, he says.

But the benefit goes far beyond not running the risk of having your bag lost or damaged. After all, 81 percent of those mishandled bags were simply delayed in reaching their destination. Yet even when luggage makes it on time, waiting at baggage claim is inconvenient and inefficient.

But that's not the only way to save yourself more time when traveling through the airport. One of the best ways is to apply for TSA PreCheck.

If you're eligible for the program — and your application is approved — you receive a Known Traveler Number that identifies you as a member of this service for the next five years. Membership means an expedited security screening process. You move through your own special TSA PreCheck lane at participating airports, and you don't have to remove your shoes, belt, light outerwear, laptop, or liquids.

Pretty soon, you'll be breezing through airport security like George Clooney's character in the 2009 film Up in the Air, meaning that it won't be long before you're following the flight attendant's instructions to sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight. Let's just hope your boss booked you a first class seat.

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