A young professional’s top travel tips.


As a young professional, I spend a lot of time learning lessons the hard way. It’s not for lack of advice — there are just a million and one things that seasoned pros take for granted that the pups like me (and you, maybe) have to figure out. And what works for one doesn’t work for everyone. But, the more travel I do (for work or play) the more I learn.

You see, up until I started doing internships, I wasn’t much of a traveler. Now, I’ve caught the bug. A conference in a new city? AWESOME. A weekend road trip with Nightwolf and/or friends? WHY NOT?

travel tips packing carry on

Long story short, I’m getting good at travel. And I want to bestow my still-miniscule wisdom on you. (Most of this is about business travel, so bear with me.)

  • If you don’t have a company credit card, figure out who DOES. Being able to use a superior’s corporate credit card to book travel can save you some major personal expensing. (That is, you pay for the up-front cost and the company reimburses you. This is good in theory but big-budget trips can make it hard to pay your bills!)
  • Invest in good luggage, and make it recognizable. One of the best purchases I ever made was a good carry-on. I got it on sale at Gordman’s for 75% off, it can roll on a tilt OR upright. (This is now a new requirement for me in luggage.) The kicker? It’s hot pink. HOT. PINK. It’s so…me. Trust me, this is an investment worth making, especially if you see a good sale.
  • Learn how to fit EVERYTHING you need in that carry-on. Checking a bag is good in theory, but cheap direct flights are hard to find unless you’re “hub-hopping” (which means, you’re going from one major airline hub city to another, like Chicago to Denver). Every connection you make is a risk of losing your baggage.
travel tips packing carry on

This was my carry-on for a five-day trip to California. I had room to spare!

  • Carry-on packing tips:
    • If you’re packing shoes, remember that they’re hollow. Store other things inside of them. This is especially true for boots!
    • For longer trips, bring a few staple items that can be worn more than once, or items that mix-and-match easily. That statement blazer is adorable, but people will notice if you repeat it at a conference.
    • Most hotels have hairdryers in the room and if not, they probably keep them on hand. Don’t pack yours unless you KNOW you need it and have room. It may get flagged during security screening.
    • Be ready to take out other electronics like curling irons or straighteners, and phone chargers. Every airport is different on security strictness.
    • If you’re carrying a laptop case or other larger shoulder bag, find the most convenient way to wrap the strap around the handle for your luggage. Travel is exhausting, especially if you have a heavy bag hanging off of you.
travel tips packing carry on

My luggage from that same California trip, with my agency computer bag on top of it. This was a life-saver after a long day of gate-hopping. And I told you it was PINK.

  • Girls, control your purse size. Your purses either need to be large enough to carry everything you want in your “personal item” or small enough to fit into another personal item.
    • For fast trips, I tend to skip the purse altogether and carry a clutch that easily fits into a blazer, dress, or slacks pocket. It stays in my computer bag while I have it, as do other travel-friendly “purse” items like lip balm and Tylenol.
  • Know which tech stuff you’ll need. I LOVE to overpack computer accessories, but less is more. Take the bare minimum of computer accessories. You’ll be glad you did when security asks you to remove them all from your bag.
  • If you’re going to be traveling a lot, keep a ready-made set of your toiletries handy. It’ll save you from last-minute drug store or Walmart trips.
    • I went ahead and bought a set of those empty “travel size” bottles to fill with my personal hygiene products, since my favorites didn’t come in those sizes.
    • No containers of liquids or aerosols can be larger than 3oz. Remember that!
    • My always-ready toiletry bag includes:
      • Hair care products (shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, hairspray).
      • Toothpaste, toothbrush.
      • A tiny stick of deodorant.
      • A sample-size body spritzer.
      • Mascara.
    • This stuff should live in its own plastic bag that can be removed during security screenings at airports.
  • Put your phone or tablet on airplane mode before you power down for takeoff. It’ll avoid any momentary panic of thinking you’ll crash the plane if you turn it on. And if you keep it on airplane mode while you wait at the airport, you won’t have ads while playing games or reading eBooks.
  • If you’re bad at landings (me!) or takeoffs, have a distraction handy. I’ve become VERY good at reading during landings, even bumpy ones.
  • Find “your airline. If you fly the majority of your flights with one airline, you’ll wrack up rewards quicker. I fly Southwest whenever it’s possible. I can use the Rapid Rewards points for any last-minute trips I need to make back home (they have affordable flights from Kansas City to Chicago Midway), plus they fly to a lot of cities I’d like to visit for non-emergencies. And I LOVE their customer service and culture. Also, I avoid American Airlines like the plague.
travel tips packing carry on

Kelly + Southwest = BFF4L. Did I mention they’re awesome at social media?

  • Be ready for anything. Seriously, the more open-minded and flexible you are, the easier travel is. Things won’t always go according to plan. Know when it’s okay to get upset (I’m looking at you, American Airlines) and be willing to compromise.
  • Ever heard of a “bump?” They can be your friend. If you have wiggle room in your travel plans, consider accepting an optional “bump” to a later flight. You’ll get a bunch of airline vouchers to use later on flights YOU want and they treat you really, really well if you volunteer. I’ve actually gotten where I was going FASTER this way, too, because of routing through different connection airports that would have cost more money at the original booking time.
  • See the sights. Have time for some sight-seeing? Do it. Maybe even plan it ahead of time.
travel tips packing carry on

My last big business trip took me to Sacramento and Reno. I did my best to make the most of the big adventure while still doing what I needed to do.

  • It’s an adventure, treat it like such! Whether you’re driving or flying, there’s probably another 20-something sitting at their desk wishing they got to get paid to “see the world.” While it isn’t always glamorous, take it as an opportunity (both personally and professional), not just an obligation.

So, what are YOUR tips for young travelers? Do you have any wisdom to impart on young professionals such as myself, who may find themselves playing the road warrior game? Please share them! That’s what this is all about.

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4 thoughts on “A young professional’s top travel tips.

  1. These are some excellent travel tips for young professionals or for anyone for that matter. I always carry luggage on. Here’s another good travel tip. We are all likely to lose or misplace stuff while traveling (passport, phone, luggage, tablet, keys). Since most lost items are found, give the finder a safe, private and secure service to notify you of the recovery location quickly, and at no cost. My Stuff Lost and Found works for me…my lost passport found me the same day. The service is free and worldwide.

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