How To Live Out of a Suitcase and Not Look Homeless

I’ve always admired frequent travelers who say they never unpack in a hotel, but live out of a suitcase and have a perfectly presentable wardrobe.

They have to be lying.

Many of us entrepreneurs must travel for business several times a year. There’s company events, seminars, trade shows, etc. I’ve tried following the latest travel tips about packing; but my clothes still look as if they’d been dragged around the world in a covered wagon.

My last trip taught me some very useful things about traveling and packing and dealing with suitcase “closets.” This was not an overnight or weekend stay at a hotel, even I can live out of a suitcase for two days. This was a week-long stay, sharing a hotel suite with 4 other women.

 First of all, you have to bring a medium-sized suitcase for 7 days, even if you’re a size -2.  And most hotels don’t have enough drawers or closet space to safely store outfits for sightseeing, fancy dining, beaching or competing. (Sweet Adelines singers know what I’m talking about.)

A group of us few to Montreal for 6 days of R & R. We each has a checked bag and a carry-on. The weather was, shall we say, a bit nippier than at home, specifically, 9˚ in Canada as opposed to 78˚ in Fort Lauderdale. (What were we thinking?)

My plan involved taking as many pants, shirts and sweaters as I could fit in my suitcase so I wouldn’t become an icicle, and also making sure my checked bag didn’t weigh more than the airline requirement of 50 pounds.

So, 6 pairs of pants and a spare went into the suitcase; also 9 shirts, 6 long-sleeved and 3 short sleeved, all rolled up neatly; added to that were a sweater, socks, undies, pajamas, and robe. Other essentials that couldn’t be carried on the plane – hair products, makeup, lots of lotion for dry skin, and my toiletry bag.

protecting your wardrobe, sweet adelines, living out of a suitcase

Then there were shoes. High-heeled boots for dress and wet weather, low-heeled ones for snow and extended walking went into the suitcase. I wore sneakers on the plane. (This was the least number of shoes I’d ever packed. I was proud of that!)


In the carry-on went the phone charger, ipad, ipad charger, battery pack, jewelry, prescriptions, one outfit of jeans, turtleneck and underwear, deck of cards, hooded sweatshirt. I carried my coat, hat, gloves, and two scarves.

The hotel suites were very unusual; it had black walls, dark brown trim, and grey carpeting. Only the dining table, bedside tables and the bathroom were white. There were 2 tiny bedrooms, also with black walls. It was very dim.

The bedrooms were nearly filled by a queen platform bed, allowing only one small table with a lamp just inside the door. There was a wardrobe in the corner that was so dark you couldn’t see anything inside. I used it for a laundry hamper.

 Since my big suitcase, my carry-on and I could not fit in the bedroom at the same time, the big suitcase remained in the living room. But here’s what I did: I transferred underwear, pajamas, robe and toiletries to the carry-on, and left the outfits in the big suitcase.

Each night I selected the next day’s outfit and brought it into the bedroom, shook out the wrinkles, and placed it on top of my carry-on. That way I could get dressed in the morning without a trip into the living room in my underwear.

This arrangement worked until about the 4th day when I ran out of underwear and realized there had to be another batch in the large suitcase. Unfortunately, the suitcase had become pretty messy from my digging for outfits the previous days, and it was next to impossible to find anything. I stand by my arrangement, though; there was more light in the living room to find stuff.

Some travelers solve the messy suitcase problem by packing outfits into plastic bags. I really didn’t feel like purchasing them before the trip because I didn’t think of it.

Sharing one bathroom among 4 women is always a challenge; there were 4 hooks for towels and only one 4-inch shelf for toiletries. With only room for toothbrushes on the shelf, we had to carry our toiletry bags and makeup to and from the bathroom. I was back in my college dorm! 


 travel tips, business travel, protecting your wardrobeAs for the best way to live out of a suitcase, I recommend bringing the smallest amount of toiletries as you can and have a toiletry kit that can be hung in the bathroom. (You might get lucky!) CAUTION, I don’t recommend hanging it on a towel rack above the toilet because it could be disastrous. Been there done that.

Use your carry-on to store slippers, robe, PJs, socks, undies, jewelry, stand-up mirror and any other accessories. Keep your main outfits together in your big suitcase. There will be less mess from digging around in it. If you’re forced to have your bigger suitcase outside your bedroom, grab the next day’s outfit and bring it in the bedroom and you’ll be able to dress in privacy.

Save plastic bags from your souvenir purchases to pack dirty laundry in for the trip home. It’ll help keep them away from clean clothes and makes for easy transport to the laundry room when you get home.

Always use the room safe for money, passports, and jewelry you can’t replace. And never bring anything that needs ironing.

Always put your room key in the same place and always have it with you. Your roommate may misplace hers… ahem.

And, if you’re going to a foreign country with chic dark hotels of black and grey, bring a miner’s hat.



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