It may seem kind of strange to write a post on just suitcases, but bear with me. For many medical students, the trips they will make for residency interviews will be their first real “professional” travel. If you haven’t traveled a lot, you don’t know everything that can go wrong…. So here are some rules to help you.
p.s. I’m doing this first in a series of blog posts on how to interview in case anyone needs to drop a hint that they need a new suitcase (and possibly new clothes) as an early holiday present.
Rule 1: Try not to check your bags
Make it a goal that no matter where you go (or for how long ) you will always have what you need in a carry on suitcase. I went to Russia last year for two weeks – in the winter – with two carry-ons. Once you practice this, it’s not hard.
Why bother? What could go wrong? Just ask around. It won’t take long until you hear the story of someone who to ended up at an interview in New York when their bag was in Nebraska. Which brings me to rule 2.
Rule 2: Assume you will be sitting next to the chairman of the department on the plane.
You don’t have to wear “interview clothes” on the plane but don’t have on anything that you would regret. It is really remarkable how many times you will end up sitting next to someone you will see the next day in your interview…. or someone who lives next door to your future program director.
Rule 3: Have clothes in your small carry on bag that you could use in a pinch to interview. Ditto your toothbrush, razor, etc.
Even when you plan to carry on your suitcase, there are times you get on last and there is no room for your bag. Although it’s unlikely, it’s not impossible they will mess up and your bag isn’t there when you arrive. Think ahead. Pack your shirt, tie (or female equivalent) in a small travel “folder”. Put it in the outside pocket of your suitcase so you can grab it if your bag can’t be checked.
Rule 4: Make a travel checklist and go over it before you leave to make sure you have everything.
This is something you learn the first time you get to a meeting and you don’t have a jacket to put on in the cold room. I’ve put the outline of the one I use at the bottom of this post for you to modify for your use.
The next thing to do is make sure your suitcase is appropriate. Residency interviews are often a catalyst for buying a new suitcase. This is a good time to ask for an early holiday present if you need some help to buy a good one.
Options for suitcases
The regulations for suitcases vary a little by airline, but the take home message is get a suitcase that is 22 inches tall and not too wide if you plan to carry it on the plane. There are many other options, but the two companies that have really focused on good quality, lightweight carry-ons are TravelPro and Eagle Creek. TravelPro suitcases are used by pilots and flight attendants, which tells you a lot. I personally like Eagle Creek because of their packing system. There are other companies, too, so look around.
How to pack without wrinkles
One way is the Eagle Creek system, but there are others like wrapping your clothes around a bag with smaller items, rolling your clothes and using plastic covers, and packing little items around the bigger ones to avoid movement.
How to get more things in the suitcase
Think of packing like a puzzle. Put all your clothes on the bed to start with, then fill in spaces. For example, pack your socks in your shoes. Roll up workout clothes to pack in the edges. But – unless you want wrinkles – don’t overpack.
Here’s a great video on how to pack more clothes with less wrinkles – seriously, watch this one.
Your “other” carry on bag
You’ll need to carry something with you when you interview for your papers and to collect the things they give you. This is a good time to carry something a little more professional than a back-pack. At a minimum, have a portfolio or a nice, small briefcase.
For the plane, choose a carry on bag to carry your folio, the “emergency” interview clothes, whatever you are reading, your music, etc. These carry on bags, which often match the luggage, are designed to have as much room as possible but still fit under the seat.
Travel Checklist (as promised)
Suits/business wear x ___ days
Sweater/fleece (cold rooms?)
Heavy coat, scarf, gloves, hat?
Might need for some locations
? formal wear
? rain wear
? Extra glasses
? exercise bands
Computer/cord/plane power cord
(Rental car? – phone charger)
For the plane
Thank you for this great advice. I am a new grad and was referred to this post last fall from Dr. Mary Jo Robinson. I am currently and slowly uploading some of my own writings from the last two years into a personal blog and linked back to your 3 part series on interviews as I found it very relevant during my experience applying and interviewing.
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