Packing for a business trip is one of those things that never gets easier with time. No matter how many times you’ve done it, sooner or later you’re going to end up banging your head against a brick wall because you just know you forgot something.
Unlike your usual holiday getaways, business travel requires a professional, well put together look throughout the entire duration of the trip. On top of that, there’s also the fact that most business trips come packed with meetings and activities from day to night, and often require at least one formal attire for a special occasion.
Looking presentable for five days straight using only contents of a medium sized suitcase at best can seem like an impossible task. But don’t go crying into your pillow just yet, because there’s a solution to all your packing problems on the way.
To help you survive the daunting ordeal that is a business trip, I’ve come up with a short, yet a rather comprehensive guide to packing for business. It only took about a half dozen complete disasters until I finally got it right, so make sure all the weight of these words sinks in.
Trust me; you’ll thank me later.
Making an outline
One of the great things about business trips is that somebody else always does all the organizing for you. Don’t take it for granted and use all the travel itineraries and daily schedules you got to your advantage.
Gather all your data and study it carefully – how many formal dinners will you go to, are there going to be large-scale conferences or small meetings, could you fit in some gym time, will there be a pool or a spa, should you expect parties, etc.
No matter what industry you’re in, business trips always require a bit more professional clothes, so skip on the ripped jeans and T-shirt and focus on your finer pieces.
To be able to survive a week-long business trip from a carry-on, you must choose your clothes carefully. For bottoms and jackets, choose dark or neutral colors that can be easily combined – black, gray, navy, taupe, etc. You can count on at least three wears from each pair of pants, so two pairs should be enough for a week-long trip.
However, I prefer to cut down on the pants and go for skirts and dresses instead. Dresses are much less of a hassle to pack and wear, and you’ll look more polished in a good-fitting dress than in pants.
You can combine skirts with long-sleeved, buttoned-up shirts for formal meetings, and with a sleeveless blouse for a night out.
When it comes to tops – they’re your chance to go a bit crazier with the colors and the patterns. An animal print blouse will give a bit of life to your otherwise dull pantsuit, and discreet flower embroidery on your shirt will add that je-ne-sais-quoi to a worn-out blazer and skirt combination.
Don’t forget a pair of dark wash jeans you’ll travel in, as they can be great paired with a blazer for a more casual outing.
- Black or navy pants
- Pencil skirt
- Two dresses
- Dark wash jeans
- Long sleeved blouse
- Dress shirt
- Sleeveless blouse or a crepe top
As you’ll be spending most of the day on your feet, heels might seem like the last thing you’d want to wear. But, because you’ll be doing most of the standing indoors (hotels, conference halls, expos, etc.) heels will be a vital asset to your wardrobe. A pair of pointed stilettos with a sensible heel will elevate any outfit and make you look more professional and put together.
Apart from a pair of heels, you shouldn’t forget a pair or two of flats. Choose the type of shoe that best fits the weather conditions you’ll be facing – oxfords for rain, suede moccasins for warm, and leather loafers for dry and chilly.
Don’t forget to bring slippers or flip-flops either. Wear them to the spa, pool, gym and around your hotel room.
Pro tip: Nothing can stop you if you always wear a high-quality pair of insoles. Get one pair of flat leather insoles, and another silicone pair specially made for high heels.
When you’re packing for a business trip, keep your accessories to a minimum. Choose a few smart, discreet pieces that enhance and complement your outfit without drawing attention from your face.
A business trip would be an excellent opportunity to bust out some of your precious pieces of jewelry – a thin gold necklace with a small pendant or a couple of diamond earrings. Keep it sensible and modest.
Another great business-friendly accessory is a printed silk scarf – wear it with a monochrome dress to give it a little extra zing or over a sleeveless blouse on a chilly evening.
Pro tip: Ditch the tote and get a small satchel. Nothing ruins great business attire like a baggy, oversized shoulder bag. Bring a smart leather satchel that won’t draw attention from your outfit and can be worn over your shoulder.
Packing toiletries is the worst, and that’s why you can skip it altogether when packing for a business trip.
Even the most run down motel offers complimentary shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, and the likes, so there’s no need to bring those from home.
What you need to bring, though, are hair styling products. You can’t allow yourself to go around with frizzy, unkempt hair in a business environment. Sleek and neat hairdos are a must. Find your favorite wash bag and make sure you’ve packed all of the following items:
- Detangling brush
- Styling brush
- Hair ties
- Bobby pins
Pro tip: Bring a small hair doughnut for a quick and easy updo that can take you from an early morning meeting to a late-night cocktail party.
Another pro tip: Wear lipstick to avoid going overboard with your daily cosmetics routine. The pressure to look professional often leads to cakey makeup, making you look sloppy. Start with a few drops of foundation for a smooth complexion, and top it with just mascara and lipstick.