Ten tips for packing for a business trip

Ten tips for packing for a business trip

I am currently in Kansas City for a week. The reason: work.  Now, packing for business travel is very different than packing for a personal trip. In general, it requires more clothes. Luckily, I work for a very casual company and the dress code is quite relaxed. However, I still have to look semi presentable—especially when I travel to more formal offices or attend conferences.

Capital dome in Austin, Texas, packing for business travel
Work trip to Austin, Texas.

Packing for Business Travel

Obviously, I still try to pack light. But there is no way I can get away with my usual packing list. So below are ten tips I have compiled, based on personal experience, for packing for a business trip:

Tip #1: Make a list

I may be overly fond of lists, but their usefulness cannot be overstated when it comes to packing. This is especially true for business travel. It hardly matters if you wear mismatched socks while trekking up to Machu Picchu. But it definitely matters if you need to be taken seriously in the boardroom.

For this particular trip, I tried something new. I mentally walked through my morning routine and wrote down everything I typically use/need to get ready for work. Then I figured out what I wanted to wear each day and added that to the list. When it came time to pack, I simply gathered everything on my list. It was the quickest I have ever packed for a work trip. And so far, I have not forgotten any important items.

Oriels game in Baltimore, Maryland, packing for business travel, baseball, work trip
Work trip to Baltimore.

Tip #2: Find your travel-day outfit

It took me years to find the perfect travel-day outfit for business travel. Once I discovered the right combination however, it was game over. I stick with a loose, short-sleeved shirt and linen capris pants. Both are black and super comfortable. I also pack a sweater in case the plane gets a bit chilly. In the winter, I substitute the capris pants for full-length pants. My outfit is casual, but it passes if I have to go straight from the airport to a nice hotel or dinner. I literally wear the same outfit every time I travel for work—which makes deciding what to pack a bit easier as well. Find what works for you and stick with it.

Tip #3: Choose wrinkle-free fabrics

Yes, most hotels have irons. But who wants to bother? Especially if you are tired from traveling and have an early morning ahead of you. I hate to iron at home. I certainly do not want to iron while on the road. Wrinkle-free fabrics are my friend and I try to pack clothing that keeps me from looking sloppy. Trick: hang your clothes up in the bathroom while you are showering and shut the door. The steam typically takes care of any minor wrinkle infractions.

Tip #4: Accessorize

Jewelry is small and easy to pack. It can also really dress up an outfit. The same can be said of scarves and hair accessories. Such simple things can help with looking professional and put together. So spend a little time picking out the right accessories. Just do not pack anything you cannot afford to lose. I still remember losing one of my favorite earrings somewhere in a hotel in Las Vegas. I retraced my steps back to the conference hall multiple times looking for it. Alas, it was a goner. But it taught me an important lesson I have never forgotten when it comes to packing for business travel (and personal travel for that matter): leave the valuables at home.

Tip #5: Think about those shoes

No matter what kind of traveling you do, shoes are often the hardest part to nail down—especially if you are trying to pack light (I wrote a whole post about choosing the right shoes for a trip). Business travel comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to shoes. For this latest trip to Kansas City, I pack three pairs of shoes: sport sandals, Mary Jane-style Danskos and dressier sandals. I debated packing some tennis shoes, but decided my sport sandals could stand in if need be. Between the dressier sandals and my Danskos, I have work covered. The sport sandals are good for travel days and after-work activities. When winter rolls around, I substitute the sandals for a pair of high, waterproof boots. It is not a perfect situation, but it gets the job done and keeps my bag from getting too heavy.

New York City skyline at dust, packing for business
Work trip to New York City.

Tip #6: Coordinate your colors

Although I have to bring a separate outfit for each day of work, I can at least coordinate my colors so that I do not have to pack a different pair of shoes for each outfit. A sweater can also match more than one outfit. To keep things from getting too boring, I pack different accessories (see tip #4). But I try to stick to one color scheme for mix and match purposes.

Tip #7: Layer up

Speaking of sweaters, always, always, always pack at least one sweater or wrap. Even in Florida in the middle of summer, you will be cold. In most office buildings and conference centers, they keep the AC on full blast. That means you are going to be cold. Trust me on this one.

Tip #8: Don’t forget the downtime

Sometimes I am so focused on what I will wear each day that I forget about what happens after I leave work. I almost always have downtime and I rarely want to wear my work clothes during it. Be sure to pack the right clothes and accessories for whatever extracurricular activities you choose to do—concert, baseball game, museum, etc. Speaking of which, be sure you make the most out of your business trips. If you need some tips, read up on six ways to make business travel more fun. Adding fun times to your business travel may result in a larger packing list. But if you are like me, you are already packing more than usual so one or two more pieces will not make that big of a difference.

Hollywood Studies at Walt Disney World, Florida, packing for business travel
Work trip to Orlando.

Tip #9: Research your accommodations

Do a little research on your hotel and find out what it offers. Since I have to blow-dry my hair if I want it to have any style, I need to make sure the hotel has a hair dryer before I pack my own. I often stay at nicer places for work than I do on my own dime, so basic amenities are almost always provided. However, it pays to do your research. The nicer the hotel, the less I have to pack.

Tip #10: Give some thought to everyday items

When I travel for work, I try to keep my routine as normal as possible. This includes going to bed at a decent hour, staying hydrated and eating healthy snacks. I find it easier to do these things if I remember to pack items like a water bottle and reusable baggies. I can hit up a local grocery store and buy snacks, breakfast, etc. Then I pack them up, just like I do at home, and take them to work with me. This takes a little bit more forethought, but it is one of my best packing for business travel tips.

Portland Oregon Old Town sign blue skies packing for business travel work trip
Work trip to Portland, Oregon.


Packing for business travel requires a slightly different mindset. A strong packing list, carefully thought out ahead of time, goes a long ways toward making your life easier. So start with that. Then tackle the rest of the tips.

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