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How to Pack for Business Travel
I have long considered myself an expert packer, but when I started having to pack for business trips, I really leveled up. If you’re brand new to this experience and wondering how to pack for business travel, or if you’re old hat at the business travel packing game and just want to see how your techniques compare, read on!
Step one: Make a list.
The list serves two purposes: first, it helps you keep track of everything you need so you can more easily adjust for the next trip (add that thing you realized you needed after all, or jettison that thing you thought you’d need and didn’t), and second it helps you not to forget anything on either end of the trip. I have a friend who is notorious for leaving clothing items (usually bathing suits) in hotels, to the point where I tend to double check on her, and we had this conversation before I drove her to the airport after she visited for my birthday:
Me: “Do you have everything?”
Laura (not her real name): “Yes.”
Me: “Did you check? Are you positive?”
Laura: “Yes, I’m positive.”
Me: “Your bathing suit is hanging up in my bathroom.”
Having a list prevents your friends/colleagues from being able to write about conversations like this on their blogs.
Step two: Do your homework.
Research the climate of the location you’ll be traveling to during the time of year you’re scheduled to travel, and then be honest with yourself about your needs in that climate. Always bring layers, because even if it’s the height of summer or the dead of winter, the indoor temperature may be completely different than what’s happening outside. I usually bring a cardigan and a pair of tights, both of which can fit in the bag I carry with me during the day. I also bought a very lightweight rain jacket one size too big so that I would be comfortable during a summer shower and also be able to layer underneath during a chillier storm.
Step three: Pack a little extra.
Especially if you’re traveling far, to a fairly remote location, for more than a week, or in inclement weather, always bring a few extra essentials such as underwear, socks, and medication. Maybe your shampoo spills in your bag, or your flight gets canceled, and suddenly you’re out of luck. When you’re traveling for business, you can’t always count on having the time or ability to run to the store.
Step four: Plan ahead.
I plan my outfits for each day and activity (are we going out for a team dinner one night? I’m wearing something black and stretchy, you better believe it). You don’t need to be quite that detailed, but make sure to consider what you may need to wear outside of the office setting. I also suggest having one set of layers in neutral colors that can be worn with every outfit so you can look put-together without doubling up on bulky sweaters. In the days leading up to your departure date, check your packing list as you walk through your daily routines to make sure you’re accounting for everything you need.
Step five: Carry on if you fly.
I don’t like to check luggage ever. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, so when you do need to check a bag, make sure you don’t put anything in it that you can’t live without for a day or two if your luggage gets lost or someone else grabs it by mistake. Your work laptop, the external hard drive with all your work files, an office-appropriate outfit, medication, travel documents, ID, cash, and device chargers should all be in your carry-on bag. When packing your carry-on bag, make sure the items you’ll have to remove for security screening are easily accessible. Sometimes overhead storage space fills up, so try to make sure you bring at least one carry-on item that’s small enough to fit under the seat in front of you while still large enough to hold the essentials.
This is my own personal list of must-have items (aside from the obvious toothbrush/phone charger/yadda yadda list), and the reasons why I pack them every time.
1. Canvas tote bags: They’re ideal for packing your shoes (and dirty clothes on the return trip) to keep your luggage tidy. Those drawstring athletic-type backpacks work well for this also.
2. Bandaids: They seem superfluous until you need one, and then you REALLY need one. Bandaids also serve a variety of purposes – I once used one to temporarily fix a purse strap that broke at an event.
3. Water bottle: Whether you’re trapped in hours-long meetings, on the convention floor all day long, or just want as much of that fancy cucumber-infused water from the office cafeteria as you can carry, a water bottle is a travel necessity – just make sure it’s empty when you go through airport security.
4. Comfy, professional, versatile footwear: Here are the qualifying characteristics of this footwear: comfortable for extended periods of time spent on your feet (see: NOT just sitting at a desk), appropriate for your professional environment, decent grip on the soles, waterproof or at least water resistant – you don’t have to be able to ford a river, but you do have to be able to walk a few blocks in the rain without ruining them. Mine are black patent leather (or faux patent leather, I don’t know – they’re shiny and they squeak when you click your heals together) Clark’s Oxfords. If you insist on going the stylish-but-painful route, I highly recommend keeping some cheap-but-decent-looking sandals or flats in the bag you carry with you, just in case.
5. Hair straightener: No matter how well you pack, something is getting wrinkled. Yes, you can hang it in the bathroom and take a hot shower, but there are no guarantees in life. I love my hair straightener for the quick fix.
6. Kindle: I used to be a diehard paper book reader, and I only snagged a Kindle when they came out with a water-resistant version because I like to read in/near the pool, and my niece and nephew are splashy little monkeys. I have since realized that it’s ideal for travel because, despite the need to keep it charged, you get to account for one item of consistent size and weight each time you pack. Traveling while reading A Song of Ice and Fire was rough, my friends, and hauling a hard-cover coding textbook along on an airplane? Not fun.
7. Snacks: Travel delays are common, airport food is expensive, and I am far more patient and pleasant to be around when I have snacks. Granola bars, fruit snacks, and trail mix are all good travel options.
How do you pack for business travel? What essentials can you not leave home without? Let me know for my next trip!
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[Photo credit: Erwan Hesry via Unsplash]