Business travel can be fun: making new professional contacts, crushing your meetings, and not feeling bad about finally cracking open the novel that's been on your reading list forever (because what else are you supposed to do while you wait for your plane to board?).
But business travel is fun only if it goes smoothly. If you're fumbling the day of your trip to throw together your carry-on, or if you arrive at your destination only to find yourself frantically shopping for meeting-appropriate shirts because you somehow forgot to bring one, fun won't be on your agenda.
To avoid those outcomes, consult this business trip packing list before you travel.
Your All-Inclusive Business Trip Packing List
- Carry-on of your choice. Your goal here is not to have to waste time or energy waiting in baggage claim, playing luggage Jenga in the truck of your taxi or rental car, or dragging around unnecessary weight. If your trip is less than a week long, you should have no problem fitting all your goods into a carry-on. I love a backpack for its flexibility, but you can also use a small roller bag.
- Personal item. Whether you use a purse, backpack, laptop bag, or briefcase, pick something professional-looking that you can use to keep important items close to you during travel and to transfer meeting materials as needed. You could bring a bag as well as a briefcase, but do you really need both?
- Travel outfit. If you'll have time to change at your destination, go for comfy athletic clothes and shoes you can work out in. That'll keep you feeling good on the plane, and if you have energy for a run or gym session during your trip, you'll be ready. If you're the kind of person is comfortably sitting for hours in jeans, you can travel in those, too. They're also ideal if you'll have time for a more casual night out with coworkers or clients.
- One to two pairs of bottoms. If you're going for a day or two, pick one; if longer, feel free to pack two. Depending on the formality of your meetings and your preferences, you can choose whatever you prefer between pants, skirts, and dresses. If you are bringing two options, make sure they're the same color so that you don't have to bring additional tops, shoes, or belts to match them.
- One jacket or blazer, if necessary for the level of formality of your trip.
- One top per day. Choose blouses or tops with darker prints, which don't show stains as easily. Also, make sure to choose fabrics that don't easily wrinkle. While your hotel room or Airbnb probably has an iron, who wants to have to use it?
- Underwear (including bras) and socks or hose. This is the one category I give you permission to go all out in. Bring as many pairs as you want, with one pair per day at a bare minimum; they're small and there's nothing worse than having to wear a pair of underwear you've washed in the sink and dried with a hair dryer.
- Shoes. Here, I give you no such permission. Aside from your travel shoes, which should be either athletic shoes or casual going-out shoes (and in either case should be inordinately comfortable), choose one pair that will work with all of the business clothes you have.
- Pajamas. Bring whatever you like to sleep in. Getting a good night's rest away from home is hard enough as it is; give yourself your best chance by bringing whatever you usually wear.
- Personal hygiene products. Count on using hotel shampoo, conditioner, and body wash options to save luggage space, unless you've got a specific routine and/or want to cut down on your single-use plastics use (for hotels that still have them—many are switching to bulk dispensaries, which are more environmentally-friendly). In that case, bring reusable, 3-oz.-or-less containers of whatever you use at home. Other toiletries to bring along: toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.
- Skin and hair care products. Do you use lotion, sunscreen, facial cleansers, or hairspray? Don't leave them behind.
- Vision products. Contacts, contact solution, glasses, eye drops—whatever you may need, bring along.
- Other toiletries. You might want to bring makeup, a razor, or shaving cream.
- Travel documents. You probably have most of these on your phone; if you're going paperless, make sure any boarding passes, reservations, and maps are downloaded and available offline, in case you find yourself without cell coverage. If you're traveling domestically, make sure you've got your ID. If internationally, put your passport in a safe place (and a copy of it in your carry-on), along with any other necessary paper documents.
- Envelope. If you need to submit hard-copy receipts for your expense report, keep them all in one place. If you don't, take a photo of each and upload it to a designated folder (or when the option is available, choose to have your receipts emailed to you). You'll thank yourself for staying on top of this later.
- Meeting materials. Along with soft copies of your presentations, bring a few hard copies, just in case. Bring a few business cards, too, to give to meeting or conference attendees you haven't met before.
- Laptop or tablet. Try to bring just one, with its requisite chargers and accessories (mouse, case).
- Headphones. Preferably noise-cancelling for use on travel days.
- Power bank. A small one that has enough juice to charge up your tech in case you find yourself without easy access to an outlet.
- Phone (I doubt you'd forget it, but I'm aiming to be thorough here, okay) and charger.
- Reusable water bottle
- Travel pillow
- Appropriate outer-wear
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Have you seen Naomi Campbell's video about how she disinfects everything around her plane seat before she sits down in it? You may not need to go quite so far, but sanitizing your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth during travel is a good idea; airport germs are not your friend.
- Bathing suit, but only if you promise me you're actually going to do laps in the hotel pool. Otherwise it'll just take up space and make you sad that you weren't able to use it.
If you have other things that make your life easier or make you feel more comfortable—melatonin, an eye mask, aromatherapy drops—or items from your office that make you more productive and you can easily bring with you, feel free to throw those in, too. You should still have a bit of room!
I leave you with my business traveler's blessing: may this business travel packing list prep you well for your journeys ahead, may your flights be on time and your turbulence nonexistent, and may you sign all the deals, land all the clients, and make all the impact possible.