Daily Leadership: Five Tips and Tricks for Packing for a Business Trip


Over the last few days, I had the opportunity to travel down two hours south of Cleveland to Columbus for a 2 day, 2 night conference. It was such a great time—we stayed in a newly built, modern hotel that was gorgeous in all aspects. In addition, I had the opportunity to sit in on a bunch of great sessions, network, and go out to dinner with my colleagues. Of course, I always feel that I am at my best when I feel and look put together. Although this is not the only important thing in work, but it does make a difference in your level of confidence and how you carry yourself when interacting with others.

Looking my best at a conference or a work trip takes thought and a specific plan when packing appropriately yet light for a work trip. I always have a tendency to overpack, but I’ve learned to scale back while still having options when I am away from my closet! Keep on reading to learn all about my tips and tricks for packing for a work trip!

1) Keep within the same color scheme.

Because I am a firm believer that accessories, including jewelry, shoes, and handbags, make the outfit, I want to ensure I have all the appropriate pieces to feel put together. At the same time, it does not make sense to bring a million different bags, jewelry pieces, and pairs of shoes on a work trip. I will typically try to stay with a color scheme that I can easily re-wear and re-work my accessories. For example, I generally stick with a neutral, like black or brown, where I can re-wear my favorite pair of black pumps and my basic, classic jewelry. Because of this, I often can pack 2-3 tops that stay within my general fashion “theme” that gives me other options for outfits depending upon environment, mood, event, or just what I am in the mood for but does not require a whole other host of accessories.

2) Stick with the Classic Basics.

A work trip is likely not the venue to experiment with a new outfit or new fashion trend—save that for a fun vacation or a hot date when you are back at home! The last thing you want to do is step out a limb with a new trend and feel way out of place with work colleagues OR end up hating what you packed and not have any other options. Although it may not be super exciting, you can never go wrong with a black blazer or a pair of great fitting black pants. I always pack my favorite pair of black stiletto pumps and never leave without my Louis Vuitton bag (this looks good with everything!). If you must pack something more exciting, stick with classic prints like leopard or floral (see above).

3) Pack Wrinkle-Free and Easily Foldable Items

Although you may not be able to avoid packing cotton blouses or blazers that easily wrinkle, I always try to integrate tops and skirts that I can easily fold up and pack in my suitcase. Not only will they not wrinkle, they also do not take up a ton of space in your suitcase! As a result, I may pack an additional skirt and a couple extra tops in the event I want other options or need a back-up outfit. These tops tend to look great under blazers or tucked into high waisted pants or pencil skirts. This is also where you can be a little creative with prints and colors.

4) Never Leave Without a Blazer or Jacket

Although I may not reach for the blazer or jacket, I always pack a black blazer and/or type of jacket, which for me, is typically a denim or moto jacket. I tend to work in a field where business causal is the norm everyday, but at times, I may end up at a meeting where everyone is dressed a little more formal, and I’m thankful I have the jacket or blazer to top off my look and make it look a little more polished. This is also a great way to finish off a outfit, provide an additional outfit option, and also keep you warm in a chilly conference or hotel area. You don’t need to bring a bunch of jackets; usually one (at the maximum 2) will get you through your trip.

5) Use a Garment Bag (If You Can)

For those that are flying and do not want to check bags, this may not be the optimal solution; however, if you are like me and are driving between 2-4 hours to your destination, I always pack my pants, skirts, blazers, and jackets in a garment bag. This keeps them wrinkle free and takes up less space in your suitcase, where I then tend to pack toiletries, pajamas, jeans, shoes, make-up, jewelry, and easily foldable tops. This allows me to “pack light,” as it frees up room in my suitcase and can easily be carried from your car to your room. It’s also a great way to hang them up in your hotel room where you can easily see them and not make a mess out of absolutely everything you pack (as my suitcase ends up being a disaster five minutes into arriving!).

So there are some of my tips and tricks for packing for a work trip. Mostly common sense, but if you struggle with packing, hopefully these tips will assist you in refocusing your strategy.

Do you have any favorite tips or tricks for packing for a work trip?

Kristen Nowak