Work + Growth

How to Pack for Business Travel

  • Make packing for work travel easy on yourself by taking a few basic steps
  • Never check a bag—you’ll only end up waiting in line, and the airline could lose your luggage
  • Use packing cubes, pare down your toiletries, and let accessories do the heavy lifting for your outfits

If you often travel for your firm or see a lot of work travel in your near future, you’re going to want to make things as easy for yourself as possible.

Learning how to travel light will go a long way towards achieving that goal. You may think you need to bring every little thing “just in case,” or that a smart business traveler should have several outfit choices, but you’re just making it harder on yourself. For the best travel experience, light and lean is the name of the game. You want to be able to bring everything you need in one carry-on (not counting what you’ll also carry in a purse or laptop bag).

  • Never check a bag. No matter what activities your business trip is expected to entail, there’s no way you need that much stuff! Checking a bag also means you’ll spend a lot of time waiting and run the risk of having your luggage lost.
  • Use packing cubes. Once you start using packing cubes, you’ll kick yourself for not using them in the first place. Assign different purposes to different cube sizes—a medium-sized cube might be for shirts, and a small cube might be just for underwear. You’ll never spend minutes destroying a neatly packed bag looking for a shirt you thought you folded somewhere within it, and your clothes will be less wrinkled.
  • Reduce. You know all that stuff you think you need? You can most likely do just fine without half of it. Lay out all the toiletries and other odds and ends you think you’ll need during your trip, and reassess if you actually need to bring all of it. For any full-sized liquid or lotion products you have—specialty shampoo, moisturizers, etc.—simply transfer them into smaller, airline-approved containers.
  • Bring one pair of shoes. Wear one pair—flats or stylish sneakers—and bring a dress pair—your most versatile wingtips or basic black pumps. Two styles should work for every kind of closing, meeting, or dinner; you really won’t need more than that.
  • Bring a mix-and-match wardrobe. What this will look like will vary depending on your gender and what you’ll be doing on your trip. Is a business-casual jeans look acceptable for one event? For both men and women, that can be dark, tailored jeans you can also wear on the plane, a button-down shirt, and a blazer. For women, bring a basic black dress that can go from day to night with the addition of a scarf and change of jewelry. Depending on the trip’s length, men shouldn’t need more than two full suits—one suit will usually be enough. Play with how many ways you can combine pieces to make appropriate outfits for each day.
What are your go-to pieces for business travel? How do you choose what you’re going to wear?
  • Let accessories do the work for you. Ties, pocket squares, statement necklaces, scarves, belts. These things don’t take up a lot of space in your bag but will help you change your look from day to night, add pizzazz to a plain piece, and transform an outfit from the last time you wore it.
  • Shoes on the bottom. Put your shoes in a shoe bag to protect your clothing from dirt, and pack them at the bottom of your bag. To save space, fill shoes with accessories like belts and socks.

No matter how long your trip or how stuffed your carry-on, your last packing step should always be to double-check. Go over your checklist of necessary items and make sure nothing is missing—you’ll thank yourself for not causing extra stress on your trip.