A Beginner’s Guide to Packing for a Business Trip

By Angela Marie Feher

May 18, 2018

Whether you’re planning for your first business trip, or you’ve become a road warrior, knowing how to pack effectively for business travel is an essential skill. You don’t want to over-pack, but you also don’t want to forget anything because there’s little time for running to a store and replacing something essential. I learned this the hard way when my makeup and toiletries didn’t make it from my bathroom to my suitcase for one of my first big business trips. So instead of shoving my entire wardrobe into an oversized suitcase and hoping for the best, I’ve developed a routine to be sure I have all the essentials, and I’ve learned to fit everything in just a carry-on. No more waiting in line to check a bag, worrying about my luggage getting lost or rushing to baggage claim when I land. Here are some tips from my experience:

Make a List

This is the most basic tip but also the most essential. Check the weather and your schedule to plan, and then make a list of everything you need to bring—from the book you’re reading to your business cards. Cross things off as they’re packed, so you can make sure you’re not missing something important like your passport or laptop charger.

Pack by Outfit

There’s nothing more annoying than stuffing everything back into your suitcase at the end of a trip to realize you didn’t even wear half the clothes you packed. I lay out an outfit for each day and try not to throw in too many “just in case” pieces. You’ll save time, and you won’t have to stress about what to wear each day when you arrive. Pro Tip: Try to choose fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily, and pack Shout wipes or a Tide pen in case you spill a coffee.

Choose Versatile Clothing Pieces 

Dark-washed jeans can be dressed up or down. A sweater or cardigan can work well over a button-down shirt when you’re headed from a meeting to drinks with friends. I wear a lot of black/charcoal because they’re generally easy to mix and match (and stain resistant). I also recommend choosing pieces that can be worn with more than one outfit, like a neutral skirt or a solid shirt. That goes for shoes as well. I try to pack just 2-3 pairs—flats and boots or comfortable heels (depending on the season). Wear your largest pair to the airport to save space.


Do yourself a favor and pack a travel dopp kit so you don’t forget anything while trying to gather all your essential products. My kit has everything from contact lenses and facewash to mascara and toothpaste. I’m not scrambling before I leave for the airport to make sure I’ve packed everything, and my usual set stays in place at home. Pro Tip: Collect travel-sized toiletries when you have the chance because with a carry-on you won’t be able to bring your full-sized products. I subscribe to Birchbox and try to set aside the travel-sized conditioner, face wash and lotions in case I don’t like the kind provided at the hotel or Airbnb.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

I used to dread having a noisy toddler or chatty neighbors nearby. Now I just politely smile and put my noise-canceling headphones on. My personal favorite are the Bose QuietComfort wireless headphones. Although there’s a ton of over-the-ear and earbud options out there, and I highly recommend traveling with them.

Charge Everything

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but be sure to charge your mobile phone, laptop, battery pack, smart watch, headphones and anything else that needs it before heading to the airport. I find that by keeping it all in one place it’s easy for me to collect everything at one time, and nothing gets left behind. Pro Tip: Keep an extra set of chargers stored in your luggage so your everyday set can stay in place at home.

Packing Logistics

Utilize the space in your luggage well—whether you want to organize with packing cubes or have your own system. I pack the largest things first, and then put the smaller items (like socks and such) in the shoes or utilize the gaps within the luggage. I use an aluminum Away suitcase with an interior compression system, and that’s helpful for squeezing more in my bag.  Try not to be the person that keeps getting up and down to retrieve things in the overhead bin throughout the flight. I recommend utilizing your one personal item (backpack, purse, briefcase, etc.) to store your laptop, reading materials, chargers, lip balm, medicine and anything else you might need to have readily available during the flight. Pack everything that could possibly leak or stain your clothes in a Ziploc bag. These are also handy for keeping jewelry organized.

Trial and Error

I used to fold everything I packed, but I recently started rolling my clothes. Not only does it save space, but it also helps avoid wrinkles. I’ve also learned to pack a small lacrosse ball to help get knots out of my back after a long flight. At the end of the day, the more often you’re packing a bag, the easier it becomes—and you’ll learn what works best for you. What’s on your business trip packing list? Tweet us @TripIt to share your tips.