packing tips for a business trip for women
A woman dressed for a business trip – Ono Kosuki (pexels)

Working away from home is an exciting chance to add variety to your week. But it’s hard squeezing everything into one carry-on and arriving at work looking neat and presentable. Pack with efficiency on your next work trip with this handy ladies’ travel list for business trips.

Before you start: check the weather.

Arriving at the office hot and sweaty or cold and shivering is not an ideal way to start the day. Check the weather forecast before you start packing so you include appropriate clothes for your trip. This way, if the weather’s warm, you can also leave a few sweaters behind and free up some space.

Before you start: check your itinerary.

What do you have planned for your trip? If you’re expected to be in the office all day, you can focus on more formal clothing. If you have dinners and drinks with clients penciled in the diary, you’ll want to take some more smart-casual options.

Check there aren’t any unusual team-building activities or icebreakers planned. Nobody wants to take their clients ziplining while wearing a pencil skirt and heels. Are there any fancy events or awards ceremonies happening?

How many days you’ll be there? If it’s more than a few days, check also our packing list for 5 days and 3 weeks trip.

Before you start: check the hotel facilities.

Hopefully, your company booked a great hotel for your time away. Check if there are essential items in the room. If you already have complimentary soap and shampoo, you can cross these off the list.

Unless you’ve booked a specified business travel room, some things might not be taken into account. Enough hangers for all your clothes and good bathroom lighting are key to arriving to your meetings looking polished. Consider if you need any extras such as a travel iron or portable mirror.

Does the hotel have a gym or pool? If you plan on spending your downtime there, you’ll want some activewear too.

Before you start: check luggage requirements.

However you’re getting to your destination, different travel companies have rules on the size, weight, and amount of luggage you can take. Check if you’re allowed to take a handbag as well as your carry-on. Otherwise, you might have a last-minute struggle squeezing it in. If you’re flying, many airports have restrictions on the liquids you can take through security.

Essential items

Define what are the most important items you need for your trip to go ahead. These should go in an easy-to-reach but also secure part of your bag.

  • Essential medicines you must take.
  • Important travel documents like passports, tickets, and visas.
  • Your laptop or work documents.
  • Your phone and wallet.
  • For international travel, local currency or a travel card to take cash out when you arrive.

Underwear

Pack enough clean underwear to get you through your trip. Make sure it’s appropriate for your clothes and shoes. For example, if you’re wearing short sleeves, you might be uncomfortable with your bra strap showing.

  • 5-8 panties
  • 5-6 pairs of socks
  • 1-2 bras

If it’s cold and you plan on wearing skirts, don’t forget to pack enough pantyhose for each day too. You might want some spares in case you rip a pair.

Clothes: base layers

To make sure all your clothes are easy to match, create a color palette for your trip. That way you can start each morning knowing you can adapt your outfit for the day ahead. Lighter colors are riskier as they stain more easily. Navy is flattering on most people, goes with most colors, and shows less lint compared to black.

3-4 bottoms

Pack pants or a combination of pants and skirts. Have a mix of formal, smart-casual, and relaxed. You’ll have a good base for any work occasion but have something comfortable to wear when you’re off the clock.

5 tops

Simple tops like a plain white T-shirt or structured vest will give you a strong base to create different looks. Pick options with elegant details such as a ruffle hem or interesting stitching. This elevates your look and makes it office appropriate.

Clothes: top layers

You can adapt the pieces you choose according to the weather forecast. For example, if it’s warm, you can swap out a cardigan for some light shirt. Don’t forget some offices have extreme A/C settings. Dress in layers so you can adapt to different situations.

3-5 layers

These could be shirts, sweaters, or cardigans.

1-2 jackets, coats, or blazers

These can take up a lot of space in your bag. Try to stick to one or one thicker option and one light option. Pick a versatile style and color so you can wear it with whatever outfit you choose for the day.

Other clothing

Any extras

If you’ve checked your itinerary, you’ll have put aside any special clothes you need such as activewear or a cocktail dress.

Dress

If you like to wear dresses, you could pack one dress or swap out an outfit and take more. Try to pick versatile options. A little black dress is a classic and will be easy to dress up or down.

Suit/ skirt suit

I recommend mixing and matching instead of taking a suit so you can maximize your wardrobe options. But if you need to take a suit you could swap out one outfit from the above list.

2+ pajamas

You’ll want a cozy set of pajamas to snuggle up in after a long day.

Make sure to bring your luggage according to the airline's policy
Make sure to bring your luggage according to the airline’s policy – DAPA (canva)

Keeping your work clothes nice

Since you’re packing for a work trip, you want your clothes to arrive uncreased and ready for business. Normally compression packing cubes are great for getting more space out of your luggage. But for a business trip, check if they’re going to be kind to your clothes. Use larger and front-opening ones so you can fold clothes into the right dimension without stuffing anything in.

For items that pick up creases, turn them inside out and fold them instead of rolling. Anything you’d rather keep pristine, fold with tissue paper and keep in a separate compartment. Don’t put anything in your case right after ironing as it’ll make the creases set.

An easy fix is to choose clothing in fabrics that don’t crease easily. Viscose has a silky sheen that makes a lovely office shirt but will also be able to withstand your suitcase.

As well as a laundry bag to keep everything smelling fresh, pack a mini lint roller. They come in handy for getting off any dust from your bag or the hotel room.

Handbags

One large bag

You’re going to want a suitable office bag with enough space for all your essential work items. Take a minimal style that’ll work for the office or for walking around the city. A large leather tote is a popular choice. Make sure essential items like your laptop are secure and sheltered from the elements.

One small bag

If you’re out in the evenings or want something more convenient for running errands, you could also take a smaller bag. For ideas on the best bags to take, check out this article on the top travel purses.

Accessories

If you’re finding your work capsule wardrobe a little dry, accessories are a compact way to spice things up.

1-2 scarves

Brighten up your outfit with a printed silk scarf. It’s also a great way to keep the cold off your neck if the A/C is on too low.

Sunglasses

It’s generally frowned upon to wear your sunglasses in the office. But you’ll still need them for sunny commutes and to give your eyes a rest after a long night staring at a screen.

Jewelry

Classic jewelry makes an elegant statement while a flashier piece can add some pizzazz to your outfit. Pick your favorite items and fit them into a small jewelry wrap to keep them safe. If you wear a watch, check it’s set to the right time zone.

We’ve compiled a guide for the best travel accessories for women too! Check it out for more ideas.

Shoes

Pick reliable and versatile shoes to get you through the week. It’ll be difficult to fit more than two pairs in your bag but you’ll be wearing one pair on your journey.

A formal work shoe

You’re going to need an appropriate pair of shoes that meet your office standards. Make sure they go with all your work clothes and are comfortable enough to get you through the day.

A comfortable shoe

You’re going to want something comfy to slip on during your downtime. If you plan on working out, you should make this a pair of sneakers.

A pair of heels

If you want to wear heels to the office or have evening commitments, you can pack a pair of heels if you need to. Or you could swap this for another formal pair like ballet pumps.

Bathroom basics

To keep all your bathroom products organized, put them in a hanging wash bag. You can unroll it and hang it up as soon as you arrive, so you don’t have to waste any time unpacking. Everything will be in clear compartments, so you have less risk of things leaking and ruining your clothes.

Don’t forget to pack:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • A toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair removal products
  • Sanitary items

Remember if you’re flying, you might not be able to take razors in your carry-on. You’ll also have limits on the amount of liquids you can take and may have to keep them separate so you can take them out at security. Take travel-sized toiletries or fill up small bottles with your favorite products. You can also take solid versions like toothpaste tabs and shampoo bars.

Skin and hair care

Once you’ve packed the necessities, squeeze any extras into your wash bag such as:

  • Face wash
  • Moisturizer
  • Hair serum
  • Lip balm
  • Perfume

The last things to fit in will be non-liquid items like:

  • A hairbrush
  • Hair scrunchies and clips
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers or a nail file

If you wear makeup to work, you’re going to need a small makeup bag with all your usual products. Take mini versions or fill up small pots so you can save space. Make sure to pack makeup remover to wipe it off at the end of the day. Your boss won’t appreciate a panda eye.

If you think you’re forgetting something, try this list of women’s travel essentials.

First aid kit

You usually have easy access to a pharmacy on a business trip, so you won’t need a big first aid kit. Consider anything you use regularly or would want urgently such as:

  • Painkillers
  • Sickness and diarrhea medicine
  • Band-aids
  • Eye drops

Electronics

Make sure you have all the electronics and the correct chargers for work and play. You’ll want everything in a secure place. But if you’re flying, try not to bury anything or you might have to take it out at security.

  • Laptop or tablet
  • Battery pack
  • Headphones
  • Adaptors
Bring a purse or leather tote bag to keep your essentials items with you
Bring a purse or leather tote bag to keep your essentials items with you – eclipse_images (canva)

FAQ

What order should I pack my suitcase in?

Put liquid items at the bottom of your bag. That way if there are any spills, it won’t drip down onto your clothes. Then put any heavy items like shoes. This stops them from weighing down on everything else, which is more likely to wrinkle up your shirts.

Put the things you’ll need on arrival near the top or in another compartment. For example, if you have to go straight to the office, you’ll want to reach in and grab your laptop and a clean shirt.

What’s the best carry-on to take on a business trip?

Since most business trips are in city destinations, a roller bag is the most convenient option. The sidewalks will be well maintained and comfortable to drag a bag over. You also won’t have to put any strain on your back or shoulders.

You might be tempted to take a soft-shell bag so it’s easier to stuff more in and squeeze it into tight spaces. But this is a surefire way for your clothes to get crumpled. A bag with a hard exterior will keep everything protected and stop things from moving around.

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