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Packing for work travel used to stress me out, but I’ve come up with some routines and habits that make getting ready for life on the road a little easier. I still find the actual leaving part challenging, but at least the packing part doesn’t stress me out anymore. One of the things that has been really helpful is keeping a detailed and up-to-date packing list that I can reference before each trip. When I first started traveling I started a list in a google document of what I thought was my complete packing list. Every time I found myself on a trip wishing I had something, I made a quick update. When I consistently kept bringing things home without using them, I also updated my list. Over the years, it’s been refined into a pretty complete list (for me, for this stage of life). I’m sure I’ll find something to edit eventually, but I haven’t had to in a while.

Here are some of my tips and a copy of my list:

  1. I review my itinerary before I even go near my closet. I am usually traveling for conferences and need a combination of business professional (suit or dress) and business casual (pants/skirt and blouse). I review my schedule to see what type of outfit I will need for each day and then figure out how many outfits of each to pack. I usually add one extra of each type of outfit – just in case!
  2. I pick a single color scheme for all of my business attire. I almost always go with black and gray. This reduces the number of shoes that I will need. I don’t need brown and black heels and flats – just black heels and flats. Or, just black flats if I can make it work with all of my hemlines. This also lets me pack just one bag that will match with all of my work outfits.
  3. I check the weather for my destination, but I don’t really pack for it (unless my itinerary includes outdoors events). Otherwise, I pack for convention center “weather.” I don’t think I have ever been in a convention center that is not freezing. I have been in Palm Springs in May where the temperatures were over 110 F and I still needed sweaters. Every outfit should have a cardigan or jacket to go along with it.
  4. Then, I start packing. Everything gets packed as complete outfits. Instead of packing by item type (undergarments and then pants and then tops…), I start with everything I will need for Day 1, and then Day 2, and so on.
  5. I do try to make some of my clothes do double duty. I’ll try to pick a top that I can wear with dress pants during the day and also with jeans in the evening for a casual dinner. I might also wear the same black sheath dress more than once, but with a different jacket or cardigan and different jewelry.

You can get a printable copy of my packing list here or read through it here:

  • The “don’t leave home without it anyway” stuff
    • Identification, passport, etc.
    • Wallet, credit cards, etc.
    • Cell phone and charger
    • Sunglasses
    • Small purse
  • Apparel
    • ___ Professional outfits (+undergarments, jewelry, shoes, etc.)
    • ___ Business casual (+undergarments, jewelry, shoes, etc.)
    • ___ Casual (+undergarments, jewelry, shoes, etc.)
    • Outerwear – coat, hat, gloves (if needed)
    • Pajamas and slippers
    • Lint roller
  • Toiletries
    • Shower supplies:
      • shampoo and conditioner
      • body wash and face wash
      • razor and shaving cream
    • Morning supplies:
      • moisturizers – body lotion and face lotion
      • deodorant
      • make up
      • toothbrush, paste, floss
      • hair supplies (brush, clips, curling iron, dryer, gel, etc.)
    • Night supplies (additional):
      • makeup remover
      • eye cream, night lotions, etc.
    • Miscellaneous:
      • tampons, etc.
      • first aid basics (Band-Aids, Advil, etc.)
      • tweezers, nail clippers, safety pins, etc.
  • Health and Fitness
    • ___ Workout outfits (+ sports bras, socks, running shoes)
    • Work out gear: watch, iPod, headphones, water bottle, etc.
    • Vitamins and medications
    • Breakfast (granola bars, instant oatmeal, fruit, etc.)
    • Plastic utensils and cups or bowls (for oatmeal)
    • Snacks, mints, and gum
  • Professional
    • Travel documents (tickets, reservations, etc.)
    • Laptop
    • Work presentations (jump drive with files, posters, etc.)
    • Business cards
    • Company notebook, pen, lanyard, etc.
    • Bag appropriate for meetings
  • Comfort and Entertainment
    • iPad and charger
    • Books and/or updated kindle app on tablet
    • Knitting or other activity
    • Pictures/drawings from my kids to “decorate”
  • Miscellaneous
    • If nursing – pump, pump parts, supplies to store milk, etc.
    • Cash – small bills for tipping hotel cleaners, drivers, etc.
    • Laundry (or plastic) bags to collect dirty clothes during the trip

Hope this helps – happy packing! 🙂