Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Packing for Business Travel 101

I have been traveling on business lately.  So since it's been on my mind, today's post contains tips for what the lesbian professional should pack for business travel.  These recommendations will assume that 1) you will be away for more than a few days, and 2) that you will be needing to wear "business attire" during at least part of your trip.

1. Be aware of your destination.  This seems like a no-brainer, but there have been several times that I (as a Californian) have failed to realize how cold other parts of the world can get at varying times of year.  Does your destination have tropical rainstorms in the summer?  Tornadoes in the spring?  High liklihood of a blizzard?  Check the weather predictions for your destination and do a little research into it's quirks.  Then think of the key items you will need for this weather - coats, umbrellas, etc.  Keep in mind that cold weather clothes are bulkier and will require more packing room.
2. Build your wardrobe bottom-up.  And by bottom-up, I mean first determine what color of shoes you will be bringing.  Shoes take up a lot of space, so if you're traveling for a week or less you should consider bringing only one pair of business shoes.  Black and brown are the business traditionals (black is typically seen as more professional), so pick one of the two.  (And for god's sake, don't wear those horrible bulky slip-on "business travel shoes".  Having to take 2 additional seconds to untie your shoes at TSA won't kill you.)  Ok, picked your shoe color?  Then throw in a matching belt.  Now choose a classic suit that goes with it.  You get the idea.
Some classic black shoes like these wingtips from H by Hudson will serve you well on business travel.

3. Wear bulkier items on the plane.  Wearing bulkier items on the plane will both save you packing space and protect you from the extreme temperatures of air travel.  Consider wearing bigger sweaters and other items on the plane.  Wearing one of your suit jackets or blazers on the plan will better protect it from wrinkles than leaving it in the bag. 

4. Versatility is key.  Packing space is a pain and airline baggage charges are insane nowadays.  So it's important to think of outfits that will be versatile. You'll have to come to terms with the fact that due to limited space for accessories and different wardrobe pieces in your luggage, you will probably not be the height of fashion during the duration of your business travel.  Nonetheless, you can still build a basic, sharp and professional wardrobe for your trip. While I am not crazy about the exact outfits, think of the below picture as a guide. As you can see, the outfits all build off of the same scheme of a dark suit, black shoes/belt, and a couple of button-down shirts and sweaters worn in different combinations.  You could technically only have one or two basic suits or blazers for a week or longer, but by mixing and matching smaller pieces you can create vastly different looks.  Bring a couple of different colored button-downs, then try  layering a vest or sweater in different combinations on different days.  On more casual days, you can ditch the suit jacket and go with some slacks and a sweater or one of your more casual button-downs.


UPDATE: Also check out this awesome infographic from Style Girlfriend for inspiration.
5. Bring some key accessories.   There are several smaller accessories that are small and easy to pick that can spice up your basic business wardrobe and be mixed and matched with the pieces discussed above.  Think about bringing a few small accessories like pocket squares, ties and tie clips, patterned socks, sunglasses, scarfs, or gloves.

Cool accessories can bring a spark to an otherwise plain business travel wardrobe.

6. Consider your clothing's comfort, too.  Suits should be kept in a garment bag and packed properly while traveling.  Shirts should be wrinkle-resistant, or (if you enjoy ironing like me), make sure there is an iron available at your hotel.  As much of a pain as it is to unpack everything, hanging up your suits and shirts when you arrive will keep them looking nice until you need to wear them. 

7. Take advantage of your employer's business travel allowances.  Most employers will cover checked luggage fees.  They also might reimburse you dry cleaning expenses while on business travel.  Look into your employer's policy and take advantage of this!  If will help ease many of the stresses of deciding what to pack and whether you have too much or not enough.  

With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to a successful business trip, Lezsquire-style.


  1. Even if packing space is at a premium, I can't really recommend wearing a suit jacket or blazer on the plane. I've had to do this a couple times before: I was fortunate enough to be seated away from sticky-fingered screaming children, but just knowing they were lurking just behind me, waiting for a moment of weakness to spill grape soda on my outfit made me a nervous wreck for hours. I'd rather pay extra for a nice folding garment bag and check it before the flight.

  2. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree, Moki. If you don't want to wear your blazer on the plane (a totally acceptable choice), I strongly advise against checking it. God forbid your entire luggage gets lost and you are left without a scrap of professional clothing after your arrival. Depending on the situation, this could be a disaster. Treat your suits like you would a laptop or other valuable asset, and stow them in the carry-on bin.

    You'll see me and other business travelers worldwide with the blazer-on-the-plane look for good reason. In addition to the above-mentioned wrinkle prevention, a blazer keeps you looking sharp and professional while traveling, is essential if you have a immediate-post-arrival meeting to attend or associate to meet, and will help keep you comfortable in varying temperatures while traveling. Then again, I am a blazer fan and you will see me wearing one on most occasions, business travel or not.