Packing Tips for Business Trips

Waiting at the gate in London City Airport, London. Photo courtesy London City Airport. Photo by London City Airport
By Kara Murphy

You want to arrive put-together and prepared for a day of meetings, but you also want to be ready for any post-work social outings.

From what type of laptop bag to buy to what to wear on the plane, check out these 12 packing tips for domestic and international business travelers.

Got a great packing shortcut? Share your best packing tips in the Frommers.com Packing Forum.

Photo Caption: Waiting at the gate in London City Airport, London. Courtesy London City Airport
Carry-on bag by Travelpro. Photo by Travelpro
It's worth buying top-notch luggage, particularly when it comes to your carry-on and especially if you travel often for work. Travelpro (www.travelpro.com) is a favorite of airline pilots and flight attendants, or consider wheelie bags from companies such as Samsonite (www.samsonite.com), Briggs & Riley (www.briggs-riley.com), and Tumi (www.tumi.com)

If you're traveling with a laptop, you may want to consider a carry-on suitcase with a dedicated laptop compartment. This will eliminate the need to carry a separate computer bag and will also free up space in your personal bag.

If you're lucky enough to travel to far-flung locales for work, be aware that baggage allowances and requirements may be different while abroad. While most domestic carriers allow your carry-on suitcase to stand 22 inches high, many international airlines only allow bags up to 20 inches tall. Also keep in mind that when flying on a budget airline, such as Ryanair or easyJet in Europe, purses and laptop bags actually count as your one allowed carry-on. This means you'll likely have to check your bag and if it's more than 20 kg (which is 44 lbs., versus the domestic weight limit of 50 lbs.), you will have to pay extra fees.

Photo Caption: 20-inch Crew 8 Expandable Rollaboard carry-on suitcase by Travelpro, $169.99, www.aceluggage.com
14" Security Friendly Laptop Case by Case Logic. Photo by Case Logic

If you prefer to travel with a separate laptop bag, look for one that's TSA-friendly so that you don't have to remove your computer at the security checkpoint. Most manufacturers now make bags and sleeves that fit the following TSA (www.tsa.gov) standards:

  • Has a designated laptop-only section
  • The laptop-only section completely unfolds to lie flat on the X-ray belt
  • No metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath, or on top of the laptop-only section
  • No pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section
  • Nothing is packed in the laptop-only section other than the computer itself

Laptop sleeves, tri-fold bags, and what the TSA calls "butterfly styles" (with a middle zipper that unzips and allows both sides of the bag to lie completely flat) are all approved.

Don't forget to look for a sturdy, comfortable shoulder strap, especially if your computer is weighty, as company-issued laptops tend to be. Extra padding is a must! Separate compartments for cords, chargers and files are very handy to have.

Photo Caption: 14-inch Security Friendly Laptop Case by Case Logic, $69.99, www.caselogic.com

Verbatim 2nd Generation Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard, $79.99, www.verbatim.com <http://www.verbatim.com> Photo by Verbatim
Tablets do not have to be removed from your bag (neither do e-readers), so if you can get by with just an iPad, leave the laptop at home. If you need to do more extensive typing than you are comfortable doing on a tablet, consider a Bluetooth keyboard. Brands like Verbatim (www.verbatim.com) make compact, travel-friendly styles that fold in half when not in use. It may turn out to be a lifesaver and is still less bulky than a laptop. You also may want to consider investing in a super-lightweight laptop such as a MacBook Air (www.apple.com) if you travel extensively with your laptop.

Photo Caption: Verbatim 2nd Generation Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard, $79.99, www.verbatim.com
Women's wrinkle-resistant dress shirt by Brooks Brothers. Photo by Brooks Brothers
When boarding the plane, "you should dress like you never know who you're going to meet along the way," says Ari Goldberg, CEO and co-founder of StyleCaster (www.stylecaster.com). And if you have to hit the ground running, you'll definitely want to arrive looking professional and polished. When in doubt, it's always better to be overdressed and underdressed. You can always remove a tie, undo a top button, or push back sleeves for a more relaxed look if you feel overdressed.

A suit in black is always good to bring, as are gray and navy. Wear your suit jacket on the plane, or if it's too hot, carry it over your arm. Look for dress shirts made of wrinkle-resistant fabrics -- Brooks Brothers (www.brooksbrothers.com) is a great go-to brand. Avoid wearing a white shirt while traveling because it shows dirt too easily. Instead, opt for a color like blue or a subtle striped pattern that will help hide dirt and spills.

Women have more wiggle room when it comes to shirt options. Instead of a button-up shirt, layer a top that's more relaxed, such as a blouse or camisole underneath a blazer. Stick to wrinkle-resistant fabrics, classic styles, and colors and patterns that go with everything. Wool and wool blends really hold up well. A lightweight blend like gabardine can be worn year-round, even in summer. Cotton twill is another great option. Always avoid silk and linen, as they wrinkle easily.

If you're traveling overseas, check to make sure you don't break any of attire-related traditions or customs. A clothing faux-pas is an easy way to make a bad first impression, so do your research ahead of time.

Photo Caption: Non-Iron Tailored Fit cotton dress shirt by Brooks Brothers, $98.50, www.brooksbrothers.com
Lola leather ballet flats by Geox, $130. <a href="http://www.shopgeox.com/Item.aspx?ProductID=2816&refURL=gcs target="_blank">www.geox.com</a>. Photo by Geox
You don't have to sacrifice your feet in order to stay polished. Women, unless you're particularly adroit at walking in heels, don't wear them to the airport. They may hurt your feet and will definitely slow you down if you have to run to catch your flight! Stick to a comfortable pair of refined flats -- black always works.

Pack heels in your carry-on. Tod's (www.tods.com), Geox (www.geox.com), and Cole Haan (www.colehaan.com) all make classic pumps that are suitable -- and comfortable enough -- for any occasion.

Men should wear lace-free dress shoes or "slip-on loafers for easy on, easy off" while traveling, says StyleCaster's Brandon Perlman. Cole Haan makes pairs with Nike Air cushioning for an extra-comfy fit -- and they even make heels for women with the same sneaker technology.

Don't forget about a pair of shoes for leisure time as well. Avoid pairs that are dirty or on their last legs. Rule of thumb: If you would be embarrassed to be seen in them if you ran into a colleague, then don't bring them at all! Even your leisure shoes should be polished enough to work in most settings.

Photo Caption: Lola leather ballet flats by Geox, $130, www.geox.com
Packing folders by Eagle Creek. Photo by Eagle Creek
Don't carry your business attire in a separate garment bag, which can be awkward to carry if you have another bag. Instead, pack all of your clothes in your suitcase.

Pack your bag from heavy to light, with shoes in dust bags on the bottom and delicate items, like suits, on the very top. Place wrinkle-prone items neatly folded in separate plastic bags, or invest in a set of Eagle Creek (www.eaglecreek.com) packing cubes and folders.

Wherever you're staying, call ahead to see what dry cleaning and pressing services are available to you and at what cost. "I don't worry about wrinkles too much, I either get my business attire pressed at the hotel or I find a dry cleaners nearby and just get it steamed," says Brandon Perlman, co-founder of StyleCaster (www.stylecaster.com). "Lots of hotels offer complimentary pressing, but ask first because if they do charge, it can be expensive!"

Photo Caption: Frequent Flyer Pack-It System Set by Eagle Creek, $40, www.eaglecreek.com
Organize your gadgets with the Grid-It by Cocoon. Photo by Cocoon
It's especially important to keep your gadgets organized when traveling for business. If you're checking a bag, pack all of your gadgets, along with any chargers and accessories that go with them, in your carry-on. Never pack a device in a bag separate from its charger!

It's often easier to keep all of the chargers and accessories together, either in a specific carrying case (camera cases or makeup bags both work surprisingly well for this; of course a Ziploc bag works, too) or strapped into something like an organizer from Cocoon (www.cocooninnovations.com). The company makes clever organizers with lots of rubberized elastic straps to keep all of your gadgets and accessories in place. There are many different sizes and versions, including options with built-in sleeves for your tablet and styles specifically made for travel.

Photo Caption: Grid-It! Organizer by Cocoon, $24.99, www.cocooninnovations.com
Mophie Juice Pack Plus, available for $99.95 at www.mophie.com Photo by Mophie
You may want to look into backup cell phone chargers or battery extenders to give your gadgets a boost. Brands such as Mophie (www.mophie.com) make iPhone cases with built-in rechargeable batteries. Also look into companies like Powermat (www.powermat.com).

Make sure your work files are accessible from another computer in case yours is damaged or lost. E-mail key information to yourself or save them somewhere like Google Docs. If you are using Google Docs, don't forget to save all of your documents to your desktop before leaving home. That way you can still access everything if you plan to work on a plane that isn't wired with Gogo Inflight Internet (www.gogoair.com).

Photo Caption: Mophie's Juice Pack Plus, $99.95, www.mophie.com
Universal travel adapter. Photo by Magellan's Travel Supplies
When traveling abroad, make sure you have the proper gear to charge your electronics.

Remember that adapters don't change the electrical current; they simply attach to your existing plug and change the shape so that it fits into that country's wall socket. You only need an adapter if your item is either dual voltage (check the actual appliance -- it will indicate whether or not it is dual voltage; most laptop and camera battery chargers are) or if you're traveling to a country that uses the same 100-125 volt system as North America. If you're traveling to a country that uses 220-240 volts (which is typical in Europe) and your gadget is not dual voltage, you will need to bring a converter in addition to an adapter.

Converters and transformers actually convert the electrical current. Keep in mind that the proper one is needed for electric shavers, flat irons, and blow dryers. It can be confusing, but do your due diligence -- you can risk blowing fuses, permanently damaging your appliance, and sometimes even starting a fire if you do not have the proper devices. If you're unsure, head to a store like Radio Shack or Best Buy and ask for help. Magellan's (www.magellans.com) has a great interactive online tool that takes the guesswork out finding the correct one.

Photo Caption: Travelon 3-in-1 Adapter, Converter, Charger; $59.50; www.magellans.com
United States Passport. Photo by Walter Rice
Before you head overseas, always double-check the expiration date on your passport. Even if you think it's valid, check it again so there are no last-minute surprises. Keep in mind that some countries require your passport to be valid three months after your arrival date -- even if you are only staying in that country for a short period of time.

Use this time to also make sure that you have all of the proper vaccinations and visas necessary for your upcoming trip. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) is a good resource. Check with the embassy of your destination country for visa requirements.

Photo Caption: Check the expiration date of your U.S. passport, and make sure it has enough pages.
Change purse with different currencies. Photo by Kasiap
If you're headed to a country that uses a lot of coins for currency, bring a coin pouch. Whether it's the euro or the peso, you'll want to keep track of your coins. The coin purse will also make it easier for you to tip your cab driver or the housekeeping staff at your hotel.

Photo Caption: If you're traveling overseas, a coin pouch will help corral loose change.
The Overhead, $139, by Jane Marvel. Photo by Jane Marvel
Don't forget to bring a day bag to use during the leisure portion of your trip. Choose one based on your destination and the types of activities you will be participating in once you've broken off from your client or colleagues.

Do you plan on extending your stay in a city for sightseeing? Consider a tote or a messenger bag. The Overhead bag by Jane Marvel (www.janemarvel.com) has a back pocket that zips open, creating a sleeve so the entire bag stays in place atop your suitcase.

Have an adventure leg of your trip planned? Bring a backpack that's fitted properly for your body. If possible, try to pick a bag you wouldn't mind your colleagues seeing you carry. That way you can use it as your personal item and carry it throughout your trip. Otherwise, pack it in the bottom of your suitcase and keep it there until you split off on your own.

Photo Caption: The Overhead by Jane Marvel, $139, www.janemarvel.com
The Olympus E-PM1, from $499.00 Photo by Olympus
In addition to all of your gadgets for work, bring along tech items for any leisure time. That may include an e-reader or a camera. If you're already overloaded, consider leaving your SLR camera at home. Bring a basic point-and-shoot model or get a compact Micro Four Thirds camera by Olympus (www.getolympus.com) instead. Don't forget the spare memory cards.

Photo Caption: The Olympus E-PM1, from $499.99, www.getolympus.com
Verbatim 2nd Generation Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard, $79.99, www.verbatim.com <http://www.verbatim.com> Photo by Verbatim
Verbatim 2nd Generation Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard, $79.99, www.verbatim.com >
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