Getting organized for business travel

trip itHow should a new business traveler get and stay organized for business travel? Reader L asks…

Hi Road Warriorette! I am about to start a new job at my company where I will travel to Washington, DC and San Francisco once a month. I am worried I will forget to pack or do something necessary for my trips. Do you have any suggestions on how to get organized so that I don’t miss something critical? Thank you!

Congratulations on the new role! Traveling for work can be a big change, so I’m glad you’re thinking about ways to get organized before you start. I am not super organized by personality, so I have had to work hard to make sure that I stay on top of all the myriad details of business travel. Here are my tips.

Packing list. As I mentioned above, I’m not naturally organized–I have to work at it. One of the best ways I have found is by lists. I love, love, love lists. I have templates of lists in my phone notepad for outfit planning, packing, and a checklist for what to do before a trip. A few days prior to leaving I copy and paste the template into a new note for each specific trip, filling in the details. For example, on my outfit planning template it says:

  • Travel day outfit
  • Work day 1 outfit
  • Work day 2 outfit
  • Work day 3 outfit

My trip-specific list says something like this:

  • Navy pants, seafoam top, orange cardigan, gray flats
  • Black pants, black polka-dot shirt, leopard flats
  • Purple dress, black cardigan, gray flats

Then I make my packing list from that. There are also items that I pack for every trip, like chargers, my computer, etc., on the list. My pre-trip to-do list includes things like check the weather, check in for flight, get cash for tips, etc. I also make a list of all of the work things that need to be done before, during, and after my trip to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. There are apps that people like for making lists, such as Evernote, but I typically just use notepad.

Duplicates. I have several things that live in my suitcase, ready at a moment’s notice for a trip. Primarily these are my toiletries, brush, curling iron, and chargers. I also have small bags in my travel purse with my electronics (flash drive, portable charger, etc) and my comfort items (Emergen-C, Splenda, lip balm, etc.).

Trip details. For your first several trips it’s important to keep track of your trip logistics: addresses, contact information, hotel, flight, and car rental information.  There are plenty of apps to use to manage your reservations, but my favorite is TripIt. I also make sure to have my contacts and work addresses saved in my phone. You may prefer to print things out–it doesn’t matter! As long as you have all of the information you need, and it’s easily accessible.

Readers, how do you get organized for your business trips? 

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Comments

  1. Lists are great! I stopped using one because I felt I had business trip packing down to a science. Then I found myself in Houston last week with NO makeup. I completely forgot it. At first I was beside myself, and then I thought: men go on business trips all the time with no makeup and nobody cares, so I decided to go with a natural look for my three days in Houston. I noticed, but I doubt anyone else did. I did find lip gloss in my laptop bag, so that brought me some sense of dignity. Now I’m debating on buying a second set of makeup for travel that stays with my toiletry bag in my suitcase all the time. Do you do that too?

  2. @Jess H Makeup is so expensive that it really doesn’t make sense to me to have a complete duplicate set. However, I have a couple of duplicates–tinted moisturizer, mascara, and blush. I figure with those things even if I forget everything else I’ll be okay. I also keep lipstick in my travel purse. If I forget makeup for some reason, I feel like if I have bright lipstick on no one will notice 🙂

  3. As a new employee/business traveler, take a look at your technology needs. After years of business travel with a laptop, I realized I really only need to stay on top of email and basic document and spreadsheet editing. I can do all of this on my phone/tablet. Rather than traveling with a laptop, I bought myself a small bluetooth keyboard that connects with both my phone and tablet so my typing is more comfortable.
    Think about what you will need to accomplish outside the office, sync that work with cloud servers (dropbox, onedrive, etc) and decide what technology is absolutely necessary. Rather than traveling with a big ol’ backpack to schlep a laptop and charger, you might be able to throw a small bluetooth keyboard in your purse and be less stressed trying to keep track of it all.

  4. I use Tripit all the time. Its online storage of documents helped me when I folded my iPhone in half in my Aunts hide-a-bed. I could use my Aunts computer to get my flight info from Tripit and print out my boarding passes. Tripit has additional functions if you go to their website. You can add in events, confirmation numbers etc by hand to create a very complete trip itinerary.
    I also use GoodReader for document storage. GoodReader is password protected AND encrypted. It’s a secure place to store information. GoodReader has a multi-file system so I can store different info in different files.
    I create PDF files for all of my relevant reservation info using CutePDF. This includes emails, webshots, confirmation pages. I then use iTunes to load all of the PDF files into GoodReader.
    I usually create a file with the name of the trip. I then create sub files with headings of transportation, lodging, activities.
    I also store TSA rules and airline contracts of carriage in GoodReader.

  5. I have “to do” lists for before and after travel – my before list includes tasks like “turn on out of office message” and “ask someone to water plant” and my after list “send thank you notes” and “submit expense report.”

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