Packing for a Long Conference: The Plan

a black suitcase with a handle

Can I fit it all in my carry-on??

A few months ago, I ran a post about how much I stressed about what to pack for Blog World. I feel like I ended up doing pretty well, and was happy with my choices. In two weeks I leave to go to a regular work conference. Should be simple to pack, right? Normally, yes. But this time I will be conferencing elevendays. That’s right, I will be in conference from a Tuesday until the next Friday, and traveling home on Saturday. Oy. Talk about tricky packing!! And of course, I want to carry on. A list like this requires some major planning and editing!! Here are the steps I am following as I put together my packing list:
  1. First, I need to remember the cardinal rules of conference clothes: comfortable, professional, with shoes you can walk in. I’m going to add one more: layers. Because the conference is in Florida, I’m assuming it will be warm outside and cold inside, and I want to be able to adjust as necessary.
  2. Figure out the different occasions. How many conference days are there? Will you want to change for dinner? Will there be any free time? Will there be a chance to swim? In my case, I will have ten conference days, one free day, and two travel days. The conference days are looong, so I may not have the energy to eat dinner, much less change for it. Just in case, I’ll bring a couple of cute, non work items.
  3. Plan to wear items more than once. Since I really want to avoid checking my bag, I will need to wear my itemsmultiple times. I will just assume I need to wear everything 2-3 times, changing accessories as needed to keep things fresh. In fact, if I don’t think I can wear something at least twice, it won’t make the cut and it will stay home. This also means I’ll need to spend some extra time planning outfits, and bring more accessories (primarily necklaces and scarves, and maybe an extra pair of shoes) than normal.
  4. Think about toiletries. Since almost two weeks is far longer than my normal 3-4 day trip, I will need to make sure I have enough of my everyday toiletries. Some of my grooming items are kept in 3 oz bottles (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion) so I should be good with those as long as the bottles are full. But I may need to increase items I carry in smaller amounts (face wash, moisturizer, makeup remover, and hair products).
  5. Make a preliminary list. On the first list, I’ll just write down everything I think I should take, no matter what. Also, at this point I will start figuring out what I need to get for my trip (yay shopping!) Then I’ll start figuring out outfits, and adding and removing as necessary. Finally, I’ll get everything out and try to fit it in my suitcase, just to make sure I’m being realistic about what will fit, and what I can actually lift.
  6. Buy the missing items. Starting early on planning for a major trip gives you plenty of time to fill in the gaps. For this trip, I will need to get some new mascara, some more razor blades, and possibly a new pair of flats.

At this point, I plan to utilize my travel workhorses—jersey dresses, cardigans, slacks, and flats—just in larger quantities. My goal is to stick to my three pairs of shoes rule, but we’ll see how that goes. I’ve got just under two weeks—I hope I can figure it all out by then!

Readers, have any of you been to a two week conference before? What did you take? Any recommendations?


  1. How about doing a load of laundry? Many hotels have guest facilities. Or, dry clean only essentials – and I always ask if they’ll negotiate dry cleaning price. If they won’t, look for local laundry/dry cleaner with p/u delivery service.

  2. We have done two-week trips to Europe, not for business,using 21″ bags. Not too hard in a cool, but not cold, climate. We basically wore things multiple times and maybe bought a shirt or two while there. We have also washed things in the sink when necessary. In Florida, things could be a little sweaty! You may not want to wear the same thing three times.

    But they have stores!

  3. Wardrobe planning – there’s an app for that!

    I go away every year for a week long conference that involves dressing up at dinner. So I need clothes for 6 days and 6 nights plus travel. Last year I wrote each day/night’s outfits on a piece of paper & took it with me and it made dressing every day really simple. However, I just discovered the netrobe app and although it has some problems, I love it. You take photos of all your clothes and can make outfits and a packing list. Fabulous! Now I can use my phone instead of the piece of paper.

  4. I had a similar dilemma recently – two weeks in NYC for meetings at the UN. So not only a long trip, but more formal than what I’m accustomed to (including receptions and other official social activities) and in winter. In the end I just gave up and took my biggest suitcase since I was going on the bus!

  5. I use the guest laundry so I can recycle outfits, especially in Florida with the humidity. Always keep a 3 in 1 laundry sheet in your carry on, and add extras if you might do laundry. Placed in a ziplock back it acts a sachet in suitcase. Add a stain catcher sheet so you can mix items and not worry too much about color bleeds while minimizing the number of loads.

    Less messy than the potential spill from powder, no 3-1-1 concerns, and cheaper than the vend machine at the hotel.

  6. Dry cleaning or laundry service! I have stayed 3+ weeks in Europe for work multiple times with that. By staying in a premium SPG property no need for extra toiletries. And what I would need I just got it from the store down the street. Enjoy Florida before it gets too hot!

  7. Since your trip is still two weeks away, you have time to gauge how much face wash, moisturizer, makeup remover, and hair products you go through in eleven days. Put those products in travel containers you think will be big enough, start using them now at home, and in elven days you’ll know if those containers will be big enough for your trip!

    Great post! I like how you’re planning ahead and have broken down the elements that need further work.

  8. Last year I got through 3 weeks in Bangalore with a carryon bag. I took:

    – 2 pairs of work pants
    – 6 or so shirts to wear to work OR with jeans/a more casual outfit
    – 1 pair of jeans (wore on the plane)
    – 2-3 casual T-shirts
    – 1 twill skirt (threw in at the last minute; ended up wearing a lot).
    – workout clothes (1 pair shorts, 2 shirts, 1 sports bra, 2 pairs socks, running shoes)
    – 1 pair flats for work, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair sandals

    I think that’s really about it. I did some laundry while I was there, of course. And I bought a couple of outfits that I wore during my stay. The climate in India is very mild so that helped.

    I go to a conference in Florida every year. I never bother with cold weather clothes but do take a pashmina that I carry with me for the hotel ballrooms that are cold.

  9. I’ve traveled to Europe for 3 weeks at a time and stayed within 6.5 kg. The key is a capsule wardrope.

    Key items:
    * Lightweight suit in dark neutral (wear jacket on plane)
    * Unlined printed jacket containing my neutrals and my bright color of choice
    * A shawl sweater or other jacket-like sweater in 2nd neutral
    * A sleeveless sheath dress
    * A couple of sleeveless tops (one in the dark neutral, one in my color of choice)
    * A sheer printed top to be worn over the sleeveless tops, over the sheath, or under the sheath. I like a buttom up version that I can wear open like a jacket too.
    * pants in 2nd neutral
    * dark wash trouser cut jeans(wear on plane)

    So that gives me 3 bottoms, 3 tops, 3 jackets = 3x3x3 = 18 (and that doesn’t include the sheath) If you bring a set of metallic jewelry, a set of faux pearls, and a silky scarf you can change it up more.

    How about a longer skort that will go from workout to casural dinner?

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