Business Travel 101: Packing the Suitcase (Revisited)

a brown suitcase with two handlesBusiness Travel 101 is a series from a couple of years ago about making that first business trip as easy and successful as possible. I’ve re-tooled the series, and now it’s more comprehensive than ever! It covers everything a new business traveler needs to know for that initial trip, including essential tips for packing, security, safety, etiquette, and comfort.

Want to know one of the simplest paths to a smoother trip? Not checking your suitcase! You will avoid checked-baggage fees and save time at the front and back ends of your trip. It will also help you to streamline your packing list.

First, let’s discuss the suitcase itself. Key features to look for:

  • Quality construction.
  • A bag that will fit US (and ideally European) guidelines for carrying on.
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Roominess.
  • Handle length.
  • Good pockets and dividers.
  • Spinner wheels.
  • Easy to navigate in crowded airports.
  • For more details, see my Guidelines for Choosing a Rollaboard Suitcase.

A few brands that I like are Ogio, Briggs & Riley, and Tumi. I know these brands are not inexpensive, but trust me when I say that if you are traveling all of the time, a good bag is worth the investment. I have used the same Ogio bag for six years, week in and week out, and it is still in excellent shape. A great review of top rated brands can be found here, plus Good Housekeeping has a great set of reviews. Your suitcase doesn’t have to be pretty  but an identifying feature is helpful so that it stands out in the sea of black. Another option is to add a colorful luggage tag. (Pictured: The Tumi Alpha Continental Carry-On, a great option with a hefty price tag.)

What to pack for a four day trip (choose your travel clothes from this list):

  • Two bottoms, one comfortable for travel (i.e. slacks and a skirt)
  • Coordinating suit jackets if needed
  • Four tops that coordinate with both of your bottoms
  • At least one light jacket or sweater (unless you need a heavier jacket)
  • No more than three pairs of shoes, including a pair of flip flops or running shoes
  • Enough undergarments, including socks/hose
  • Jewelry/belts/scarves
  • PJs
  • Workout clothes
  • Toiletries and makeup
  • Curling iron (or other styling aids)

Packing tips:

  • I bring my own shampoo/conditioner in refillable 3 oz bottles because I travel so much if I use whatever random products the hotel puts out my hair gets mad. A couple of great sources for travel sizes are and Sephora.
  • Eagle Creek packing cubes are helpful for the small items (underwear, socks, hose, etc) and will help you save a ton of space.
  • I have three small bags for my toiletries–one for liquids (that gets taken out at security), one for non-liquids (toothbrush, deodorant, etc), and one for make-up. This allows me to fit them in my suitcase more easily instead of taking up a lot of room.
  • Use spare contact lens cases for small amounts of liquids, such as face soap, moisturizer, eye makeup remover, etc.
  • Also check out the Packing and Packing Tips sections.

Readers, what are your tips for maximizing space in a carry-on?

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  1. This obviously depends on where you’re going for four days (work vs long weekend trip) but I usually bring at least 2 dresses and 2 cardigan/blazers. I usually bring a small flat box of jewelry to dress up or down outfits. I don’t go anywhere without my one navy blazer from bloomingdales (aqua, about $98) it goes with just about everything – jeans, shorts, dresses, skirts etc.

  2. My most important travel accessory is gallon size zip-lock bags. They make the rollaboard so much neater and during the trip they can compress laundry and keep the smell at bay.

  3. Andrew – I love Ziplocks too! I also love spacebags… I frequently have to change hotels midweek going from location to location and it helps to keep the clean clothes seperate from the dirty ones.

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