Packing for a three week business trip

What are the considerations when packing for an extended trip? Reader J asks….

Hi! I’m a fan of your blog (discovered you on Corporette). I am an attorney, and I have a three week long trial in a very hot, humid city coming up soon. It’s a federal court case. 

I will not be going home at all during the three weeks. Do you have any thoughts on how many suits and shirts I should take? Also, I hope to work out while I’m there. Any advice on cleaning workout clothes? 

If you’ve already posted on these topics, please point me to those posts. 

Thanks in advance!

Assuming your firm will pay for dry cleaning (which they totally, completely should for a trip this long) I recommend bringing two full suits—the jacket, dress, pants, and skirt. If you don’t have full suits then you may need to bring four two-piece suits. Do your dry cleaning on the weekend, or if you will be working those days too then just clean one suit at a time (make sure to clean all of the pieces, regardless of how much you wore a particular piece.) If your work won’t pay for dry-cleaning then bring four suits with you. If you are having a hard time fitting everything in your carry-on, consider packing two suits and shipping two suits.

In addition to your suits, bring six to seven tops with you that will coordinate with all of your suit pieces. Change up your jewelry and scarves to make each outfit look different. If you need weekend or casual wear, bring that too. Although it would be best to bring tops that you can wear with both your suit and casual pants. Pack two sets of PJs, although if you’re pressed for space you can probably make do with one. Use your hotel laundry service to wash everything as needed.

For work out clothes, bring the smaller version of each item—for example, instead of leggings bring shorts. Bring two sets and plan to wash out a set each night in the hotel sink. If you need to buy something, consider the Athleta Unstinkable line. I love them, and they really can be worn multiple times for hard workouts without being washed. Another option—consider swimming as your workout for the trip. Packing wise, you need so little (just a suit and goggles) that it’s a great option.

Now, onto one of the bulkiest items—shoes. Normally my rule is only three pairs, including the pair on your feet. In this case, one pair will be taken by your running shoes. It’s certainly possible to only wear two pairs of dress shoes for three weeks, but I wouldn’t look down on you if you decide to squeeze in an extra pair.

As far as toiletries go, you may be able to push through with only 3 oz bottles for everything. Decant the products you need into refillable packing cube emptybottles. I only wash my hair 2-3 times per week, so I have been able to do it before. However, for those who have to wash every day it would be tricky. If you are planning to check your bag, this is not an issue. If you are going to carry-on, I recommend either bringing two 3 oz containers of shampoo and conditioner or buying a full size and having it shipped to your hotel. I would think with other toiletries bringing only 3 oz isn’t a problem.

One tip: use packing cubes to compress all of your clothing. I have been able to fit literally everything I need forPacking cube comparison a five day trip into one packing cube (pictured). The only issue is that when packing suits they may get a bit crumpled. Hang them up as soon as you arrive. Your hotel may have a steamer you can borrow, but call before you leave to make sure.

Here is a post I did a while back for someone who was traveling for several months at a time, which may have some helpful advice for you. Good luck on your trial!

Readers, any other advice for Reader J?

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  1. even if the employer doesn’t cover laundry/dry cleaning (mine does not), it’s still tax-deductible as a business expense.

  2. I agree with 2 suits, but think that they should mix and match for different combinations. Think black/grey or grey/navy. One way to get extra suit looks is to use unlined jackets. I like the patterned ones that can be worn with both suit bottoms. I have a few from Dress Barn that integrate into my suit wardrobe. Also think about bringing a 3rd bottom that goes with everything. Consider bringing a jersey dress or two to wear with your suit jackets. This may also be worn alone for going out to dinner. Shirts – a white button down, a couple of nice jersey shells will take you a long way.
    I’d bring one pair of low heeled walkable shoes for court but bring a second set of insoles to swap out.
    Work out gear – I may use a tee/shorts combination for sleeping and workout. This works well if you work out in the morning. Just hand wash afterward and let dry all day, they’ll be ready by evening. I bring light weight running flats instead of full running shoes.
    Shampoo – I use a solid shampoo bar – this lasts for a month. Decant all makeup into small (1 oz) containers.

  3. FYI – most hotels have a guest laundry. Set aside one night per week to do laundry and get everything clean. Bring Shout wipes for spills. I usually buy a small laundry detergent at my destination. I’ll also pick up healthy snacks like yogurt, carrots, celery, and apples for the mini fridge. If your room has a microwave it’s nice to have soup. Sometimes you just want to spend the night in.

  4. @Lady Light Travel, while I would normally agree with you regarding mix and match combinations, federal court trials do not lend themselves to that. I would wear an actual suit (matching skirt/jacket, dress/jacket, or pants/jacket) every day. No separates.

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