Ultimate Female Packing List for a Minimalist Business Trip

packing list for minimalist business trip

The following packing list for a minimalist business trip was submitted by Rachel. See all packing lists.

When I first started traveling for work, I may have appeared a little high maintenance… I packed my life into a roller bag, a giant computer bag, and my purse. I imagined myself as Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods when I showed up to the TSA line, teetering on too-tall heels, my matching pink luggage in tow.

After being on the road for much of the last three years, my attitude, gear, and how I travel has changed dramatically: now I’m less Legally Blonde, and more Catch Me if You Can. For work I travel about 30 percent of the time to different client sites, enough so my inner adventurer gets excited about the boutique hotel and off-the-beaten-path restaurant, but not too much where I forget where I traveled last week.

packing list for a minimalist business trip
Rachel’s way of traveling has changed dramatically. This is her current business trip luggage.

My Lightbulb Moment

About two years ago, I took a trip with a colleague to Los Angeles over four days. On the way back to the airport, I noticed she didn’t have a roller bag or duffle. She only carried a Northface backpack and large purse. I asked where her bag was, concerned she forgot it. She responded with, “I only ever bring a backpack and a purse. If I can’t pack it in here I don’t need it.”

I was incredulous! I had never heard of anyone doing that. It. Blew. My. Mind. I thought maybe there’s something to it and challenged myself to give it a try.

minimalist business trip packing list
Rachel challenged herself to pack lighter.

Baby Steps

On the next several trips I made a conscious effort to bring less stuff. No I don’t need five pairs of shoes. No I don’t need my bathing suit and towel for the hotel pool. No I don’t need a suit and a change of clothes for each day and an extra outfit—just in case. You get the picture.

I gained momentum and thought about what else I could cut, analyzing what I didn’t use and leaving anything unused behind on the next trip. I discovered packing cubes, blogs about traveling light, and new ideas sparked. I soon fit everything in my Northface and carried a purse with room to spare. Then I hit a wall…

I loved the freedom from carrying so little. BUT I didn’t feel or look particularly professional carrying a bright yellow backpack. I started looking around at airports at the different consultants on the road and saw men and women in backpacks that looked professional and comfortable. I made mental notes of brands, shapes, sizes, colors, material, etc. I quoted backpack facts to my husband whose eyes started to glaze over any time I pulled up the REI website or eBags or whichever was my favorite of the moment. Then I found the one.

>>Read the female packing guide to working from the road.

female packing list for a packing list for a minimalist business trip
Reevaluating what she really needs and leaving behind things she doesn’t has helped Rachel develop her minimalist packing list.

What I Pack Now

Now I pack everything in my purse and Timbuk2 Jet Laptop Pack (review coming soon). It is 30 liters of organization and compartmentalization so I know where everything is and can reach it at a moment’s notice. A couple of the things I really like from a work travel perspective are its clean look and it fits under the seat in front of you on most airplanes. You can carry it both as a backpack and as a briefcase, and it has a separate laptop compartment. I can carry everything I need and have room for more if I pick up something new in my travels.

On the plane, I will typically dress in jeans, cardigan, and my flats (which match both my suit and casual attire). I plan my tops so when my meeting ends I can swap the skirt for jeans and be ready for a casual night around town or for a glass of wine with a colleague. I’ll use jewelry to dress my outfits up or down, as it’s a great way to change the feel of an outfit in an instant without taking up much space in my bag.

>>Check out this versatile 16L minimalist packing list.

My Packing List for a Minimalist Business Trip:

Minimal toiletries for a minimalist business trip packing list
Minimal toiletries for a minimalist business trip packing list
  • Toiletries: razor, face lotion, comb, band aids, floss, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, q-tips, nail kit, Kleenex, spare contacts, pill kit (aspirin, Imodium, etc.), contact solution, face wash, menstrual cup, and depending on the hotel, shampoo and conditioner. Often times, if I know the hotel will have decent toiletries, I’ll change out what I bring and just use what they provide.
  • Electronics: Laptop, chargers
  • Travel coffee mug
  • Water bottle
  • Journal
  • Notebook
  • Pen set: I like color options
  • Scarf: for warmth and fashion
  • Book or Nook depending on the length of the trip
  • 1 suit skirt and jacket
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 workout outfit
  • 1 sleep outfit
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of flats
  • 1, 2, or 3 dress shirts (one shirt for the number of nights I’m gone)
  • 1 pair underwear for each night
  • 1 pair pantyhose for each meeting
minimalist business trip packing list packed up
Rachel all packed up!

Overall, my way of seeing the world has changed because of what I pack. I glide through airports in a way I didn’t before. If I’m running late I’m confident that I can physically run to the gate. I am more hands free, and when I want access to something, I know exactly where it is. And, because I’m packing in the same way each trip with similar items, I pack faster with more consistency. Even with what I bring, I could still cut back if I needed. With each trip I continue to experiment with the combination of items I bring, and I look forward to perfecting the system and learning how others do the same.

About the author: Rachel is a consultant, outdoor enthusiast, and animal lover who travels frequently around the U.S. for work and pleasure. When not on the road for work, you can find her planning her next hike on the Appalachian Trail, half-marathon through the mountains out west, or swing through South America—and she never checks a bag (except maybe backpacking gear). She lives in Chicago with her husband and a small menagerie of pets.

minimalist business packing list
what to pack for minimalist business trip

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. terra says

    This is so great – I went to Italy for almost three weeks with just a carryon and it was SO FREEING. But I still had too much stuff. I’ve come a long way from my younger years when I’d carry full-size toiletries items and a massive suitcase full of “options.” Now I know better and I know I’ve got favorite pieces and I should just take those. It’s way easier to just have a few things to choose from and it’s so easy to move from place to place when my bag is light and small.

  2. Maxi says

    Hi, thanks a lot for this insight 😀 Honestly, it’s always like: oh I need, this and this and that and in the end you only end up using a few things, that would even have fitted into a tiny bag.
    One question I have to you: how do you keep your tops without wrinkles?

    • Chris Farrell says

      I lay my tops or blouses on my bed and fold each one carefully, smoothing as I go. It’s really a matter of practice. But here’s the good part! Once folded, slide the blouse or top into a one gallon zip lock bag, One top to a bag. Without moving the bag around too much, or lifting it, I suck the air out of the bag and seal it. With practice, this makes an airtight parcel that keeps the shirts smooth. I’ve even been able to slide the bag across the room without disturbing the contents, as long as the seal is unbroken!
      I hope this works for you!

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