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.
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.
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.
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:
- Toiletries: razor, face lotion, comb, floss, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, q-tips, nail kit, Kleenex, spare contacts + 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.
- Mini medical kit – Band aids, aspirin, Imodium, etc.
- Electronics: Laptop, phone, chargers
- Travel coffee mug
- 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
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.
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