When you’re packing for a week-long business trip, it can be tempting to throw in everything but the kitchen sink so that you have options. Let’s be honest though, no one wants to hoist a jam-packed suitcase into the carry-on space if they don’t have to. I’ve been that girl one too many times, and I can fully admit that packing light is the way to go. The key is to think ahead about your agenda, and then carefully select versatile pieces that are all within the same color palette. To help you out, I’ve put together a complete packing list for you below so that you can prepare for your trip without the stress of wondering what to bring.
A Complete Packing List for a Week-Long Business Trip
START WITH BASIC TOPS
Classic Wrap or Button-Up Blouse
A classic blouse is perfect for travel because it pairs well with dresses, skirts, and pants and it always looks professional. For travel, I prefer a silk or polyester option that can be rolled in your suitcase without the need for ironing upon arrival at your destination.
Fitted Turtleneck or Bodysuit
A black fitted turtleneck or bodysuit is another highly versatile piece that will always look professional and sophisticated. It can easily be layered under a dress or sweater and looks especially sleek with a pair of ankle pants (very Audrey Hepburn).
Silk Layering Tee
A silky layering tee is a nice third option for tops. It can be dressed down for off-hours events and is convenient if you need a cooler option for wearing under layers. You’ll want one in a basic color like white, off-white, or black so that it can easily pair with other items.
PAIR WITH A VARIETY OF BOTTOMS
A Go-To Pair of Jeans
Having a pair of jeans with you is a must. You’ll want these for travel days, and less-formal after-hours events where you want to be comfortable (but not too comfortable). I recommend selecting a pair without any distressing if you’re working at a more conservative company. Skinny or straight styles are great for pairing with heels and flats, and dark washes tend to be the most flattering and sophisticated.
A pencil skirt is the epitome of professional and looks fantastic with all of the tops below. The fitted style compliments the extra volume of a blouse but also seamlessly transitions to a fitted turtleneck. You will always look professional in a classic pencil skirt.
A Sleeveless Dress
A sleeveless dress, in whatever style compliments you best (shift, A-Line, pencil), will easily pair over the blouses and under the turtleneck. It can also be worn on it’s own with the sweater over top to create an additional outfit option.
Straight or Skinny Ankle Pants
Ankle pants are my go-to for travel because, unlike a bootcut or trouser version, they work so well with both heels and flats. That means you can quickly go from the work day to a comfortable dinner by swapping your heels for a pair of flats, and not have to change anything else. These are super versatile and great for mixing with other pieces.
ADD INTEREST WITH LAYERING PIECES
The blazer is my personal favorite layering piece. I always feel confident in this structured piece. It can be worn with jeans for a more casual look, over a dress, with a skirt, and definitely with ankle pants. The blazer is a must-have for any professional trip.
A Long Wool or Trench Coat
Depending on where you’re heading, you’ll likely need an outerwear option. The classic trench coat will never be a bad option or, for colder weather, a long wool coat is equally professional. I specifically recommend a longer option because short coats can look awkward or create unflattering breaks in the silhouette when worn with skirts and dresses. The longer length coat will create a flattering, elongating look on any figure.
Lightweight Sweater or Cardigan
A lightweight sweater or cardigan is an essential layering piece, especially for air-conditioned environments. Having the ability to remove it quickly will be greatly appreciated for those situations where you’re going from cool air inside to warmer weather outdoors.
Shop Layering Essentials
DON’T FORGET THE ACCESSORIES
A lightweight scarf is the perfect travel accessory. You can find them in a ton of beautiful prints to add some fun to your outfit, they’ll keep you warm on a plane or outdoors, and they double as a hair or handbag accessory. Win-win-win!
Simple earrings, like an oversized stud, huggie, or classic hoop will step up your look without making it look like party attire. Avoid chandelier styles or anything that would be better saved for a night out. The simpler options will keep you looking professional and chic without being over the top.
Especially on work trips, I want to have the time at the ready. If I’m presenting, I need to keep track of my own time, and if I’m an attendee, I like to know about how much time is left until the next event or session. Plus, let’s be honest, I’m usually monitoring my watch for the next bathroom break or meal.
Structured Satchel or Tote
You’ll definitely want a larger bag when traveling for work. In most cases, you’ll either have a laptop or notebook to tote with you each day, but it’s also great to have as your purse when carrying onboard an airplane. Keeping books or devices and small toiletries at the ready is really helpful for any layovers or evenings in the hotel.
3 Pairs of Shoes (1 for travel, 2 for business)
Booties are a nice and often more comfortable alternative to pumps when it comes to professional attire. They’re a little warmer since they cover the entire foot, but still look very sophisticated.
Your go-to classic shoe for professional events. I recommend a pair in a nude that easily blends with your skin color. This will be the most flattering when worn with the pencil skirt and dress.
Perfect for travel days or commuting to and from your work venue, a pair of flats are the most comfortable option for extended periods on your feet.
Best Places to Shop for Work Clothes
After nearly two decades working in a professional environment, I’ve honed in a few favorite retailers for buying work clothes. I also wholeheartedly believe that quality is a huge element in building a great professional wardrobe, and that often equates to spending more money. There’s no need to break the bank, but you definitely want to invest in these clothes. If you do, they’ll last you for years and years. Since many of us spend more time in our workwear than our casual clothes, it’s wise to spend a proportional amount investing in those clothes. Doing so will ensure that we don’t end up tossing worn–out clothes after a season or two (and thus, wasting our money completely).
The best brands and retailers for professional clothes on a budget are:
Even More Tips on Packing for Business Trips
- Choose items that are all in the same color palette to ensure easy mixing and matching.
- Choose pieces that are versatile and without a lot of pattern or color.
- Wear your bulkiest items for travel so that they don’t take up space in your suitcase.
- Remember that, above all, it’s a work trip so you’ll want even your casual wear to look relatively professional. Keep this in mind when selecting jeans and accessories.
Want more style tips?
Click here or check out the reader favorites below.