Packing tips for business trips

For the past few weeks, I’ve been shuttling between NY/NJ for work. Travel is lonely and draining, but at least I can now pack in my sleep. I started out with a little roller suitcase, but as time went on, packing became progressively more minimalistic. Young me used to bring pretty dresses, cute handbags, and even hair appliances in anticipation of living it up in the city after work…now, my “extras” consist of one oversized sleep shirt for hotel hibernation. I’ve gotten it down to one tote bag, clunky laptop contained.

My trusty Longchamp Planetes Tonal tote (5-star user reviews!)


Outfits for 3 days (clockwise, from upper right): Target blouse, J.Crew necklace, AT blouse, Sparkling Sage necklace, H&M; blouse, pearl necklace, AT lace skirt, AT knit skirt, BR suiting skirt (all newly slimmed for super cheap in Asia…woohoo), Theory basic blazer.

I bring necklaces to add interest to otherwise plain outfits, but the downside is that most of my jewelry is so heavy! This is not good for lightweight packing and especially not for the neck, I’m sure. Going forward, I resolve to avoid buying heavy costume jewelry (unless it’s just too cute – those will have to be reserved for short-duration wear).
Some packing tips:
– Choose polyester blouses that are lightweight with good drape, and don’t wrinkle easily.
– Choose stretchy knit skirts that are comfortable for travel and don’t wrinkle easily
– Roll clothes up tightly to avoid wrinkles (you get the theme) and to save space. I especially like doing this because I’m a bad folder.
– Wear your heaviest and/or least packing-friendly pieces when traveling (unless you have a long trip). I usually travel in a black suit, and recycle the blazer for outfits throughout the week.
– Coordinate your outfits around one pair of shoes, since heels take up lots of space. I always pack my Ann Taylor perfect pumps, and travel in TB Reva flats.

Ta da! 3-4 days in a tote bag.

Not shown: I usually fold up a Longchamp Le Pliage tote (Nordies has 10+ colors) and toss it inside my main bag, just in case I have to carry documents home. When I “splurged” on my first Longchamp in 2008, I worried about the thin straps tearing and the bottom corners fraying into holes. After four years of almost daily use/abuse, I can attest that they are actually very functional and sturdy. My Le Pliage corners have started to fray, but the Planetes Tonal (thicker, sturider, yet still lightweight and pliable) corners show very minimal wear. I clean mine inside & out simply with an antibacterial wipe, and can’t imagine traveling without one. See my vintage post on the different-sized Longchamps against a petite frame.

Readers – What are your tips / habits for packing for business trips?

144 thoughts on “Packing tips for business trips

  • kath-thy February 28, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I have both the planetes tote and the medium le pliage and love them both. The planetes tote carried me through my university years and I only have some minor scuffing on the bottom corners. Now its too large for my everyday needs, that's where the le pliage comes in. But will definitely consider travelling with it. Thanks for the idea 🙂

  • Anna February 28, 2012 at 3:51 am

    I bought my first Le Pliage in the same year as you did (if I remember correctly). It did fray but still holds up beautifully. The leather on the strap was tucked in the closure of a car seat once and got a little damage, but still I can carry my (less bulky) laptop as well as clothes, shoes, beauty essentials and books inside without having to worry. I bought a second Le Pliage last year and love it to pieces. I will go for one of the even sturdier models for the next one probably, but anyways the cost per wear for my Longchamps has always been amazing so they are deffinitely worth the splurge!

  • Sophie February 28, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Wow! It's great that you can pack for 3-4 days in a tote bag. I always tend to overpack thinking I need everything. -_-

  • gigiofca February 28, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I am amazed. I thought that was your carry on bag only. *lol*

  • PetiteLittleGirl February 28, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Wonderful tips, Jean! You should have posted these before I visited Boston so I did not have to pack my life with me for a 2-day trip =) Now, I am contemplating the Planetes tote. It seems like a great bag for travel. Do they come in different sizes like the Le Pliage?

  • My Dressy Ways February 28, 2012 at 8:20 am

    You're amazing!!! I always overpack! Great tips, Jean.

  • M February 28, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I usually pack my padded bras over a pair of socks or similar, to avoid crushing them with something else.

  • M February 28, 2012 at 10:24 am

    I just realized it's a tote bag… WOW! i usually pack just what i need but my blow dryer takes up most of the space… I think i need to get a travel sized hair dryer. I'd like one that's powerful but small (and on the low cost side)… any recommendations?

  • dietingfashions February 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Great tips! I usually can fit everything in a carry on and my handbag. When I travel, I roll my clothes too. I get cold very easily so I like to pack lightweight sweaters and cardigans rather than blouses. I actually travel with the Caruso ion steam rollers. It's very compact and easily portable. I don't like to travel with jewelry.


  • Love and Company February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Thank you for posting some traveling tips. We always have a hard time packing in everything for short trips and end up over packing for just a couple days. Very efficient!


  • Benjamin + Trang February 28, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Rolling your clothes is definitely a room saver! I use the Eagle Creek Organized Travel to store my rolled up clothes, they're super helpful! They can be purchased almost anywhere…I put the link below 🙂

    Also, love your longchamp! I've had mine for almost 5 years now and am looking into a new one….since yours is sturdier, it may be a good option. Thanks for posting!


  • Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    How was going through security? I pack really tightly especially with a baby bag and remember TSA ransacking through all my tightly carefully packed things and then shrugging their shoulders as they handed me my bag with all its spilling contents. I'd have to put it back carefully while putting back my shoes, balancing a stroller and making sure my toddler didn't run away. Sometimes I think TSA likes to mess it up on purpose.

  • Ping February 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    jean– i need to learn from you in term of packing light. when i went to cabo the first time, i maxed out with one luggage at 50lbs. hahaha!! tim was like OMG, all u need are your bikinis, how did you manage to pack 50lbs worth of stuff. hahaha!

  • Rosie February 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I am so impressed, Jean! The good thing about being petite is that our clothes take up less spade. 😉

    I also love the trick of slipping in my suitcase extra folded-up Pliage bags when traveling. I take a smaller one to use as a handbag at my destination and a large one for carrying home shopping and souvenirs.

  • Laura Frost February 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    That is really impressive! I have started to pack much lighter too, now that I have to share my suitcase with my little 1 year old.

  • Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    If your clothes get wrinkly, you can hang them in the bathroom while showering. The steam will take the wrinkle out. I also ziplock my jewelry separately, so they don't fall all over and don't rub against each other to have discoloration.

  • KT February 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • February 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    You dress so cute at work Jean…and I can't believe you packed 3 outfits + more into that bag! I'd be lucky to get one!!

  • Chocolate, Cookies & Candies February 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I actually have the same sized tote but in canvas which I use for traveling (and grocery shopping). I can pack for 1-2 nights into my Le Pliage shopper although I won't be carrying my heavy laptop with me.

  • Lauren February 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    The Planetes Tonal tote is seriously my new favorite bag as well, but I definitely have to try your method of packing into it now. Just love that I can bring this gem around NYC and all I have to do is wipe it clean!

  • Tina February 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks for the useful tips! I'm a super light packer as well and I feel so left out when I go on vacations with friends and they pack their whole life with them but I pack so little =/

  • Lin February 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I have the same Longchamp bag as yours. I've had it for 3 years now, and it is my favorite bag for small trips and for my books when I go to class. It is my trusty bag; love it!

  • Coast to Coast Chic February 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    i love that longchamp bag! i have that in lavender and this emerald green. I use it all the time!

    I just got a new bag too!

  • Lela February 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Can I just have EVERYTHING in this post? J'adore.

    (I'd love if you checked out my fashion blog/shoe blog/etc!)

  • newpetite February 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    And I thought I was the one who travels light! Thanks for this post!

  • Anne February 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I'm a new stay at home mom, so I don't have to think about travel all that much. But when I did go on business trips I would pack a whole ton b/c I would travel at minimum for 3 days and 2 nights. Once I do go back into the workforce later this year, I hope to minimize like you wrote about in here.

    I have a smaller Longchamp in Lavender, but I really should invest in a bigger LC tote.

    Whereabouts in NJ do you travel to? I'm from NJ 🙂

    xo Annie

  • Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    You just had to twist the bra and stack two cups together, then do the same to another bra and stack them together 😉 Kat

  • laura February 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I envy your light packing! I travel often for work, but I'm never able to go w/out at least a carry on suitcase — especially when crossing into a different climate. Also need to bring workout gear. Gotta keep fit even while on the road. 😉

  • happilyfull February 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    great post as always!!! that's so cool that you can travel light-weight!!! i am an over-packer for sure;;;

  • PinkOrchids February 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    I too fold my clothes like that!! Thanks for sharing! xX

  • meli88a February 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    This is AMAZING.

  • Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I'm a minimalist traveller too and I like using silk scarves instead of necklaces when I travel. They're much lighter.

  • Genie February 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Now I really want a Longchamp tote! I envy your packing skills, I unfortunately am not great at packing so much in such a small space.


  • Kady February 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Curious why you go with the Longchamp i/o a roller bag. I used to travel all the time, and relied on my fairly small and light roller. I ultimately just couldn't take the strain on my neck/shoulder of hauling my computer around in a tote. I have never been able to pack as efficiently as this, because I ALWAYS need extra layers (sweaters, scarves, etc…) when I travel. I run super cold.

  • Anonymous February 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Wow! I'm surprised that at 5'0" you were able to find a bag large enough to accomodate your laptop but not too big as to overwhelm your frame. I'm around your size and am having that issue… Do you think the Planetes Tonal tote is big enough for a 15" laptop?

  • audrinajulia February 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Love all my longchamp bag and I agree with you that's it very functional and practical to use. I still don't have the planetes but after reading good reviews, I'm planning to own one, I'm using Longchamp LM tote for long trips and when I have kids with me..and yes really a helpful tote. thanks for your packing advise.:)

  • jennyjk February 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    lol i like how you change yourself from young me to the now you. sophisticated but chic, your outfits are actually very pretty well put together 🙂

  • Olivia February 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks for another great post Jean!!

  • Emily February 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Ugh, one bag—if only! My business trips seem to require two outfits per day, at least. I need at least one outfit I can move around and get a little grimy in, as well as 2-4 business attire outfits I can wear for 4-6 hours on my feet (so flats are non-negotiable!) On the flip side, my colleagues and I do make an effort to spend our decent amounts of downtime sightseeing, shopping, or dining, and that requires a comfier change of clothes. And using hotel gyms is the highlight of business travel for me; I've regretted it every time I've gone without sneakers and running shorts. Luckily, it's usually possible to fit all my petite clothing into a carry-on size rolling suitcase. And believe it or not, I always travel lighter than my male coworkers!

  • Emily February 28, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    You can also tuck something small like undies or a balled up pair of socks into the cups of the bra to help keep their shape. Unpack them when you arrive, and they'll be fine.

    Speaking of socks—I'd never travel without a pair of warm ones. Whether you prefer thick and fluffy fleece or lightweight wool, they're a comfort and a lifesaver in a chilly hotel room or plane cabin.

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