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?

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  1. Thank you for the packing tips! Speaking of busy schedules, do you carry a planner around to keep track of everything you have to do? Or do you use an electronic planner, if any at all? I'm interested to know how a successful and well-rounded woman like you do it all!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  2. JoJo wrote:

    I need to get me one of those bag!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  3. I grew up in the NJ/NYC metro area so I hope you are enjoying it! Lol – no I know travel for work is long and exhausting but thanks for the travel tip!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  4. Ennay wrote:

    Great tip, thanks Nina!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  5. Lisa Ng wrote:

    Can't believe you fit all that into 1 bag! I may invest in a Longchamp tote since I see it is so versatile for you. Plus, some bags have so many pockets (and weight) that it limits the main compartment's size. I see the LC doesn't. I like roll-suitacases b/c I hate carrying/lugging a shoulder bag traveling in airports. So heavy! But if I could fit everything into 1 like you, I'd say "yes" and not have to rely on strangers with help for my overhead. Thanks!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  6. I absolutely love this post! I travel often and it has been a struggle trying to figure out what to pack. I love your style and coordination – keep it coming!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  7. Lori wrote:

    I can't believe you fit everything in your bag! Amazing! I've seen so many girls toting the Longchamp Totes around…I've been pondering about getting one…:)

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    great tip!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  9. Faten wrote:

    i'll try to use your tips next time i travel, it's silly i usually take my closet with me because i doubt myself a lot

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  10. I know what you mean about heavy costume jewelry. I usually end up taking mine off within an hour of getting into work.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  11. Nina wrote:

    What an impressive packing feat! Jean, could you please give some details about your adorable turquoise toiletry bag? I would love to know what the bag itself is, and if you could give us a peek at your "stuff"….Also, I think another commenter suggested this, but I would recommend you try using scarves as accessories – very versatile and certainly lightweight!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  12. Nina wrote:

    I have sent several bags into the NYC boutique for repair and they come back good as new and it usually doesn't take as long as they say. They usually only charge shipping, I believe, which is like $6-7 dollars?

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Am I the only person who's scared to let my bare feet touch the hotel room carpet? I usually pack a thin pair of flip flops to use in the room and even wear them into the shower. They don't take up much room in the bag, either.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  14. Hi Kady! Two reasons – 1. My smallest roller bag is a full carry-on size suitcase and I always struggle with getting it over my head on airplanes. I always have to ask someone for help, and it's embarrassing! When I bring a bigger bag, I tend to fill it with excess stuff so it gets heavy. 2. I have to commute quite a bit from the workplace to the hotel and the terrain is rugged at times with construction. It's hard to drag a roller through all of that. I might get a small/light roller like that one you have for future travels though.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  15. My laptop (shown inside the bag) is 15" I believe when measured diagonally. Regular width for reference is about 13" and you can proably fit one an inch or two wider without issues.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  16. Hi Jen – I spotted a few stylish ladies on my commute this morning and am guessing you were one of them. Please say hello next time! : )

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  17. Jen wrote:

    Hi Jean! I totally saw you like 15 minutes ago walking by the Millenium hotel. You looked fab as always.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  18. Ennay wrote:

    Is there an additional charge for the repair? If yes, any idea how much? Thanks!

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  19. Ennay wrote:

    The Longchamps dont dig in as much as the LV Neverful. Carried my NF around and a few hours later the skin on my shoulder had two bright red imprints of the straps. Not a nice look.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  20. This is exactly how I packed my clothes while I'm travelling.

    Posted 2.29.12 Reply
  21. Emily wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  22. Emily wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  23. Olivia wrote:

    Thanks for another great post Jean!!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  24. jennyjk wrote:

    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 🙂

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  25. 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.:)

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    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?

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  27. Kady wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  28. Genie wrote:

    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.


    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  30. meli88a wrote:

    This is AMAZING.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  31. I too fold my clothes like that!! Thanks for sharing! xX

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  32. great post as always!!! that's so cool that you can travel light-weight!!! i am an over-packer for sure;;;

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  33. laura wrote:

    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. 😉

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  34. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  35. Anne wrote:

    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

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  36. newpetite wrote:

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

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  37. Lela wrote:

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

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

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  38. 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!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  39. Lin wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  40. Tina wrote:

    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 =/

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  41. Lauren wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  42. 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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  43. 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!!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  44. KT wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  45. Anonymous wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  46. 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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  47. Rosie wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  48. Ping wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  49. Anonymous wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.28.12 Reply
  50. 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!


    Posted 2.28.12 Reply

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