Work Travel Packing List: 6 Items You Probably Need


Since I’ve always been passionate about travel, over the years I’ve compiled an impressive collection of travel tools. Packing cubes, multiple suitcases and duffel bags, and a variety of toiletry kits–if there’s something I need for travel, I probably already have it.

At least, that’s what I thought until a few weeks ago.

After attending a recent two-day work conference–the first professional travel I’ve done on my own–I realized that my leisure travel tools and accessories don’t necessarily cover every contingency that might arise during a work trip.

There were a few pieces I’m so glad I carried with me on my recent trip, and there are also a few additional items I plan to purchase soon, but the six following work travel essentials now have a permanent place on my packing list when I’m traveling professionally.

What I’m Glad I Carried

A Small, Lightweight Wheeled Carry-On


Is anyone even surprised by this? I’ve been a devotée of carry-on only travel for as long as I can remember. Although I resisted buying a hard case four-wheeled spinner until about three or four years ago, it’s become one of my most invaluable travel assets.

Away makes the carry-on suitcase of the moment, but if that $200+ price tag makes you shudder, there are tons of other options that won’t break the bank, like the SwissGear carry-on suitcase I own and love.

A Large, Unstructured Tote


Although I prefer a structured satchel for work, the versatility of a large, unstructured tote makes it the better choice for business travel. I can fold it down flat in my suitcase when it’s not needed, or use it to carry any extra items I might pick up during my trip.

Since the tote I packed on my recent trip was borrowed, I’m currently in the market for one of my own. I’ve got my eye on the Soft Day Tote from Everlane or a large Longchamps nylon tote. Both options are on the pricier side, so I’ll have to save up for a while before I pull the trigger.

A Pair of Comfortable, Professional Flats


The dress code for my recent conference was business casual, so the pair of heels I packed? I never needed them once. Although I wasn’t planning on it, I ended up wearing my Aerosoles East Side loafers to and from the airport and all around the conference venue. They look professional while also being incredibly comfortable–I can’t recommend them enough.

While I already have a pair in tan, I’m considering purchasing another in gold or black. Or blue. Or white. Or all of them, honestly.

What I Wish I’d Packed

A Pocket Manicure Kit


During travel, there’s a lot of pulling, pushing, and lifting, so it’s not surprising that I often arrive at my destination with a ragged-looking manicure: chipped nails, peeling cuticles, and painful hangnails. When traveling for leisure, I honestly don’t care much about how my hands look, but when traveling for business, an unpolished manicure doesn’t a great first impression make.

So on my next business trip, I’ll be ready with a mini manicure kit like this one from Tweezerman. It’s perfect for tackling any nail emergencies that might arise.

An Insulated Water Bottle


My go-to water bottle in the office is a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic flip-top model that suits my daily hydration needs. However, it tends not to keep my water cold and a side effect of that is the condensation that forms on the bottle and puddles on my desk.

What I should have packed instead? My insulated stainless steel bottle to keep my water cold while keeping condensation at bay will definitely be on my work travel packing list going forward.

A Sleek Business Card Case


One of the most valuable parts of attending a professional conference is the opportunity to network with others in your industry. While LinkedIn is a great way to remain connected with these new contacts, exchanged business cards are still very much a conference fixture.

I’m ashamed to admit that during my recent trip, I held my business card stack together with–wait for it–a binder clip. That’s why a sleek and classy business card case is on my list of things I plan on buying very soon.

Creating the Perfect Work Travel Packing List

Building a comprehensive travel packing list takes time, so I can imagine that as I travel professionally more and more, I’ll add additional items to this list of work travel essentials. But until then, I’m crowdsourcing some fresh ideas of things I need to add to this list.

If you travel frequently for work, what other items can you not do without? Is there anything you’d recommend that’s missing from my list?