Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pack this: 3-day trip

I mentioned taking a few quick business trips over the past few months -- I'm no road warrior, but I do a fair amount of business travel. I've been in my current job for about 7 years, and I have to laugh a bit now thinking about those first trips. I pretty much put my whole wardrobe in a giant 30" suitcase and dragged it through unfamiliar airports and cities, only to return home with an aching back and a ton of laundry.

This week I'm headed out on a fairly typical trip -- three days of professional meetings and events and downtime with friends in the evenings. And getting ready is so easy now (I don't know if professional packer is a thing, but I'm adding it to my resume). I was able to pack everything I needed, with plenty of options, in a small carry-on and a tote (ok, a pretty generous tote).

Here are a few of the things I've learned in my transition over-packer to savvy traveler:

Let's talk toiletries...

1. Pouches are a girl's best friend -- I use a ton of them when I travel, and I love a good roomy one for my non-liquid toiletries.

2. Find non-liquid alternatives to as many products as possible -- I have a few special products that I always travel with. My favorite is a good makeup removing balm like Clinique's Take the Day Off. At home I use a facial cleanser and liquid eye makeup remover, but this one (solid) product takes care of both without taking up valuable room in my 1-gallon ziplock. A pack of cleansing wipes will take care of a million needs -- freshening up hands or face when you're trapped in your airplane seat, cleaning your grimy hotel remote control, etc. In my regular life I often use liquid eyeliner, blush, and lip gloss, but I only bring my gel eyeliner, cream blush, and solid lip products when I travel. Throw in a few single-use wipes, too -- stain remover and nail polish remover will always come in handy.

3. Streamline your routine -- When I travel, I stick to the basics. I don't need my serums, eye cream, and retinols, just a good moisturizer will do. I limit myself to one must-have hair product (this amazing Redken gloss, which makes my hair so silky). One good eyeshadow is better than a bulky palette full of shades. It won't kill you to use the hotel's shampoo and soap for a few days; if I need a guaranteed good hair day, sometimes I'll add a tiny bottle of my favorite conditioner...or I'll treat myself to a blowout on the road.

3. Hoard product samples -- I keep a big box of all kinds of product samples in my bathroom -- gifts with purchase, VIB rewards, gift bag swag -- and crack into it when I'm heading out of town.

4. Save your almost-empties -- I usually repurchase favorite products before they're completely empty for fear of running out at the worst time. I hold on to my almost-empty tubes of foundation, moisturizer, etc., and throw them in my bag when I travel because they take up much less space than full products. I'll finish them off on my trip and toss them before heading home (leaving my suitcase lighter, or with room for a few souvenirs).

Be smart about your travel day outfit....

My only rule of thumb here is: wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane.

This is key to getting all of your clothes in a tiny suitcase -- don't let shoes take up valuable space. For this trip, my bulkiest footwear was my running shoes. I knew I'd have time to change in the airport before jumping into any professional festivities, so this meant I could keep things SUPER casual and comfy for my trip. I went with a good pair of leggings and my favorite drapey tee (I usually like to avoid lounge-y clothes for traveling, but sometimes an exception needs to be made).

Packing your carry on...

Most airlines allow you to bring a small suitcase and a "small personal item" like a handbag, computer bag, or briefcase. This tote might be pushing the boundaries of a small personal item, but it easily fits under the seat so I think I'm safe.

1. Tuck a pair of shoes in your tote -- shoes take up a lot of space, so be smart about what you bring and how you pack them. I had 4 pair on my trip, which was perfect, but only 2 pair taking up space in my actual suitcase.

2. Grab a scarf -- I knew I'd be wearing this one during my trip, but I always pack at least one scarf in my carry on in case I need a blanket or a pillow, a makeshift eye mask, or even an air filter in case my seat mate forgot to bathe that day week.

3. More pouches -- to avoid losing important things in a cavernous bag, I keep another pouch right on top. I stash my passport, my boarding pass, my earbuds, and any other small thing I might need for easy access.

4. Snacks -- earlier this year I broke one of my cardinal travel rules and got on a flight without any snacks. We were stuck on the tarmac for hours and I thought I'd pass out from hunger -- never again. I also like having healthy snacks in my hotel room so I'm not tempted by the minibar. Apples, nuts, and granola bars are perfect.

Packing your bag...

1. Find the right suitcase -- I found this slim little rollerbag at TJ Maxx for $40 (I've seen it in quite a few stores in a variety of colors). It is tiny but holds SO much. I easily fit 6 tops, 3 bottoms, 1 dress, 1 jacket, 2 pair of shoes, jewelry, a hair dryer and other odds and ends (I rolled most of my clothes -- I think it maximizes space and minimizes wrinkles).

2. Maximize your options -- I'm not someone who can plan out 3 days' worth of outfits in advance. I like to have options so I can adjust for changes in weather, plans, or just mood. I know I'll need a few options for work activities and a few options for casual evening plans, so I made sure almost everything I brought could be dressed up or down as needed. I think I'll wear the green top with black pants and heels for client meetings, but I may decide to throw it on with jeans and flats for dinner with my college roommate. With a streamlined color palette (black, white, blue, and green), I can easily put together lots of different outfits. A couple of bold accessories that work with just about any look will make it super easy to get dressed for every event.

A few pieces, lots of options...

3. Don't forget to work on your fitness -- traveling can be rough on your body and spirit. Your sleep schedule gets out of whack, you don't always eat the right things, you're cramming too much into your day. The remedy for all of this is exercise. I always make sure my hotel has a gym, but if possible I head out for a walk or run (preferably in the morning, so I can get a lay of the land and check out the city) and then do some squats and lunges back in my room. So make room for some gym clothes -- it's worth it.

4. Packing cubes are genius. I used to think these were just a frivolous "extra" for people who like to throw money away, but they make a difference. If used the right way, they'll let you pack smarter by filling in every last inch of valuable space. I used this one for socks and undies on this trip, but for a longer trip I'll use a few to cram in extra tops, pants, pjs, etc.

All packed and ready to fly -- see you on the road!


  1. Fantastic packing list! I love that you show the outfits you'll be making out of the clothes you're bringing. I have a packing list going up on Friday for a 4 day trip as well, though I somehow doubt mine will look as polished as yours.

    1. Thank you, I can't wait to see your post! Business travel in the summer is never easy, so I hope I manage to look polished for a few hours at least :)

  2. I need to get better at packing...I always overpack by a looot. I am a big fan of the 'wear your biggest shoes on the plane' rule though!

    1. Thanks! It took me a while to get my act together - it really is freeing to travel light!