You smoothly saunter out of your boss’s office because you were just informed you are being sent on a trip two weeks from now on behalf of your company.
The moment you are out of sight, you squeeze your eyes shut and smile your biggest smile as you jump up and down, thinking of how fabulous you will look as you jet set with your perfectly matching brief case and carry on bag, double-shot latte in hand!
Yes, a business trip does indicate plenty of coffee. But I was surprised at how anxious I was trying to pack the night before I departed for my first one. It didn’t help that it was to a place I had never been before, New York City.
How do I know the attire? How do I pack for just one carry on and a laptop bag?
Here’s what to know for your first business trip:
1. Pack simple clothing so you can travel light, yet still have options once you get there.
When packing for my first business trip, I had no idea what the attire would be once I arrived. The formality of dress varies depends on the industry you’re in, and whether you’re going for meetings with executives or to a conference.
If you really have no idea how formal the office of your destination is, you can always be safe by being over-dressed.
Here’s my rundown for a 3-day business trip, let’s say:
You pack the following, which will all fit into a carry on suitcase and your laptop bag:
- dress pants
- pencil skirt/dress for the ladies, slacks for the lads
- jeans (just in case your colleagues are suuuper casual)
- 3 business tops
- 2 necklaces, scarves, or ties
- 1 pair of heels/dress shoes
- 1 pair of flats/loafers
On your travel day, wear formal shoes with business slacks and a dress shirt, and bring along a sports coat or stylish blazer to throw over if you need a last-minute boost to your formality. This will be appropriate and set you up for a good first impression upon arrival, and will also work for an upscale dinner if you do not have time to get to your hotel and change after a day full of meetings.
2. Allow for more time than you usually do when traveling for fun.
It’s never fun to miss your flight, but there is nothing more stressful than missing your flight on a time crunch. You do not want to be tardy for a morning meeting or evening networking event due to rushing around at the airport. This is key for what you should know for your first business trip.
Be sure to get to the airport an hour and a half early, just to be safe, when traveling for work. I normally allow myself an hour from arrival to boarding, but for business, the peace of mind is worth the extra time. If you’re worried about comfort or packing efficiently, check out my tips on how to pack lightly and for a more comfortable long flight.
3. Bring your work necessities.
The day before I leave for business, I always gather my critical work belongings from my office. Be sure to grab all the following things to stuff into your laptop bag for your biz trip:
- Your notebook – you’re going to want to take notes from presentations or discussions that you’ll need to recount details once you’ve returned from the office. It’s harder than you think to gather your thoughts and findings from a trip once you are sitting still in your office chair after a whirlwind of a couple days.
- Business cards – don’t forget these! Aside from LinkedIn, these are your key to forming new connections and staying in touch.
- Pens – needless to say, I have gotten to a conference alone and had to ask around for a pen. Embarrasing!
- Chargers – laptop, phone, tablet, etc.
- A designated receipt spot – hold onto these guys. It took me many times of forgetting to ask for printed receipts and having to call restaurants and gas stations back later to finally get in the swing of having receipts to return to work. Make sure you have a central hub for collection that you can easily sort through after your trip is all said and done.
4. Get familiar with your surroundings and itinerary ahead of time.
This is a good one, especially if you haven’t been to the destination before. Sitting down with your laptop and checking out the area of your hotel and meeting space is helpful for navigation once you have arrived, and to know when you have to be where.
When I travel for fun, I am so fine with just wingin’ it. But for business, I absolutely prefer knowing how long it will take me to get an Uber, drive from point A to point B, and how much time I should give myself to buffer the possible traffic.
Get familiar with your surroundings and your schedule ahead of time to avoid feeling flustered or rushed once you get there.
5. Configure your game plan for your arrival for your business trip.
This time around, your friends or family aren’t going to be waiting to greet you at the airport – you have to get yourself from the airport to your hotel, convention center, or meeting space. If you’re flying into somewhere like New York City or Washington, D.C. you can easily navigate from the airport or train station using the public transportation systems. If your airport is a bit further out, decide whether you’ll hail a cab or schedule an Uber ahead of time – which you can do, BTW – to scoop you up and get you to your designation.
I hope these tips help you feel more confident about this new experience! Enjoy it – you’re clearly a rock star if you are getting to represent your corporation. Plus, one more reason to travel!