Don’t Catch Feelings, Catch Flights: Work Travel Packing Tips

Whenever anyone asks me what I do these days, my answer always seems a little vague. “I’m in real estate … but not here.”

In all honesty, it’s a pretty accurate description. My work in retail leasing has me taking meetings across time zones, conferencing with Singapore at 10pm and Skypeing with Germany at 5am. And when a face to face meeting is needed to seal the deal, then I’m leaving on a jet plane.

I should disclaimer this by saying I’m not a “packer”, and have on more than one occasion been known to throw six swimsuits, a toothbrush, a makeup clutch and my passport into an overnight bag while the car service waits outside with the resolve of “figuring it out” when I get to the resort. Much to the chagrin of my travel companions, this will probably never change. But packing for a work trip vs a vacay takes a little more finesse, and the art of presenting as perfectly professional and put together after a 16+ hour flight is one that I’ve refined through many a mishap and oversight. Here are a few packing tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Teeny tiny clutches are a no-go.

You’re going to need a substantial tote that will double as your carry-on and your briefcase, and you’re going to need it in a colour that goes with everything you’re wearing on your trip.

The last thing you want is to have to juggle multiple bags and a laptop or, even worse, have a bag that’s too small bursting at the seams with miscellaneous meeting essentials.

Pictured here: Tootsie Leather Tote Bag (Love Cortnie), $285 USD 

2. Pack a wrinkle-resistant meeting outfit in your carry-on.

Let me tell you the story of the time I had a week of meetings in South Africa, and decided to stop in Frankfurt to do two quick meetings on the way. I opted for the travel agency’s phone vs online booking system to speak to a live attendant and plan out an ironclad itinerary. I left an 11 hour block of time in Frankfurt to get from the airport to my meetings and back for my flight to Johannesburg, complete with a booking at the Hilton in the Frankfurt airport to freshen up and change before those meetings. I’m a work travel genius, right?

Except for the part where I didn’t realize the airline’s system would automatically see Frankfurt as a “stopover” as opposed to a destination, because both my arrival in and departure from Frankfurt would be on the same day. What does this mean? This means a feverish shopping excursion for an outfit more suitable than yoga pants and an OVO sweatshirt to wear to these meetings since my checked luggage was being processed for transfer to Johannesburg.

Lesson: Pack a meeting outfit in your carry-on, for those times when the airline loses your checked luggage, or those times when you’re just not as smart as you thought you were.

3. Go ahead and throw a pair of flats in that tote too.

I’m all for rocking a #PRETTYGIRL stiletto for meetings and work events, but when you’re hailing a cab in a foreign city (or touring opportunities on cobblestoned streets), a handy pair of flats can make or break your progress, and your day. And with Christian Louboutin’s new additions to his nude flats collection, you don’t even have to sacrifice your #PRETTYGIRL status to do it!

4. Get a padfolio for files, notepads, pens, etc.

Realizing at the last minute that you’re going to have to borrow the hotel’s notepads and pens for a meeting is a bust. Taking notes on a notepad that reads “Hotel & Spa” across the top just isn’t the international #PRETTYGIRL professional image you want to present.

Invest in a high quality padfolio to carry all your meeting essentials in a way that betrays the fact that you just hopped off that flight 3 hours ago and don’t actually know what day it is anymore.

Pictured here: Professional Tri-Fold Padfolio (Alpha Enterprise), $54 USD

5. Make your safety a priority.

Work travel for me often means solo travel, and when you’re travelling by yourself in foreign countries, you need to make your personal safety an absolute priority.

Know the address of your embassy – by heart if you can manage it – but at the very least written on an emergency contact card should it be the only thing you have access to in a crisis.

I travel with a personal alarm doorstop for my hotel room. They’re usually less than $15 on sites like Amazon and do wonders for my peace of mind.

I’m also in constant contact with my family when I’m away, which helps them as much as it helps me. I leave them with travel itineraries as well as contact information for where I’ll be staying and who I’ll be meeting while I’m away. No matter what time zone I’m in, my team knows what’s going on, and that can make the difference sometimes.

So go get ’em girl! And if you can spare an evening or a weekend in between meetings, try to take in some of the sights of the amazing places you’ll get to see. All work and no play, you know.

Safe travels!

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