Packing for a One-Day Business Trip in a Backpack

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One-day business trip packing list.

In the midst of winter, I traveled from sunny California to the northeast for a 1 day business trip. Well, technically, it was 1.5 days of work, plus 1 day of travel time, so 2.5 days total. Usually, my trips are longer and I bring a carry-on suitcase, but this time, given the uber-short length, I decided to try to fit everything into a backpack. Surprisingly, it was fairly easy!

Clothes worn on the flight

  • Sweatshirt dress (Uniqlo): I love this dress for its trendy, oversized shape. It also has pocketsssss. It’s not the warmest, but I wore a layer underneath.
  • Heattech inner layer (Uniqlo, not shown): These are the best for “winter-fying” lightweight clothing. I actually wore a Heattech slip underneath that is perfect for layering under dresses, but Uniqlo doesn’t carry the slip style anymore. The long-sleeve shirts I linked to are a good substitute that I use under both dresses and tops.
  • Fleece leggings (Athleta): I don’t know how I survived so many winters in the northeast with regular leggings. These fleece leggings are. da. bomb. They feel super soft on your skin and keep your legs way warmer than regular leggings. I love the comfort of leggings, but previously found them too cold in the winter. These fleece leggings are the solution! Note: I tried some cheapo ones from Amazon before, but they were noticeably less warm. These Athleta ones (LL Bean makes them too) are the gold standard.
  • Black booties (Sam Edelman): My standard. A super low heel (~1 inch) makes them comfortable to walk around. They’re sturdy enough to walk on the sidewalk in plowed snowy/slushy conditions, although I wouldn’t wear them during a blizzard since they’re not waterproof.
  • Winter coat (Miss Sixty, not shown): Any winter coat will do. I have this one which is standard New York style (i.e., black) with some shiny hardware. Since I live in California, I have to restrict my outerwear shopping to window shopping only.

Clothes packed in the carry-on

  • Sweater dress (Madewell): For the actual 1.5 days of work, I wore this sweater dress. I love sweater dresses because they’re so comfortable and sufficiently professional (if they’re loose). When they’re made of wool, they’re perfect for chilly offices. This particular dress does have a line of buttons down the back which sometimes get annoying when you’re leaning backwards on a chair. I wore the fleece leggings and the black booties with it.
  • Pajamas: Everyone needs a good pair of pajamas. These ones are from J Crew. Pick your poison!

Travel accessories

Along with clothes, you also need toiletries. I’ve traveled a fair amount, and love trying out different travel accessories. In fact, I dare say I’m a bit obsessive about travel posts, packing posts, travel accessories, and so on. Hitha on the Go is one of my favorite travel blogs, although she write more about lifestyle now and less about travel.

Anyway, these are my tried-and-true favorites that I’ve settled on and take with me on every trip:

  • Toiletry bag (Sea to Summit): This is my favorite toiletry bag, and I’ve tried a few, trust me. The hanger is definitely the best feature, which I usually hang on the arm of the makeup mirror in the hotel bathroom. It has enough space for toothpaste, toothbrush, contact solution, moisturizer, face cleanser, and light makeup. This might sound weird, but I usually skip bringing a comb and just use my fingers instead.
  • Travel tray (Tom Bihn): I put my laptop charger, which also doubles as my phone charger, in here. When I get to the hotel, I dump out the charger and put the tray on the night table. It helps corral together my rings, earrings, and glasses while I’m sleeping. It gives peace of mind that my items aren’t rolling away off the table during the night.
  • Medicine bag (Amazon): This is just a random pouch that I use to hold emergency medical items, like extra contacts, painkillers, asthma inhaler, and epipen. (That list of medications might sound extensive, but they’re really just for emergencies.)
  • Laundry bag (Tom Bihn): This is another one of my travel must-haves! It has a divider in the middle, so you first fill it with clean undies on one side, then gradually move the items to the other side as the laundry gets dirty. It’s genius.
  • Water bottle (Platypus): This a collapsible water bottle that rolls up to about the size of a toilet paper tube. Perfect for clipping to your bag, then filling up after security.

Carrying it all around

I packed all of this into my Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack. It’s the perfect backpack: sleek, professional, and just the right size. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of squarish bulky laptop backpacks that make me feel like a humpback whale (I’m looking at you, Wirecutter reviews.) I think what helps with this backpack is its non-boxy shape and the two-tone grey-on-black design that breaks up the funeral feeling. I rolled up the sweater dress and PJs, and placed the toiletries/accessories on top. My laptop slid into a panel next to my back.

Packing tips

So, overall, here are my main tips for packing light and professionally:

  • Wearing dresses: A dress + leggings combo is so much simpler than trying to match pants + tops, since black leggings match 99% of dresses. Therefore, the same leggings can be re-worn on the flight and on the job.
  • Re-wearing clothes: For 1.5 days of work, I wore the same clothes on both days. Most of my meetings were with separate groups of people anyway. The only people who might notice were my colleagues at breakfast, but I doubt they were keeping track.
  • Dual-use products: My laptop and phone both use USB-C, so I could use the same charger (hopefully this will become more common as more electronics switch to USB-C connectors). My moisturizer has SPF in it, so no need to bring separate sunscreen.
  • Collapsible products: The water bottle and travel tray collapse to take basically zero space, and only expand when needed. But don’t go overboard on buying travel-specific products either.
  • Minimizing toiletries: Since this was such a short trip, I didn’t bring toiletries that I wouldn’t need, like shampoo or conditioner, since I washed my hair right before  the trip. I also brought minimal makeup that didn’t need brushes for application: my standard is tinted moisturizer, concealer, and cream blush that you can spread with your fingers.

It felt so good to breeze through the airport with just a backpack! I’m jealous of all those nomadic travel bloggers who travel round-the-world, so this is my (very tame) way of living that dream 🙂

What are your travel must-haves? How do you pack for business trips, especially to cold climates?

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