When you travel, other people always seem to have an opinion on your luggage, be it “that’s so heavy” or “is that all you’ve got with you”. So I put together some international business travel packing tips for women (the principles are just as valid for men) to act as a checklist when thinking how to pack for business travel. In part 1 I’m going to look at hand luggage.

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Packing for International Business Travel is Easy

That might sound a touch controversial for anyone who has never travelled for work before but in fact the basic principles of what you need can be applied to any kind of trip, whoever you are.

In the end, you just need to carry 2 types of things with you:

  • The items you need to do your job (eg laptop etc)
  • Your personal belongings

There we go, end of post ????

OK, that would be too simple, I know…& there are a lot of variables that affect what you will need with you. Let’s start at the beginning and work through what I carry and why.

A good laptop bag can make or break a trip

For many years I carried a leather satchel style bag for business trips. It looked professional, had plenty of space and different compartments and it was easy to open and access my laptop at airports for security checks. The disadvantage though was that it hung from one shoulder and on long trips with a lot of paperwork, I’d get really painful shoulders & back ache.

So I changed to a backpack style. The bag below isn’t exactly the same as mine – I have a Wenger Ibex which is a unisex bag.

It’s not as elegant as my leather bag, but far more practical for carrying:

  • well padded shoulder straps
  • large enough to take a 17″ laptop
  • lots of compartments
  • fairly light when empty
  • enough space for me to fit everything for an overnight trip so I don’t need a case
  • sits easily on top of a trolley style case
  • I can fit my handbag also inside on flight days to avoid having loads of separate bags

Of course, this is a matter of personal preference. I also have a more elegant Tumi bag, which I love, but it simply isn’t as practical for longer trips.

black Tumi laptop rucksack and burnt orange chili water bottle
international business travel checklist - how to pack for business travel

There are not that many bags out there specifically designed for women so you may need to shop around before you find one that really suits you. Many bags are simply not designed for more weight than a light laptop and a pen! If I were looking to replace my larger rucksack now, I’d be looking at something such as the Carter bags:

It comes down to what kind of business trips are you going to be having on a regular basis? Regularly one night away is different to semi-regularly 2-3 weeks in the US or Asia & this will determine what is important for you with your choice of bag.

Make sure that your bag is ergonomically designed (remember women are built differently to men) – you don’t want to come home from a trip with chronically stiff shoulders – and that the material is tough enough to stand up to being on the road. It’s worth investing in a decent bag that you can use for several years.

Packing for International Business Travel: your Hand Baggage

First and foremost you need to have all your electronics in here, so that could be:

  • laptop
  • tablet
  • relevant chargers (at least for the laptop and a phone cable)
  • powerbank (some countries eg China (max. 10000mAh) have limits on the capacity)
  • adaptor plug (depending on destination)
  • back ups of your visit preparation, presentations etc on USB sticks (cloud is great & you should have that too, but be prepared to perhaps not have good WiFi in country to access it when you need it)
  • a dongle for all different kinds of connectors for the laptop
  • a presenter if relevant

Make sure that everything is fully charged and that you have the cables in your hand baggage. I thought I’d save some weight by checking in the plug for my phone charger last year and ended up stuck overnight in Frankfurt in a hotel with no USB connection, and my powerbank was already used up (before the connecting flight was cancelled). Luckily one of the other people stranded had a plug that he was prepared to lend out.

If I know that there will be an opportunity for a bit of sightseeing, I might also have a camera with me – but I always check in the charger for that.

Compared to when I first started out in international distribution with no mobile phone or laptop then electronics have made a huge impact on the weight of what I carry around on trips, even allowing for the fact of reduced paper. Seeing as I’m specifically looking at international business travel packing tips for women here, I’d say that unless you’re looking for a workout each time you pick your bag up, you should think about the weight of all of your electronics and if possible choose lighter options. Eg go for the travel versions of plugs & check the weight of laptops – it makes a difference if you’re carrying it from your car to a meeting or carrying it through airports around the world…

Keep the paper to a minimum as that is seriously heavy!

In my laptop bag I usually just have a notebook and a printout of my travel itinerary details although I could actually fit a ring binder! Make sure you always have a hard copy of your travel plans if possible though as well as a cloud copy and one on your phone. You don’t want to arrive somewhere with a dead phone battery and not have access to say the address of your hotel.

If you are transporting original documents to a client eg. certificates to do with a shipment, or perhaps a contract, I would always keep them in my hand luggage for the next destination. eg if I’m visiting Singapore – Vietnam – Philippines, I’ll have the Singapore documents in my hand baggage when I leave home, Vietnam when I leave Singapore and the Philippines when I leave Vietnam. That way you have everything should your checked baggage be delayed in arriving.

Other items

I have quite a lot of other “stuff” in my laptop bag & am prepared to pay the price in increased weight & inconvenience:

  • car keys (NEVER check them in as you can be 100% sure that you’ll arrive home to no checked bag – I’ve see it happen to other people on a fairly regular basis & I always chuckle. Same goes for your house keys of course)
  • business cards – for many markets these are still important
  • glasses
  • pens
  • a water bottle (keeps my water cool so I refill as I go)
  • painkillers, allergy tablets, an asthma spray, a few plasters and motion sickness tablets (why do clients always want to take me on boats?)
  • deodorant
  • 1 set spare underwear
  • travel toothbrush & mini toothpaste
  • lip balm
  • travel wipes
  • a couple of masks
  • an envelope with an emergency stash of around $200 in a secret pocket
  • a large scarf to act as a blanket, scarf or head covering… (I’d say to jazz up an outfit, but I’m not normally that elegant!)

Of course, you may have other requirements, eg contact lens solution or face cream – my aim for this post with international business travel packing tips for women is to get you thinking so that you don’t just mindless throw everything “just in case” into your bags!

Match your International Business Travel Checklist to your Destination

Just be aware that for destinations outside of Europe and the US, some products might not be so easy to find, so don’t assume that you’ll be able to buy if your checked bag arrives late. This is especially true if you suffer from any kind of allergies or need sensitive skin care for example.

Feminine hygiene products may not always be easily and cheaply available everywhere either (local practices could be quite different). Bearing in mind how male dominated international business still is, you probably also don’t want to land in a situation where you need to ask your male international partner to help you buy something…

For myself, I know that I would find it difficult to find underwear in Asia so I carry an emergency set in my work bag, same with deodorant, whilst at a push I can always buy a men’s shirt and use hotel shower gel for a day or so.

“A place for everything and everything in its place”

Always put your most critical belongings (passport, wallet, phone) in exactly the same pocket of your bag. It will become muscle memory to pull them out as needed and you’ll be able to find them in seconds even when exhausted or jetlagged.

This isn’t to be underestimated… I see people almost every time I travel frantically searching their bags for passports or phones. Choose a small pocket, not easily accessible for pickpockets, and always keep your valuables there.

Your Handbag

Some ladies pack their laptop into a large tote handbag and have everything in one. I prefer to carry a separate small handbag (that I can pack into my laptop bag if necessary). This is where my wallet will be and during the trip (as opposed to travel days) I will have my passport and phone in here, as well as sunglasses and maybe a hat.

Empty out whatever you don’t need & leave it at home (or throw it away – you know, old receipts, boarding cards from last year, out of date snacks etc). It looks unprofessional if you have to rummage through the sweet wrappers and old cough lozenges to find what you need.

In many countries a good quality handbag that is well taken care of has a symbolic value that you are serious and can be trusted (in the same way as a good quality watch or understated jewellery). I underestimated this for a long time.

International Business Travel Packing Tips for Women

To sum this up I’d say that buying good quality bags (for your laptop and also a handbag) is more important than having something new & trendy. It’s important to be comfortable whilst travelling and a well made laptop bag that distributes the weight will contribute to a less stressful experience overall. Your bag also has to take a reasonable amount of “abuse” from being stuffed into overhead bins, or possibly overfilled…

Take a hand baggage cart at the airport if you can find one, as they are far better for your shoulders, but not every airport is equipped with them.

Go through everything that you plan to take with you and consider whether you really need it – bags tend to accumulate “junk” that you don’t even realise that you just shoved into some pocket some time… After a while it starts to add up and your bag can get really heavy so be ruthless about getting rid of anything you don’t need for that trip.

Working with an international business travel checklist can help make your trip preparation less stressful until the routine is so deeply embedded that you don’t need it anymore.

Whilst people often say that flying is sedentary, I clocked up over 12000 steps the other week going through two international airports and taking the underground to my hotel (or 3km from seat-seat in transit through Frankfurt!) so having a bag that is comfy, robust and well packed is essential.

Business Travel

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much about your article, really give me inside about business tips, I also I love to share about Jasa Digital Marketing hope we can share each other.


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