Packing for a business trip can be a difficult task. You need to take a suit for that important overseas meeting, but what else should you put into your carry-on bag, and what’s the perfect way to pack your suitcase to ensure its contents are crease-free on arrival?
Here, M&S suits buyer Jonathan Swartland, a regular business traveller himself, gives his tips on the ultimate capsule wardrobe for work and play, and his suggestions for perfect packing based on years of personal experience.
How to pack for a business trip abroad, by Jonathan Swartland – Suits Buyer for M&S
Assuming the trip is no more than 5 working days, all the following items can be taken in a typical carry-on mini-suitcase.
My basic list:
One suit in a flexible colour
I would advise plain mid-grey because it will match any shirt. Try to take one with additional features that will help it cope with travel: crease-resistance, stretch fabrics for comfort, water and stain repellency. You’re only taking one, so it needs to cope with a lot.
Ultimate Performance 2 Button Suit with Wool, £149
A blazer or tailored jacket, preferably dark (navy or blue)
This is the most versatile garment to travel with; dress it up with a blue formal shirt, the grey trousers from the suit and a tie for business meetings, or pair it with dark jeans and an open neck shirt for informal evening drinks and dinner. Again, a blazer with the technical properties of the suit would be ideal. Alternatively, if you’re going somewhere hot, a linen or linen-blend jacket will work just as well, and you can now get some that are crease-resistant.
Tip: wear it when flying. The inside pockets are great for all your tickets, passport, phones, etc. but you can wear it with jeans or chinos and loafers (see below) which will be more comfortable than suit trousers.
One pair of jeans and/or chinos
Take these for less formal appointments and occasions such as, plant or factory tours, evenings out and that rare bit of free time. Jeans should still be smart, so dark indigo with a straight or slim cut would be best. Chinos can be lightercoloured e.g. beige, but keep them smart too, that way both will work with your formal shoes. There are also travel trousers available that look just as good, but are lighter weight and crease-resistant.
Two shirts for each day
If you have formal meetings/appointments in the day, take simple, plain white or light blue shirts, single cuff – that way there is no need to fiddle with cuff-links and you can roll up your sleeves if you get hot. For the evening, take smart-casual shirts that will work under a tailored jacket like a Blazer. I tend to take button-down collar shirts when I travel, in blue, white, or simple stripes and mini-checks. They can be dressed up with a tie or left open-neck for a more informal look, making them really flexible.
Tip: Look for shirts that are non-iron or easy-to-iron; they are more crease-resistant than standard shirts, therefore they will travel better.
Two – three ties
If you know you’ll need to wear a tie, take 2-3 they take up almost no space and are a very simple way to vary an outfit that keeps using the same suit and plain shirts. Plain or semi-plain navy and grey colours are ideal because they’ll work with any of the shirts.
One light-weight piece of knitwear
A grey or navy V-neck sweater in fine Merino wool is perfect. Whether you’re dressed formally or not, if it’s cold, it’s fine enough to be worn over a shirt and under a suit jacket or blazer.
Two pairs of shoes; one black lace-up and one brown loafer, possibly suede
The black will work with all your business outfits; brown is perfect with the jeans or chinos and blazer.
Tip: wear the loafers when you fly, as they’re much easier to take off and put on when going through security scanners.
One reversible brown/black belt
A reversible belt is great, as it will work with both shoe colours. If you don’t have one, you should invest – they’re an easy 2-in-1 option and therefore, perfect for travel.
Underwear, under-shirts and socks
Two pairs of each, for each day. Don’t wear black socks with brown shoes, it doesn’t look good.
Tip: navy socks will work with both shoes.
If you wear under-shirts, again, two per day.
Tip: wear plain white undershirts under your shirt if it’s hot (especially if the formal shirt is blue): they help absorb sweat, limiting unsightly patches on your formal shirt.
Gym clothes, trainers and swimwear
One pair of trunks, one pair of trainers; one pair of shorts, and a t-shirt or training top & sports socks for each session. Sports clothing is usually very fine and light, so it will take very little space.
If you’re a frequent traveller, you need a permanently ready wash-bag of mini-versions of your everyday toiletries, so start to collect these. Most brands do them, including mini versions of your after-shave or eau-de-toilette.
Keep everything already in the regulation clear plastic bag, ready to pull out at security. To save space in this bag, keep anything that isn’t liquid (your toothbrush or comb etc.) in a separate bag. Razors will need to be purchased when you arrive at your destination.
Tip: small roll-on deodorants take up less space than aerosols.