Forget Me Not: Business Travel

business travelHere’s a fun question that is hopefully hypothetical: what are you most afraid of forgetting for business travel?  What would you go out and buy immediately if you realized you had forgotten it?  

For me the answer is always my makeup bag.  (Or, when I was nursing, some vital pump part.)  It’s hard to forget clothes, shoes, underwear — and you can get almost any document faxed or emailed to you.  But if you forget to pack your makeup bag, BAM, you suddenly need to go to drugstore and spend $40-$60 immediately.  (Unless you prefer fancy makeup, in which case I guess it’s a trip to the closest Sephora.)  Because of this reason I usually carry my makeup bag with me — I don’t check it, even at the gate.  This always makes me feel totally vain and crazy, but it can be a really important component!

(Another weird thing I do when traveling: I only relax once I realize what it is that I’ve forgotten.  There’s always something!)

Ladies, how about you? Do you have any amusing stories of forgetting important things for business travel — and how did you deal? 

Pictured: Anatomy of a makeup bag, originally uploaded to Flickr by meenakshi madhavan.


  1. If you don’t wear standard sizes, forgetting, say, a suit jacket is a potential nightmare. Worse if you wear a specialty bra size, travel in a sports bra, and forget a real one.

    Makeup I would just forego.

    • Thank you for now giving me something new to fear. I do travel in Coobi bras that really don’t provide near enough support and I wear a 32DDD so I couldn’t just run to the nearest Victoria’s Secret if my luggage was lost. A regular bra will now forever be in my carry-on.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      This is so true. It isn’t that easy to go find a replacement in a store real quick.

  2. I have twice now had to order a bra rush shipped to me. Once I completely forgot to pack a spare and once I accidentally packed a convertible bra without its straps. For a four to five day conference, I’m not wearing the same bra constantly. Unfortunately I cheaped out on the replacement bras and now I have two uncomfortable bras!

  3. I did forget my makeup bag once when traveling. It wasn’t for business, but for the funeral of a family member, and I didn’t really have a way to go out and get make-up (and had a hard time justifying it anyway). I got by without (obviously – it’s not like this is life or death), but hated it and have been paranoid about it ever since.

    My big big fear is forgetting to bring extra contacts and losing one, or forgetting something like solution or my case. I’m super nearsighted and can’t really function with glasses, so I’d be in big trouble if I couldn’t wear my contacts, and I’m honestly not sure whether it would be possible to just get some away from home.

    • For travel, I pack dailies even if any other day i use monthlies. This way, no need to worry about tearing a contact lenses, or running ut of solution, or losing the case

    • I attended a bachelorette party in New Orleans, and one of the girls hungoverly used sunscreen instead of contact solution to “clean” her contact in the morning. She knew her prescription and ended up finding an eye doctor near the hotel and convincing him to sell her one box of contacts.

      I bet optometrists in the French Quarter see a lot of drunk tourist eye mishaps.

    • I forgot to bring my contacts on my honeymoon (to a very beachy location in a different country). I went to a glasses place, they figured out my prescription from my glasses and sold me some contact lenses over the counter. Overall it only cost less than an hour and $40 or so. Actually now legally your optometrist has to provide you with your prescription so you can order glasses/contacts from someplace else, so you can always call them and have them email it to you.

    • Brought two boxes of LEFT contact rx on my foreign vacation (no right rx) and had to wear my old glasses that I wear at bedtime. Thank goodness I always travel with backup glasses but so much facepalm accidentally bringing only left eye lenses.

  4. Anonymous :

    I actually forget underwear a lot. I plan outfits carefully, including coordinating shoes and accessories but then I think I’ve packed all the clothes I need and forget about underwear. I’ve had to run to Target many times while n vacation or work travel.

  5. I am a very passionate packer and made many videos about it.
    The one thing that I am paranoid about forgetting is sanitary pads. Other than this, my packing is very standard.
    Here is an example:

    • The day I forget sanitary supplies is invariably the day my period will make a surprise appearance…probably in a yucky airport bathroom.

  6. Coach Laura :

    Back when I was nursing, I was paranoid about forgetting a pump part…and forgot the receptacle. It was just a baby bottle, so I took a taxi to a CVS and had the driver wait.

    Glasses are something that I worry about now that can’t be easily replaced. I can no longer wear contacts, so that used to be a worry.

    • This happened to me, on an international trip. Could not find a replacement part for my pump, and ended up having to buy a whole new pump!

  7. Chargers. Phone, laptop, whatever. Invariably I leave them plugged in and then am scrambling to find replacement power cords and chargers while traveling. Easy to replace for the phone; much more difficult for the work laptop on a 2 week business trip. Not that I’ve done that repeatedly or anything…

    • Miss the edit feature. Leave them plugged in at home.

      • Meg Murry :

        My husband is the opposite – pretty much every trip he’s gone on solo he’s managed to leave either his phone, iPad or laptop charger behind in the hotel. He’s normally a really organized person and far less likely to lose/forget things than I am – but because I am usually the scattered one, I’ve trained myself to do one last hotel room thorough sweep looking for socks lost under the bed, my good shampoo left in the shower or phone chargers still plugged in.

    • Yes. I now have three laptop chargers because I’ve forgotten mine a few times. Which is an expensive mistake–I can buy a new iPhone one easy but had to go to RadioShack and spend $80. Twice.

  8. Anonymous :

    My last two trips I left a moderate climate to go to sunny LA (without sunglasses) and rainy NY (without an umbrella).

  9. Anonymous :

    I’ve forgotten my birth control before… that’s always fun, attempting to get a replacement while traveling. Pharmacists act like you’re a drug addict.

    • That’s the worst. And people (men) seem to not understand the repercussions of why you can’t just skip it while away. The miserable break through period would be bad enough but if you had sex before you left you might end up pregnant!

    • Birth control is definitely my biggest travel fear. What do you do in that circumstance? Just run to the pharmacy and ask for a replacement? Do you get a whole new pill pack, or do they ration out the pills individually? Ugh.

      • It’s easy if you’re within the U.S. – either the pharmacy will call and transfer your prescription there (and you’ll have to transfer it back) or they’ll call and get a month’s prescription from your doctor. The only thing that can be a hassle is your insurance may not cover it, depending on how recently you filled it.

        • Anonymous :

          You can tell them you are on vacation to get an insurance waiver – taking your prescription to a new pharmacy won’t work if you’re in the window before your next refill. You can also get a similar prescription from your doc to get around it – for example, the last week (dark blue) pills for tri-sprintec is the same as the sprintec pill.

  10. Gail the Goldfish :

    Chargers. Luckily most of my electronics use the same charger, so I have extras and just keep one in my work laptop bag so I always have it when I travel. The one thing I don’t have an extra of is my laptop charger, which I am super paranoid about double and triple checking that I have it.

  11. I frequently wear mix and match pieces multiethnic times during a given trip, but am paranoid that I will spill something on a piece, rip a seam, etc. so I am constantly thinking about packing backups (without overpacking) and combinations I can adjust if needed.

  12. I suppose I am most paranoid about forgetting my makeup bag. I also keep my birth control in it (which is good and bad) so it would be a BIG inconvenience to have to get another pill pack or go without eyeliner, or under eye concealer (pale skin+dark circles=me looking like i got punched in the eye).

    Next would be forgetting pants. I’m not much of a skirt person bc I get very cold easily. I need long inseam dress pants, which you can rarely find in store and the ones available in stores probably don’t fit me because I’ve tried them already. And the fact that most of these clothing stores don’t open until 10am or so. If I flew in Sunday night I’d be out of luck until 10am or later the next day.. Shout out to the 2-3 LOFT locations in the Chicago loop that have before-work hours (7:00 hour!).

    I’ve forgotten to pack underwear which was a bummer. It was a double whammy because I was working in the middle of nowhere where the only place I could go was Walmart. I didn’t want 4 pairs of Walmart underwear which would still probably set me back a decent amount unless I bought them from a package (ew) so I drove 45 minutes to the nearest mall and got underwear I actually liked.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m sorry but that is completely rediculous. You’d rather waste that time driving to find fancy underwear while on a business trip? And since when does anything at Walmart set you back “a decent amount”? Isn’t your time worth anything? Packaged underwear won’t kill you; at least you know no one else has tried it on, which is more than I can say for the bins of underwear Victoria’s Secret offers.

      • Truth. Driving 90+ minutes just to avoid undies from a pack? While on work travel, which for me always means really busy?

    • just saying :

      Late to this, but wouldn’t you much rather where undies from a package if you don’t have a chance to wash them first? I mean, take what I say with a grain of salt because some of the underwear that I choose to wear on a non-emergency basis comes in a package, but I always look for underwear in a package when I need new undies on the go.

  13. Anonymous :

    I keep a packing list and make my self double check even if I think that I have packed everything. If it’s a formal business trip I try to layout my outfits several days in advance to make sure I have my clothes planned out and take only what I need. I also keep a separate travel toiletries and make up bag just for travel so I can just grab it.

    That said, the thing I forgot to pack on my last trip was extra socks to keep my feet warm and cozy when I was in my hotel room at night.

  14. I’m with you on the makeup bag – and I use the fancy stuff – so if I forget it – it means i’m shelling out at least $200 – and I’m particular (some things you can only find at Sephora (NARS) , some things you can only find at Ulta (Lorac). I’m a consultant who travels regularly – but I’ve only done it once – on a trip to my parents for a fancy party… I was able to replace almost everything – and although I had to shell out serious cash (at least now I have extras) – it was the stress of the situation that got to me most. My makeup bag is now in my carry-on / purse and I double check to make sure I dont leave home without it.

    • I’ve never forgotten a makeup bag, but I did have it stolen out of my checked luggage once. I was so.mad. The delta people thought someone was looking for jewelry (apparently lots of women keep it in their makeup bags).

      It easily cost me $120 to replace all the makeup and brushes. On the plus side when I told the lovely clerk at Sephora why I was buying all this stuff she loaded me up with every sample and trial product I could ever want. I’m definitely going to start traveling with my makeup bag in my carry on going forward though. Sheesh.

  15. I have forgotten:

    – Spare contacts, had to camp out in a small-town Sears optical department waiting for my local optometrist to fax my prescription. It just occurred to me that I should take a picture of it and keep it in my phone.

    – Contact solution (well, an entire toiletry bag but this was the key thing), was at a resort where the gift shop didn’t carry it and the nearest convenience store was 2 miles away (after a boozy dinner) and hard to borrow some from a client’s wife.

    – A night shirt or anything else to sleep in, on vacation when our then 13-y-o son would be sleeping in the next bed. Tried the resort gift shop, a college bookstore and everywhere else to avoid Walmart, which I have boycotted forever, but finally had to bite the bullet and buy a sleep T there.

    – A slip when wearing a skirt and tights to a conference, absolutely impossible to find one in a DC hotel near the Mall (not near A mall) so had to tug all day. At the same conference the year before, I was horrified to find in the fluorescent light of the hotel room that my new charcoal merino sweater was see-through, had no camisole and had to keep my jacket on all day. Now I really make a strong effort to think about undergarments when packing. Slips and camis don’t take up much room, I usually pack them automatically.

    – Kindle charger, when I had five consecutive flight delays and then a cancellation requiring a hotel stay. I paid $20 in the airport for what would have cost me $5 at a regular store but I was desperate.

  16. While I didn’t forget anything for the business portion of my trip last trip, I ended up staying an extra night with friends and didn’t pack comfy clothes to wear on the 3-hour train ride home the next morning when I was feeling less than my best.

  17. Normally I make sure to wear something requiring a belt on the travel day so I can’t possibly forget one, but I headed out on a trip wearing yoga pants last week and woke up at 3am realising I’d forgotten a belt. Luckily it was a very casual vacation trip and I had a thin scarf with me which I threaded through the belt loops of my jeans. I looked like I thought it was 2004 but other than that it was fine.

    In the past I’ve been awful at remembering hairbrushes.

    • lawsuited :

      Yes! I still frequently forget my hairbrush!

    • I always forget my comb/pick. I’ve become an expert at the dinglehopper (a fork, for those of you who somehow haven’t seen The Little Mermaid).

  18. Meg Murry :

    I’ve had my checked luggage not make the trip or take a few days, so now even when I’m checking a bag my carry-on always contains the bare minimum for what I would want for the first 24-48 hours or that I would be really upset if they were lost forever. I hadn’t thought about what to pull out if I had to gate check my bag though, although I probably would transfer my makeup to my purse because I’ve lost too many lipsticks to melting when accidentally left in the car in my bag.

    Another thing that no one has mentioned that to add to my paranoia list would be shoes. I usually travel in my gym shoes or other lightweight slip-ons, which I could not wear to a client meeting. Other things I’ve forgotten but at least was able to pick up at a drugstore: pantyhose, contacts solution, contacts case.

    Usually I am running around like a crazy person before I travel and things like laundry wind up on the bottom of the list, so I have been known to pop out to Target the day before I am traveling and buy more socks and underwear, rather than sort through the laundry to find matching socks that day. Lazy? Maybe. But it’s not like I couldn’t always use more socks, and when I come home I can then retire a few pairs of each that are past their prime.

  19. I’m terrified of forgetting my insulin. Insurance won’t pay for a prescription refill if you’ve got insulin left in the fridge at home – even if that’s 600 miles away. It’s a quick way to run up a $500 pharmacy tab. Ugh.

  20. lawsuited :

    PHONE CHARGER. I have forgotten my phone charger so, so many times that now I have 4: one at home, one in my car; one in my office, and one in my travel toiletry bag. I have travel sizes of all my usual make-up and skincare that I just keep perpetually packed and ready to go, so I don’t often worry about forgetting a make-up item.

  21. jumpingjack :

    When I take day trips that involve flights (especially in the wintertime), I’ll often bring a small makeup bag and change of underwear, in case I get stranded. The two things that I’ve forgotten and had to buy are chargers and sunglasses.

    • This. I recently traveled to Boston on a day trip and because of delays, missed the last flight out of the connecting airport on the way home. I was in a suit. No change of clothes, no contact case or solution (and no glasses with which to sub them, either), no toothbrush. Now I ALWAYS carry yoga pants, panties, and eye care with me on day trips.

  22. Anonononon :

    I’m not so paranoid about forgetting anything important (I make a list of things I need and physically check things off as I pack), but I do get paranoid about having a checked bag get lost. That means the following always come in my carry on: essential make-up, hairbrush, toothbrush/toothpaste, contact lenses and solution, all medicine, chargers for any electronics I’m carrying with me, extra set of bra and underwear. If I am going to an event like a wedding either shortly after the flight or where I need a specific outfit like a bridesmaid dress, the outfit comes on the plane, too. I also cross pack: if my husband and I are checking two bags, each bag gets half of each person’s stuff (including half of each type of item). That way if one bag gets lost, we both have at least a couple of days of clothes in the one that doesn’t.

    I think my fear of lost bags stems from the period of my life when I flew through Philly all the time. It’s like that airport loses your bags for fun.

    • Anonymous :

      In 2012 I took a business trip to Bethesda md. And got hopelessly lost driving from the airport to my hotel. I bought a gps to use for the rest of the trip. Two years later, I was going to Annapolis, md. And I thought I had the gps in my carry on, but once I got in my rental car, I realized I had left it at home. Panic! I went back to the rental car counter, explained my dilemma, and they were able to give me a car with navigation for tha same amount. I was so relieved.

  23. Anonymous Lawyer :

    After logging a ton of international trips for work, generally lasting 2 to 4 weeks, I have established a pretty good routine. I have a carry-on sized zip-top bag at the ready in which I keep travel-sized nasal saline spray, contact solution, contact lens case, toothbrush & toothpaste. I carry 2-3 pairs of underwear; I hate feeling unfresh when I travel, so I usually change once during the trip, and then keep the others on-hand in case my luggage does not make it. This has come in handy more than once. I keep a second zip-top bag with travel shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, and a razor, that is always ready for me to pick up and go. Although I check in my makeup bag, I keep an eyeliner, mascara, and loose powder with me – these are my makeup must-haves, in case I lose everything else.

  24. I don’t have a story, but I do have a system. I keep a folding, hanging toiletry kit packed all the time with the basics – face cleanser, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair ties, bobby pins, mascara, a compact, q-tips, etc. Then, I am never traveling without something I really need. When I pack, I spend the most time on non-clothes items – making sure I have all the toiletries, makeup, hair stuff, medication, etc. before the clothes. Clothes are easy to buy on a business trip, usually. Its the other stuff I am more picky about. Separate ziplocks for liquids, chargers, small items for the plane (gum, compact, lip balm). Once I get to clothes, I pack underwear first. Then PJs since I used to forget those. If it’s wintertime, tights. Then I start with the main clothing items I know I will need. IE, if I am traveling for work, my suit/work dress. Then I figure out what else I will need outfits for and try to pack separates that will mix and match. Then shoes. It takes a while, but it gives me a chance to think through what I need starting with the little, forgettable items first and edit as I go.

  25. I’m paranoid about forgetting my glasses. I wear contacts when I’m out and about, but never wear them to sleep. I hate being in a strange hotel room without being able to see clearly at night.

    I also have fine, thin hair and I’m particular about my hair goop (currently Big Sexy Hair volumizing gel). This one you can find it at some, but not all, drugstores, but I’ve used stuff that was salon or Ulta only. I’ve gotten by with random mousse or gel before, but it’s not the same.

  26. I’ve forgotten my charger for my phone before – that sucked. Had to get a new one at ridiculous price. I’ve forgotten my hairbrush before but was able to get by – some hotels offer combs.

    If I ever forgot my makeup, I’d go to Sephora or Macy’s or somewhere, and get samples of BB cream, which would probably be enough if the trip is only a few days. I do this sometimes when I run out of foundation at home and the new one is still coming in the mail…I’d just skip all the other parts of makeup. If I forgot my hair styling cream I’d rush to buy a bottle at a drugstore somewhere. I can deal with other types of shampoo and conditioner so long as my hair styling cream is with me.

    I always bring one backup pair of underwear and bra in my carry-on even if I have them packed in the checked luggage just in case. I keep a pair of backup pantyhose in my luggage and never take it out of my luggage. I replace it in the luggage if I have had to use it on a trip.

    One thing I always check for are my backup glasses. If the ones I’m wearing break.. welp. Can’t see anything.

  27. After my carry on didn’t fit in the overhead and got lost when checked at the gate (fun to conduct an internal investigation in flats and rebuy all my makeup), I now carry two Lo & Sons shoulder bags (one as purse, one as the carry on) in which a second set of chargers live, have a toiletry bag packed and added with clothes the night before, and so my makeup bag remains the only critical item to remember on the day of. My hope is if I only really have to remember one thing, it’s less likely anything will slip through the cracks.

  28. I’m also paranoid about forgetting my makeup. Also, face wash (I usually forget this), headphones, and lipbalm

  29. My laptop charger!

  30. I recently forgot to bring any casual clothes or pajamas while traveling for my bar swearing-in ceremony. Facing two nights in a hotel room with only my suit to wear, I took a taxi to the mall and bought some leggings and a tank top. So worth it.

  31. I’m surprised to read about makeup from so many people in this thread. I didn’t realize so many women wear makeup. Maybe that sounds naive. I am 37, work in an office environment, dress nicely to go to work, but I cannot be bothered to spend time on makeup (shopping for products or applying them daily) or money on makeup. I can’t imagine wanting to put it on my face everyday. I do wear lip gloss on a regular basis and do wear makeup for formal events.

    Kat, maybe you can do a poll about makeup. How many of the blog readers actually wear it? Interestingly, to my mind it’s very out of date. In thinking about it, I realize that I think of makeup as a sexist, wasteful preoccupation of my mother’s generation. I kind of feel like modern, educated, working women shouldn’t be duped by makeup companies into believing they need to change how they look. It’s interesting to articulate this in my own mind and start to question whether this makes sense given that I do think women should invest in professional clothing. But I think men should look nice at work as well (no jeans, thanks). Clearly men are not expected to wear makeup, so why should women? I am realizing that I might be in the minority on this whole topic. Perhaps it would be an interesting thread of its own: How does makeup fit into our modern, “liberated”, egalitarian view of the world?

  32. Anonymous :

    Migraine medicine! The one time I left home without it was the one time I really, really needed it. Even though I was able to transfer the prescription, it was a total pain in the neck to have to find a pharmacy that would fill the brand-name drug. I now always make sure I have at least two pills before I leave home.

    • Ugh, this is a big fear of mine! The last thing I would want to deal with when I had a migraine was calling around trying to get my doctor/pharmacist to call in my medicine. Not to mention getting to a pharmacy without puking.

  33. I am with you on the makeup!
    I forgot an eyebrow pencil on one trip and the bellboy at the hotel went to the store to get 3 pencils for me!

  34. A tip for you charger losers – if you’re staying in a hotel, go to the front desk and ask if they have the one you need in lost and found. Hotels have boxes and bins full of chargers that other guests have left behind.

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