What Do You Pack for Conferences?

So many planes, originally uploaded to Flickr by lauren_pressleyOver the past few years, I’ve attended a few multi-day conferences in far-off locales, and I’ve realized: packing for this kind of conference is an art, not a science. I’m still learning what to bring, but I thought I’d start an open thread by sharing my must-bring items — readers, what do you bring? (Pictured: So many planes, originally uploaded to Flickr by lauren_pressley.)

1. A wrap. Conference planners may make the rooms 65-70 degrees, both to keep people awake as well as to make sure it doesn’t get too HOT. A wrap (preferably, a serious one — cashmere or wool) allows you to add or subtract layers easily, even if you’re already wearing a blazer or suit jacket. The other great thing about the wrap is that you can lay it across your lap if you need to, either to make yourself warmer or to compensate for a skirt that you’ve only just realized is too short if you’re sitting all day.

2. Two pants suits (if it’s a 3-day conference). Dressing at conferences can be particularly tricky for women — if you wear a skirt suit and the majority of male attendees show up wearing the blue shirt/khaki pant combo, you look like the newbie who’s trying too hard. If you wear a twinset and pants, though, and the majority of male attendees show up wearing suits, you look like a secretary. For this reason, my go-to outfit (for day 1, at least) is a simple pants suit — you can take the blazer off if you need to look more casual, or wear it all together to fit in. If it’s a 3-day conference, you can often wear the suit jacket with a non-matching skirt or pants, also, for a dressed-up business casual look on day 3.

3. Twinset. I like to travel to the conference in comfortable but professional-looking pants and a twinset — if the conference turns out to NOT be full of suit-clad attendees, you can also repurpose the outfit for day 2 of the conference. It’s important to remember that, unless you’re arriving very early or late for the conference, odds are *very good* that you will run into other attendees at the airport — so dress as professionally as possible.

4. A simple pencil skirt. Like I mentioned above, you can dress this up with a blazer or dress it down with a twinset — a great option for day 3 of the conference.

5. Makeup that stays put. Where possible, I use my best “stays put” makeup — the eyeliner that doesn’t smudge, the lipstick that doesn’t budge — just so I don’t have to worry about reapplying it constantly.

6. At least two pairs of shoes (particularly if you’re on your feet for long periods such as cocktail parties, afterparties, or on the off chance there’s standing-room only in the conference room.) Even though I have one pair of shoes that is my “favorite” to wear to these kinds of things, I like bringing a second pair, even if I only wear them for a half day and then switch into the second pair. (Logistics here depend on the conference set-up — if the conference is at the same hotel at which you’re staying, just run back to your room to switch shoes; if you’re at the conference, odds are you’ll have enough handouts and other materials to warrant a tote bag anyway — so just stash your shoes in there.)

7. A Bluetooth jack or headset for your cellphone. My neck is so much more comfortable if I use a headset for long phone conversations, and I frequently have them while waiting for my plane or settling into my hotel room.

8. Emergen-C — a late night spent networking at the afterparty can seem less than smart when there’s an interesting panel slated for first thing in the morning.

9. Small, healthy, packable food. I like things like almonds, packs of raisins, or even high-fiber/high-protein bars like Gnu.

10. Dense reading for the plane. Some magazines you flip through and only read one or two articles in depth — others will keep you reading for hours, if you have time. These can be great if you’re stuck on a plane that’s pulled away from the gate but hasn’t yet taken off (i.e., no electronics allowed). I love Vanity Fair for this kind of thing if I hit a newsstand — it’s fun but actually has real substance, with lengthy, well-written articles on fun matters.

Readers, what are your must-brings for a conference in a far-off locale?

What Do You Pack for Conferences?


  1. I love packing jersey dresses that can be worn with a blazer – they take up so little space, and are easily dressed up for business (or for evening events), and are comfortable to wear when you’re off-duty.

    • Seconded! I have a collection of rayon/cotten blend jersey dresses that I wear almost exclusively for travel because they’re lightweight and don’t wrinkle. I pack two jersey dresses, a tailored jacket, a pair of casual shoes and a pair of dressy ones, scarves/belt/jewelry and that covers most of my conference wardrobe.

      Here’s an example from BR: http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=50129&vid=1&pid=781066

    • I do this too. I take two dresses and a black blazer, black shoes, black hose, black bag (well. everything black except for the dresses)
      One pair of dressy dark wash jeans and flats

      • LexCaritas :

        Agree with the dresses option – I don’t bother with one trouser suit, let alone two, as they tend to travel badly, or need extra TLC in the packing.

        Also I would bring half the amount of items recommended.

  2. Does anyone have any suggestions on where one can get one of these nice wraps? The only ones I have (and have ever seen) are the $5 ones on the street here in NYC.

    • Nordstrom has a beautiful cashmere one


    • newbielawyer :

      no idea of the quality of these, but I just ordered 3 of them earlier today


      I think even an acrylic one (they can make that stuff look so good nowadays) that is a plain dark neutral would do though. My black one gets a lot of mileage.

    • I have two from “The Pashmina Store” (the website is just the name + .com), a lighterweight one & a heavier one. I think they are well made for the price.

    • I think they have some on sale at Brooks Brothers

    • My wraps are the tissue-weight ones from Nordstrom.
      They are fabulous. So many colors, such a perfect light weight that they are not too bulky to be used as scarves. Also, when I throw one into my tote, somehow it comes out looking almost completely unwrinklet.

      I currently have them in an orchid color, a mossy green and a peachy color (that one’s more for summer trips.

      I usually ask my husband for a new color each Christmas.

    • I’m a big fan of these: https://www.thehungersite.com/store/item.do?siteId=220&itemId=25002

      Super-affordable, great quality, lightweight, and fair trade.

    • “$5 ones on the street here in NYC”

      I wouldn’t knock the $5 street wraps, I’ve seen them sold in Seattle for $12.50 in the malls!

      If you do happen to buy a wrap off the street, I’d recommend buying one that is wrapped in the plastic – never the ones out on the tables. I’m sure they’ve dropped on the sidewalk multiple times.

  3. Haha. I usually have my son with me at conferences, starting when he was 5 months old (he’s 8 now), so my packing list is considerably longer. ;-)

    My food stash is usually much bigger than you suggest–microwavable mac+cheese, little packet of peanut butter, some good bread, fruit. It’s salvation when I don’t want to go out, or was out and couldn’t get something good to eat.

    I usually take a mini drug store–stain stick, tampon, pad, pain killer, decongestant, antacids–just a few of each, but oh so much easier than having to figure out where to get it in unfamiliar settings, and then I don’t have to choose between the decongestant that knocks me out and the one that makes me hyper.

    Bath toys and the rest of my packing list are less professional, but I will mention to anyone planning to take a little one along that hotel rooms with just a king-size bed usually have a couch/sitting area and so are much easier to deal with if you have a babysitter coming to stay with little one for the day than rooms with 2 queen sized beds. I usually get a sitter from a local university and aim for someone who will take him to local attractions.

    • Just curious: what field are you in that you can bring your son to conferences? Is childcare provided? I’ve never seen any kids at conferences I attend.

    • spacegeek :

      Do you pay the sitter? You all share the one room? Just curious because the idea appeals to me…

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        From her comment, it sounds like she hires a sitter at the destination to watch him during the conference during the day and she watches him at night.

  4. newbielawyer :

    “if you wear a skirt suit and the majority of male attendees show up wearing the blue shirt/khaki pant combo, you look like the newbie who’s trying too hard”

    I’m sorry but, WHAAAA? Why does a skirt suit mean I’m trying too hard? I truly do not get this. If the comment is that a full on suit means you’re trying too hard when men are wearing khakis, then I dont’ see why the fact that it’s a skirt is any different than pants — you just remove the jacket and wear that. I’m truly baffled.

    • 20YearsInPractice :

      I can only speculate on Kat’s meaning – but in my experience most people perceive pants + shirt or twinset as less formal than a suit skirt with the same top. Pants with a button down (or sweater shell) minus the jacket fits in with men in khakis and polo shirts better than a pencil skirt and heels. I can only speak for lawyers, but in my experience the people in suits when everyone else is bus casual are invariably either speakers or newbies. I would add that in my experience, the last day of the conference tends to be the least formal.

    • I’m with you. I think a pencil skirt and twinset is more formal than suit pants and a button down too, so I fail to grasp how that’s the best casual third day option.

      Just dress how you want.

      • “Just dress how you want.” That’s a nice thought but sorta defies the whole purpose of this blog. (;

    • anonymous :

      “If the majority of men are wearing shirt/khaki combo” vs “the majority of men are wearing suits…” is kind of Mad Men-era thought, akin to “what are the cool kids wearing?” The male attendees don’t get together on some sort of memo that is not distributed to female attendees, maybe unless they all golfed together. I pay attention to what the hosts/leaders of the conference indicate for the dress code, and then once there look at what attendees (both genders) in general are wearing.

      Mostly, my perspective is focus on the higher leadership in the room…what are they wearing? If they’re wearing suits, they’re going to scoff at the blue-shirted, khaki-wearing dudes and look to the woman wearing the suit- and vice-versa.

    • I think Kat’s statement sort of assumes you will be the only woman in the room, which certainly isn’t true of most things I’ve attended.

      But – if you are young, and wearing a suit, and everyone else is in bus-cas, I think you can give off an over-eager/immature vibe … fwiw, I’ve rarely been to a business formal conference, and those that expect attendees to dress in business formal state so clearly on the agenda.

    • I think the only point of the comment was that skirt suits are considered more formal than pant suits. (That’s why we tend to wear them to interviews and (for lawyers) to court.) So, if the guys are in business casual, you’re less formal in a pant suit than a skirt suit.

  5. A Corporette a few months ago suggested taking a power strip or extension cord on business trips, to plug in your chargers/gadgets. I wholeheartedly endorse the suggestion. I don’t travel without my little extension cord with 3 plugs on the end now. Hotel electric plugs are often behind beds or furniture. It’s so much nicer when your extension cord allows you to plug in your electronics on a tabletop or desk.

    • If you take the power strip, you will be a very popular person at the table when everyone is working in the conference room! Great idea!

  6. I have a Kindle and on a recent conference trip, that thing was awesome. There are games for it now, plus being able to read the news and download a new book when I finished the one I was reading was a huge advantage. I’ll never leave home without it again!

    For moms – when my son was a baby and I’d have to go out of town, I’d seal a flannel receiving blanket he had slept with into a ziploc bag and sleep with it at night. It may sound nutty but it really helped some of the homesickness and missing him.

    I have also learned to always pack three sets of things:
    – A swimsuit, cover-up and flipflops (I learned this one after staying at a hotel that had an amazing pool, and I had nothing to swim in and no way to go get a swimsuit)
    – A packable conservative LBD and some evening-appropriate shoes. I have been at many conferences where people I’m with decide to go to a fancy restaurant for dinner impromptu and it’s nice to have a dressier option when that happens. It’s also nice not to have to wear business attire to the conference social event if you don’t want to, or it ends up dressier than you thought.
    – Some athletic-type shoes and a pair of yoga pants that can double as pajama bottoms if necessary. I was just at a conference in an area where there was an open space with a nature trail just behind the conference facility. I took a great nature walk one afternoon and saw tons of wildlife and trees turning colors. It was very soul-refreshing after a couple of days of sitting in stale conference rooms. Most conferences have some kind of downtime built in and I make it a priority to either get outside during those times or at least go work out. Conferences are a lot of sitting and sometimes I feel sluggish after a couple of days.

    • Yes on the LBD and nice shoes. A pretty shawl/scarf will also dress you up in those instances – I recently got a dinner invite at a conference to a restaurant that was much fancier than I’d anticipated, and the scarf I had tossed on over a simple knit shirt became a shawl and I looked *much* more appropriate.

      I’d add instant iced coffee packets and a plastic travel mug in case coffee is delayed, terrible, or only available if you wait in a huge, long line.

  7. Ditto on workout clothes. But for me for 2 reasons – to offset the calories of eating out every meal and drinking a bit more than usual, and because without the kiddos, it’s easier to find the opportunity to do so.

  8. Threadjack :

    So I’m getting my first formal review at my lawfirm tomorrow. What do these typically entail? How long do they take? Anything I need to know? I’m kind of freaking out here.


    • In my experience, the quality of the formal reviews depends on the nature of the person giving them. I’ve had some reviews that were helpful and offered an opportunity for real dialog regarding my work and how I fit into my “team.” Other times it’s been a meaningless process that’s done just to check off the box. Regardless, you can impact the process by what you bring to the table. I usually try to go into it prepared to listen to what’s said, then address certain “big picture” items that are on my mind–e.g., what type of work have I most enjoyed, what would I like to do more of, what sort of experiences would help advance my skills, what more can I offer my team. Wouldn’t hurt to take the time to jot down the major projects you’ve worked on over the past year and big accomplishments. It’s easy to forget all you’ve done, particularly earlier in the review period. The review might provide a good occasion to toot your own horn a bit and remind your superiors what you’ve brought to the table. Good luck!

      • My Biglaw experience is that they only care what the partners have written about you and that they’re short and awkward if given by someone you haven’t directly worked with very much. I think when you’re a first- or second-year, especially in a big department, old-timers can’t distinguish among the newbies in a meaningful way. I basically had my reviews summarized allowed, and was told, “You’re doing okay, stop coming to us with questions until you’ve exhausted all other resources to get the answers.”

        • Thanks. At my firm the reviews are meant to be anonymous and are given to us by partner’s you specifically did not work with, so I guess weird and awkward they are.


  9. Great tips. I second (or third or fourth–since others have already chimed in) on the snacks and dense reading. I always bring at least one dress that can transition from conference to dinner. And since the conferences I go to usually have at least one free afternoon (if not more) some put-together casual clothes for non-conference outings (dark wash jeans, flats, sweaters).

    I’m a little intrigued that you bring different make-up for conferences. Wouldn’t you want stay-put makeup all the time? Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I don’t reapply makeup during the day as is (except for chapstick/lipstick) and value staying power all the time.

    • You know, I was wondering about this too. I unfortunately have oily skin and by the end of the day, the only make-up still on my face is my eyeliner/mascara and my face is a shiny mess. I was complaining about this to my husband the other day and his response was that I should take make-up with me to work to do touch-ups if it was really something that bothered me. To me, that seemed overly high-maintenance, but his impression was that many women do this. I would definitely be curious to know. Corporettes – do you re-apply your make-up throughout the day?

      • I have the same problem as you, but I don’t reapply. I do use the oil blotter sheets, though, and if I’m going somewhere after work, I’ll bring powder to reapply, but that’s usually it.

        Speaking of, does anyone have any suggestions for eyeshadow that stays put and doesn’t end up clumped in the crease at the end of the day?

        • Are you using an eyeshadow base? Ive found that helps a lot. I don’t use one everyday but for long days I do.

          I use this (but Im not sure if this is the exact color I use)

        • Bobbi Brown cream eye shadows have literally changed my life. I too have oily skin and other shadows tended to slide off by afternoon. The Bobbi brown ones stay put *all day* even into late dinner/socializing, yet are not drying or hard to get off. They have a huge variety of shades, though I tend to stick to neutrals. My current favorites are “Sandy Gold”, “Beach Honey” and “Sand Dollar”

          • Second that on the Bobbi Brown cream shadows! They’re a must have and sweep on with a fingertip.

      • It doesn’t really bother me that much – I have combo skin, but there’s definitely more shine than makeup on my nose by the end of the day, and I’ve tried all kinds and all brands over the years.

        I do have makeup at work (I’m currently using Bare Minerals, so its easy to divide up into small containers), and I touch up if I’m going out after or if I have an important afternoon meeting. I also keep blotting sheets everywhere and typically use those once or twice a day.

        • I recommend cosmedicine medi-matte spf 20. It works miracles in treating shiny spots.

      • Lana Lang :

        I am with you on the shiny mess front. To date, I haven’t found anything that stays put for much past 10.30am, let alone until the end of the day. I am always in awe of people who can go all day without fixing their make up.

        I have all my make up with me all the time and I have blotter sheets. I have to reapply by lunchtime at the latest. If I am going out after work, then it’s same again. Not the whole shebang, but a touch up here and there. This applies certainly to the base and to eyeshadow/eyeliner. I’m looking into better brands for staying power, but I’m job hunting at the moment so too scared to spend any money for the time being! That said, I would LOVE some suggestions for genuine stay put make up.

      • I started bringing some of those Dove face towelettes to work for freshening up, especially if I have an evening event or meeting after 5, and I have just some very basic makeup in my purse if I need to reapply. Really helps give a fresh start. Most normal work days I don’t worry about makeup, though, unless I’m having a bad skin week and plan to see someone.

        Those towelettes are great for travel, too, because they can replace your liquid makeup remover (when carry-on liquid space is at a premium).

    • Of course I reapply makeup as needed throughout the day! If my hair got disheveled for some reason, I certainly wouldn’t leave it as is- I’d comb it and tidy it up. It’s the same with makeup- any smudges, shine, running, rub-off, etc., I fix at various points throughout the day, usually when I go and use the restroom. I don’t see how this is high maintenence to do so- to me, it’s just keeping myself presentable and well kept, just like washing your hands after lunch if they get dirty, re-combing hair, etc. I guess though it’s not that big a deal for me ultimately because mostly I’m doing touch-up’s versus a whole reapplication; I concentrate in the mornings on doing my makeup well enough that small touch-up’s are going to be all that are needed for upkeep.

      That said, for those of you with staying power problems, perhaps evaluate the way you are applying the makeup. For example, I wear a full face of foundation that doesn’t ever go on by itself. It goes on instead in the order of a moisterizing primer (helps to keep oil at bay and give the makeup a non-secreting-skin layer to sit on), the foundation, and then a transluscent powder over the foundation (that helps to make the foundation more matte and set it). Throughout the day, the foundation base generally stays put and I reapply powder as needed for shine control and extra coverage as it wears off lightly. I sometimes use blotting paper as well. So for anybody using foundation, a primer helps, and setting powder I would say is key. For those of you with skin that doesn’t need a lot of coverage, even putting a light dusting of powder over some tinted moisterizer I imagine would stay put fairly well on your skin and offer a very sheer, but polished, layer of coverage with the easy-to-touch-up task of just reapplying the powder layer, as needed, throughout the day.

      Layering also helps with lipstick- the more layers, the better the staying power. For a regular makeup day, I usually use chapstick as a moisterizing base and a mid-length wearing lipstick. This needs reapplication pretty much every time I drink something or every couple of hours. I simply do this in the restroom/face away from people at my desk discretely. However on days where I need everything to stay put, I use a specific lip primer (MAC), a nude lip liner, a mid-length wearing lipstick, and a little bit of gloss over. This has much more staying power and usually lasts maybe 4-5 hours before I need to reapply, and the lasting power would be even longer if I were to use a long-length wearing lipstick in the same layering fashion (in fact this true- for parties when I do the whole routine coupled with a long-last MAC lipstick, I can eat and drink almost all evening with just gloss touch ups if I want). Point is though, layering helps here as well. Same goes for mascara (you can buy eyelash primers) and eyeshadow (I’ve heard these primers work VERY well at increasing staying power, though I find I like the way my eye makeup softens over the day, so I don’t use an eyeshadow primer).

      Another good rule for staying power is to not mix consistencies too much. This means, for example, no cream blush if you use a powder based foundation or a powder setting layer. Use a powder blush instead. Similarly, you wouldn’t necessarily want to apply heavy powder blush straight over a liquidy, dewy face layer. Powdery/pencily eyeliners work well with powder based shadows. Liquid eyeliner works well with cream based or wet powder shadows. Of course, mixing of types can and obviously does occur, but it’s just a general starting point to stick with one type of consistency if you’re unfamiliar with makeup/how combinations might react/blend/stay together.

      Finally, there is the physical application in terms of the methods/tools one might be using to apply. Are you layering on the makeup too thick? Too thin? Are you letting it ‘solidify’ before you get a chance to blend it? Are you buffing your setting powder/smoothing it on or are you just ‘floofing’ it over your face haphazardly? Are you using separate actual brushes or are you stuck using the small ones/foam applicators provided in the compacts? Using the right tools helps a lot with application- they don’t even necessarily need to be good ones, but even a fluffy powder brush from CVS is going to offer you better application (and hence better staying powder) that the stiff, tiny, bad-bristle one from the compact.

      Finally, practice makes perfect- I only got decent at applying my own makeup by doing it every day for nearly 10 years. Sure, I probably couldn’t do somebody else’s makeup most likely, but I know broad things I’ve gleaned through trial and error, reading tips, and then trying different methods/products out on myself until I’ve figured out how to best utilize them. You most likely know how to make yourself feel best, so experiment with tips you learn, try new techniques and products, and don’t be afraid of the learning process.

      • What primer do you use? I have combo skin that gets very shiny in the t-zone, so I’m always looking for something mattifying. Thanks!

        • M, I usually just use a moisterizer as a primer- I have found that Oil of Olay basic face moisterizer and Cetaphil work well as a base for me because they just help to keep my skin from producing extra oil. I also think the makeup itself I use works well for my skin in terms of keeping oil at bay: I use a salycic acid based foundation (that can be drying for some but is good for me since my skin is breakout prone) and a heavy duty powder by Physician’s Formula that is natural looking, but very matte. So, normally that regiment keeps the makeup in place and touching up with the PF powder all day long/using blotting papers keeps the shine away as well.

          But if you are looking for a real, heavier-duty primer, I have heard good things about Makeup Forever primers, as well as Smashbox primers. MAC may also make a passable primer.

    • I honestly cannot tell the difference (except lipstick) when people touch up their makeup. Unless they’re doing a heavy-handed job of it!

    • Hmm I guess I am in the minority. I don’t have anything against retouching make-up, but I just don’t really see a big difference throughout the day. I have combination skin, and definitely blot, but it doesn’t look much different after than before.

      I definitely have to have lipstick or chapstick on hand, though, and reapply like crzy all day long. Without it my face looks like death.

  10. I have the opposite problem – my dry skin “drinks” my makeup. I do reapply sometimes, sometimes I don’t care. I have a compact with translucent powder. I do reapply lipstick several times throughout the day. I like wearing lipstick/lip gloss and find long wear lip products to be cakey and dry.

  11. Teeny bit jealous of those of you who still get to travel. I work for a government agency and I can’t even go across the State (i.e., think traveling from Madison to Milwaukee) and probably won’t get to for years at least due to shrinking budgets.

  12. When I travel out of town, I always pack my diaphram. It is better to be prepared and not have to use it, than not to have it when you meet a hot guy you can boff without consequence. It is probabley not the brightest thing to do, but sometimes, you want to make sure you don’t get pregnant.

    • I’m all for consequence-free boffing, or I was, when younger and unmarried. With that in mind, I suggest adding condoms to your list. Certain consequences cannot be prevented by a diaphram.

    • Based on the – let’s say – unilateral topics of “Laura’s” postings over the last few weeks, I think it’s safe to say we have a (probably male) troll in our midst. Well played, sir.

      • Especially since he/she cannot spell “diaphragm.” Have fun, Laura.

      • It amazes me what people find amusing.

      • I agree it’s a troll, but what a pointless troll. Does he think we’re going to be shocked and scandalized at the idea that a woman might have sex on a business trip?

    • I agree it’s some male. Honestly, who even uses diaphrams anymore?

  13. What a timely topic, as I just returned from back-to-back conferences! Black pants with two or three different jackets was my go-to – can be dressed up or dressed down with jewlery and different shells (depending on the environment), avoids the suit “issues” others have identified, hides wrinkles and spots well, and allows for an interchange of other tops (blouse, more casual sweater) and shoes that accommodate dinners out or an afternoon off. A pair of sneakers and workout pants is also a great addition, permitting an early morning walk or grabbing coffee in the lobby before the day gets started.

  14. here’s a question: 3 day conference, full suits required + one black tie event.

    how in the name of all that is holy do i fit this into a carry on? 3 separate suits, or can i get away with 2? i’ll be wearing one to fly, so i suppose i only have to pack 1 or 2, but still. HELP.

    • I would suggest checking in your luggage. The $25 is worth it to me to avoid injuring my back/shoulders in an attempt to lift my bag into the overhead bin. Plus, if you check in your bag(s), you will be able to take the other things that people have suggested in earlier comments (snacks, power strip, etc.)

      Don’t worry too much about what your co-workers travelling with you will think. People on this site have, in the past, said that you shouldn’t be the woman waiting at baggage claim while the rest of your colleagues are waiting for you at the rental car center (or something along those lines); but, I think many of us women care far too much what other people think.

      That said, do what feels best to you – good luck!

      • P.S: If you are worried about the airline losing your bags, perhaps pack one suit in your carry one and one as a check in – along with power strips, tennis shoes and other heavy items?

      • lawyerette :

        I have an injured shoulder currently so I totally understand not wanting to hoist the luggage up, but mostly I hate waiting myself so I avoid checking luggage if at all possible. And I do think you can pack 2 suits and a black tie dress (plus everything else) into a carry on plus a large under-the-seat bag. You have to roll things and when you get to the hotel take them out and ask for a steamer to release the wrinkles.

    • In the past I had to go to a conference that started in one city with a cocktail party, take a long flight, and then go to a two-day conference that required suits. I was able to fit my dressy outfit in along with one suit that had a skirt and pants. You can probably do fine wearing one suit and packing a cocktail dress and the second suit into the carry-on.


      Everyone hates the one person who checked luggage that they have to wait for to get the luggage becuase they needed to bring sooo much to look chic at a business event. You wear one suit, you bring one, you bring one dress. THat’s it. You bring 3 different colored silk camis to wear under your suits. One pair of suit heels, one pair of fancy shoes.

      That’s all you need. No one ever knows if you wear the same black skirt suit with different tops to the same conference.

      • I think this is just silly. I’d much rather have the hour (sometimes two) waiting for my flight to be hands-free. And, have you checked luggage lately? These days (particularly with the fees keeping the numbers down), your bags are likley to be off the conveyor belt and waiting for you by the time you get to the baggage area.

        • No way. I’ve travelled a lot with partners and assocaites. The one time the poor girl associate checked her bag, and when we all got off the plane and started towards hte cabs and she had to get her luggage, I felt her pain. She was embarrassed, we all had to wait around for 30 minutes, you could tell the partner and everyone was annoyed.

          I don’t know where you’re flying to where the luggage is waiting for you by the time you get to the baggage area or what airports your at, but at Laguardia, Newark, San Fran, and CHicago (the airports I use the most) this is most definitely NOT the case.

          • SF Bay Associate :

            Agreed 100%. I would get death rays from my partners if I checked luggage. Plus I’d look like the incompetent newbie Natalie from Up In The Air. Real business travelers don’t check unless they’re gone over a week.

        • newbielawyer :

          I have to say I agree rew. The exception would be if you ask and people are checking luggage. But for a week business trip or less, there should be no need to check luggage. Now I can pack much more than rew says she’d pack in her carry-on though, it’s all about rolling your clothes the right way IMO. And I have a Samsonite with 4 wheels that leaves my hands free most of the time while at the airport. I got the “boston bag” that goes with it and that gives me a lot more space (and fits underneath the seat).

          I do hate checking luggage (always did, but now even more that you have to pay for it!), and if you’re the junior person everyone’s waiting for, it is embarassing. I think it should also be embarrasing if you’re the senior person (it happens too) but I guess probably isn’t :)

          • Anonymous :

            I may be the lone dissenter, but when I travel (for business or personal), in addition to my work/fun clothes, I always bring enough workout clothing to be able to exercise every day that I’m gone. So if I’m gone a week, that definitely means I’m checking a bag. I have no problem catching a separate cab to the hotel if others get antsy.

          • At my place, taking your own cab makes you look like you’re not part of the team. In addition, they’d all wait. Usually also, when you get somewhere you get straight down to work and therefore you’re waisting precious time.

            The workout clothes thing is easy, they have people who will launder you 2 tanktops and 2 pairs of workout shorts easily.

            I promise you I can say with 100% certainty, if you work in biglaw like i do, do not check luggage. You will regret it.

          • Anonymous :

            Well, I escaped biglaw a few years ago, so maybe that is the difference :)

            I haven’t had a problem with checking luggage yet, but I’ll keep everyone’s advice/experience in mind.

            Also, not everyone has the same style of workout clothing for religious/modesty reasons (my workout clothes do not consist of tank tops and shorts or little yoga pants) so they do take up more room in my suitcase.

      • Don’t u sometimes wonder if the person taking their own cab since they checked luggage isn’t the person that everyone hates travelling with, yet post on here it’s ok.

        For a forum of “conservative” office cloething weareres and “dont stand out as a girl” these girls do just that for what? An extra pair of heels in their bag?

        Pot, meet kettle, meet bag checker.

        Do not check bags.

        • why all this hate on checked bags? If someone injures their back/shoulder lifting carry on bags onto the overhead bin on a business trip that would be a workers compensation claim, right?

          Seriously, we women need to stop being so hard on each other.

        • I’m an attorney who has frequent conferences with largely the same group of 70-80 people. I’m the youngest by at least a decade, and one of the few women. Several months ago I met up with some of them at the airport at our destination, and we agreed to share cabs. Of the five men and 2 women in our group, I was the only one who hadn’t checked a bag. I’m an insanely efficient packer, but it’s not always about clothes – if you’re taking a lot of paper/presentation material to a conference, checking isn’t an option. I had no problem waiting for others to pick up their baggage. Though I never check if I can help it, it’s quite freeing not to be dragging around a heavy/rolling bag during those long layovers.

    • Why not Fed Ex a couple of suits to your destination?

      • I just went to a friend’s destination wedding and checked my bags, including my bridesmaid dress. BIG MISTAKE. My connecting flight was cancelled, and I was put on a flight nine hours later. Then, the luggage didn’t make it. My dress (and makeup and everything else) arrived two hours before the wedding.

        My takeaway is if I absolutely need a dress, suit, or whatever for the next day (i.e. , I’m not on a personal vacation), I will not check luggage.

  15. This conference must be a hotel or resort that will be able to dryclean your suit in less than 24 hours. Wear one and take one, and dry clean if necessary.

    • Anonymous :

      FWIW, most suits will not need dry cleaning after one wearing unless you’ve got a stain. For good wool suits, if I hang them promptly after wearing, I can go at least 8-10 wearings between cleanings. Dry cleaning deteriorates the wool, so the less you clean, the longer they’ll last.

  16. AnonAnonAnon :

    Anyone tried this Merona wrap dress from Target? It’s $15 + free shipping today. http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/?asin=B00489DA4C&ref=sc_sk_viewdetails_qi_1_4

  17. I agree with your list, particularly the wrap. I find myself using it as a blanket or pillow on the plane, a scarf with my coat when outside, covering for my pajamas if I get room service, and as an actual wrap to dress up my work clothing for a cocktail reception.

    I also always bring a clutch purse. That’s not ordinarily my style, but when I travel my two bags are 1-my rolling bag and 2-my tote/laptop bag, so I find it handy to throw just the essentials into the clutch for the cocktial party and any ensuing dinner.

  18. Regarding makeup, several years ago I started wearing Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation and the only thing I’ve changed since is the shade, depending on the time of year. It truly stays on all day, plus I get compliments all the time on how even my skin looks. I’ve also noticed that my MAC and Bare Minerals eyeshadows tend to last all day.

    Regarding packing, I travel quite a bit this time of year for my job and have thus tried to master the art. My problem is usually when I travel to colder climates. My clients are for the most part business casual, so I’d be out of place wearing suits. I usually try to wear a nice sweater/cardigan, scarf and dress pants. I’ve found that sweaters, even thin ones, seem to take up so much room in my suitcase. And I hate to take a coat when its not that cold yet b/c I end up carrying it more than wearing it. Any tips for cold weather attire?

  19. Seventh Sister :

    I often buy a copy of Town and Country when traveling – it’s nice and light but looks less fluffy than some other magazines. W is also fun, but it’s BIG and more likely to have a racy cover. :o)

    Just got a Kindle, and it’s great for traveling. It looks serious, even if I’m reading “The Hunger Games.”

  20. I managed to pack for a 10-day work trip in Japan and Korea with only a carryon, so it can be done. I travel with mostly men, and they get super sassy if they have to wait for someone who checked luggage, especially on international flights. I recommend picking black as your base color. Here is what I packed:
    – black three piece suit (skirt, pants, jacket)
    – alternate jacket (black and white herringbone or something you can wear with black pants and skirt)
    – alternate skirt or pants that go with both jackets
    – red (or other) dress you can throw one of the jackets over
    – high heels, low heels in black
    – workout clothes (two shirts, two shorts, three sports bras, yoga pants)
    – 4-5 shirts that vary from shirts you can wear on their own to going out tops for night

    The trick is to buy bags like these: http://www.amazon.com/Samsonite-Space-Saver-Travel-SA2899CL/dp/B001P74076. You can put all of your clothes in them and roll the air out. They save a ton of space!

    • Impressive! It’s hard for me to imagine going on a 10-day trip with a carry-on.

      For the three day conference I’m currently at, my carry-on was filled with:
      one skirt suit (ooops! Hope I didn’t look like a newbie, but I was presenting…), 4 tops, workout clothes that double as jammies, 1 pair pants, 1 jacket, 1 extra pair of shoes, 1 pair flipflops (for running down to the lobby), work reading. I’ve been building my travel wardrobe around purple and grey.

  21. I love the dresses and blazers combo!

  22. I second a wrap!

  23. Thanks for all the ideas! I have a conference coming up in NYC the end of February. I’ve lived in cold places before, but am based in Fl now, so it will be a shock for me.

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