Business Travel Packing Retrospective

Not packing light, here!I spent the last 4 days in San Diego at the Global Scrum Gathering. Today, I’m going to do a “travel packing retrospective” in which I list what I brought in my “one bag,” with everything I didn’t use crossed out.

This post is a “Personal Scrum” and serves as part of my “trip retrospective,” in which I look back at one element of the trip (my packing and luggage) and decide what I will change for the next time.

In this particular part of my life, I’ve been iterating my travel packing list for a while, but every trip seems to have its own set of needs. This particular packing list, however, is for short, professional-oriented journeys, roughly 2-4 days, in weather that does not require wool socks and winter coats.

Some of the requirements:

  • Professional – this wardrobe needs to make a good impression on a potential client or employer. Wrinkle-free is also a good start.
  • Light – I bring one carry-on bag and one purse. I try not to check my bags.
  • Versatile – I don’t need a parka, but I want to be comfortable in a range of temperatures.
  • Complete – I can’t be stuck in Denver without clean underpants.

For this trip, I brought one purse, one large carry-one bag that went in the overhead bin, and my CPAP machine that also went in the overhead bin. I’ll leave the CPAP out of the rest of the discussion, because it’s medically necessary and is exempted from airline bag restrictions.

Worn: Black slacks, white long-sleeved button-down shirt, black socks, black boots. Carried: lightweight corduroy jacket.

Clothes: Pink button down shirt, light blue patterned sleeveless shirt, aqua blue short-sleeved shirt, business vest, dark grey slacks, black skirt, 3 bras and underwear, 2 pair black socks, 1 pair grey socks, pajama shorts and a t-shirt to sleep in. Running pants, sports bra, tech shirt, running shoes, low-heel black shoes.

Toiletries/Meds: toothbrush, toothpaste, eye drops, pill bottle, nail file, blue eyeliner, black eyeliner, lavender eyeshadow stick, blue eyeshadow stick, red lip stain, 2 pink lipsticks, lip gloss, lip primer, eyelid primer, inhaler, preventive inhaler. Hydration pack and bottle.

CPAP machine in travel bag

Other things: Rocketbook Wave and Frixion pen. Set of 7 extra Frixion pens. Common Loon stencils. Fountain pen. Small moleskine notebook. Mechanical pencil. Regular ballpoint pen. Small knitting bag. Bluetooth headphones. Audio cable for headphones. Earbuds. Kindle. MicroUSB charger (for BT headphones and kindle). Cell phone charger (it’s different from the MicroUSB, because Samsung hates us all). Small portable cell phone battery. Stack of business cards and business card holder. Pad of paper. 40 copies of my resume. Jeff Sutherland’s book (to be signed). Professional purse. Sunglasses. My house keys. Bags of herbal tea. A 2-lb bag of plain M&Ms for the flight crew.

Initial Conclusion: My bag was pretty danged heavy. It has backpack straps and my back was pretty sore after trekking through an airport. So, let’s take a look at what I could cut!

Things I didn’t use: My exercise clothes and shoes, meds for exercise asthma, hydration pack, and earbugs– all things I would have used and justified bringing, if I had gone running even once. Also didn’t really use any of the things for creative crafting (the knitting and stencils) in case I got bored. Finally, I didn’t need my resume or house keys or spare pad of paper– these conferences often supply pads of paper, or the hotel usually does.

Things I under-used: I barely used my knitting stuff and could probably travel without it. Since small electronics are now permitted during takeoff and landing, I’m no longer fidgety during the scariest part of the flight. If I’m really feeling like I need to have “something,” perhaps I will bring a tatting project, since they are tiny.

The pens. I needed a Frixion pen on this journey to write in the Rocketbook Wave. I also used a pencil and a regular pen, but I could have easily borrowed a regular pen, or used the one provided by the hotel. The pencil was a great backup when Frixion pen #1 died in the middle of a session, and is my preferred method for note-taking in my moleskine. I didn’t want to write in my Rocketbook with a non-erasable pen, but I still needed to take notes. I later came up with the strategy of writing on a piece of scratch paper or post-it and just putting it on the Rocketbook to scan.

Things I missed having but wouldn’t bring: My bass ukulele, because there was a uke jam on Tuesday. But bringing the bass generally means I should have a little amp with me… and cable, and sheet music, and and and. So that’s something I wish I’d had, but honestly wouldn’t have used enough to justify the extra bulk. I borrowed a soprano uke from someone at the conference and jammed anyway. Perhaps it’s time to take up harmonica again.

I wish I’d brought a pencil sharpener for the eyeshadow pencils. The lavender one broke and I didn’t have a sharpener. But I could and did live without it.

Thing I missed bringing: I wish I’d brought a disposable razor. I didn’t realize the TSA permits them if the blades aren’t removable. I had to go out and buy one on Tuesday morning.

Other Thoughts

I was grateful I had the extra Frixion pens when the first one ran out after only 18 pages (lifetime total page count for that particular pen.)

I wasn’t thrilled with my clothing options on this trip. I think I could trim down a bit more and be more versatile with a few more smart choices. A multi-wrap skirt that has one layer in black and the other in some kind of pattern that matches the other clothes would be a good choice. The sleeveless blouse really needed to match the jacket better– I will be on the lookout for one with teal rather than powder blue in it, or a neutral jacket. I didn’t need two long-sleeved button-down shirts, although I did look snappy in them.

I had 3 pairs of shoes with me, and don’t really know how to reduce that any further. A pair of low heels was great at the mixers. A pair of running shoes is essential if I plan to stay healthy. But I don’t want to wear running shoes with business slacks– not only isn’t it professional, it adds miles to my shoes that aren’t from running.

For my next cell phone, I’m going to try to get one that shares the MicroUSB connector, because I would have been fine with a single charger for all three devices.

I could have gone lighter if I had a non-corduroy jacket. I’d planned to bring my black blazer, but the fit on it is weird and I have a hard time getting long shirt sleeves to fit. So, OK for summer travel, but something to think about for the other seasons.

I don’t usually wear makeup, so I brought more than I normally wear, but I was trying something this trip. I accidentally brought 2 more lip cosmetics than I intended, but ended up using them both anyway.

Takeaways: For my next business trip, I will leave the running clothes, the knitting, the extra earbuds and cable, and my house keys at home. If I can, I’ll also try to find an alternative to my blazer/shirt combinations. I may also reduce down by a pair of slacks and/or a shirt. Two shirts, a blazer, and a vest can make 9 different combinations if they pair correctly.

Do you have a set “travel packing” list? How often do you review and iterate it? Do you use the previous results on your the next trip? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Written by

Stephanie Bryant is a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) with a technical documentation background from Las Vegas, Nevada. She helped a 100% remote defense contractor team transition to Scrum in 2016, bringing them to be more functional and productive thanks to improved communication and teamwork. Before falling in love with Scrum, Stephanie was a technical writer for 20 years and has written several books, including Videoblogging for Dummies. As an entrepreneur, she wrote and published a 4-issue comic book for knitters and has written or contributed to several tabletop games. Stephanie is an accomplished public speaker and trainer, having presented at professional conferences and user groups for the Society for Technical Communication, WebWorks, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat. She has both online and in-classroom experience as a teacher and trainer, having taught technical writing courses online and Freshman composition in the classroom at San Jose State University. She's also led teams, both professionally (as a Scrum Master and entrepreneur) and on a volunteer basis in her tenure as an officer of a local Toastmasters group, the Society for Technical Communication, and the National Writers Union, where she served as the national chair for the book authors' division. Stephanie is now turning her unique set of leadership, training, and Agile skills to a career in helping other teams learn to love Scrum and improve their teams and processes.