Traveling for work is one of my favorite things about being an adult. Seriously, when I can write-off a trip to New Orleans or vacation with my business besties, it makes every pain point of being a self-employed entrepreneur completely worth it.

When you’re traveling for work, you have to be prepared to be more professional than you are when you’re traveling with your family or for personal reasons. Pack your accessories, and don’t forget your laptop charger. Think like a boss, and pack accordingly.

Here are a few things that I never leave home without:

1 – A scarf.

I don’t care if you’re traveling to Bermuda in the middle of July, bring a big scarf. Whether it’s the plane, a conference room, or a meeting place, chances are you’ll find yourself in a place where the A/C is cranked up higher than your bare shoulders will enjoy.

2 – A water bottle.

Conferences are quite often held in the types of hotels where nothing is free, even the water. Plus, especially while you’re traveling, it’s so important to stay extra hydrated, and I learned a long time ago to never count on anyone else to provide my hydration. Pack your favorite bottle, and use it well. Especially if the after party is going to include cocktails.

3 – Comfortable shoes.

I know it’s easy to fall into the trap of only bringing your cutest, most uncomfortable shoes when you know you’re going to be around fashionable bosses. But no one is cute when they’ve been wandering around an Olympic-sized hotel in heels for 5 hours and are now wincing every time they take a step.

I personally don’t leave home without my Chacos; I’ll rock my hippy vibes all day long, and you better bet my feet are more comfortable than yours. But I also usually bring an easily packed pair of flats or sandals that I know I can walk in all day long without being worse-off for it. Save the heels for fancy-time.

4 – A tote bag.

A simple tote bag goes a long way when you’re lugging notebooks, business cards, and flyers around all day. A tote bag (maybe emblazoned with your own brand or mantra) makes a statement and keeps all your carry-alongs (including your scarf and water bottle) in one place so your hands are free to shake, hug, and shimmy.

5 – Some extra room in your travel bag, or an extra bag altogether.

Let’s be real: one of my favorite things about traveling for business is SWAG. And I’ll never forget the time I got my first big haul and couldn’t even take it all home with me. Never again. Now I always come prepared so that I can bring all my freebies home.

(That tote bag can come in handy here. Pack it full of SWAG and claim it as your personal item on your flight. Huzzah!)

6 – A notebook, extra pens, and some business cards.

Be ready to take notes—whether you’re sitting in on conference sessions or having a power lunch with some fellow bosses. Throw an extra pen or two into every purse/bag/suitcase you pack, so there’s always one on hand or one you can share. And make sure you have business cards for introducing yourself at networking events (or sometimes just the waitress who’s interested in why all the cool bosses are in town).

7 – Bring your A-game.

Traveling for business is significantly more draining than a weekend lounging on the beach. If you need some help, try Kathleen’s taxi light technique. And be sure to strut your style, a la Tiffany Ima. Make sure the world knows just who’s walking into the room.

Or, my favorite tactic is to break the ice by complimenting a stranger’s shoes, and then let yourself get lost in the conversation. Stay flexible enough to dive into impromptu dinner meetings and know when it’s time to scoot back to your hotel room for some alone time.

– – –

You’re responsible for how much value you get out of traveling for business.

Even the most content-rich conferences will be a bust if you’re not prepared to soak it all in with the most boss mindset. And with the right tools, it’s easy for you to be ready to take full advantage.

Because let’s be real: who can be boss when they’re shivering in a conference room, dehydrated, with nothing to write with?

Be prepared and rock it out.


When I’m away for business, I have to schedule in a buffer day between returning home and getting back to work. During this day I rest up, sleep in, and maybe just do some inbox management. I hug on my family, hydrate, do some grocery shopping, and get back in the groove. This power-up day is imperative for me to recalibrate after high-impact business travel so that I can adequately get back to work, putting everything I just soaked up to good use.

Emily is the co-host of Being Boss Podcast, helping creative entrepreneurs learn how to run their own creative business with the tough love they need to hear to do the work. She also owns Almanac Supply Co., a maker and retail business focused on creating and curating items to help you live closely with nature, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.