Dressing for business travel — especially for conferences and trade shows — can be difficult. On the one hand, you want to look your best professional self. On the other hand, you want to be comfortable.
While your go-to meeting outfit may be a no-brainer for Zoom calls, quick work lunches or sitting at a conference table, it might not be the best fit for a day on your feet walking the trade show floor.
Beyond this dilemma, there’s just the fact that, during a busy business travel itinerary, you don’t exactly have time to spend an hour in front of the mirror, planning the perfect outfit. You need to know what you’re wearing and when, and have it at the ready so you can get out the hotel door.
So what’s a savvy business traveler to do? Here are some of our top tips for dressing for business travel, meetings and trade shows.
Don’t think you can’t combine professionalism with comfort.
First and foremost, don’t think that professionalism requires that you wear a suit jacket to that summertime outdoor event or that you totter about in high heels as you work the company trade show booth. After all, you’ll look far more professional (and be more likely to maintain a professional demeanor) if you’re comfortable.
Luckily, just like business casual wear has become more and more acceptable in the workplace, so has a mix of comfort and professionalism in the meetings and events space.
As an example, take a look at one trend that Meetings & Conventions Asia noticed at IMEX 2023. More and more professionals at the event ditched their formal footwear in favor of comfortable sneakers. While they kept their business professional wear up top, they kept their feet happy with stylish shoes that provided both fashion and comfort.
(Can’t stand the thought of wearing sneakers to a business event? Women might opt for a comfortable yet stylish pair of flats or slip-ons.)
Look for wrinkle-free and iron-free options.
During the average business trip, your day will be packed.
It starts with a quick breakfast with a client or colleague and then moves on to meetings, followed by more meetings, a business lunch, more meetings, and then finally, dinner and drinks with more colleagues.
During all that, the last thing you want to do is to spend your time hauling the ironing board out of your hotel room’s closet. That said, you still don’t want to show up to your meetings looking wrinkly and worse for wear.
When packing and dressing for business travel, avoid all the above by investing in a few business wear pieces that are wrinkle-free and iron-free. Look for cotton and microfiber fabrics that resist wrinkling, as well as darker fabric colors that hide minor wrinkles well.
Always pack a backup.
If there’s anything predictable about travel, it’s that travel is reliably unpredictable. You never know what will arise.
While if your company works with a TMC, you’re likely covered in the event of unforeseen incidences like flight cancelations or disruptions, your clothing is another issue. Watch your own back by always packing a backup.
This means packing at least one business outfit in your carry-on. Then, you’re covered for at least a day if your checked luggage is lost. It also means bringing at least one outfit more than you think you might need, just in case of spills, stains or rips.
Look for items that pull double duty.
The lighter you pack, the more convenient your business trip will be. If you have a mix of more formal and more casual events in your business travel itinerary, look for clothing items that can pull double duty and work for both. All you’ll need to do is a bit of dressing up or dressing down via some simple accessory swaps.
For example, maybe you bring a simple sheath dress that you pair with a blazer and heels for your day of conference room meetings. Then, for grabbing drinks with a colleague later, you swap the blazer out for a more casual jacket and the heels for sneakers or boots.
Or maybe you pack a pair of slacks that go well with a jacket, tie and dress shoes during the day. Then you ditch the jacket and tie and swap your dress shoes for stylish sneakers at night.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Every office has its own idea of what is or isn’t acceptable wear for a business event and/or business travel. Some companies may be fine with business travelers wearing their favorite cozy sweatpants during a flight, while other companies may severely frown upon wearing anything other than business casual wear on a flight. Some offices may expect business wear even during after-hours events, while others aren’t so rigid with their dress codes.
If you’re new to a role or company, before packing your suitcase, check your company handbook for any details regarding dress codes while traveling. Additionally, talk with your colleagues to find out what they plan to wear during the same business trip or a similar business trip.
Business Travel Can Be Hard — Managed Travel Makes It Easier
Dressing for business travel and finding just the right clothes to take on your next business trip can be a headache. Add that one headache to the many more headaches that come with business travel, and you have an overwhelming situation that can make business travel feel impossible, perhaps not even worth it.
The good news? Transitioning to managed travel can take the large majority of business travel woes off your entire team’s plate. From booking travel to keeping track of expenses and travel budgets, from switching to a Plan B when business travel goes awry to offering emergency services in the worst cases, a TMC can help with it all.
Learn more about JTB Business Travel’s managed travel offerings and see how we could help you and your team enjoy more efficient, productive and easier business travel. The only thing we can’t do for you? Help pack your bags.