How To Pack for a Two-Day Business Trip in a Laptop Backpack

Last year, I ended up taking a lot of two- and three-day overseas trips, some for work and some for pleasure. One of them was at such short notice — four hours — that I was glad I keep a bag packed with most of the key essentials at home. Regular readers will know that I also love to travel light, especially on short trips, and my rediscovery of the humble backpack last year help me to reach new (weight) lows.


I’m heading to Toulouse on Thursday for a one-night work trip and I thought I’d show you what I packed for two days of meetings in a cool, rainy European city. I pack almost exactly the same things for most two- or three-day trips, though, with a few small changes.

The backpack


My parents bought me the Tumi Voyageur Halle backpack as an early birthday present last year and it has replaced Longchamp’s Le Pliage large shopper as my carry-on or personal item (if I’m also taking a suitcase) when flying. I also use it for work, particularly if I am transporting my laptop or other heavy items. There is a laptop sleeve inside, which fits a 12-inch laptop and although only lightly padded, it’s fairly well-protected when the bag is full. There are also lots of pockets, which are great for compulsive organisers like me. When I’m flying, I tend to keep the main front pocket for my toiletries and Kindle so that I can remove them easily when flying. The top zippered pocket on the front is useful for storing sunglasses or headphones. The bag is made from nylon, with a leather handle and gold hardware, which means it’s lightweight and the padded sleeves make it very comfortable.

The handbag


I used to be a big-handbag woman, but I’ve been trying to coax myself into downsizing. Buying a new compact camera (the Canon G7X mark II, which I’ve been very happy with) helped with this and I finally bit the bullet and bought Madewell’s crossbody tote during a Black Friday sale. It fits: my (very small) wallet, phone and earbuds, passport, Kindle or notebook, camera, pen, keys and lipbalm. It’s also small enough to slip under my coat should I be on a ‘strictly one bag per person’ Easyjet flight. I can also use this smaller bag for dinners or meetings where I don’t want to bring my backpack with me.

The tech

  • Laptop and charger. When I’m travelling for pleasure, I can take my MacBook Air, for which I have the international adapter kit. My work laptop is quite lightweight but its charger is bulkier and requires an adapter. This still fits in my backpack with the other kit.
  • Kindle Paperwhite. Even short trips involve some downtime and I usually have a range of novels downloaded and ready to go.
  • Headphones. I always have a pair of Apple earphones with me (they’re the only in-ear earphones I can wear) and depending on the trip, I sometimes also take my Bose SoundTrue headphones (updated version here), which pack down small but are comfortable and have great sound quality. I’m toying with replacing them with some noise-cancelling, bluetooth headphones but I’m not sure I have room in my backpack!
  • Compact camera. Unlike my beloved but bulky Canon 100D DSLR, my new compact G7X camera is so small that I take it with me almost everywhere. I also bring a USB SD card adapter to transfer the photos to my computer; the G7X also allows me to transfer photos directly to my phone, which is great for Instagramming on the go. The battery usually lasts for at least three days of shooting but the camera can also be charged via USB, so I bring a cable just in case (which also works for my Kindle).
  • Cables and USB charger. I usually have a couple of Apple USB cables and at least one micro USB cable with me to keep all my gadgets happy.
  • Portable charger. I bought an Anker PowerCore+ Mini charger last year. It is indeed ‘lipstick-sized’ and I get more than one full iPhone 7 charge per recharge. At home, I only need to charge my iPhone every other day but I use it a lot more when travelling, particularly now that Three’s Feel at Home package means that I can use my data for free almost everywhere I travel.


The other kit

  • Clothes. If I’m travelling for business, I usually pack one change of clothes per day, which means packing one or two dresses respectively for a two- or three-day trip (wearing the other, along with my cardigan, coat or jacket and scarf), or sometimes just two tops, which I will wear with a black skirt. I generally wear black boots — either ankle or knee, depending on the weather. If I’m going away for a long weekend, I usually wear jeans and my Nike Pegasus trainers, and bring two extra tops. 
  • Toiletries. I keep mini versions of all the essentials — shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face cleanser, moisturiser, eye cream, deodorant, toothpaste and a few make-up items — in a transparent travel pouch. I also keep a toothbrush here and have a travel-sized Wet Brush.
  • Passport. Obvs.
  • Wallet. I use a small Tumi cardholder as my main wallet both at home and when away. I keep a couple of credit cards, my driving license and a few business cards inside. I only use cash when forced, but there’s room for a couple of notes and even a few coins in the zip compartment. I also have a coin purse where I keep dratted coins and less commonly used cards. When I travel, I tend to remove all the excess cards and use it to keep coins and any receipts I acquire.
  • Notebook and pen. My wonderful friend gave me a Empire State Building-clad Smythson notebook for my birthday, which is beautiful but compact.
  • Compact umbrella. I sometimes substitute this for my sunglasses but rarely have to bring both.
  • Klean Kanteen water bottle (18 oz). I drink a lot of water and the neon pink colour of this bottle cheers me up even when I’ve had to walk half a mile across an airport to find the one place it’s possible to fill up my bottle.
  • Other essentials. The striped pouch contains a few other bits and bobs, including ibuprofen, ear plugs, plasters and hairbands. I need total darkness in order to sleep so I always take my sleep mask when I travel. I’ve tried many of these over the years, but Lewis N. Clark’s remain my favourite. I also keep a reusable bag (Baggu’s baby size is my favourite) in all of my bags. I sometimes use it to keep things clean or more protected even if I don’t use it as a bag.


The alternates

  • Coffee kit. I don’t usually take coffee-making kit with me on a two-day trip. I usually seem to end up in destinations where there is good coffee available (in which case, I’d like to try that rather than brewing my own). If not, I make sure I have two big cups before leaving home on day one; I can live with having one bad or mediocre coffee on day two (sacrilege, I know). For three- or four-day trips, I sometimes take my trusty Aeropress. I also have a Made by Knock Aergrind, which I’ve been very pleased with, but it’s fairly heavy, if small, so I would probably only take it on four- or five-day trips where there was little chance of any good coffee.
  • Running kit. Depending on the weather and how much free time I will have, I sometimes bring my running kit; if I’m travelling for work, I can only do this if I also have space to bring a pair of ballet flats, in which case I’d wear my trainers.