What to Pack for a Business Trip to Chicago in May

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With ThinkTank coming up (what, have you been living under a rock?) in just a few weeks, now is the time when I natch start thinking of things I might need to re-up on or consider packing … even though I may not actually get around to packing until like hours before my departure. Somehow, magically, for this trip I am logging practically zero extra time at my destination, so I only really need to pack for the three days of conferencing. The weather in Chicago is supposed to be in the low- to mid-60s and mild, which I feel is such a precarious forecast — it could go either way! But I also have to remember that during these events, I'm apt to largely stay within the hotel walls, so there's no need to go overboard to accommodate for temperamental temperatures.

Of course, because I'm currently incubating #babything, I have a couple of extra wardrobe challenges this time around, but for the most part my packing list is going to stay about the same. The dress code is pretty much business-casual, with the lean largely on the casual side, but since the ShareASale team is always dressed so snappily, it makes me put my wardrobe on point. That said, because the days are long and the networking is endless, comfort is key. I am always apt to pack carry-on only, as I hate a) ponying up extra money (ew) and b) waiting for my luggage. So everything I include here can be fit into a standard carry-on size suitcase!

What to Pack:

1. A water bottle. There's booze, caffeine and germs a-plenty at conferences. Make sure to stay hydrated. I prefer to pack my own water bottle because I don't really like drinking out of plastic, and having it with me at all times is a good reminder to drink up.

Expert Explorer Water Bottle from ModCloth

2. Meeting rooms tend to run a bit on the cold side, and since the weather for ThinkTank looks like it could be a little chilly — it is the Windy City, after all — a blazer or cardigan is a safe bet.

Cocoon Open Cardigan from Target

3. Of all the things I pack for conferences, I always make sure to take a notebook. It helps to refer back to later and you never know when inspiration may hit!

Everyday Delight Notebook from TinyPrints

4. Cute, versatile shoes are kind of a must, IMO. There's nothing worse than finding out you'll be going to a nice restaurant and being stuck with only sneaks to sport. Just make sure they're comfs!

Lucky Brand Toni Sandal from Zappos

5. I usually pack one more casual outfit, just in case the vibe is extra laid back. T-shirts and jeans are the way to go, and why not wear your heart on your sleeve?

Affiliate Life shirt from I Love Apparel

6.& 7. Dresses have proven the most versatile and space-saving options for conferences in my experience. A quick shoe and accessory change can morph the look from super cas to dinner-ready. I love the stripes and super comfy shape of this one.

A Saturday to Remember dress from ModCloth

Dot About It, I'm In dress from ModCloth

8. A sturdy, classic purse that can fit a laptop, notebook, water bottle and any other essentials is super key. My large purse also doubles as my “personal item” on the plane. I like to think of these as investment pieces that also help polish my look. Also, I love Kate Spade anything, so there's that.

Kate Spade New York Cape Drive – Hallie from Zappos Couture

9. A good, dark wash pair of jeans is a versatile wardrobe piece that can pair with any number of tops, from T-shirts to blouses. A blustery Chicago day may have you switching from a dress to something a little warmer. I live in (or did, pre #babything) American Eagle skinnies because their short sizes are perfect for my 5'2″ frame and their sizing hasn't changed in the years that I've been wearing them. Once you know, you know … you know?

Dark Rinse Skinny Jean from American Eagle

10. There are those who say flip-flops are not business appropriate … and there are those who say flip-flops are everything (almost) appropriate. I fall into the latter category, especially with my currently swollen feet. Reef makes the best all-around flip-flops (based on my extensive years of study) and they're super easy to pack because they take up virtually no room and they're incredibly comfortable for all-day wear. Not a flip-flop person? I also love my Chucks.

Reef Ginger flip-flops from Zappos

11. A cute makeup bag that can fit into your luggage or your purse is a travel essential. Whether you need to do a quick touch-up between meetings or you just want to keep your ish all organized in your room, they're a total necessity.

Hop of the Morning to Ya Makeup Case from ModCloth

12. There is a lot of networking and meeting of new people that takes place at ThinkTank, and it's hard to keep track. Have an arsenal of business cards handy so you can pass them out to those you meet with for easy reference and follow up. Make sure it has your business / blog name, email and social media information easily visible. I love my Moo business cards — they're sturdy and the quality is fantastic … plus they don't cost a million bucks. ProTip: Wait until the meeting is over to hand out the cards — get to know the person you're meeting with first to make it more personal. 

Business cards from Moo.com

The Extras / No-Brainers:

Obv., the above isn't an exhaustive list of all the things you should pack — you'll need your own toiletries, socks, underwear, etc. But here's a quick packing checklist:

  • Photo ID (you'll need this for the plane, of course)
  • Glasses / Contact Lens Solution / Contact Case (I always have to remind myself of these)
  • Chargers for phone / laptop / tablet (they're spendy to buy at the airport)
  • Medication
  • Socks / Underthings
  • Toiletries / Makeup
  • Pens (though don't stress, ShareASale usually has a stock of them … and they're pretty decent)
  • Extra room in your suitcase for the swag (there will be swag)
  • A list of questions for your merchants and affiliate managers

Am I forgetting anything? Do you have anything to add to this list?

Author: Christen Moynihan