How to Pack a Single Carry-on for a Three-day Conference

This past week, I attended a conference for work.  I try to avoid checking luggage whenever possible, so I aimed to pack all of my outfits into a single carry-on.  I was successful!  AND…it was pretty cold where I was going, so I was pretty impressed with myself for traveling with winter-wear and managing to not over-pack or check a bag.

Chic in Academia, http://chicinacademia.comView from my hotel room.  Can you spot the snow flurries?

Here’s how I did it:

1) Pick a comfortable pair of shoes and plan your outfits around them

I chose a pair of super old Marc Jacobs heels that I purchased brand new on eBay for $30 years ago.  They are patent black with cute – not overly obnoxious – bows, which I also know pair well with opaque tights.  Conference rooms in hotels can be super cold, so layering and pants and/or opaque tights are usually a must for me.  The heels have a high-ish heel, but nothing that would make it uncomfortable to walk from room to room, or to stand on my feet several hours a day.

Chic in Academia, http://chicinacademia.comDetails: Heels, Marc Jacobs, similar here and here // Sunnies, here // Necklace, similar here // Lipstick, YSL, here

2) Pick a color, any color!

Because my shoes were black, I decided to go with a black base for all of my outfits.  Hence, I packed the following:

  • 1 black blazer
  • 2 black and white dresses
  • 2 tops (in case I needed options)
  • 2 necklaces
  • 1 pair of earrings
  • 2 pairs of opaque tights (just in case I happened to ruin a pair somehow)

My strategy was to wear my coat on the plane and wear pants that I could wear on my return flight.  So, I packed a second top to wear with those same pants on the way back.  I also wore my second pair of shoes on the plane.  In this case, I wore knee high boots just in case I should happen to need to walk outdoors somewhere, in the snow.

Chic in Academia,

A single carry-on and a tote to carry during the conference.  Oh yes, and my morning coffee. 🙂

Chic in Academia,

Details: Luggage, Alice and Olivia for Target, similar here // Bag, Chanel, similar here

My luggage from the inside.  This photo was actually taken when I got home, but as you can see, my luggage was not over-packed.  The silver bag is a large tote that I like to carry in case I happen to go shopping while traveling and need to carry the excess with me on my way back. 😀  Always best to be prepared!

Chic in Academia,

Details:  Coat, Zara (on sale in stores), similar here // Top, Elizabeth and James via TJ Maxx, similar here// Skinny jeans, Ann Taylor, similar here // Boots, Forever 21, similar here // Chanel Pendant necklace, South Boutique, similar here

No mirrors at the airport to take a full-selfie, so you get a birds-eye view of my outfit! (Photo above)

Chic in Academia,

Details:  Blazer, Zara, similar here // Dress, Salvation Army, similar here // Opaque tights, Hue via Nordstrom Rack, similar here // Watch, Michele (gift), similar here

For the first day, I wore a black and white dress I got at a thrift store for $3 a while back, paired with my favorite Zara blazer.  What makes it my favorite?  The puffed-sleeve.  It balances out my hips! 😀

Chic in Academia,

On the second day of the conference, I chose to wear a dress which required nothing but a statement necklace and cocktail ring to complete the look.

Chic in Academia,

Details:  Dress, H&M, here // Necklace, similar here // Ring, Aldo (BOGO and only $8ish in store), here

Chic in Academia,

Chic in Academia,

Details:  Tops, H&M, here // Necklace, J Crew, similar here

Here, I am wearing the same pants and blazer I wore the first day, paired with a top from H&M.  Same shoes all three days as you can see.  I also wore the second necklace I packed.  You’ll notice I tried on both tops and although I loved the look of the white top, it was a bit too sheer to wear without a tank underneath, so I went with the darker top.  Still works, I think.  What do you think???

An unrelated, but useful tip: Because I chose to work during times when I wasn’t in sessions, I ended up ordering a lot of room service.  Did you know that you can order from the kids menu and not only pay less, but actually get a greater variety of food than when ordering from the adult menu??  I had no idea!  I’ll definitely be doing this from now on!

What are your tricks for packing for work-trips?  I’m always looking for tips and tricks, so feel free to leave any you think might be helpful for me in the comments section below!  Finally, don’t forget to enter the Tory Burch giveaway on my blog!  Details for the giveaway found here.  Ends tomorrow!

Until next time!  Stay ‘Chic’!

12 thoughts on “How to Pack a Single Carry-on for a Three-day Conference

  1. Alexandra Ambriz says:

    Love love love this post. I travel quite a bit for work and they are almost always 2 to 3 day trips so this is perfect. I tend to do the same and just go with all black but I’m really bad about accessorizing. I love the accessories you add to your outfits they are always such a great finishing touch! Thanks for teaching me little by little about fashion, I genuinely have no fashion taste and am picking up quite a few bits of advice from your blog. 🙂


  2. Carina says:

    Love the advice on packing for conferences! I struggle to keep it pared down while balancing long sessions with dinners out with friends/ colleagues! I’m guess you were at the EPI/CVD confo? I’m thinking of SBM next month…any chance you will be there? – Carina


  3. lamoca2014 says:

    I always overpack. I never end up wearing everything I bring. I try to talk myself out of things but I think I am going to miss it if I don’t take it. You did so well.
    I am coming to your workshop in a couple of weeks. I am excited.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amber Anna says:

    Great tips! I’m kind of an extreme packer – I did a research trip in London and a conference (although, admittedly, a very casual one) in Lisbon, a total of 3 1/2 weeks, and took one carry-on suitcase and one big Vera Bradley weekender as my “purse.” On the way back I checked the suitcase, and I did have a washer at my flat in London, but still! For shorter conferences though, I always end up packing either way too much or not at all enough, so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicole Redmond says:

    Great tips! I too love dresses for travel, especially if they are a wrinkle free material, because coordinating tops and bottoms can be a pain and take up a ton of room. The only additional issue I have is packing workout clothes and gym shoes…I try to hit the hotel gym at least once.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Toni says:

    I know this is an old post, but I came across it Googling to help prepare for a 4-day work trip I have coming up (mid-November in DC, pretty cold for this Floridian) and this is the best guide I’ve seen! I am totally using this formula – 2 pairs black shoes (in my case loafers for travel days and mid-heel ankle boots), black blazer & black pants, and 2 dresses that match everything (one gray, one blue, both have black accents), black coat, and some tops for the travel days + 1 extra. I don’t think I can resist an additional pair of skinny jeans that I’ll wear on the way to DC, because I suspect in the evenings I’ll want to change out of dresses and into pants, and I don’t want to rely solely on the black pants all week. I love your style too. I already follow your IG. 🙂 [Hopefully this doesn’t post multiple times, was having some trouble!]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chic in Academia says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post! Your plan sounds fantatic!! Please do let me know how your trip goes. I’d love to hear if the method worked!


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