On work trip essentials

I just finished Alyssa Mastromonaco’s brilliant book “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?” She’s the former deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama and now shares her experiences in the White House and travelling around with the POTUS. I have been in the business of assisting male politicians for almost 15 years now, and never before have I come across a book written by a woman, for other fellow women going through the same questions.

Such as: How do you deal with your periods when there is absolutely no time factored in for nips on to the loos? Also, not everyone of us travels with the President of the United States and has the luxury of the Airforce One toilets (which I’m sure are lusciously insulated and sound-proofed). No, some of us have to make do with an eight-seater with often a pathetic rag dividing the seating area from the “toilet” at the back. And just to add: yes, most of your travelling companions will be men. Always. Most of the time you’re the only woman. Anywhere.

Men also like to travel with only hand luggage. I suppose this is fair enough. It is funny, though, how my (male) colleague just the other week pointed to me at the airport how he’s totally mastered the packing for work trips. “Really, for this kind of trip you only need one suit with extra pair of pants thrown in, and the same amount of shirts and boxer shorts. Presto!” I suppose everything else, like cosmetics, is nicked from the airplane’s business class goodie bag, then. 

It does not work like that for women me. I need stuff. Although over the years I have become a mean packer. But you need to be prepared for situations. Mastromonaco describes several wardrobe malfunctions on her trips. This happens, I can confirm. Climbing into a big car (motorcade is made of big macho-cars, in case you had not noticed) and ripping your skirt at the back is a classic. Getting a heel stuck/losing it is another one. Being too hot/cold during the same one trip. Having to factor in visits to military bases (proper footwear), opening speech event outdoors (gale force winds, anyone?) and an embassy reception within one working day is normal. You will NOT have time to do your hair and touch up your makeup – often there’s no checking in the hotel rooms until very late.

So here’s a short “Challenging work travel 101 packing list”:

– If you can, wear trousers. If it’s not your jam, take a spare skirt.

– Reconsider wearing a white silk top.

– Always extra pantyhose. ALWAYS. I prefer thin, flat, almost invisible flesh-colored nets, as they don’t get ladders and are much more durable and reliable than your regular nylons.

– No fussy hairdos. If you have long hair, wear it up on a bun or ponytail. No point for blow-dries and whatnots. After a 6-hour flight it will be a mess.

– Good make-up base. Make sure you have a decent kit of cosmetics figured out for your purse that you can have with you on the plane (I repeat, zero time in touching up your make-up once you hit the ground and are being motorcaded away to the first meeting). You should carry this set with you at all times. The kit should include the following:

  • Eyedrops
  • Compeed
  • Facial mist (nearly every brand does a travel size now)
  • Tinted moisturiser, which saves you from hauling a cream AND a make up base
  • Rouge/bronzer if you’re into that kind of thing (don’t forget brushes!!!)
  • Lipbalm
  • Compact powder
  • Travel toothbrush + paste

So, pretty minimalistic. If you have space, go for extras like

  • Hairspray
  • Hand-sanitizer (I frankly don’t see the point but lots of people carry them around)
  • Perfume (though no need to go all night-clubby here, it is work, after all)
  • Concealer (try NOT to go for the chalky, pasty variety, which will make the shadows under your eyes look actually much worse)
  • Eyeshadows (don’t forget brushes!!)
  • Mints

This, dear friend, is the basic maintenance kit, we will come to the actual  cosmetics part (cleansers and such) in a later post.

Have a look at Mastromonaco’s checklists in her book. They are pretty presidential for a European (I mean how many sports bras do you need on a short work-trip?) (Maybe it’s just because I don’t exercise).

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