The Art Of Bleisure: Packing For 7 Days & A Purpose

There was a time when my carry-on case was permanently half-packed, ready and waiting on the wardrobe floor to be scooped up and topped up for my next business trip. In the decade between 2001 and 2011, I visited destinations as far away as Bali, India, China and Thailand as a retail buyer with a Saint Lucian tourism institution, and as close to home as Saint Vincent, Barbados and Trinidad, as merchandise director for a regional furniture and electronics behemoth.

With no social media show-offing necessary – MySpace was barely an URL back then – packing for business travel was motivated by different forces, including generous luggage allowances and the eruption of duty-free shopping as an irresistible must-do on every single trip. Let’s just say I caused myself a few problems early on, when two large suitcases never seemed to be never enough.

Over those years, mainly by reading piles of chunky glossies purchased at WH Smiths in Heathrow before another 12 hour flight to Asia, I learned a few strategies to help pack for all business dress eventualities while saving oneself a permanent back injury. For a while I even wrote about them in an ‘amusing but informative’ column called ‘Travel Karma’ in SHE Caribbean, our own regional glossy magazine.

In 2012, my professional life changed and I embraced the sometimes tumultuous existence of ‘freelancer,’ a digital nomad lifestyle that preempted the pandemic proliferation of the term. For the past decade I’ve sometimes worked in clients’ offices, but actually done my best work remotely, at home or in a quiet cafe, undistracted by noise, politics and egos.

During the pandemic, while the world worked from home, I travelled for eighteen months to stay with family in the Dominican Republic and UK, distilling my life into a wheelie and laptop bag to accommodate Caribbean summer through Irish winter. Talk about capsule wardrobe?

But that was a different blog.

Over those many years of business travel, I’ve had the opportunity to experience wonderful resorts and write about them in one form or another, but I can’t remember looking forward to any ‘Bleisure’ assignment more than O2 Beach Resort & Spa on the cool corner of Barbados’ south coast.

If you haven’t heard the term before – neither had I – Bleisure is a travel industry term for trips that combine business with leisure, and Forbes recently highlighted why Bleisure travellers are important to the global recovery now that people are travelling again. 

I can’t say I loved the word, but immediately recognised that I was literally planning a Bleisure trip to Barbados, for the business of writing about the pleasures of leisure at O2, the jewel in the crown of Wordsmith Agency client, Ocean Hotels Barbados.

Last time I visited with my marketing colleague was in summer 2021, when O2 Beach Club & Spa was still a building site where we donned hard hats and vivid imaginations trying to foresee what was to come. Covid was battering their delivery schedule, and it looked like an impossible task.

Little did we know how amazing the end result would be, and now we’re getting to experience it all in a blissful combination of business and leisure!

When the view from your balcony matches the photos you saw on the website…

So, clearly I know a lot about my client’s newest resort because I’ve been writing about it for over a year, and the assignment ‘How To Spend 7 Days At O2 Beach Club & Spa’ needs no further explanation, but now I need to figure out (with limited luggage in mind), what on earth I’m going to pack!

Spending 7 days means 7 nights too: 7 morning walks, 7 breakfasts, lunches & dinners; 7 champagne sunsets; 7 evenings of entertainment; 7 (and more) all-included How-To classes, and maybe a few business meetings between pool and beach.

Feeling confident in your clothing is a professional confidence builder during busy Bleisure trips, so what tricks do I remember from those ‘Travel Karma’ articles that I need to apply on this important odyssey to the latest luxury all-inclusive in trendy Barbados?

  1. Embrace the capsule wardrobe, and base it around classic pieces like:
    • A little black dress (think cocktails and tapas on the rooftop deck at Brisa);
    • White cotton shirt with linen pants or skirt (think lunch at Elements or business meeting at Oasis);
    • Casual t-shirts and shorts (think daily How-To Classes and poolside fun);
    • Scarves and pashminas to mix-and-match with your various dress-up looks (think air-conditioned evenings at Oro);
    • Something especially glamorous – even if, like me, you are casually-inclined (see #2).
  1. Plan your evening wear between casual and posh – make the most of dressing up after all that staying home! There are so many dining options at O2, you won’t want to skip dinner, so pack pieces that can do double duty with different jewellery or a beautiful scarf.
  1. As Clairee says in Steel Magnolias, “the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorise”, so make sure to pack a few signature pieces to take that LBD from cocktail hour to disco night. This is no time to leave your favourite bling at home!
  1. Footwear can be a bag buster, so when packing, it’s good to choose your favourite styles in neutral colours that will work with multiple looks. I’m a flats gal, but I love strappy sandals and funky deck shoes that can work with every outfit.
  1. I’ve decided to show my professional gratitude for this Bleisure trip in a practical way by adding something into my suitcase for Pack With A Purpose, adopted by Ocean Hotels Barbados as a way for guests to give back to the local community. I’ll let you know what that is in a later blog.

Note to my non-spa-girl self:

Clothes are optional at the eighth floor Acqua Spa, other than when enjoying the breathtaking views over a deliciously healthy lunch and smoothie.

Now the ‘5 More Sleeps’ email from O2 Beach Club & Spa has arrived, so I’m off to take some of my own advice on this special assignment, ’How To Pack For 7 Days At O2’

Let’s see how it pans out!

Click the image to find out all about O2 Beach Club & Spa – you can see the balcony of my fourth floor Oceanfront Junior Suite in the bottom left corner