Friday, June 17, 2011

The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List Strikes Back

It's June and RWA Nationals is early this year. Not ready? Neither am I. My whole world is off kilter and my recent sale has made me that much more aware how unprepared I am. I've barely had time to consider things like "What am I going to wear?" and "How many shoes can I cram into this bag without going over the weight limit?" In honor of this important event, the Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List has returned. It's tradition now and a great place to start building your own list if you don't have one already.

Mine is broken into sections, starting with what I'm wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I've racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I've been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 5 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

Wear on Plane :

  • Shirt

  • Jeans

  • Sweater

  • Sneakers (or slip-ons for walking to make getting them on and off in security easier)

  • Socks
Then I have the list of what goes in my backpack. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your carry on, laptop, your toiletry bag...whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. Must have stuff. You don't want it to end up in DC while you're waiting at the luggage carousel at LaGuardia.

Backpack :

  • Plane Itinerary / Ticket

  • Camera & Battery Charger

  • Cell Phone & Charger

  • 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)

  • Book or e-Reader of choice (& charger) to read on the plane

  • ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket - one that zips for security - for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)

  • Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won't need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)

  • Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle (They don't feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food. As for the water bottle, you can refill it as you travel, but it must be empty to get through airport security.)

  • Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)

  • Travel Alarm Clock (If you can't set your cell phone, and you can, I'm pretty sure)

  • Mini flashlight

  • Business Cards

  • Presentation Materials and/or laptop (I'm doing a workshop this year, so anything I need is staying on my person.)
Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you're carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a clear, one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes.

Toiletry Bag :

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash

  • Deodorant

  • Hairbrush

  • Clips/Bands/Barrettes

  • Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)

  • Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can't, pack your own)

  • Hair Products - Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler

  • Hair Electronics - blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc. (coordinate w/ roommates to cut down on unnecessary appliances)

  • Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators, good mirror, tweezers

  • Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you'll be outside a lot)

  • Razor & Shaving gel

  • Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)

  • OTC Meds - Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills

  • Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs

  • First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you haven't read this blog for very long)

  • Mini Sewing Kit

  • Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray & Febreze

  • Bandaid Friction Block

Luggage :

  • Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag

  • Panties x # of days, plus one or two if you're going siteseeing and might get sweaty

  • Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed

  • 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)

  • Regular bras & dress bras (as needed for formals, etc)

  • Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed

  • Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days

  • 1 pair jeans (if you aren't doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary, especially as I'm wearing a pair on the plane)

  • Seasonal Jacket, etc, as needed (depends on where you're going, as SFO was cold, NYC is NOT)

  • Pajamas (I don't know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)

  • Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)

  • Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, etc.

  • Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point

  • Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins

  • Shoes - At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you're inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. I do not recommend wearing the same shoes every day, even if it matches. I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over. You will do a lot of walking.

  • Jewelry - Make sure you know what you're wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don't have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like black capris or a skirt that I can use a couple times. Microfiber is awesome - it doesn't wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here's my breakdown based on my typical activities... (note conference is a day off this year, so its all wonky). This year, I'm coordinating everything to match my pink "First Sale" ribbon. :)

  • Tuesday - black microfiber skirt, pink top, black sandals, pink jewelry

  • Wednesday - black capris, blue microfiber top, black sandals, blue jewelry

  • Wednesday Night - eHQN PJ party attire, flip flops/slippers

  • Thursday - black microfiber skirt, purple microfiber top, black sweater, black heels, purple jewelry

  • Thursday Night - black formal, sale shoes, black/silver jewelry

  • Friday - black capris, pink satin top, black sandals, pink jewelry

  • Friday Night - black and pink formal, pink heels, pink jewelry

  • Saturday - t-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home (add days as needed if you're coming early or staying late to sitesee)

  • Pitch Outfit - if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you're wearing

  • Extra Outfit - a fabu just in case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you're already planning to bring
Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What's on your must pack list?


The winner of Shana Smith's guest blog giveaway is Cynthia because that's the name of the heroine in my first book. Sorta. Makes sense when you read it. Cynthia, please send your snail mail info to me at to claim your prize!


Cheryl said...

Although I am not going to conference, this is a great list for me, the consummate over-packer. There is one thing I always put in that isn't on your list. I pack one of those folding mini bags in case I need it for things I buy on the trip. Thanks SP for the great tips!

Stephanie Jones said...

This is a great list. I do something similar with my clothing, jewelry and shoes but it was extra nice to see the break down by travel method (carry on, check, easy access, etc.)

I am so excited that you are getting to wear so much that matches pink!

Playground Monitor said...

I'm not going to conference this year either, but I use a lot of ziplock bags. I've put a carefully folded dress or skirt in a one gallon bag, rolled it up to press out the air and then sealed it. It lets you put more in a suitcase, which is nice given the baggage charges today.

I also carry a 13-gallon tall kitchen bag to put my dirty clothes in.

Since we put four of us in a room, a power strip is handy so you can plug a couple curling irons in at once. I rarely travel with a hair dryer anymore since most hotels and motels have them, but I gotta have the curling iron. I always call ahead to check on the hair dryer though and have a small, folding one in case I need to pack one. Coordinating with roommates is a great idea.

Playground Monitor said...

Oh, and the ziplock bags are especially nice if one of your outfits has sparkly things on it. That keeps your undies from sparkling too. ;-) You can get bags larger than one gallon in the luggage section of stores like Target and Walmart.

Problem Child said...

Yes, a power strip is a lifesaver if you have roommates. I also have a free standing makeup mirror so that I can do my makeup (near lighting, because mirrors in the room aren't always near the lights) while my roommates are in the shower.

And have converted all my friends to the Downy Wrinkle Release!

Instigator said...

I love this list. In fact, I pulled out a brand new word document and started writing down all those last minute things that I need to get. Thanks for kicking my butt into gear! :-)


Julie Miller said...

Invariably, I pack too much that I just end up hauling back and forth. This checklist is great! I'm printing it off. Thanks!

Maven Linda said...

Add bed bug spray to your list.

Smarty Pants said...

Ack! Where do you even get bedbug spray?

Maven Linda said...

Magellan's carries it. I have some. Maybe a luggage store? Airports?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Brilliant list. Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Amazon has bed bug spray.