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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Packing for Nationals

RWA Nationals is one week away. It’s time to stop focusing on the writing and get ready for the conference. Which brings me to one of my least favorite topics: packing.

When I was a child, both of my parents were military. So, we traveled a lot and my mother packed everything with military precision. She started a month ahead with inventories and color coding. Every space was filled down to the last micron. Even the seating in the car was regimented. All of my childhood travel memories involve riding for thousands of miles, sitting in a small square of the back of the station wagon with a furry dog wagging its tail in my face.

As a child, the rules of packing in my house were simple: You don’t look at the suitcase, you don’t touch the suitcase, and you certainly DO NOT take anything out of the suitcase. Ever.

Flash forward to my first trip as a newlywed. I was so stressed out. I had never packed before. I didn’t know “the system.” How would I remember everything? How would I fit it all in?

My anxiety befuddled my husband. “Just throw some clothes in a bag. All you really need are the tickets and the passports. Everything else we can buy there.”

That bit of advice has carried us through 26 years of marriage and across three continents with four kids in tow. Over the years, tickets have become optional. And I have added contacts/glasses and prescription medications to the essentials list. I do think twice before packing for remote locations such as the Sahara or the Frank Church Wilderness. But my kids pack their own bags, and I rarely take more than a carry-on. We take “traveling light” to the extreme.

Except now. Now I have to pack for my first time at Nationals. There are award ceremonies, receptions, pitch sessions, dinners, and workshops to dress for. And I will need comfortable shoes for all those outfits. Not to mention down time at the pool or hotel gym. It’s Florida, so we have to dress for the heat and also dress for extreme air conditioning. I have a complicated schedule to follow. And some of the special events require that I print out invitations and receipts. And. . . and. . .

For the first time since I was a teenager, I am totally stressed out about packing. What will I take? And how will I fit it all in? So here’s your chance to help me pack. What’s the most important thing to remember to pack for Nationals? Please share your tips in the comment section. Thanks.


  1. Business cards to give out to people you meet at lunches after you have talked to them about what they write and what you write and you find they are kindred spirits. Everything else you can buy when you get there. (Honestly, that is my motto too when I am packing. Fear not, if you forgot it, you can buy it.) Have a wonderful conference, perhaps somewhere in the melee we will bump into each other.
    Best Ann

  2. I'm pretty partial to Shout wipes in little individual bags. As a mom (and someone who inevitably spills her drink or food), I find them invaluable. And Excedrin. And a nail file.

    I'm pretty stressed about packing the "formal". I rarely travel and like to just bring a carry-on, too. This time, I'll be checking luggage. :)

  3. Great timing for this post! I'm now starting to agonize over what to pack. I have my business cards, comfy shoes and two light sweaters. I'm nowhere near needing a gown for the awards, so a dressy skirt and top will do. I figure I'll take my nicest, newest summer togs and do lots of mixing and matching. The hotel does have laundry facilities if needed.

    Have a fabulous time and perhaps we'll get to exchange cards!

  4. I'm including earplugs this year just in case we room across the hall from another yeller. :)

  5. I have to go to my son's wedding the weekend before conference in Pensacola, so I've got that stuff to take too...*sigh*, plus book signings, so I've got book marks and a couple of items to display on the table (1st time for me to do a signing)...I think I'm more stressed about the wedding, worried my gown won't make it on the trip, so will be hand carrying it on the plane. And I've got a big blog tour after I get back, so need to take my laptop with me too to write on. Buy this stuff there? Don't think so. :) But I wish it was that easy!!!

  6. I'm bringing pre-paid if-it-ships-it-fits boxes to send home all the great stuff I buy at Disneyworld, and of course, all the books that I pick up at the signings and spotlights.

    I also am breaking in both of my pairs of new shoes this week, knowing that I'm not going to want to break them in while I'm at the conference.

  7. My boyfriend has a similar saying to your husband's (stolen, I think, from comic Jim Norton): "Just grab a pile of stuff. We'll get a bag at the airport." But I'm a backpacker of some experience, so I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

    1) Packable fabrics: This includes matte jersey, drapey modal, stretch cotton, etc. You'll probably want some sort of blazer, but otherwise, try to keep it knit, not woven.

    2) Mix and Match outfits: The black or khaki blazer that goes with all your bottoms. One pair of tan, black, or other neutral heels instead of shoes for every outfit (same with handbags). Bring more tops and fewer bottoms (i.e., pack one pair of pants and one skirt, and coordinate all your tops to them).

    3) Pack simple outfits that can be turned from day to evening by changing accessories (i.e., a basic black jersey dress can go casual with a funky necklace and flat sandals and can go dressy with with pearls, a cocktail bag, heels, and an updo.)

    4) Roll, don't fold, your clothes when packing. They'll wrinkle less and use space more efficiently than flat-folded garments. Those packing bags you squeeze the air out of will also save space, but they'll also wrinkle wovens.

    5) Stuff small items (underwear, socks, jewelry, etc.) into your shoes.

    6) FLESH-TONED UNDERWEAR. You heard me. Not white. Not black. NUDE. Works under everything, always.

    As for other-than-clothes, business cards are a very good idea, and obviously bring a notepad or laptop to write on, but otherwise, don't panic. And you only need reading material for the trip TO Nationals. Coming back, you'll have more books than you know what to do with.

    Oh, that reminds me:

    7) Leave room in your suitcase to bring back books!

  8. I'm so envious of everyone going to the conference! I know you're going to have a great time, and can't wait to read about it when you're back. :)

    The only thing I hate more than packing is UNPACKING. LOL Am I the only one who leaves some stuff in their suitcase until the next time they have to pack? No? *slinks off with red face*

    Okay, never mind! LOL


  9. We have a simple rule of thumb: Pack half as many clothes, and bring twice the money.

    But on a more practical note: a lightweight cardi in a neutral color will take the chill off air-conditioned rooms.

  10. Least favorite topics is packing?! *gasp*
    I assure you, madam, NOTHING is more satisfying than a perfectly packed suitcase. Okay, maybe world peace, but other than that, NOTHING!

    I LOVE the thrill of an exquisitely packed bag (don't believe me? Click here) I have oodles of tricks to pack for every possible scenario and still only bring two small carryons. Perhaps I will post them on Thursday's mini-blog...

    The best ones I can give for Nationals:
    1. Color coordinate your wardrobe. By doing so, you should only need 1 pair of heels and 1 pair of sandals/flats. Every top should be able to be worn with every bottom, and ditto with a sweater/jacket/cardigan.
    2. Buy packing cubes. When you pack them, roll every item tightly for maximum space usage. The poor man's packing cube? Gallon-sized ziplock bags. Once you fill it, press all the air out.
    3. Buy a travel-sized Downy Wrinkle Releaser. It comes in handy for fabrics that don't quite need an iron, but could use some freshening up. Also, if you are allergic to perfume like me, it serves to freshen you up as well ;)

    Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

  11. PS. - there was a time that I was not so hot at the whole packing thing ...

  12. Wow. You are all packing geniuses. Thanks so much for the tips. Now if I can just get Erin to come over, with cupcakes, and supervise my luggage. Thanks, everybody.

  13. Wow excellent advice. I'll pack these ideas away for next years conference. The only thing I can add is probably take a plastic bag for dirty clothes. I cannot stand to see people who mix thier dirty clothes in with their clean clothes. Ick!

    I hope everyone has fun and take lots of pictures for me. I'll definitely be lonely here on Lady Scribes LOL. =(

  14. I'll stop by to keep you company, Melissa. Sniff. While everyone else is having all that fun. :)

    And the gallon-size zipbags -- I've been using those for years, and it's one of the few things that makes packing bearable. Of course, now it seems like it takes about 14 of them just to hold all the "maintenance" stuff (moisturizer, makeup, etc.) LOL


  15. Don't forget to pack you cards! Make a list of everything you want to take then mark it off as you actually put it in your suitcase. This is the system I use. And leave room to bring home books. I forgot to do that last year, and I was shoving as many books as I could into my husband's suitcase, but sadly I ended up having to leave some. Have fun. I'll be there in spirit and cheering for you!

  16. I pack an extra duffle bag in my suitcase. That way on the way home, all the books from conference go in the duffle bag as a carry-on.

    Another tip I have is to not bring your standard wallet. I bring only some cash, one credit card, driver's license, my car key and house key. Maybe pack the passport for extra id.

    I put everything in one of those small thin wallets that fit in a pocket..even if I put it in my tote-bag. But this way everything in my standard wallet is not lost if the small wallet is stolen while I'm out of town.

  17. Comfortable shoes (which I am still shopping for) and a sweater so you can layer in the cold rooms and remove in the hot room.

    Oh, and having seen Erin's suitcase in Chicago at the Spring Fling, I was very impressed. Hope she does use that topic for a post because I want all the tips I can get.

    As to books, I only bring one or two with me on the plane. For the rest, I take advantage of their shipping from onsite. It beats weighing down the suitcase and carry on.

    Now, making note to self to come back and print this at the end of the day for all of the tips so I can pack effeciently.

  18. LOL Donna, I would love the company! Beth love the idea about the wallet! Brilliant. And I believe I am going to print these out for next year. You guys are great!

  19. Great lists. I wish I was going, sniff, whine. I love the gallon bags to roll my cloths. It really does works. And I always pack another smaller bag. It takes up a little space, but it will help stress level when packing to head home. I love the wallet idea too!

    Business cards. I have two sets. One for editors and agents with title and logline of my book on back. The back of other set is blank. When I receive a card from someone I always write, on the back, when and where we met and what we had in common. It really does help keep people straight.

    One thing, I didn't see is index cards, for those pitch rewrites.

    Gosh, I'm so green with envy. Have fun, ladies.

  20. Great advice here, ladies. And I love the gallon bag idea. I would never had thought of it. I so dread packing. I'm awesome at stuffing things in. I can get more stuff in space than there is space, but efficient...I think not:)I can't tell you how many times I arrive somewhere and find I didn't bring the right clothes or left out what I really wanted to wear. I need to put more thought into it, the apply these great tips. I'm really looking forward to Nationals.

  21. Wow. I'm impressed with all these great tips. I guess I'll have to repack my bag.

    One tiny problem. Two pairs of shoes only??? How? My shoes have their own bag. :)

    I hate to iron, so I'm running out to buy the Downy stuff. I've never tried it.

    Donna, You are not the only one who hates to unpack. Usually I have to trip over the suitcase a few dozen times before I finally put it away.

  22. Something else I thought of...if you like the workshops - remember to print out the handouts. RWA isn't providing paper versions this year.

    Also remember the band-aids. I'm bringing the special blister pack with me. Even wearing flats and sandals...I'll get raw places where skin will wear off. That's what happens when you are either barefoot at home or only wear sneakers.

  23. More great suggestions. Thanks so much to everyone who commented.

  24. I have a really tight turnaround time between my flight's arrival and my first event, so I have committed to only bringing a carryon suitcase and my totebag. My plan is as follows:

    :: smartphone, not laptop
    :: flatrate boxes for books/souvenirs
    :: two pairs of shoes (one casual, one dressy) to go with everything.
    :: at least two tops for every bottom
    :: run a steamy shower to get wrinkles out of stuff
    :: pajamas that can double as an outfit (yoga pants & non-ratty tshirt) for trip home

    Maggie Mason at mightygirl.net has excellent advice for packing a lot into a tiny bag, and she always looks movie-star perfect.

  25. Such a great topic as I obsess over packing for next week. I'm soo not organized and love all these tips.

    All that sitting drives me a bit wonky, so I always bring tennis shoes so I can walk on the treadmill in the hotel workout facilities a while each day. And don't forget your cameras, ladies!

  26. Thank you, Erica and Helen for more great tips. I had almost talked myself into leaving the sneakers home. Thanks for reminding me why I wanted them, Helen.