SfN Neuroblogging: The Packing List

Nov 19 2011 Published by under SFN Neuroblogging

We're home from the conference, and it's time for some reflection. Today's? Packing.

Every time Sci goes to a conference, I end up getting asked for stuff. Chances are, I usually have it. I've got a long history of packing for conferences and other kinds of travel, and I've become kind of a master. I'm not talking rolling your clothes, bringing the small toiletries, etc, etc. Nope, these are the other little things, the little things that make hard, long conference days a little easier and a little better. Obviously, today it's too late to pack for SfN! But for next year or for other conference goers, here's a list, in no particular order, of the little things that can make travel nice. 🙂

1. If you're a lady, even if you're not expecting it...bring the lady supplies. You know what I mean. Carry a little ziplock bag or a little case (they even make stylish ones!). Even if YOU don't need, other people will, and I've played savior to the ladies of the human species more than once. And if you've got friends who are accident or fight prone...tampons can help bloody noses. 🙂

2. Snacks! Conferences are ROUGH, I often end up forgetting to eat, or food is SO expensive, far away, or both. Sometimes you have meeting after meeting and the next thing you know you're feeling more than a bit woozy. And of course, you often only get so much travel money. I ALWAYS carry Clif bars and some hardy looking apples so I never get desperate.

3. GUM. Can't brush your teeth after dining out sometimes, and if you're on the poster floor, you've got to talk close and loud to get heard. I usually bring two types, one regular, and one caffeinated.

4. Tea or instant coffee. They never give you enough with the hotel room thing, and sometimes you don't even have that. Or they have super lame kinds at the Starbucks and the line is super long. But I spend many late nights in my hotel room after the socials, working on stuff from the day and saving my poor throat with some tea, especially after all the loud talking you have to do in bars and on the poster floor. And it's little things like your favorite tea that make a hotel room a little more homey and relaxing.

5. An external mouse. Unless you've got an iPad (saw LOTS of iPads this year!) or eschew the laptop all together. I usually keep it for when I need to do longer things (like blogging!), but an external mouse can save you one heck of a headache.

6. Speaking of headaches...bring some OTCs. Especially things for headaches and other aches (my feet...) and cold medication. Otherwise you end up wandering desperately for a CVS with a pounding hangover. Little pill cases are abundant and east to buy, they even have some that go on your keys!

7. A small sewing kit, and a small first aid kit (with small bandaids or something for blisters). When you have one and need it, you'll be thanking yourself for days.

8. For conferences where you're presenting a poster, a poster tube carrying strap! You can buy poster tube holders with straps from places and I think AAAS sometimes gives them out with Science subscriptions. But I actually make my own out of duct tape on a normal cardboard poster tube, and boy do I get compliments!

9. Travel packs of Woolite or something else for emergency laundry. Just do it.

10. Extra socks. Duh.

11. For conferences when I'm getting reimbursed, an envelope for the receipts. I keep it in my purse and it stops me having to dig around for them all at the end of the trip.

12. LAYERS. I've noticed at this conference in particular. Some rooms are warm, some are freezing, the poster floor alternates. Bring a sweater, a big scarf, or a sweatshirt or jacket. Sure, you may carry it around sometimes, but you'll be glad you have it!

13. A bottle of water. I usually buy a plastic one on the way, because my metal water bottles get VERY heavy to haul around the poster floor. Instead I refill the small one for a few days (yes yes I know, but it works).

Anyone else? What do you travel with that saves your butt?

9 responses so far

  • dbaptista says:

    Very useful post!

    Print your posters on fabric! They are becoming increasingly common and saves that bone chilling moment when travelling: "Wheres my poster tube?!"

    For international travellers - a US adaptor. No power = no twitter or blogging!

    Bring a travel coffee mug too! You can load up on free coffee when it becomes available.

    • scicurious says:

      OMG yes those fabric posters are the shizznit!!! You can even iron them before you put them up to make them look all nice.

      I usually actually forego my travel mug while at conferences, too much to haul around, but for some it may be good.

  • katiesci says:

    Earplugs! Even if you don't get the room next to the elevator or ice machine they can be very helpful to get a good night's sleep! Especitally when you're sharing a room with labmates or your hotel neighbors come "home" in the middle of the night.

  • Abigirl says:

    Everyone says the comfortable shoe thing, but I find it totally worth the suitcase space it to pack two different pairs of comfy shoes, so I can alternate. My feet still hurt, but switching up where the shoes rub day by day reduces blisters.

    This is probably getting obsolete in the iPad age, but I bring a small (3x5) notebook and pack of post-it flags to every conference I go to. Each thing I'm writing down- notes from a poster or talk, contact info for a new friend, prices from a vendor-gets its own page and as soon as possible I note why it is important (to avoid the "WTF does 'PKC up???? no BDNF bad' mean?" after my return home) and what I should do with it. Things I need to follow up on or share with my lab get a flag. It makes post-conference organizing much easier, and going back to find information from previous conferences more feasible.

    • scicurious says:

      I usually wait til the conference and drop by a booth giving away little notebooks. You can also drop by a booth giving away postits!

      Of course now I just use the "notepad" app on my smartphone. 🙂

  • NatC says:

    +1000 on the snacks!
    They often end up as breakfast too, sometimes for your roommate(s) so bring more than you think you need.

  • DJMH says:

    Throat lozenges or cough drops. Talking loudly in dry air for 10 hrs a day makes it imperative.

  • [...] And finally, a few more miscellaneous tips from other people: • Put your twitter handle/blog address onto your name badge • Learn how to read numbers for Japan, Korea and China – very important when you’re using a lift. (Chinese male/female symbols for toilets come in handy too!) Finally, I’ve been to a handful of conferences and meetings which I used to write this post, but there are plenty of other people out there who provided advice and tips as well. Thanks to them, especially my ex-housemates and blogging children David and Sarah and everyone who responded on Twitter. Matt Might wrote an extesive post on traveling here and Scicurious also has a good post on conferences here. [...]