Tips for conference travel packing

As you might know from previous posts, I like to travel with a carry-on. Since the number of things you can bring with you decreases, there’s some optimization involved: bring at most a carry-on and a “personal item” full of things, while maximizing the comfort your trip. I can spend lots of hours doing research about this and overthinking each item. This is not the most productive use of my time! But, to get maximum benefit from the time spent, in this post I share a couple of things that have been making my conference trips easier.

1. Good carry-on

I think the first time I felt like a Real Adult is when I bought my Samsonite carry-on. I have one of their more budget models, but it’s still really nice to use. The things I find important are:

  • Four wheels, easy to roll behind OR next to you
  • Side pocket for quick stashing of e.g. your boarding pass
  • Handle that allows me to carry it horizontally, since I’m too short too carry it vertically

The exact model I have is not sold anymore, but there are several similar ones available.

2. Good shoulder bag

I use a backpack in daily life, but for travel I prefer to have a shoulder bag because it’s safer and I feel like it’s easier to argue it is my “personal item”. Recently I got a really awesome shoulder bag from PACSafe. My favorite features are:

  • LOTS OF POCKETS
  • Lightweight
  • Can secure the zippers and straps for extra safety
  • The inside has a light color, which means I can find everything inside it easily
  • Fits my laptop, case with headphones, Kindle, wallet, phone, water bottle and a few things I like to have accessible during the flight

3. Fabric poster

If I have to bring a poster, I always print it on fabric. This means I can fold the poster to fit into my carry-on, or even in my shoulder bag. I print my posters for 21 euros including delivery at drukwerkdeal.nl, but there are many options in other countries as well. Although this was new in 2012 when I did it for the first time, at the most recent conference I went to I estimate that about 1/3 of the posters were now on fabric.

4. Black running shoes

I think everybody should wear what they want at conferences. But I would have never felt comfortable wearing running shoes – too informal and colorful for me. This was until I found these 100% black Asics, which are great for running, and in a pinch, I can also wear during a conference day (at least, at the kinds of conferences I go to). I wear these while I travel, as they are the heaviest shoes I bring.

5. Leggings WITH POCKETS

Leggings are the best for long airplane rides, except that often these don’t have pockets at all, or only a tiny pocket for your keys. But after hours of research (really :’) ) I found leggings WITH REAL POCKETS. They are non-transparent, comfortable and also very affordable. I’ve also used these for running, although they are a bit too hot for summer.


6. Bose headphones

Yes, everybody has them, but I still had to mention these. I only bought mine this year because it always felt like a luxury item I couldn’t afford, and can’t believe I waited so long. Airplane rides are just much more comfortable now and I even managed to get a nap in on the last one, which is huge for me. I have the QuietComfort I which was a bit cheaper than the lastest model, and I’m happy with it.

7. GoToob

Since I travel with a carry-on, all my liquids have to be smaller than 100ml and fit into a 1l plastic bag. Although lots of small containers for toiletries exist now, I swear by these reusable GoToob containers. They are cheaper in the long run than buying ready-made small containers, since i just refill them from the larger container. They are also more comfortable than the typical reusable containers, since you can squeeze them, and clean them easily.

8. A USB mouse

Much more relaxing when doing a bit of work from your hotel room or somewhere where you have a table.

9. Powerbank

This one is a no-brainer, but I don’t like my phone running out of battery especially when I’m travelling. I’ve got the Xiaomi 16000 mAh which is good for charging my phone to reasonable battery levels at least a few times.


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These are the things I bring on every trip – would love to hear what your “must have” items are!

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