The Traveling Author ~ Packing Tips

Since I made the shift, Gentle Reader, from archeologist to author I have traveled more, not less. True, those travels have been for shorter lengths of time, but still this was an unexpected (if welcome) shift in my life. I thought that the thing I would miss most about archeology was traveling to exotic lands. More fool me.

I travel as an author about 12 times a year. Some of those are overnight jaunts, some are long weekends, and one or two last over a week. In addition, I travel to visit friends and family (generally longer drives and stays of three or four days). I didn't realize how many packing foibles I had developed until the AB and I packed together for Comic Con. The AB is a well traveled beastie, but there were a few moments of shock on that adorable face as I twirled and stuffed, rolled and folded, tucked and pocketed. I whipped out checklists and specialized zipper baggies. I produced shoe holders and sock strategies. Items were shelled in sequences by weight, fragiles inside shoes and other odd occurrences.

I thought I might share some tips with you Gentle Reader, as I prepare for my penultimate jaunt of 2012.

I have a lot of luggage, and if you don't travel as much as I do you probably don't need it all, but here's what I keep on hand.

1.) 3 piece standard soft-side cheap rolly set

Mine are grey pinstripe I purchased at Ross for c. $30 each. I suggest buying an actual matching set (thus they shell into one into the other for storage) and NOT BLACK (easier to spot on the conveyer belt). I don't believe in shelling out for expensive luggage unless I'm after specific features ~ it's bound to get destroyed in transit eventually. Also, while avoiding black I also avoid pale colors ~ they get dirty fast. I go for plastic-ish lining or simulated leather outer, to protect my stuff from moisture.
The small is my least used because I already own one of a similar size from my archeology days. Stefano is a black (I KNOW) Eagle Creek that converts into various different backpacks but is also a rolly. By far the most useful and adaptable piece of luggage I have ever owned. Not pretty, but if you only get one, this is the one I suggest.
Thus, the times when I do use the small grey are when I want to take two small cases because one is for events only and will, essentially, go into storage for half the trip. I did this when I went to New Zealand and Australia. It isn't ideal, as it's hard to pull two rollies at once. Ones that stack are better.
I use the medium for most events where I'm not going to carry-on only. It holds just the right amount of shoes along with one hatbox.

The large I use mostly for steampunk events, because I tend to have big boots, multiple hat boxes, and floofy skirts. Also, I don't like to crush my gowns. However, I have to make certain not to pack it too heavy or I have an overweight fee.

2.) The perfect carry-on set
Years spent hunting and I finally settled on this burgundy basket weave set, again cheap from Ross. It's not ideal, but it does the job admirably.
Rolly Tote
photo 4
Carry-on Rolly
Major tip:
When checking in or boarding I make certain to shell everything: pillow (don't latch it on the outside of bag), purse in tote, and any other items like computer tucked away. Also, if it doesn't fit in either bag, I wear my jacket and scarf no matter how hot. I want to look like everything is in place and I really only have two items. These days I can't tell you haw many times I've seen people stopped while boarding to have items taken away.

Even more major tip:
I PICK UP AND CARRY my rolly as I stand in line to board the plane. I shoulder my tote firmly under the opposite arm. Psychologically, these items look smaller and lighter if I am carrying them. Ergo, they are much less likely to be taken away from me. I also keep a neutral face, if I look weighed down, authorities will be suspicious.

3.) Modular packing
In addition to all the pockets in various suitcases, I'm a believer in keeping everything else modular as well. I picked up this set of clear purple zipper tops, 13 different sizes, from Marshalls for $10. I find them endlessly useful.
If you have very valuable jewelry I suggest a proper jewelry roll, but mine is all costume so I just pop it in a baggie or two. To keep necklaces from tangling I'll wrap them in tissue paper twists. Then I put the baggie in a sock, down the toe of a shoe, or in the center of my clothing roll for protection.
I also like to use the largest baggie for my itinerary and magazine and class notes to review on the plane. I find it works better than a folder, nothing falls out.
I have a hanging roll. I got it free with a magazine in England some 15 years ago and I will be CRUSHED when it finally dies. Most of my makeup lives in this at all times. It hangs in my bathroom at home, rolls up, travels, and then hangs in the hotel room once I land. The hanging feature is invaluable. Before flying I remove all liquids (like base) an put into my toiletry kit. Everything that remains is pressed powders, that way I don't have to worry about taking it out at security. So far no TSA has every asked me to unroll it.
MakeupRoll MakeupUnroll

I have three kits: long haul, on-plane, and short haul.
photo 5

Emergency kit
Here's a blog I did on what to take to conventions. This includes what I mean by "emergency kit." This always goes in the carry-on.

4.) Author related items
I have a leather envelope bag for panels that is long enough to hold everything, but if I'm traveling carry-on I don't often take it. It's decorated with an bike brake for a steampunk look but gets suspicious looks at TSA. I had a employee put the strap on for me back in my leather working days.. I also tend to bring my own name tent. It's just easier.
Fortunately for me, Orbit kindly sends me completed cover art proofs, without the pages, which I can use as standies at events. They are light, pack easily, travel well, and don't get stollen. Although my Soulless one is currently missing.
The Creature
I have a cannibalized "creature" reading copy. Which is all the sections of my various books that I like to read out loud, glued into a Frankenstein's monster book. Ugly, but useful and there's the weight issue when traveling to consider. This is way better than carrying 8 books!
Computer kit
My computer accessories live in an old makeup bag which I find works great. Has pockets for cords and holds chargers, mini-mouse, and other needs including backup ear buds, flash drive, and the like.

5.) Clothing

Generally I don't believe in adding weight except when strictly necessary but I do think shoes need to go into bags or pockets, unless they are heels I know I'll only wear inside. This is to keep other things, including the bag itself, from getting dirty. My pin stripe set came with shoe bags so I use those, but a plastic bag works too. Shoes are one of my heaviest things so they go near the bottom/back of any case.

I have a blog over on Retro Rack all about how I go about choosing my outfits. That one is focused on a three week trip to Europe on book tour. And I have another on how to properly roll and pack vintage dresses.
RollingClothes1 RollingClothes2
RollingClothes3 RollingClothes4

I've had some questions on packing hats. If I can't use and hat box for space reasons I shell the hats into the biggest and softest, fill them with stiffer items, like bras and such, and then use the wrap method with a smaller scarf as above.
Hats1 Hats2
Wrapping items in scarves has the added bonus of offering a token protection in case one's burrito leaks. (see bellow)

When I'm doing a carry-on only trip the roll of garments goes in my big floppy tote, because it's longer than my rolly can take. And then I fill the rolly with all the heavier bulky items like shoes, makeup, books etc...

The Tote Read to Fly
Includes my purse, a magazine, and the roll of clothing.

The Carry-on Rolly Read to Fly
Everything in its place and a place for everything. Room to transfer the toiletries in once I've cleared TSA. Water bottle will then take its place. This bag is still awaiting computer, computer kit, and food. But otherwise is ready to go.

Usually it takes me about an hour to pack. Time well spent, if you ask me. It's taken me three times that to do this blog post!

What to wear to fly?

Last Thoughts
And so, as I leave for Tulsa I hope that you have found something useful in my abject obsessive packing.