ALA Survival Tips and Packing Suggestions #ala12

everything i own

Packing list

About a year ago I started trying to travel with only a carry on.  I was tired of paying the extra baggage fees, waiting for my bag at the end of the trip and lugging around a heavy bag. So far I have been success for all library conferences.  I don’t even have one of those fancy new carry-ons with the spinning wheels and a bagillion pockets that make it expand so much it only fits in the overhead bin by being rammed in. My primary carry on is ten years old (I do have a smaller one for very short trips & a duffle style one when I know I’ll need to carry it a lot).  I usually still manage to bring several pairs of shoes though I stick to comfortable ones for big conferences like ALA.

These are the things I can NOT live without at conferences

  • A good bag in a light weight material. Forgot leather – it’s hot & heavy. Instead go for something lightweight like the Baggallini bags, I have two big ones, the Only Bagg and the Ala Carte Medium. Both of these are large tote style bags that work great as a carry-on or if you like a bigger bag during the conference. I prefer the A La  Carte because it holds its shape and has three outside pockets. Until recently my favorite smaller one is the Hobo Style Tote, but I recieved the Town Tote as a gift and it is similar in size to the Hobo but in tote style. It’s just big enough that my netbook or iPad will fit in it, the outer end pockets are great for a cell phone, water bottle and anything else you need. The nice thing about the Hobo is the strap can be shortened to wear as a shoulder bag or long to wear as a messenger. All of them fold down flat so you can use a bigger one as a carry-on and pack a smaller one for conference use.
  • External Battery Pack
    I can not express enough love for this device. It’s slightly larger than my cell phone and will fully charge it, twice. I just remember to plug it in and charge it each night then throw it in my bag during the day. No looking for an outlet or dealing with a dead phone. It has 2 usb plugs on it so if you are feeling really generous you can share with a friend. If you’re looking for one that will also charge an iPad I recommend this one from New Trent.
  • Portable Power Strip Many hotels are still lacking in a decent number of easily accessible outlets to charge all your stuff. You may also make friends if you take it along when you go out because you’ll be able to offer to plug it in when all the outlets are full, securing a spot for yourself and sharing with others. This one includes 2 usb slots in addition to 3 AC outlets.
  • iPod touch – in addition to being a great travel companion (games, podcasts, music, books and more), there are some great white noise apps to help me get to sleep at night or to help drowned out those loud neighbors. Many hotels have a docking station or an mp3 connection to the alarm clock/radio. I like using it for taking photos, Tweeting & note taking so I don’t wear out the cellphone battery. There are some great note taking apps if you decide not to take your laptop and Dropbox will let you view your PowerPoints for that last minute review.
  • If you’re looking for a keyboard case for your iPad 2 I recommend this one – New Trent Keyboard Case for iPad 2, Bluetooth keyboard. There are 3 different viewing angles, the keyboard itself comes out of the case for more comfortable typing. The iPad comes out easily as well. It is pretty slim & lightweight as far as keyboard cases go. 
  • A water bottle – for travel and at the conference. I have this one (Water Bottle) and really like it because of its small size and the style of lid.
  • Toothpowder Daily Care Mint works great and doesn’t count as a liquid!
  • Humangear Travel bottles – These silicon bottles are 1.25 ounces each. For most products I don’t use 3 oz even when I’m gone a week, so they are perfect for maximizing space in that liquids baggy at security.
  • Bee Bar Lotions – Love this solid lotion. It starts out solid but when you rub it in your hands it heats up and softens. Won’t leak in your bag and doesn’t count as a liquid!
  • I recently discovered this hair styling product Lanza Healing Style Powder Up Texturizer – thanks to being a powder it doesn’t take up precious liquids space at security and its small size in general makes it perfect.
  • Good shoes, at least 2 pairs, neither new, really a conference is no place to break in new shoes. I’m a huge fan of heels and fun shoes but usually leave those at home in favor of comfy walking shoes at conferences since I often don’t have time to change during the day.  Seriously, if you must wear heels put a pair of flats in your bag, trust me you will be happy you did when you making that long walk you weren’t planning to make.
  • Umbrella – small compact kind.
  • Snack bars – Great during travel and during the conference. If you’re running late in the morning, don’t have time at lunch to get out and get back in time for the first afternoon session or to tide you over until that late dinner. Cheaper and healthier than any concession stand junk.
  • A well planned schedule – I print it out in addition to having it on my phone so I can easily see a glance where I’m supposed to be and when. I politely decline the big printed one at check-in. I already know where I’m going & it’s bit and heavy.


  • Give people your name – wear your name badge up near your face rather than on a lanyard so it’s easy for people to glance at it while talking to.  Introduce yourself, even if you’ve already met the person.  Some of us have hard time with names and there are a LOT of people to remember.
  • Don’t hang out with the people you came with – Go to different sessions, eat meals with other people, maximize your time at the conference you can share with each other what you learned.
  • Meet new people – you’re probably not going to meet new people if you’re hanging out with the people you came with.  Get out of your comfort zone, ask people what they want to get from the conference, how far they traveled etc, you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet.
  • Make a schedule, be willing to break it – make a schedule of what you’d like to attend, know what you absolutely must see and what you’d be willing to miss for coffee with that person you’ve been wanting to meet or the awesome new person you just met
  • Know what amenities your hotel offers – internet access, gym, fridge, breakfast, pool, etc, use them.
  • Ask for the things you need at your  hotel – you’re a paying guest, don’t be afraid to ask for little things like more hangers or more coffee.
  • Make time for down time – conferences can be overwhelming there is so much to do, so many people to meet.  Don’t wear yourself out early, it wont matter how much you see if you are too worn out to remember it or how many people you meet if you are too burnt out to make a good impression.
  • Get the right bag – you don’t want to carry too much it’s hard on your back & shoulders, but you need room for important extras like extra shoes, a water bottle and a sweater or wrap. Really think about if you need that laptop. Can you take notes by hand & type them up later? Twitter and check email from your phone or iTouch if you can.
  • Layer your clothes, bring a jacket, sweater or shawl, temperature can vary widely in rooms and you want to be comfortable
  • Drink lots of water – so easy to forget when you’re on the go and it is one small thing that can make you feel so much better
  • Before you take swag ask yourself “would I want this if it weren’t free?
  • Remember, anything you acquire, you will have to bring home. that goes for swag
What would you add?

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14 thoughts on “ALA Survival Tips and Packing Suggestions #ala12

    1. Thank you Karen! Each time I consider not posting it I remember that it is eternally September. Plus I always manage to add something new for those who have seen it before!


  1. I’ll throw in a couple cents here too. I travel very, very light, with a Duluth Trading Company AOL bag:

    Got a couple pair of Travelsmith nylon cargo pants and jacket from the thrift shop ($5.00 each), some nylon underwear, couple of silk shirts, socks, etc. Throw in some exercise togs, and I am good to go. Don’t we always pack way more than we ever use? The secret to to pack a few things that can easily be washed, don’t wrinkle, and can be used in a variety of ways.


  2. Heh heh, yeah…my packing tips are definitely for CHECKWORTHY bags! Between the battery operated fan, travel ultra sonic jewelry cleaner, & Charmin™ TP it’s one well-stocked bag! Always super flattered to be mentioned on your awesome blog! I’ll wave from San Diego!
    The Daring Librarian


    1. Thanks for taking the time to write such a great post! You know how to travel in style that’s for sure! LOL Wish you were going to be in Anaheim so we could finally meet in person.


  3. Great article! Just one small tweak for Anaheim: Southern California + summer = no rain = no need for an umbrella. 🙂


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