Unfortunately I won’t be in Philly but I’ve updated my suggestions for those who are going.
First, I don’t check a bag when I travel, I haven’t for years, so many of my suggestions are based on maximizing the space I do have. 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
- External battery for your mobile and/or tablet– I cannot express enough love for this device. Seriously go buy one right now! Even if you ignore all the rest of my advice! It’s slightly larger and heavier than most mobile phones Just remember to plug it in and charge it each night then throw it in your bag for the day. No looking for an outlet or dealing with a dead phone. It will charge your phone at least twice. It has 2 usb slots, so if you are feeling really generous you can share with a friend.
- A good bag in a light weight material. This usually doubles as my second carry-on and my conference bag. Forgot leather – it’s hot & heavy. I like the lightweight the Baggallini bags. The A La Carte is big enough to hold most laptops. If you prefer a messenger style bag big enough to hold an iPad go with the Hobo Style Tote. It has 3 outside pockets and the strap can be shortened to wear as a shoulder bag or long to wear as a messenger, it will fit a tablet or netbook. My current favorite is the Town Tote, it is similar in size to the Hobo, but in tote style. It will hold a 13 inch laptopb or a tablet, and the end pockets are great for a cell phone, water bottle. and anything else you need. All of these fold flat so you can use a bigger one as a carry-on and pack a smaller one for conference use.
- Portable Power Strip Most hotels still lack a decent number of easily accessible outlets to charge all your stuff. You will 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. Double win!
- iPod Touch – I started recommending this a couple of years ago. They are small, lightweight, and can really help save the battery of your phone. Use it to take pictures, notes, check email & social media, and save your phone for texting & talking. It’s a great travel companion – games, podcasts, music, books, white noise apps, etc.
- A water bottle – for travel and at the conference. This is my current favorite, it’s small, can be operated with one hand, and spill proof. Don’t lug around a gallon of water when they are fountains everywhere.
- 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!
- Rub relief for your feet– there a lots of options a stick, bandages, whatever, apply early and often better to prevent blisters than limp around for the duration of your trip!
- 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 glad you did.
- 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 have already met the person. Some of us have hard time with names and there are a LOT of people to remember.
- Introduce yourself! – to anyone you think you want to chat with. Most people are happy to chat and super friendly. Maybe have a few questions worked out in your head ahead of time. Where do you work is ok, but there are lots of people who are at ALA looking for jobs, so think of something different!
- Be on the lookout for ribbons and colored badges – some ribbons are just fun, others offer helpful information about service (Council) or divisions (LITA) and are great conversation starters.
- 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.
- 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 are 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 won’t 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 – A heavy bag is 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.
- 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
Must Read Tips List
- Daring Conference Packing Tips & Tricks – if you are checking a bag Gwyneth has an extensive list of packing suggestions! She knows how to travel in style!
- ALA Conference Survival Tips — 35 Conferences Later – really excellent tips from K.G. Schneider – really go read them.
- How to be Awesome at Going to Library Conferences – Great posted from my fellow Councilor Patrick Sweeney
- 10 Top Tips for Attending an ALA Conference by Jo Alcock
- Advice for the Shy
- Be Sexier in Person
- Tips for Conference Bloggers
- Maximizing the Conference Experience
- My First ALA! Advice Tips and Tricks
- Tips for Conference Attendees
- Going to ALA Conferences? You’re Doing it Wrong!
Guides to Philly
What would you add?