One of the things I do consistently is travel. Majority of my traveling involves conferences or meetings. Conferences are the lifeblood of the scientific community. They are a place to showcase your work, publish, meet potential collaborators, employers, develop professionally and spark creativity. Many articles exist that discuss how to choose conferences for publishing , how to dress for them, and what to do once you are there.
However, there are somethings that are commonly glossed over. Over the years, I have become more efficient in how I approach conference/travel life. It wasn’t until I starting sharing some of my tips that I realized how many people were unaware of how they could make their life easier. So if you have a trip coming up, read on, takes notes (or refer back to the post, whatever works) and prosper.
I NEVER travel without earplugs. I am a light sleeper and it doesn’t take much to pull me out of a sound sleep unless I’m sick. Any hallway noise, light snoring, loud refrigerators and noisy neighbors will wake me up or keep me up. So I buy the foam earplugs in bulk. They work great for me and I’ve been using them forever. I need to be at my best while in conference mode. Thank you to all the roommates I’ve had where they weren’t necessary.
Networking is an important part of life, especially at conferences. So you should always have business cards with you. I actually never leave home without business cards. I’ve handed them out at the most unlikely events. I always keep them in my bag, purse, clutch or whatever. If you are a graduate student, check with your university for ordering. If you wish to create your own, Vistaprint works as well.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is also a way to stop my “hangry” (hungry + anger) moments. Sometimes breakfast isn’t sponsored. So I pack breakfast for each day of the conference. This can be meal replacement shakes w/ fruit, oatmeal cups, breakfast bars or anything that has enough fiber (6 g min.), protein (10 g min.), and a low amount of sugar (10 g max.). This also helps you save money. With the oatmeal cups, pay attention to the sugar. If you have too much sugar it will lead to crashing later in the day. You have a conference to attend, no crashing allowed. You can always fill sandwich bags with rolled oats and take advantage of the coffee maker in your room for hot water and coffee cups. Voilà, breakfast is ready!
I like food. My body is used to frequent eating and when that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t respond well. I carry snacks with me on regular days and during conferences. I aim for 150 calorie snacks with a min of 10 g of protein. I’ve used raw almonds, protein bars, fruit, string cheese (needs refrigeration), protein beverages, Greek yogurt and the list goes on. This helps keep you full to carry you to your next meal. Viva la snack!
Ok, I promised I wouldn’t mention attire but this is very necessary. Hey ladies, this is for you! (I can’t speak for the men on this one). If you choose to wear heels, please purchase ones with cushion or buy cushion inserts separately. When I see a woman trying to walk in heels when her feet hurt and the conference day just began, a part of my soul dies. I’d also suggest a heel height of 3″ and under. Some go above this but refer back to the part about my soul dying and proceed accordingly. I’ve seen club heels, stilletos, club platforms and… no, just say no. “Cushiony” flats are also important. That flat shoe with no arch support and 1 x 10-6 m cushion will not cut it. Not only will you thank me now, but you will remember this when you don’t have to have knee/hip replacement surgery when you’re older. Aerosoles, Naturalizer, Nine West and department stores have a wide selection of cute and functional heels and flats. That brings me to another point. Yes, that glitter flat is cute but not at a professional conference. Your heels and flats should be black, blue or brown.
Nothing says, “I’m here and ready” more than a padfolio. A padfolio is a nicer folder. It can be made from a wide range of materials but no paper. It’s purpose is to hold your resume (if needed), a notepad and business cards (Aha, full circle). It can also hold whatever else you need but don’t stuff it to the point where you are fumbling to find the items you need fast access to. It is a very popular item that should not be difficult to find. I’ve received them at conferences and purchased from Walgreens. However, if you have to purchase one, choose wisely!
Electronics Travel Kit
Electronics and chargers galore! My packing consists of clothes, food and electronics. I hate to have cords everywhere, so I have a container for all my electronic accessories. The one pictured below was given to me as a gift from my sister and it is
my precious one of the items I use everyday not just for travel. It has four slots for my laptop and phone chargers, wireless mouse, and USB cords. It helps keep everything in one place and I can fit it in my backpack or laptop bag. If my electronics are with me, it is as well. However, they come in a variety of different styles. Just search “Electronics Accessories Travel Organizer” and you will find many examples. Find a way to keep things consolidated for portability.
Portable Battery Charger
Smart Phones = Battery Killer. On a normal day, my phone won’t hold a charge all day. Conference mode I go into overdrive but I can’t be bound to a wall outlet. *in walks the portable battery charger* Could anything be more perfect? This is always with me because I know at any given moment, 10% is a real possibility. They can be purchased at a variety of locations starting at $20. I have an inexpensive one with a single USB 2.0 port but some can have multiple USB ports and can even charge your laptop. Depending on the conference, you may be able to find one as a giveaway!
Water bottle/Thermal Mug
I drink water/coffee/tea all day long. The thermal mug is attached to my hip during conferences. Some conferences may have coffee/tea stations throughout the day. I keep my mug handy just for these occasions. It’s also great for the other side of airport security. I never realized how many airports have water fountains. The fancier ones include a water bottle filling station in contrast to the traditional fountain. $3.50 for water at the airport convenience store?, No indeed! Do you value H2O above all? Well, try out a collapsible water bottle to take up less space.
If you have all these items mentioned you need a place to store them. I carry a shoulder bag but I try to minimize its contents. I recommend a nice neutral bag (read: black, tan, or navy blue). They can run the pricing gamut but the current one I carry was purchased for about $25. If you have to carry a heavy load for a long period of time, wheeled bag put less strain on your back. Some conferences provide bags but I pack my bag as a precaution. I have had straps break during the conference and I would rather not take that chance. Below are a few styles to choose from.
These are some of my staples while traveling and during conferences. I hope this helps you navigate your next jetsetting adventure. Do you have any additional tips and questions? Post them in the comments section!