It’s still summer time, which means there are still tons of academic conferences to go to! I’m about to head out for a big conference, so I thought it would be helpful to share my packing list and tips! There’s even a printable list at the end of this post!
Packing for a conference is much like any other packing list, but you have to add in all of the work-related things. The most obvious of these categories is clothing. It’s important to pack some casual clothes for travel days and for going out in the evenings, but you also need to bring some clothes for the conference! At every conference I’ve been to, most people are dressed in business casual. This is especially important if you’re presenting, and it’s also important as a grad student in general (the professors can get away with dressing more casually because they already have jobs!). I usually wear dresses with blazers over them, but dress pants and tops also work fine! Just remember that the conference venue is usually cool (preparing for men being potentially in suit jackets plus the large number of people). I also try to pack or wear at least two pairs of shoes that are conference appropriate (flats, dress shoes, etc.). Since you’ll be standing around a lot, they should be comfortable and easy to walk in! Other clothing to pack are workout clothes, undergarments, socks, etc.
The next category is accessories. You should be bringing a bag that’s easy to carry around a laptop and/or tablet at the conference. Many conferences give out bags, but these usually aren’t that sturdy, plus everyone has them so it’s harder to keep track of your stuff! I also usually pack a small cross-body purse so that I can just throw essentials in it when going to find food or do some tourist-ing. I also pack jewelry and hair accessories (tons of hair ties and bobby pins), but these are of course personal preference!
Finally, you need to bring all of your toiletries! Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Whatever you usually bring will work here too! I usually try to throw in a little make-up so I can look put together at the conference even if I don’t feel put together!
There are a few other categories of things that you likely bring when you travel anyway, but are important to remember: technology (laptop, tablet, chargers, etc.), travel plans (travel information, contact information, sheets and towels if you’re renting an AirBnB, etc.), and miscellaneous stuff (magazines, snacks, tickets, wallet, keys, ID, etc.).
The most important category is the conference specific stuff! This includes things like your registration information. I also like to throw in a few business cards in case someone wants one. If you’re presenting a poster, make sure to bring that! If you’re giving a talk, you need your laptop, relevant dongles, your slideshow, etc. You should also bring a USB drive to put your presentation on. Not only is it good to have a backup of your presentation, one presenter in the session inevitably decides it would be easier/faster for everyone to use the same laptop so you need to move your presentation over to another laptop. And the wifi is never working when this needs to happen, of course.
I put together a printable packing list with many of these essentials listed plus some blank lines to add your own stuff! Each of the items has a little box next to it that only has it’s corners filled in. I just finish making the box for everything I’m brining with me on this trip, and I’m ready to check things off as I add them to my suitcase! I’m presenting a poster at the conference I’m heading to soon, and I’m visiting family at the same time. It means I need lots of clothes plus, of course, my poster! Here’s my list as it stands now:
Happy packing and happy travels!
P.S. You can get the printable packing list here.