The Trendy Techie Guide to Packing for Conferences


This week I am packing my brand new carry-on full of business casual outfits, high heels, and gadgets, and hopping on a plane to Phoenix for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. For years I’ve dreamed of attending this conference and I am so happy to finally have the calendars align, and be able to attend thanks to generous sponsorships from Dalhousie University (where I’m doing my BCS) and Syncfusion. Since I started my degree I’ve attended a number of business and tech conferences in Canada and the US, and have honed the skill of light packing down to an art. Here are Trendy Techie’s top tips for traveling smart for conferences.

1. Downsizing Your Luggage = Downsizing Your Stress

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It can be extremely difficult to fit your whole life into a small suitcase, particularly if you have a tendency to overpack. But when you’re running through an international overlay after a delayed flight, the last thing you want to worry about is your checked luggage. I once almost missed my connection from Montreal to Seattle because I had to pick up my checked bag from the carousel and re-check it after going through U.S. customs. Since that day I’ve made an effort to learn how to travel light by packing everything into the carry-on allowance. The easiest way to make a carry-on feel roomier? Use smaller bags to compartmentalize. Organizing items into smaller packages (a bag for makeup, a case for jewelry, a tote for gadgets) helps you find your things quickly and take them out without disturbing the rest. Traveling light cuts down on hassle and gives you a lot more peace of mind when traveling.

2. Lighten the Load by Choosing Dual-Purpose Devices

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Pictured above: foldable Arc Mouse, Surface Pro with keyboard, Swarovski USB Bracelet

With so many devices playing important roles in our everyday interactions with the world, it can be difficult to pare it down to just one or two devices for the week of a conference. And while I’m sometimes tempted to leave it all at home for once, that is simply not possible – particularly when you’re presenting at the event. To minimize luggage weight while still maintaining the full functionality you need, the best thing to do is bring your dual-purpose devices. To Grace Hopper I will be bringing my Surface Pro with the keyboard, which is powerful enough to support my mobile work needs and app development while still being small enough to fit in my Geek tote and be carried around all day. I’ll also be wearing my favourite James-Bond-esque gadget, the Swarovski-adorned USB bracelet you see above. It wraps around the wrist as a beautiful bracelet and keeps the most important data accessible at all times. This bracelet saved me when I was giving an app development demo at NBTC, because the laptop I had brought wasn’t working with the A/V configuration. Luckily, I had my presentation and demo saved on the USB, and was able to use the machine they had on site.

3. It IS Possible to Fit Heels in a Carry-On

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The trick to fitting heels into your light-travel habit is to forgo the shoe boxes and silk bags, and opt for a soft microfibre towel instead. This provides a soft barrier between your shoes so they don’t scratch each other or dirty the suitcase liner. Microfibre towels don’t generate static or take up a lot of space, so they’re perfect when you’re budgeting room.

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4. Be Prepared for Every Situation

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Dry shampoo, nail polish, and a portable charging brick are three things you should never travel without. Dry shampoo to freshen up between events during the day. Nail polish to touch up the inevitable chips in your manicure (top tip: paint your nails before you leave, and top up any scratches or chips during the week). And of course, a portable charger to keep your phone, camera, and other small devices alive during those long days where outlets are often unavailable. I use this “power trip” one from Dabney Lee, which is as pretty as it is functional.

If the hotel you’re staying in has a pool, bring a bathing suit! Even if you’re not sure you’ll use it, it’s better to be prepared and doesn’t take up too much space.

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To all those Trendy Techies on their way to Grace Hopper – I look forward to meeting you! For now, on to Phoenix!

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