Next week we'll be my fifth SXSW as a week long work trip, and I don't mean to boast, but I feel like I have packing down to a science. I've heard that my 2012 packing list blogpost was helpful, so I put together another this year. There are lots guides online full of cute bohemian white crochet sundresses, sandals, and floppy festival-girl hats, but for me, SXSW is a work trip, and I want to pack whatever will help me feel less exhausted running around to a different showcase every 30 minutes, from morning 'til 2AM, to catch up with clients and media folks.
This year, I suggest packing:
- Mophie iPhone charging case. My phone battery always dies so quickly in Austin, since I use it more than ever for directions, social media updates for work, email, actually communicating with people, etc. I don't really feel like spending 30 minutes standing at a charging station (if I can find one at all.)
- Business cards. You don't have to go all American Psycho comparing them, or fold them into paper airplanes to throw onto a stage at a band you like, but have them handy. You'll meet people you'll want to stay in touch with. Feel awkward handing out your card? Ask someone for their card, then trade. Now you can remember meeting them on Sunday when you get home after meeting hundreds of people. The card in the top photo was designed by Puddleduck Paper.
- Travel candle for the bathroom you're sharing with all your coworkers.
- Caffeine, 5 Hour Energy (caffeine + B vitamins and extra junk,) organic chewy energy nuggets... whatever your your energy source of choice is.
- Granola bars and almonds. I look for high protein and high fat to keep my body and brain happy longer.
- Non-perishable snacks. I'm cranky when I'm hungry, and I never eat enough in Austin. This year I'm bringing peanut butter, crackers, and tuna meal kits for rushed mornings and late-night hangry bedtimes. You know you're an Army kid when you're packing non-perishable meals for your late-night post-bar feasts.
- Probiotics and Pepto. You stomach might need a little extra help this week. Bonus: Pepto pills are a great hangover nausea zapper. The chewable ones, however, will forever make me gag.
- Bobble filter water bottle. I always think hotel water tastes weird, and buying water bottles on a trip add up, so this is handy to keep in your bag.
- Grocery bags for dirty clothes
- Face wipes. You're going to be too tired to go through your bedtime routine at night, and mid-day you'll want to wipe your body off with one of these and look at it disgusted by all the dirt like the girls in that old Biore pore strip commercial. I like Yes To Cucumbers.
- Hairbands & bobby pins
- Deodorizing shoe powder.
- Dry shampoo
- Baby powder/body powder to stay dry
- Sunscreen: If you work in the music industry or are a similar breed of human, they only light your skin sees is the glow of your laptop screen. Even though I have an SPF 30 BB cream I like, I'm going SPF 55 this year. Stay goth, kids.
- Under eye magic: This under eye CC cream claims to claims to fight dark circles, brighten, tighten, zip, zap, etc. Tested it this morning and noticed a difference. Waterproof ie sweatproof eyeliner is handy, too.
- Burt's Bees Herbal Blemish Stick: You're probably developing a stress zit just reading this blog post.
- Lint roller
- Swimsuit, to sit in your bag and taunt you, because you'll probably never get around to taking a little break in the hotel pool, but you never know.
- I like to get a gel manicure since they're indestructible and then I don't have to worry about chipped polish or dirt under my nails from this sweaty grimy week.
- A medium but lightweight purse will serve you well. I might just use a canvas tote all week this year to give my back a break from the weight of a purse.
- Cotton underwear
- Socks. Lots of socks. Socks will keep you from getting blisters, and just changing my socks on a long sweaty day helps me feel a little fresher again. I recommend these taco socks from Target.
- Two pairs of sunglasses. You'll lose one.
- Two pairs of black tights for under dresses and shorts. Throw a pair in your bag in case the temperature drops and you didn't have time to change into pants from your sundress getup.
- I decided to get a new wallet, since I'll need to fish around my bag for it and show my ID so often to get into venues. Leave all the loyalty cards, receipts, and unnecessary wallet junk home.
- Umbrella or rain coat
- Comfortable clothes you feel good in.
It'll probably be warm, but be prepared for hot, cold, and everything in between.
We all have things we can throw on and feel great in no matter who we run into. I'm not embarrassed to admit that "do I look okay?" pops into my head throughout the day more than I'd like, especially if I'm exhausted, stressed, sweaty, and seeing a lot of people I only see once a year. My uniform usually ends up being a casual black dress with a denim shirt or jacket over it, and boots, or jeans, t-shirt, and dependable Vans. I've got the rest of the year for gratuitous selfies to flaunt fashionable outfits.
Wear something tried and true. Last year I brought two pairs of new dark wash Gap jeans. The Always Skinny and the Legging Jean are the best jeans I've ever owned! However:
I washed each pair 3x the week before since they were brand new and I knew dye would transfer, but it wasn't enough. My hands were blue (insert Arrested Development "I blue myself" joke,) my nails looked dirty with navy dye under them, and when I took them off before bed, my legs looks like I had been bludgeoned, covered in navy faux bruises, which were hard to wash off the next day to wear a dress. (I emailed Gap customer service since that was nuts for having washed them three times already, though I didn't want to return the pants. They wanted to schedule a time to talk on the phone, and I had bigger stuff to worry about, so we never ended up getting on the phone and resolving that, and after about 6 months, they stopped turning my hands faint blue.) In short: I probably won't experiment with new clothes again this year in Austin.
- Sched.org has a handy app with all official and unofficial events
- SXSW App is handy, but will only have official performances.
- I'm a big Google calendar fan. Mine syncs with my phone, so I get a reminder when I need to be somewhere.
- I keep a list in my phone of everyone who's told me they'll be in Austin, so I can try my best to see all the buddies and clients.
Everyone is different, but based on my Army upbringing and the self-defense classes I've taken, I feel more comfortable traveling with pepper spray or a kubotan key ring. I usually carry a pocket knife too, but that's more as a handy tool. I can't speak for the TSA, but I've never had an issue flying with these items in a checked bag. Normally you'll be hard-pressed to find yourself NOT in a sea of people, but I've had some secluded walks home over the years, and when all your coworkers and friends are frantically running around to their own events, you walk alone a lot. Besides, even when you're not alone, weird things can happen. A friend of mine was assaulted in a large, packed venue during a show a few weeks ago, by a man who pinned her to a wall and tried to force himself on her. While a woman should be able to walk alone anywhere, at any time, bad things can happen, so I feel better staying alert, and with some kind of self-defence item on me.
If you'll be in Austin, stop by our showcase Tuesday night with Hometapes and say hi! Pontiak, Pattern is Movement, Leverage Models, and three more great bands are on the bill.