As many of my online friends stress about packing for RT—that's the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, this year held in New Orleans—I am reminded of my wisdom (who, me?) of years ago: The Master Packing List.
Within this document, in a folder cleverly labeled Travel, I jotted down in considerable detail the things I always took with me when I traveled. I update it when I realize I never touched an item I packed during multiple trips, or when I really could have used something I did not have. I tend to copy and paste then correct, rather than delete old versions, so it's interesting to watch the list's progression as I no longer carried pacifiers and started carrying wine glasses. (Call me a snob: I hate drinking wine out of a water glass or worse, a disposable coffee cup. Thrift stores have lots of wine glasses cheap.)
Naturally, what you pack will vary depending on whether you're traveling by car, train, or plane. When you're limited to one suitcase of a certain size, or will be shlepping your suitcase on city streets yourself, you're smart to travel light. What your plans are on arrival will affect what needs to come with you, too.
I'm aware that some of what I bring could be replaced by a laptop, ipad, or phone—but I'm not letting being unable to charge my devices due to a power outage in my hotel mess up my plans. I also tend to bring a swimsuit and athletic wear even though I don't swim or work out at the hotel more often than I do. And last, I'm a huge believer in having a light source for power failures or evacuation of the hotel. Yes, both happen, although not often.
For the travel itself, I wear or pack:
comfort clothing (including athletic shoes, which double up for workouts) with pockets for glasses, keys, etc. Unless it's baggy sweats, nobody will pay much attention to how I look when I check in or out. Yoga pants, knit top, cardigan sweater or wrap for the win.
For the hotel, I pack:
nightlight, tiny flashlight, flip-flops, change and singles for vending, wine glasses (and wine), chargers for all electronics, earplugs, music source and headphones, paperback or other novel, notebook and pen, printed itinerary with addresses and phone numbers, printed area map, swimsuit, resealable plastic bag for taking wet swimsuit home, sleepwear that can double as a coverup, workout clothes, clothespins to shut drapes, tea bags. I usually pack a laptop with a DVD in its drive and a movie or several TV shows downloaded at home, since hotel internet connections are rarely fast enough for streaming and I need some down-time.
For times away from the hotel room, I pack:
clothes appropriate for the event, especially items I can mix or match (wear the same jacket and sweater with a skirt, over a dress, or with pants, and later with jeans, for instance), shoes I can stand or walk in all day (at least two pairs unless I'll be there only one day), a cardigan sweater, a camisole (I'm covered if the weather is colder than forecast), one pair of jeans to make the day's end more casual if need be, the lightest coat suitable for the season (unless I'm likely to be outside a lot), a scarf which can serve as fashionable or warm, a compact umbrella, a larger purse than usual or a nice tote bag (stocked with two Band-Aids, Kleenex, a hairbrush and barrette if my hair is ruined, Tylenol or similar all-purpose painkiller, a notepad and pen, business cards, lip gloss and other makeup touch-ups, and a bottle of water).
We have relatives who travel a great deal, yet when we meet them away from home they never have an umbrella or change for vending machines. How they manage Europe I don't know.