Packing for Academics

Last summer I took my protege with me for her first big conference. As I picked her up for the trip and she came out of her house with a suitcase large enough for a body, I realized I had done her a disservice.

I was also reminded of my first conference, when I made it to the destination by myself, but was offered a ride to back to the airport with Drs. H and L. I blanched when it took 2 of them to put my case (the one as big as me) in the trunk of the taxi.

So, here they are. My packing tips, for grad students, new academics and just about anyone who needs to pack lighter.

As a student you’re on a budget. Whenever you buy clothes, consider their versatility for travel. Chances are you can’t afford specific travel clothes and that is okay.

I like to pack one carry on item per person, and one “business” article. I generally stuff a smaller bag for conference activities inside one of the bags. I also pack a flat tote bag with a zipper in my luggage.

My reason for only taking carry on to conferences it threefold. 1) Checked Bags can get lost. 2) If you are travelling in a group, getting all the bags in a cab can be a challenge. 3) If you are trying to impress anyone, travelling with excessive luggage can make you look very high maintenance.

I’ve packed for as long as 2 weeks in carry on. How is this done?

Lots of sites talk about effective packing, so I’ll only mention a few things here.

1) Use a base colour or neutral colours for the majority of your clothing and one accent colour. This still gives you the feeling of clothing choice when travelling, but means you can bring less clothing. For example, for a week long conference, say I pack 2 pairs of black pants, and one pair of jeans. I then pack a suit jacket, a light sweater, a pashmina, and 5 shirts (I tend to use “shell shirts” in complimentary accent colours. In theory I can get more than 15 possible outfits from this travel wardrobe.

And if I need to, I can send the pants to the cleaners.

2) Use accessories, preferably accessories from the same palette so you can mix and match.

3) Bring and dress in layers.

4) Minimize heavy fabrics like denim, or wear them in transit.

5) Have items that are double duty. For example, your workout shorts can cover up your bathing suit on the way to the pool, or be worn to the vending machine with a sleep T.

6) Pack small items like socks in shoes.

7) Minimize shoes. These are the worst luggage hogs. If you must pack some, try to bring thin ones with crushable uppers. Wear your bulkiest pair in transit.

8) Consider wearing items more than once.

9) Women should avoid dresses, opt for skirts instead for versatility and more combinations.

There are other tips…. I’ve recently got into “bundling” which is by and large the best way to pack, but not for the faint of heart. Feel free to add your tips!


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