What to Pack: My BEA Essentials

It's the season for BEA posts! When I first attended BookExpo America I didn't think it would be all that different from other shows and conferences I attended. The big difference for me is how much busier I was at BEA compared to other events. Yes, those of you who have been with me at other conferences will be astonished by that but I am busier at BEA. And my feet hurt a lot more by the end of the day. I even *gasp* had cankles! So BEA was a bit different for me and my list of items to pack is a little bit different than what I normally take.

This year I am trying to travel a little bit lighter than I did last year. I may not succeed but I have high hopes. I'm trying to whittle it down to the essentials. I think I can do it. I did, on my first ever trip to San Francisco, manage to get there with only my carry on and laptop bag. (I erm did not leave there with just those two bags. More on that below.) So here's my lists of BEA essentials.

Packing cubes - Let's start with packing. These aren't so much things you pack as much as tools you use to help you pack. Laurie Perry mentioned packing cubes on her blog years ago and I'm a convert. I have a set of five Heys packing cubes and I love them so much. My outerwear gets packed in a big one and smaller items get packed in the smaller ones. Any overflow goes into a third one. I can grab them right out of the suitcase (where they stack in like Tetris pieces) and stick them into the hotel dresser without really having to unpack. Well, that's a half-truth. I tend to pack mostly dresses when I travel to events like BEA because a dress = an entire outfit, which makes my life easier so those get unpacked and go in the closet. And yes, I do unpack and take advantage of dressers because NYC hotel rooms are small and I don't have room for tripping over my suitcase. Another bonus of packing cubes? If my luggage needs to be searched by a TSA agent they generally don't have to go rifling through my underwear because they can just move the packs around to find whatever item it is they are looking for.

Hanging toiletry bag - So yes, NYC hotel rooms are small but their bathrooms are even smaller and have limited counter space. That space will be even more limited if you are sharing with other people. I have a hanging toiletry bag and yeah, I love it as much as my packing cubes. Mine is too old to be on the internet anywhere but Heys has a hanging toiletry bag that does the same thing. Pop it on the shower rod while you are getting ready, zip it up when you are done and voila! Less clutter.

Sweaters or wraps - NYC will probably be hot but Javits is air conditioned. There will likely come a moment when you freeze your butt off inside Javits. Last year I was waiting in line for Maureen Johnson's signing and I got stuck under an a/c vent for 30 minutes. Granted, my default setting is cold (I have circulations issues) but let me tell you that was some seriously cold air. (Dear Penguin peoples, I hope you are in a different location this year because I don't know how you weren't all walking ice cubes last year.) I pack a couple of cardigans and a wrap and make sure I have at least one of them with me each day at BEA.

Comfortable shoes - It's totally a cliche but you really do need comfortable shoes. I bring several pairs of flats and rotate them. I also bring a pair of shoes with a small heel because my feet get tired of being in flats the whole week. Also, I love flip-flops as much as anyone but I do recommend that you pack at least one pair of shoes that are not flip-flops. Why? In case it rains. I hate walking around in cities when it's raining and I'm wearing flip-flops. (Come find me and I'll tell you the story about how I almost lost one down a city storm drain.) Note: rain is currently in the long-term NYC forecast. (Hmm maybe I should pack an umbrella too...) Have a really cute pair of heels? Bring them. Wear them to a party, to a Broadway show or out to dinner. Just don't try to wear them in Javits all day.

Gel insoles - Whether you use gel insoles or arch supports or heel cushions or whatever it is you like, Dr. Scholl's is your friend. They are not paying me to say this. I got a bunch of samples from them at a BlogHer last year and I've bought a bunch of their products since then. They make my feet happy.

Bandaids - Either you or someone you know will need a bandaid. I come armed with regular bandaids and blister bandaids. I have always needed one, if not both, of them. I have to use bandaids for sensitive skin because I have a sensitivity to some adhesives (fun!) so carrying my own is really a must for me.  I also use one of those blister block sticks. They help. A lot.

Backpack - I didn't bring a backpack last year. Well, I did but it was my MEC Darwin laptop bag and that's absolutely fabulous for my laptop and running through airports to catch my flight but not necessarily the best option to carry around BEA all day. Some people take rollies and park them in the checking centre (you can't bring rollies into the trade floor) but I'll be bringing a smaller MEC pack this year (which is so old it's not even on the website anymore). I hope will make my shoulders happier than last year's messenger bag.

An extra duffle bag - Look, whether you are picking up a books at BEA (I picked up more last year than I really intended to) or taking advantage of NYC shopping opportunities (so! many! shoes!), it's better to not do what I had to do last year. I ended up buying  another bag in NYC. I was surprised because I had left room in my luggage but it wasn't enough. So I'll do what I did on that trip to San Francisco several years ago grab an extra duffle bag, pack it in my suitcase and hope that I don't have to use it. (I have had to use it every time I've packed it. And that's ok.) I won't get caught without enough room this time. (Note: I'm an international traveller so the whole ship your books/purchases back to yourself thing? Doesn't really work so well for me.)

Business cards - I goofed and didn't check my supply earlier in the month so I'll be heading there with fewer business cards than I hoped to have but it should be more than enough. I give out more business cards at BEA than I do at any other event I attend and that makes complete sense because BEA is first and foremost a trade show. I usually order mine from Zazzle. Remember, you can always get them shipped to your hotel! I've maybe had to do that in the past.

Tech toys - Last year I brought my laptop but I was rarely in my hotel room so I never really used it. This year I'll be armed with just my iPad and iPad keyboard. We'll see how that goes. Don't forget all your cords and chargers (I put mine in a ziplock bag) and if you have a mobile charger grab that, too. Javits is basically a big concrete cube and your phone will constantly be searching for a signal. I tend to stick mine on airplane mode and check in every hour or so.

Mabel's Labels - Mabel's Labels are a favourite of parents everywhere, but even as someone without kids I can't tell you how much I love their products. I have labels with my name on them and they get plastered on my tech. I don't have an especially common name but if you do I'd do what my friend Jenna does and go with your Twitter handle. She once left her Kindle on a plane and got it back because the woman who found it looked her up on twitter thanks to her Mabel's Label. I also have a few of their luggage tags with my Twitter ID on them that I put on my luggage.

Your cellphone - I figure this goes without saying. Before I leave I'll be loading mine up with the contact numbers of the bloggers I'm meeting up with as well as directions to any parties I'm going to. (And yes, I have a label on my phone as well.) Because I'm an international traveller I also need to put international travel packs on my cell for data and text messaging. You don't want to know what my bill looks like at the end of the month.

Camera - I am personally on the fence about this one. Our point and shoot is close to dead (it's in that battery vampire stage they go into right before they die). My iPhone is a 3GS so it doesn't have the greatest camera. So that leaves my Canon Rebel XSi DSLR. I did bring it last year and I got some great shots, but I didn't use it a whole heck of a lot. This will probably be a last minute decision for me.

Notebook and good pens - I spend a fair amount of time at BEA attending sessions. Last year's Facebook session? Fabulous. Really, really good. Probably one of the best social media sessions I've ever attended. When I'm in sessions I revert to taking notes with pen and paper. I supplement with a few shots of the panel or their slides on my iPhone.

Water bottle - My hotel apparently gives each guest a free bottle of water every day so I won't be packing my trusty water bottle but I travel with it often. I just have to remind myself to empty it before I go through airport security. I also tend to take travel packs of something like single serving Propel (or similar) because sometimes I just get plain sick of the taste of water. I also get dehydrated pretty easily which makes my blood pressure dip and I am so not fun when my blood pressure dips. Staying hydrated is important!

Snacks - Food at Javits is expensive. End of story. There is a Duane Reade on just about every corner in New York City (except those close to Javits, of course) so do yourself a favour and dart into one to pick up some snacks if you haven't packed any.

A professional attitude - This is the most important thing you can pack. Remember, BEA is a not a book free for all. It's not the running of the brides for books. It's not a mosh pit. BEA is not a competition to see how many books you can get or how many copies of that in-demand ARC you can get your hands on. It's a trade show that happens to have advance copies of books. Don't push, shove or bite people to get to an ARC (all things I saw or heard about last year). Don't grab three copies of the book so you can do giveaways on your blog (unless, of course, they are offered to you that way). Be polite. Have some patience.

So that it's, that's my list. Did I miss anything that you consider an essential?