This will be my first year at South by Southwest (SXSW), an eleven-day and somewhat notorious music, film, and interactive conference in Austin, Texas. In the excitement of finally crossing SXSW off my bucket list, I already know that I’m going to forget to pack something. For example, I went to New York last week and my first stop in The Big Apple was a Duane Read (like an East Coast Walgreens) to buy a toothbrush… I don’t want to be “that girl” at SXSW. I want to be calm, cool, and collected (only when the sun is out); I want to learn about the industries (also only when the sun is out); and I want to meet tons of people, get their business cards and tweet at them (mostly when the sun is not out). So, aside from packing double the number of socks, panties, and high heels that I’ll actually be able to wear in eleven days, here’s what you’ll find in my suitcase:
1. Walking shoes
Sundress days…high heels. Evenings…high heels. Everything in-between…high heels. BUT. Just in case, I’ll be packing walking shoes [read: Nike Frees].
2. A light jacket and an umbrella
SXSW takes place in the Dirty South. That means hot, humid days—and this year’s SXSW weather forecast actually predicts tropical storms. That said, although they couldn’t be more different, I’m going to treat the Dirty South like the Northwest and carry a light jacket and an umbrella on me at all times.
3. Reading and writing materials
As old school as it may sound, you can’t go wrong bringing a magazine for the plane and keeping a pen in your pocket [read: handbag]. If nothing else, recycle the magazine when you’re finished. But keep that pen—you never know who might ask for one.
Note to self, pack: toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, hair brush, hair styling tools and products, hair ties, deodorant, razor and shave gel, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, face wash, makeup, perfume, sunscreen, vitamins, Advil, Pepto-Bismol, Emergen-C, band aids, q-tips, and gum. (A belt, a watch, and other accessories [read: jewelry] are not “toiletries,” but don’t forget to pack these little guys either.)
5. If there’s room, a pillow
Rumor has it, people end up passing out, piled eight to a room, on cold floors…
6. Business cards
If you forget a toothbrush, you can purchase a cheap replacement in Austin. If you forget your business cards, you also print cheap replacements in Austin. So, the question is not Can you?, but rather, Do you really want to? A major part of the conference is networking, so people are going to get millions (that’s an exaggeration by hundreds) of business cards, and yours NEED to stand out. Flimsy cards printed at the Austin Kinko’s are not going to cut it.
7. All electronics and their chargers
iPhone? Check. iPad? Check. iPod? Check. MacBook Air? Check. Kindle? Check. Charger, charger, charger, charger, charger? Check! Double check? Check.
8. Swim suit
An experienced SXSWer told me to pack my swimsuit and flip-flops! (Don’t know if I’ll have time to use them, but I’m packing them just in case…)
9. Snacks for the plane, and an appetite for Austin
I pack snacks wherever I go. One string cheese for the plane, enough fruit snacks to keep me happy throughout the trip, and a power bar or two just in case. Once in Austin though, I think packing the appetite will be more important than packing the snacks. BBQ, food trucks, and free food, oh my!
10. Earphones and earplugs
Earphones so you can jam wherever you go, and earplugs so you can sleep wherever you go. (Keep both on hand—not in your suitcase—you might find that you want them at a spontaneous outdoor concert, or in the absence of a spontaneous outdoor concert).
BONUS: And one thing I won’t be packing (and you shouldn’t either): “ironic” t-shirts. Seriously, it’s time to let those go, SXSWers.
See you there!