How I Pack for Travel to WordCamps and Conferences

What’s in my Bag, 2018 Edition

I’ve seen plenty of these types of posts, and can understand the popularity, since I end up comparing everything that I have to the people posting, trying to see where I can improve my travel or everyday carry gear. 

Most recently, Matt Mullenweg did his annual “What’s in my Bag” post, and since I was preparing to go to php[World] to give a workshop on WordPress theme development, as well as have my third conversation in a week around Ethics on the Web, I thought I’d document my packing, since I try to be organized for each trip that I take.

Matt and many of the others that document their packing showcase more of the things that they use as heavy travelers, including a heavy focus on quality of goods. While I like things that work and don’t break, I also don’t travel nearly as much and can get by with a bit less overall. My list is a bit less “here are the best headphones that you can get” and more “here’s what I pack for those few times that I use wired headphones”.

Before I start the list, I want to thank SiteGround for helping to sponsor some of my travel as one of their WordPress Ambassadors. I use them for most of my hosting, and if you are interested in giving them a try I can answer questions that you may have. I also have a discount that you can get for discounted WordPress hosting, and full disclosure, it’s an affiliate link as well.

Now that I’m at it, a few of the products linked below go to Amazon, which are also affiliate links. I wouldn’t push anyone to buy things that I don’t use, and as you see below, even necessarily buy anything if what you have already works for you.

A numbered picture of items that I pack for trips
  1. Electronics Bag – I think this originally came with a tent to hold stakes and ropes. Hopefully that tent can still secure itself to the ground without this handy canvas bag that I put electronics in.
  2. Jetpack Bags – These are little nylon bags that I got at some WordCamp or another where Jetpack sponsored and gave these away. Next time they have them I’m grabbing a few more since they’ve been great for holding together little items. My only complaint is that the zipper opens toward the loop, making it easier to open than close them.
  3. Kobo Aura Edition 2 – OverDrive and Pocket sync directly to this e-reader, giving it a leg up over the Kindle for me. I’m trying out a tablet again right now, but this is the majority of my entertainment in down-time while traveling.
  4. USB C Battery Pack – The one that I bought is no longer available on Amazon, but the linked one is cheaper and higher rated, so bonus for you! I am trying to use USB C for all devices where possible now, but this charger has USB A as well. I have a beefier charger that can add even more power to my laptop, but I rarely use it and this is smaller.
  5. USB Hub – Two USB C ports, four USB A, 60W total, 45W USB C meaning it can charge my laptop and all other devices. Saves carrying multiple chargers around.
  6. Cable for USB Hub
  7. Chromecast – For the few hotels/AirBnBs that this actually works it makes it a lot easier to stream videos.
  8. Business Cards – I was gifted this wallet/bottle opener by an Automattician at a WordCamp and I feel bad that I can’t remember the URL to the store.
  9. Field Notes – When buying these small notebooks I go for the Expedition Field Notes, since they are waterproof and tear proof. Enough sponsors give them as conference swag now that I don’t think I’ll have to buy one for quite a while ๐Ÿ˜„
  10. Fisher Space Pen – I hate having to search for a pen, and having to try to scribble it to life when I find one. One of these stays in my pocket at all times and can always produce a steady flow of ink.
  11. Mini Router – This is a newer addition so I can’t say how great it is or not, but appears to work so far. A tiny, programmable router/repeater that can use ethernet, wifi, or a tethered phone to provide a secure wifi network with OpenVPN on the go. Bonus for regular travelers with multiple devices is that you no longer need to keep entering new networks once you have the network that you setup saved. Can be powered via battery pack.
  12. USB C Hub – Hub to turn USB C port of many modern laptops into a pass through charger, HDMI, USB A, and SD/Micro SD reader.
  13. USB C to 3.5mm headphone jack, since I don’t rely on bluetooth headphones when traveling much.
  14. WordCamp Orlando and FixUpFox stickers because who doesn’t love giving away swag?
  15. Wapuu pins from WordCamp Orlando 2018 thanks to also to gift nerdy conference folks.
  16. Ethernet cable for router on the off chance I have access somewhere.
  17. USB A to micro cable
  18. Longer USB A to micro cable
  19. Raw Wallet with ID and credit cards. I prefer minimalist wallets to avoid having to carry too much and fit it in my pocket.
  20. Some cash stored in bag instead of wallet for my paranoia of losing one or the other.
  21. Gum for plane pressure changes and banishing coffee breath.
  22. Nail clippers because I have a bad chewing habit that I’m trying to break.
  23. Microfiber cleaning cloth – The cloth that comes with a Macbook has been the best to get smudges off of devices and my glasses. I ended up buying a pack of similar ones since the freebies just end up smearing it around.
  24. Spare glasses from Eye Buy Direct. These have a blue-screen coating for us screen starers, though they’re a little tight on my temples. The non-coated pair that I wear daily I paid around $7 for, including shipping, and I think they look nice. Never going to get caught up in another store selling plastic frames for hundreds of dollars then not honoring their warranty when they break.
  25. USB C cable for device charging
  26. USB C to USB A 3.0 adapter since not everything has caught up yet.
  27. Headphones that came with some iDevice or another, so they can skip and pause songs on my Android phone but not control volume. I haven’t found an Android specific pair cheap enough to offset the handful of times I ever use these.
  28. USB flash drives, including a USB A/C combo drive with some dev tools preloaded for when I give WordPress workshops and someone doesn’t have a development environment setup yet.
  29. Whatever meds I’m currently taking in a little pill pack plus aspirin since I’m supposed to not be taking #30.
  30. Some ibuprofen that is basically for others since I’m trying to stop taking any.
  31. When the microfiber cloth isn’t enough, these wet wipes clean screens and lenses well.
  32. A few bandages for my clumsy self.
  33. Hand sanitizer that has way too strong of a scent but is tiny.
  34. A snack because I am pretty much always snacking ๐Ÿซ

Two things matter to me with what I pack: portability, and price. I agree that it’s worth it to buy quality, but I also think that the amount that I use some of these things makes it irresponsible for me to spend more to get the absolute best. If you remove the Kobo and cash from the above picture, I’m estimating under $200 for everything else, most of it getting use outside of travel too and purchased over time. I don’t want anyone overspending trying to put together the perfect travel gear, especially if you travel as often or less than I do, which is generally 6-10 times per year.

All of the above looks like a lot, but condenses pretty well into the electronics bag and the two Jetpack bags, minus the glasses and Kobo which I keep out. One of the Jetpack bags goes in the front pocket of my backpack with things like my wallet, notebook and pen, headphones, pills, and snack for easy access during travel. The rest goes into the main compartment with the electronics and clothing.

My carryon items packed into smaller bags

I listened to an episode of the WPMRR podcast yesterday where the hosts mentioned that dressing up for a WordCamp or developer conference if you don’t normally would make you stand out in not a good way. Thankfully those are what I travel to most, since t-shirt and jeans is my comfort zone.

A numbered picture of the clothing that I pack for trips

I generally pack for the number of days that I intend on traveling plus one. Since the trip that this was for was three days, that means that I packed four t-shirts, four pairs of underwear, and four pairs of socks (#2, #5, #6). I also knew that it would be cold, so I packed a heavier hoodie that I got from the Nintendo World store (#1), as well as a lighter SiteGround one (#4). Finally for clothing I brought a pair of comfortable shorts for lounging in the hotel room (#3).

Rounding out my bag are the items from the above list (#9, #11, #12, #13), an unnecessarily large bag of toiletries that I’ve since pared down (#10), my laptop and a sleeve since I’m giving a workshop (#7), and a SiteGround backpack that was ordered by someone who clearly travels a lot with a carry-on and wanted something useful, including compression straps, zipper covers, a padded back, and chest and waist straps.

I’ve been trying to travel without my laptop on trips where I am not doing workshops or code demonstrations to take a bit of time off of staring at the screen all day. I’ve begun to learn that it’s OK to let clients know if I’m out, and schedule around trips.

Admittedly, the bag is fairly full, thanks to the larger hoodie that I had to pack, but I can often leave that at home. All of the above totaled about 14.4 pounds, but the laptop and thick hoodie take up about 4.8 pounds, which means I could generally travel carrying a bag of 10 pounds or less.

I’m heading to WordCamp US next week in Nashville, and will be gone for a similar length of time. I’ll still have to pack the big hoodie, but may leave the laptop at home, since it’s doubtful I’ll even open it much with the schedule as packed as it is.

When I come back from a trip I notice how much of what I packed doesn’t get used at all. For this trip, as an example, I used maybe 60% of what I brought. Of course plenty of those things are of the “just in case” variety, but I am always finding things that don’t really get used and can be dropped or picked up where I travel if really needed.

So that’s my long post about what I pack for travel. What about you? Share a link to what you keep in your bag, whether for travel or every day use!