So you’ve been invited to a work conference in an exciting locale–the type of city or country that makes you think about staying for a while after conference presentations are over. But what to pack, and what to wear, especially for hot weather? How to fit business casual clothing and beachwear into the same suitcase? I’m currently in this conundrum so let’s figure it out together. Plus, I made you a packing list you can print!
What to wear to an academic conference can be a tricky question, especially when working out of a suitcase. Some conferences are quite casual in attire, while others are more business casual. So, this packing list is a general template for women, but know your crowd (as I’ve said before, I often look for pictures of last year’s conference for an idea of what people were wearing).
To pack for a longer trip, I suggest starting by identifying 2-3 days of conference clothes that you like, are comfortable in, and could possibly rewear for leisure time by breaking them up with casual items.
For this summer conference, I started with what I wanted to wear as a conference presenter because I find having confidence in my outfit important on talk day! This list includes a 3-day conference packing list, plus 14-days of sightseeing.
I’ll break down what I packed for this year’s summer conference below…
I picked two button-up shirts for conferencing–I’ll wear them open over tank tops or tied over dresses for a more casual look when sightseeing.
I also paid particular attention to fabrics that don’t wrinkle. This button up shirt is made of an almost-athletic material, so it never needs to be ironed. Same with this tank top. My favorite places to find wrinkle-free travel clothes are Brass, ADAY, and Athleta (they have the best sales).
Otherwise, I picked a few casual t-shirts and 2 tops for going out. This puts my total number of shirts at 9, plus one light sweater. Basically, if I wear everything twice my whole vacation is covered, but I am packing a small travel bottle of this laundry soap to do some wash in a hotel sink if I spill anything.
I also picked one power blazer for the conference. I would not usually say blazers are good for sightseeing but they are having a fashion moment right now so I thought I could also use it as outerwear if it gets chilly or at night.
I packed 2 pairs of conference pants, one wide leg and one straight leg. Again, these are both wrinkle-free options, and because they both have elastic waists actually comfy enough for travel. I tried to pick business clothes that don’t exactly scream “business!” so I can also dress them down. I plan to wear my wide leg pants with tank tops and screen tees and my tapered pants go with just about everything!
I also packed 2 pairs of shorts, plus athletic shorts and a workout tank top because we have some light hiking, biking, and kayaking planned!
Some recent excellent packing advice I read was to pack for the in-between time: between when you wake up and are ready to be fully dressed, or when you’re lounging around at the end of the day. I used to never pack for this and was stuck in business casual clothes at conferences. Now, I never forget the sweats, so I brought this sweatsuit. I also find that if there’s one thing missing from my bag it’s usually a sweater because hotels are often cold, so I’ll be happy to have a cozy sweatshirt around.
The fun stuff:
I am packing a few sundresses (a midi length one and a tee dress) and one going-out-to-dinner dress (sewed myself, now very into this one). The nice thing is a tee dress (if long enough) is passable as conference wear under a blazer!
I also packed a couple bikinis for beach time. I will use my button down shirt or sweatshorts as a cover up. Wild Isles bikinis are the only thing in my suitcase, highly recommend if you need a swimsuit for a fuller bust (and you can get a little discount using my link).
Comfortable conference shoes are so important because blisters are the worst. I picked my absolute softest flats for conference presenting (no arch support but they’re ok for staying in the conference hotel), cute sneakers (and I swapped out the insole for these) and waterproof sandals for beach time.
I would actually bring a dressier pair of sandals too, but we are going to get sandals made in Greece, so I’m budgeting space for having an extra pair coming back. I’ll wear my sneakers on the plane (if I was going somewhere with summer rain I would wear boots on the plane instead).
The survival essentials:
Conferences are really tough in that they are a marathon, touring a new country is really tough because you don’t usually walk 20,000 steps a day, overall, make sure you have some room in your suitcase for things that help you take care of you! I always have a water bottle, basic medications, bandaids, and a couple of cliff bars. Business cards, pens, chargers, and a notebook are also essentials. Don’t forget power converters if you’re traveling out of your country!
On doing it all in a carry on:
I’m about to attempt 3 weeks of conference and touring in a carry-on backpack. My mom was a flight attendant, and “do not check a bag” is probably my core childhood memory. Checked bags get lost. They come out late. They miss your connecting flight. Having more stuff is nice but suddenly having no stuff isn’t so nice, so I’m using this backpack. It fits every airline’s overhead bin requirements (even the discount companies) and it’s surprisingly roomy! I already did a test pack and I even had some room to spare, plus it has a waterproof cover.
I also use these packing cubes. They are magic. I don’t know why.
What about souvenirs? I’m bringing this fold-up duffle bag and unfolding it and checking it on the return flight home (this is another flight attendant trick–cheaper than shipping a box home or checking bags both ways).
There you have it! I’m ready for a conference-turned vacation this summer! Academics, you deserve the break and the fun! Do you have any other tips for packing for extended conference trips? Please share!
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