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Don't Forget to Add These Items to Your SXSW "Must Pack" List

  • By Adela Belin
  • November 25, 2020

Full disclosure: I’m writing this list from a busy airport terminal in Baltimore. I’m exhausted, sore, and well into a multi-day sore throat. So, my spirits are…not high.
I’m usually better prepared than this. I have gotten my pre-trip routine down to a science, including a comprehensive packing list. But for this trip, a multi-day conference, I wildly underestimated what I would need to stay happy, healthy, and comfortable through long days and social nights. With South by Southwest on the horizon, I want better for myself—and I want better for you, Dear Reader.
So, inspired by my own “coulda packed, shoulda packed, woulda packed” laments, I present to you my list of must-haves for the long haul in Austin.

Power Up: A multi-plug surge protector

It is a well-known architectural fact that there are never enough power outlets for all who need to charge their devices. And traveling with a phone, tablet, and computer often feels like making an impossible choice: who gets to live, and who gets to die?
My solution: BYOPS (that is, bring your own power strip). This solves two problems for me: I get to make sure all my electronic children feel equally loved, and it makes me very popular in session rooms! As someone who sometimes struggles to get conversations started with new people, being able to offer their device a little bit of juice gets the job done with efficiency and a bit of altruism. IKEA’s KOPPLA 6-outlet strip is my favorite, for their inexpensive nature and no-frills portability.

In The Air Tonight: A travel humidifier

Hotels and convention centers have two things in common: hideous taste in carpets, and dry, recycled air. The latter is undoubtedly the culprit for my raw and swollen throat today, and I refuse to suffer like this ever again. After consulting with several friends far smarter than me, I decided to add a travel humidifier to my arsenal. These devices, designed to add moisture to the air, will provide respite from the dryness that plagues not just Texas, but also the convention center halls and hotels we’ll be frequenting day in and day out. As a bonus, many are able to operate with a standard 16.9 oz water bottle, making spills or water transfer unnecessary. The crowd favorite? Air Innovations’ Compact Cool Mist model.

Fancy Feet: Insoles

Fitbit users rejoice: you will do ALL the walking during your time in Austin. Though the blocks are tightly packed, it might surprise you how those step numbers creep up over the course of each day. With that said, make sure you do it comfortably. Even with no preexisting foot issues, you’ll benefit from a little extra cushion under your feet. Your best bet? Before you leave, find a Dr. Scholls Custom Fit kiosk near you and see which set will best fit your foot. While it won’t combat all the fatigue you’ll feel from pacing the streets of Austin, it’s a step (I know, I know) in the right direction.

Little Pharma: Keep Austin Weird and Yourself Healthy

Finally, a few tips on pharmacy essentials to arm yourself with, just in case.

  • Emergen-C: The extra vitamin C never hurts when traveling, between the boost of energy and cold fighting properties. My power ranking of flavors could be a whole post unto itself, but I’ll endorse Coconut-Pineapple and Pink Lemonade here.
  • Tums, Rolaids, or another antacid, because while man can live on tacos and BBQ alone, man’s body might have something adverse to say about it. I’m a sucker for the Assorted Fruit Smoothie flavor.
  • Saline nasal spray: Seriously, recycled air is hard on your nose and throat. Protect yourself. The linked spray is TSA-compliant for carry-ons, but if you’re checking a bag I’d encourage you to level up.
  • Band-Aids: Blisters happen. Papercuts happen. Prepare accordingly and you (or someone you meet in need) won’t be sorry! And while Band-Aid seems to equate “decorative” bandages with bandages “for kids,” I don’t. Have fun!

What other items are on your must pack list? Anything I should add to mine? And who loves their travel bag? I’m in the market for a new one…

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