As dancers, whether we have a thriving local community with multiple dance nights a week, or we are in a more remote location where we have to create our dance opportunities, most of us find ourselves traveling at one point or another. Regardless of if you are packing up to train, compete, or just social dance at a convention or in a distant community, the more streamlined the experience is, the better.
To that end, last month I spent three out four weeks on the road and in the air, traversing nine states and numerous cities and environments for both dance and non-dance adventures… It was a lot to prepare for! I definitely appreciated having a routine in the packing and organizing process.
1. Don’t overpack
When it comes to wardrobe, the biggest mistake I have corrected in my own preparation is OVER-packing.
How many of us return home after a weekend of dance and realize that we only used about half of the clothes we packed? I know that was me for the first dozen trips I took, until I started to limit myself. After a while, you have a sense for what actually gets worn, so as you pack, try to limit yourself to just essentials… and leave room in your wardrobe for an event shirt or shirts that you know full-well that you don’t NEED, but you will inevitably be buying to wear on Saturday night anyway.
Do you really *need* five competition shirt options? Probably not… I always look at a schedule to see how many days I will or could be competing, and just bring along one comp shirt per day… If you are dancing a Jack and Jill, pick any color you’d like… Are you dancing a Strictly and haven’t been able to nail down a color with your partner, or you don’t have a partner yet? Bring one black and one white option – trust me, they go with everything.
2. Coordinate your colors
If you have a suitcase full of colors that coordinate, not only elements of your outfits are interchangeable to create new looks, but they are also super easy to throw in the laundry, whether you find yourself doing a load on the road, or throwing it in the machine when you finally get home.
Believe it or not, the clothes you wear on the drive to an event, or on a plane, can count as one of your outfits! So when you pack what you want to bring for a weekend, keep one outfit out and on top of your suitcase so that you have your travel outfit ready to go… one less outfit to lug around in your suitcase. I usually opt to travel in the one pair of jeans that I’m packing, that way I have guaranteed pockets, am less likely to freeze on a plane, and it’s less bulk in the suitcase.
Packing can be… messy. I like to compartmentalize when I pack. Clothes take up less room when they are rolled. So, roll your clothes and then fit them inside a small dollar store tote. Then, all of your clothes are in one place and all of your charging chords aren’t getting tangled up in your pant legs. Also, pack a light-weight laundry bag to separate wearable from unwearable.
Speaking of charging chords, I roll my chords and fit them into a small ziploc bag so that I can just reach in for one bag instead of a spaghetti tangle of chords for all my devices. This is also a great place to throw plugs, ear buds, and auxiliary chords.
Keeping things compartmentalized saves a ton of hassle, especially when it comes to toiletries and make-up. You will only have to grab a small ziploc when you are ready to shower in the hotel room, instead of multiple bags or a handful of loose necessities. I actually have a hanging roll-up bag with removable compartments, so I only use one of those compartments for shampoos, conditioners, gels, moisturizers, etc, and it is clear, so it is easy to pull out for Transportation Security Administration. You can find inexpensive travel sized containers at Walmart or the Dollar Store to put your favorite shampoos and body washes in – this is great because then you are not limited to the travel toiletries that may not be your favorite, or paying more to get your favorites in a travel size.
4. Optimize your make-up items
For those of you who struggle to pack your make-up for event weekends, I was right there with you. I recently found my solution: one clear compartment bag and one compact. That’s right, one compact. The compact that I found to solve my travel blunders of always forgetting one aspect of my make-up or another, is a large compact that holds the equivalent of three palettes (I use the small, interchangeable ones so I can mix and match more color variety), two lipsticks, a small mascara, eye liner, travel brushes, and contouring colors – all taking up less space than my Kindle Fire. The additional clear bag (again, small!) holds things like liquid foundations, moisturizers, larger mascaras, and beyond. The great thing I have found is that I have numerous colors at my fingertips in the compact, and the bag holds ONLY the items that I use on a daily basis – which means that I can hang it on the back of my bathroom door at home where it is ready to travel at a moment’s notice and easy to use out of on a daily basis at home. I will never forget my foundation or mascara again!
5. Limit the number of shoes
Deciding which shoes to bring to an event can be a real struggle… I know that I personally have a trunk full of SwayD options in almost every color and style. So, when packing to travel, I limit myself to a maximum of three: one pair of casual flat shoes – usually my Essies or Brown Sneakers, or sometimes my Toms so I can wear them on and off the floor; one pair of sandals, because I know that I articulate more appropriately in these shoes; and one pair of boots that are my go-to for late night dancing and the end of a weekend when my feet are ready to die. This still gives me enough variety without requiring another suitcase.
6. Don’t forget about food
I always travel with food. Event hotels have expensive restaurants, and sometimes food within walking distance is also expensive or not to your taste. Personally, it is not my favorite thing to spend a day traveling to my destination, and then having to find a friend with a car or call an Uber to go to a grocery store. So in recent travels, I have found great travel foods that not only pass the TSA check, but also last an entire weekend and meet all kinds of dietary requirements! My favorites include Keurig food, fruits and veggies, nuts/trail mix, etc… We’ll talk about them in the next article!
When packing your travel foods, again, compartmentalize. I have a collapsible lunch cooler that holds a good amount of food for a weekend, fitting easily in my suitcase, and then I know that everything will stay together for the travel and my clothes won’t smell like edible snacks.
7. Stay comfortable
My final travel necessities are for ultimate comfort. I always travel with at least one muscle roller to keep my body functioning through long hours of travel and endless days of dance. I also travel with a light-weight, compact, warm blanket. This is great if your plane is cold, you have an unexpected delay or long layover, or your roommates like to sleep in the arctic and you need an extra layer.
I have a two bag rule when I travel and usually just carry them on… My shoe bag for weekends is about the size of a small backpack and I pack my wallet, charging chords, kindle (with downloaded Netflix movies and Spotify), my portable speaker, “emergency” dance shoes, an extra jacket, my compact (because, trust me, you don’t want that to get jostled around and have colored powder everywhere – been there, done that), and a few snacks – this gets me through an entire day of flying, keeping me entertained, fed, and comfortable. Everything else goes in a suitcase or duffel that I can carry on, or if complimentary baggage check is offered, it’s already ready to be stowed without me needing to sort through and grab something I might want or need.