Packing My Suitcase

ASHA 2014 is less than a week away!  I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of these conferences; in fact I’m currently on a streak.  This will be my fourth year in a row.  I’ve had a few people send emails recently asking what to wear or how to pack so I’m posting my tips below.  If you aren’t attending, but do any travel please add your packing tips in comments.  I’m always on the lookout for ways to streamline travel!

If you ask what to wear, you’re most likely to hear, “professional dress.”  What exactly does that mean though?  Professional in the schools is a lot different from a medical or private clinic setting.  For instance, scrubs or a lab coat while required in some locations would look rather out of place in Orlando.  So, here’s my opinion on the subject (Photos are of outfits I may be packing.  I will be working at the Yapp Guru exhibit booth, networking and attending as many sessions as possible).

suitcase blazer jeans outfit

For an attendee, meaning not presenting and not manning an exhibit booth, you have the most flexibility.  You can wear jeans (and I have), but I feel they should be part of a “look” and not what I’d wear running errands on the weekends.  This would likely mean a dark wash, neat shirt and shoes.  You will also see a lot of nice pants, skirts and some dresses.  Blazers or a suit look are not required.

suitcase clothing ideas

You will be in rooms that are stifling hot and others that are frigid.  Plan to wear layers or bring a light jacket.  There is also a lot of walking between sessions and not a lot of time, so you want shoes that will let you hustle.  While flip-flops might be acceptable attire in Orlando year round, I wouldn’t recommend navigating ASHA in them.  Another “surprise” aspect of ASHA is that some sessions really fill up and you could end up on the floor so hopefully you’ll have something with some give.

suitcase dress option

ASHA is a super place to network and if there is an SLP celebrity you’d like to meet, you probably can.  For this situation, you may want to dress up a bit more or at least add a little flair so you’re better remembered.

I bring my own tote bag in addition to my purse.  I know most SLPs will dive into the exhibit hall for the Super Duper tote but I seem to do better with slightly shorter handles and a more structured bag, but that’s me.

If you are a presenter or working in the exhibit hall, you will need to wear more suit type attire, though there’s room for personal style and tastes.

Now how do I go about actually packing…

I always check my bag.  I realize a lot of travelers are trying to avoid this these days (the fees are ridiculous), but for me it’s just easier.  I like to make sure the suitcase I choose is no more than ¾ full to start because you end up with a lot of stuff to take home.  If your suitcase will accommodate it, I’d consider packing a flat rate box with postage from the post office so you can ship home all the papers/literature.  Not only will it help you zip your suitcase up, but it will prevent you from going over the weight limit.  (Flat rate packages are just that—one price for whatever you can stuff in the box—and they ship priority so you’d have the stuff back before Thanksgiving.)

I try to keep it to one or two pairs of shoes which means sticking with one color scheme/style.

I avoid bulky stuff like sweaters if at all possible (much easier for Orlando than Chicago) and I find jersey fabrics tend to pack really small with little wrinkling.

I work out nearly every day, but I don’t when I’m at ASHA.  The days are way too long.  I’m doing tons of walking anyway and I just don’t want to make space for sneakers in my suitcase.

suitcase contact case

I try to keep all of my cosmetic products under the TSA guidelines on the off chance I do need to bring my suitcase on board and for space.  Lots of brands seem to carry mini versions these days and another trick I use is new contact lens cases.  The tight screw caps make them more practical for transporting cosmetics when you don’t need a mass quantity.  Warning, though you’ll remember what it is for this trip, you won’t remember for the next one.  I’d Sharpie a label on top.

I love organizational stuff and travel so I’m always eager to hear new tips.  Who’s got one for me?




The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.