I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Packing My Bags!

Every September since The Ponderers began blogging together, I’ve had mixed feelings about the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. The last time I had the privilege of attending an ACFW conference was in Denver in 2009…before I met any of The Ponderers and before any of us were published. I say “mixed feelings” because while I was so excited for my friends who got to go—especially those whose conference experiences led them to agents and publication—but I can admit I was jealous. For the past three years, as many of my writing friends gathered in Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Dallas, I was stuck at home, writing blog posts on how to cope with being stuck at home while alternately crying, sulking, and baking.

This year I again have mixed feelings about the conference, but this time it’s because I get to join many of my Ponderers (most of whom I’ve not seen face-to-face since May of 2010!!) in Indianapolis, one week from today! I’m so incredibly excited, but I’m also a little anxious. Yesterday I took a break from working (on the novel I will be *gulp* pitching next week!) to shop for a couple new conference outfits. That got me thinking about packing. So, last night, I hit Pinterest to see how Pinners everywhere go about packing.

I decided to celebrate my first “I-get-to-go-to-the-conference!” blog post by sharing a few of the tips and ideas I found.

1.)  There are no less than 30 printable packing lists on Pinterest! My favorite is this free printable list (broken down by daily outfits) but I also like the interactive, customizable list that allows you add and subtract items on the webpage before printing your list.

2.)  Most packers subscribe to the “rolling” method (rolling each article of clothing or groups of like clothing into a burrito) although there is a faction who believes whole-heartedly in “sandwiching” clothing in flat, ziplocked packages.

3.)  Many pinners agree you can save a lot of space if you choose one color scheme (e.g. black or brown) and then use accessories to add pops of color.  Many claim that you can pack everything you need for a three-week trip in a single carry-on bag!! (For the record, I’m packing a suitcase and checking it. I do NOT want to fight for overhead bin space!!)

4.)  When it comes to accessories, one pinner suggested using Press ‘n Seal to keep everything from becoming a jumbled mess. A few others demonstrated how to use drinking straws to protect delicate chain necklaces. All agreed that shoes should be bagged and placed along the sides of the bag with socks and undies stuffed inside.

5.)  Most agreed that it is best to mix and layer pieces in thin, light fabrics to avoid packing an overweight suitcase, but also for comfort. And comfortable shoes are a must!

There were a lot of great ideas for packing your personal carry-on bag and getting through airport security as well.

1.)  Tweezers and small scissors are allowed, but guns, knives, and hockey sticks (?!) are still a no-no.

2.)  If you are checking the majority of your luggage, it’s wise to pack a toothbrush, some deodorant, and a change of clothes (as well as  most of your undergarments) in your carry-on, just in case the airline loses your bags. 

3.)  Dress comfortably for the trip and layer to account for temperature variations within the airplane. Wear flip-flops or flats to save time in the “please-remove-your-shoes” portion of the security check.

4.)  Bring an empty water bottle (and packets of Crystal Light or Koolaid if you like) to fill once you’ve passed through the security checkpoint to avoid paying $10 for water or soda.

5.)  Most airlines offer hot water for tea on their flights, but generally only provide regular black tea. So pack a couple of your favorite tea bags in your carryon and enjoy.

6.)  Don’t forget chargers for your phone and/or tablet!!

I know that not all of our readers are attending the ACFW Conference, but I think these are great packing tips no matter who you are or where you’re going. Over the past month, I’ve packed my family of four for three camps (family camp, high school camp, and kids’ camp) and a week-long family vacation; looking back, I’m wishing I’d consulted Pinterest on this matter back at the beginning of July!

~Heidi Larson Geis

Your turn: Do you prefer the “rolling” method or the “sandwich” method of packing? What is your “must-have” item in your carry-on bag? Do you have a no-fail tip for packing?


  1. Well-done, Heidi. These tips can also apply to writing! I'm praying for physical well-being and stamina to keep up w/ all the renewing, new connecting and pitching times in your heart. So glad you get to go and cheering you on.

    1. Thank you soooooo much, Dee!! The next two weeks are going to definitely be a challenge for me, physically, mentally, and emotionally, but I'm so excited. I appreciate the cheering section, and the prayers. Remind me, will I get to see you there? I hope so!!

  2. I'm so glad you're going this year, Heidi, and I'm SOOOO eager to meet you!

    It depends on what clothing I'm bringing as to whether i roll or fold. Some of what I'm bringing this year will be good for rolling. My gala dress, definitely not. I'll find the most non-wrinkle way to get that to Indy. :)

    In my carry on, I always pack my chargers, camera, jewelry and a few of those essentials you mention: in the event my luggage goes somewhere without me (which has happened twice to me).

    Looking forward to NEXT week!

    1. Honestly, Jeanne, one of things I'm most excited about is finally getting to meet you!! I feel like I know you, but it will be fun to actually sit and chat face-to-face! For packing, I've always rolled clothing, but some of the other methods were intriguing...so I may have to do a couple trial runs. I've never packed a carry-on with the idea that my luggage might get lost...and thankfully it never has. But this time I'm not taking any chances and my carry-on will serve as backup luggage!!

      TELL ME ABOUT YOUR GALA DRESS!!! I have trouble finding dresses, since I'm only 5 feet tall and "full figured." I was at a total loss as to what to wear to the Gala (in 2009, I didn't know it was so formal, so I was terribly underdressed!! AWKWARD!) but I went shopping and found a violet sequined top that I will pair with a long formal black skirt. (I kind of thing on a normal girl, the skirt wouldn't be full length, but like I said, short and wide, lol!!) Now I just need to find some wonderful and dramatic, red-carpet-worthy accessories for it!!

      When do you arrive? I get in late on Thursday night, and I'm still trying to figure out how to get to the hotel at 11:30 pm. I'm not signed up for the MBT or Early Bird sessions because I think I will probably need Friday morning to recover from the trip. Hoping to bounce back quickly because I just couldn't make myself fly across the US on September 11th.

      Can't wait to see you!!!

    2. Your sequined shirt sounds pretty! My dress is one I actually bought last year. :) I didn't end up wearing it so I'm wearing it this year. It's light green with layers of a gauzy fabric, and it actually lands just above the knees. It's fairly fancy. I'm wearing silver sandals and probably a glittery necklace and earring set.

      I think we're going to have to figure out how to catch a meal together! I'm having regrets that I got a flight that comes in on Friday. We're watching our pennies so I didn't want to pay an extra night's lodging. I get in Friday afternoon, if all goes well (please pray it does!). :)

      Can't wait to see you either!!! :) I've got a hug with your name on it!

  3. Fun post, Heidi! :) This is my first ACFW ever (the last few years I either had a baby on the way or had a baby in arms) so I know the staying-at-home-blues! Excited to get to go and thank you for the packing tips and the smile!

    1. Thank you, Joanne! It is such a bummer to watch everyone else go when you are stuck at home, but I truly believe it is making this year all the more special. I think I just assumed in 2009 that I would return to the conference every year. Then I had to try to rationalize and justify spending the money when a.) I didn't have anything to pitch, and b.) for the same cost, my entire family could have a full week of vacation together. I'm excited that you get to go this year!! I look forward to seeing you there.

  4. I love this post and will save it for when I fly, but not for the Conference as I'm driving. So I can bring as much as my car will hold...or not. But it definitely is an advantage to drive. Especially since I hate flying. lol

    Great post, Heidi!

    1. Oh, Pat! I am THE WORST when it comes to packing for a car trip. I take EVERYTHING!! My husband always jokes that it's a good thing he is the son of a UPS delivery man, so he knows how to get everything to fit. And he has truly worked some miracles over the years. Now my teenagers will say, "It's a good thing we're grandsons of a UPS delivery man!" I don't love to fly, and I considered bringing the family on a cross-country family adventure vacation, but it was just too far. Almost 2000 miles. We almost had a mutiny over the 500 miles we traveled to the ocean last week, and even breaking that trip up into small chunks resulted in some physical backlash for me. We have to wait and play the Super Trip trump card (anything over 500 miles one way) for trips to California to see Craig's family. (1100 miles each way.) I would've loved to go to the Creation Museum less than 100 miles south of Indianapolis, but maybe another time. Anyway, can't wait to see you again!! :)

  5. Wow, you've got some great packing tips, Heidi! Your list is great to print out and keep for any travel time. Thanks for doing the research on how to pack! And best of blessings at ACFW!

    1. Thank you, Teri!! I assume this means you won't be there. Bummer!! I would love to see you and give you a gigantic hug. I will never forget that you were by my side so I didn't have to face the bridge on which we had our accident by myself. It was so amazing that God heard my heart that day and made a way for you to visit your family in Walla Walla so I didn't have to make that drive alone. Love you!!

  6. Heidi!

    Good tips! Thank you for doing the research for me. I grew up with boys and now those "boys" work for the airlines. They've taught me to always use a carry-on and I've done that for years. But then my Ponderer buddies rubbed off on me. This year, first time in over a decade, I'll probably check a bag. Hilarious, right?

  7. Heidi,

    For the record, I roll my clothes. I used to always carry my bag. But I now check my bag because it's heavy for me to lift over people, and I'm afraid I might drop it and hurt someone. But it's a good reminder to pack essentials in a carry on--just in case the airlines loses a bag.

    Thanks for these great tips. I'm so looking forward to seeing you!!!!