Random Wonderfulness
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How I Pack for Summer Academic Conferences

Friends have asked me for this for years, so here goes: a post on how I pack light for summer academic conferences!

Note: this is not the post where I defend fashion within professional academic contexts as a feminist issue, though I have lots of thoughts on said topic. I also acknowledge that these dressing and packing strategies work for me as a smaller, straight-size woman and might not be similarly helpful for everyone. 

I leave for the 2018 AFHVS/ASFS Conference tomorrow (yay!), so here I present my three outfits for attending sessions and four outfits for casual receptions and sightseeing—though there are many more combos to be had here!


Beyond these separates, I packed pajamas, a top and bottom for working out, underthings, makeup, and toiletries—all in my fav weekender bag, with space leftover to bring a few new books home!

A few tips:

  • I have good luck with A-line or tube-shaped skirts in stretchy fabrics. They pack tiny, don’t wrinkle, mix and match a million ways, and keep your legs out and cool, if your conference is somewhere toasty.
  • Wear a cardigan/sweater and a scarf/wrap on the plane, so you’ve got layers if you need them during the conference without taking up space in your bag.
  • Choose a few pieces in a base, coordinating color like black, white, grey—you get the idea. That’ll make it a bit easier to mix and match.
  • Use jewelry, belts, and/or scarves to accessorize and make similar combinations look quite different, so you can squeeze more looks out of just a few pieces.
  • Find a pair of flats you love that are crazy cute and comfy and just wear them with everything. (Even then, pack blister bandages. Always.) That said, pack a pair of sneakers so you can go for walks and/or exercise, if you want to.
  • Embrace leggings as pants. They’re way more comfy for traveling in, and if you need to pack them, they don’t take up much space. I pair them with longer tops and they can be dressed up or down.
  • Roll everything for packing so it takes less space. Note: This requires fabrics that are wrinkle-resistant. That’s often a good thing anyway, y’all.

Just for fun, here are some of my past conference adventures in packing light: AAHM 2017 in Nashville on the left, and ASFS 2017 in Los Angeles on the right.

And here’s my greatest challenge to date, two weeks in Europe (including a fabulous history of nutrition conference in Venice) all packed into a regular-sized backpack and a tote bag:


Do you have tips to share too? Happy packing and conferencing, y’all!

All photo credits: Emily Contois 

1 Comment

  1. Emily — Well done, and I agree leggings are so comfortable, really ideal, for traveling. I’m surprised everyone doesn’t wear them.


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