Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Packing for RWA and – Walt Disney World?

By Janet Miller (aka Cricket Starr)

In the movie “As Good As It Gets” there is a scene where the heroine played by Helen Hunt is packing for an overnight trip out of NYC. She has an empty suitcase on the bed and an exasperated look on her face and says: “There is no way to pack for this trip.”

I identify with that scene on a fairly regular basis.

The dilemma of what to pack for a trip can be hard in the best of situations. Helen Hunt character’s problem was that she didn’t know what to expect, hence her calling Jack Nicholson to find out if they were likely to go to a restaurant for dinner. For a “blended trip” where a wildly diverse set of activities can be expected, the problems escalate.  I will demonstrate this and provide what will hopefully be a reasonable solution.

My problem is that I’m going to the RWA convention, which is being held this year in WDW and then staying on for several days to enjoy the parks. So I need a wardrobe suitable for touring an amusement park in hot weather as well as business clothes for the conference. To top it all off I also need a formal outfit for the RITA awards that will include dress-up shoes. Difficult for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that I refuse to take a trip like this with two suitcases when I’m likely be hauling back several pounds of books. Better to start out with less than scramble to find room for stuff going home in your luggage.

So I have to come up with a wardrobe that will cover my needs for all events for the convention as well as park touring - a total of eight days of activities that all fits in one suitcase.

This picture is what I’ve come up with.

To the far left are a three pairs of long pants, black jeans, tailored tan capris, and a pair of silky black dress pants. Next are three pairs of shorts and a cap, followed by three colored t-shirts, and a long-sleeved white shirt. The next line is two, patterned button-up shirts, a black silk shell, and a black and white swimsuit. A black cardigan sweater is at the top of the next column followed by a white skirt, and in the last row is a blue silk top with beading, and a gold and turquoise dress. At the far right is my purple roll-up raincoat. My shoes are lined up at the bottom, a pair of water sandals that are great for walking in, tan sandals and a dressy pair of black sandals.

Instead of a business suit I’ll wear the black sweater with black dress pants for a tailored look. Instead of an evening dress the blue beaded top will pair with the dressy black pants for the RITA, and I’ll throw in a black shawl in case it is cool in the hotel. Instead of blue jeans, which I might have packed for a WDW trip, I have black jeans because those dress both up and down, and the tailored capri pants for casual wear at the convention will still work for touring the parks or going to dinner someplace nice.

For daytime park touring the shorts will pair with the solid color t-shirts and patterned shirts, and both patterned shirts can be worn open over the t-shirts to give me a different look.

I have a white cotton skirt because that dresses up well and will go with virtually any of the shirts. Yes, white is risky for wearing at a resort, but there are laundry facilities at the hotel in case of emergency. The dress is in a lightweight fabric that takes little room and will be ideal for the Orlando environment. For the same reason I’m taking the black silk shell. It takes no room in a suitcase and paired with either the white skirt or the black pants and under the black sweater it gives me another business look.

To cope with possible rainstorms I have a roll-up rain jacket that is very informal but no one will need to see me dressed business casual outside of the hotel. All the shoes I’m bringing will stand up to the walking we will do, a must for me as I get sore feet easily. They can be used for most of the events in the hotel including the Rita awards and still be wearable for park touring.

The key to this kind of packing is versatility. A tailored business suit has one purpose only. A black sweater can be used in many ways. A solid color t-shirt is more versatile than one with Tigger on it so I’ve omitted my favorite Disney shirts from this wardrobe.

In addition to reusability how much space an item takes is important. Space, weight, and versatility are the key things to remember when choosing your wardrobe for a long trip. If you positively have to have an evening gown then you must be prepared to give up something to make room for it. I’d rather have a top I can dress down for dining at a nice restaurant than an evening gown I can only wear once.

Everything you see on my bed can be packed into a single medium-sized suitcase with room to spare. In fact I might even have space for my favorite Tigger shirt after all!


Dawn Marie Hamilron said...

Janet, Well thought out. In my past life, I traveled for a living. All the clothing I purchased was meant to coordinate with three basic colors: black navy or taupe. I would start with one color of shoes. One pair business, one casual. Then build my wardrobe from there. I was known to travel for weeks at a time with only a rollaboard that fit overhead and a computer case. Of course, I occasionally made use of the hotel laundry.

Wish I were going to conference. Have a great time. :)

Janet/Cricket said...

I've done the color thing as well in the past and am actually doing it to some extent here. Black is my base color with tan as a second color for the bottoms and there is the black sweater. The one thing I've learned over the years is to bring different colored tops because otherwise all pictures taken will look the same and you don't want to be wearing the exact same shirt or what looks like the exact same shirt in every photo!

Boone Brux said...

I admire your organizational skills. I wish this year's conference was going to be so easy for me to pack. I have to include a steampunk outfit, which consists of a bustle skirt, and all the table decorations for the same event. I'm taking solice in the fact that I can leave the decorations there and fill that space with books. **Heavy Sigh* I'll know better next time than to volunteer anything but my time.

Great post.
Boone Brux

Janet/Cricket said...

Costumes are always tricky things to pack around. My usual solution is to make sure the dress part of the costume, which is usually the bulkiest part, can also be used for something else. So my dress for the Fairy Ball is also what I wear for the booksignings.

This year for the RT Booklovers convention I carried onto the plane my fairy wings in a specially made holder (two pieces of cardboard with a handle) and next year I have a hoop skirt to pack but since I'm driving I may take a second suitcase to deal with that.

For the table decorations the answer is to mail them ahead of time. Flat rate priority mail boxes are our friends.

And I do take a fold-out bag just in case I end up with more weight to take back than I went out with and I'm in danger of being overweight on the return trip. Dirty clothes can go into that.

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Jill James said...

Janet, wise packing you do there. Reminds me of a book with a writer character. They were taking about a writer on a book tour. She had black skirt, black pants, black shirt along with scarfs and pieces of jewelry to make her outfit different for each stop.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

You are so organized and prepared. My problem is I am so ungraceful and am afraid that if I expect to wear one outfit a couple of times, what happens if you spill on it the first time. I guess I am a worrier to the fullest degree. Also, I figure if you take a second smaller case, you can bring the books home in both of them and not go over the weight limit.

Will look for you in that cute t-shirt. ;)

Janet/Cricket said...

Jill: Loved the story about the author and the all black wardrobe. If you are good with scarfs and jewelry, that is a viable solution. I did that once for an RT convention though and ended up wearing the one non-black thing for many events, a bright blue sweater. And I swear, every picture taken of me at the convention was me wearing that same sweater so that's why I now take different tops. No one looks at your shoes or notices your pants, but the tops all need to be different.

Paisley: the key to your worry about spilling something is to make sure to have reasonable alternatives. That's why coordinating separates are great. If one t-shirt gets dirty, I have two others. Also take heart in that all hotels have laundry services, and at WDW there are washing machines and dryers next to the pools at most of the moderate and value resorts. I also carry Woolite on trips like this.

When I go on a month-long trip somewhere like my last trip to China, I only carry one bag. Underwear and socks get washed in the sink and the hotel takes care of the pants and shirts.

Constance Phillips said...

Great post and some awesome tips. I tend to over-pack, especially for conference, but really thought about my wardrobe this year. Like you I'm picking pieces that can mix and match and dressing up with accessories.

Last year I got the flat rate boxes from the post office and put the (Still flat) in the bottom of my suitcase and sent the books home by mail. Cheaper than over-weight fees from the airline!

Josie said...

Great post and extremely helpful. Although I am not attending Nationals this year, I have worked with a "wardrobe consultant." She said that when packing--always begin with one handbag and pair of shoes and work from there. Not easy!