10 Convention Packing & Attending Tips for Authors

I have a number of posts on attending conventions, Gentle Reader. I thought I would pull them all together for easy reference.

I average about 12 events a year divided between: comicons, small or large SF/F conventions, trade shows, book fairs, writing retreats, writers conferences, book tours, and their various international equivalents.

1. Gail’s Favorite 10 Convention Commandments

I believe that these apply across the board, regardless of convention size, and pretty much whenever traveling anywhere.

1. Thou shalt follow the 6, 2, 1 rule. At least six hours sleep, two full meals, and one bath.*
2. Thou shalt wear deodorant but not perfume.
3. Thou shalt tip thy maids.
4. Thou shalt wear layers.
5. Honor thy moderator.
6. Thou shalt carry badge, ID, business cards, phone, cash, name tent, mints, floss, tissues, pain killers & other meds, compact, snacks, and water upon thy person at all times.
7. Thou shalt not eat raw onions.
8. Thou shalt follow the protocols of cosplay. (No realistic weapons, no sticky substances AKA the PB & J rule, no view obstructing wings or hats, be aware of your costumed dimensions.)
9. Thou shalt not put a backpack on a tall personage. (Nothing worse than being a short female constantly whacked in the face by a backpack-wielding Sasquatch, particularly on planes.)
10. Thou shalt not dress like a slob.

Details on the 10 commandments in this post: 13 Top Tips for the Travelling Writer

Ply me with a drink sometime and I will tell you about the Secret of the Baby Brick and how to get the right hotel, hotel room, and treatment…

Or you can listen to my podcast: 20 Minute Delay for all my travel hacks.

Here’s a 2023 video Q&A with self all about travel!

Q&A about being an author at author events. I tackle travel, author etiquette, packing (what authors might want to bring to conventions), what it’s emotionally like to meet fans, and how I chose where to go and why. Includes book tours, signing lines, and every size of event from massive comic cons to tiny steampunk conventions and writer’s conferences.

Now, let’s talk packing.

2. Master Modular Packing

 In addition to pockets in various suitcases, I’m a believer in keeping everything as modular as possible. I’ve 4 sets of bags, clear with colored zipper tops, 7 different sizes. (Plastic baggies work well enough in a pinch.) I travel enough to find something more durable worth the money.
Travelon Set of 7 Packing Envelopes, Assorted Sizes $14


I like to use the largest baggie for my itinerary, magazines, copy edits, and/or lecture notes to review on the plane. I find it works better than a folder, nothing falls out. Also it accommodates both paper sizes for international trips. In a pinch, it can be used to transport parts of manuscripts – during proofs, for example.

Other baggy tips?

  • For things you want to access a lot on the plane (charger, snacks, chapstick and eyedrops) or in your purse/tote/backpack, use baggies with different textures (plastic, mesh, neoprene, cloth, nylon). That way you can reach down and into things without looking and find the correct baggy by touch.
  • Keep your kits refilled after every trip, these can then also work with your go bag if you live in a disaster prone area.
  • Carry extra regular ziplock bags with you on the plane for garbage, half eaten snacks, that kind of thing.
  • For longer flights, standby, or during heavy travel seasons when you might have to check your carry on luggage have a zipper top nylon grocery tote in your personal item (purse). The airline only counts your number of bags as you board. This will allow you to stash jackets and other layers safely in the overhead, or liberate medication, batteries and other important items from your carry on before they take it away from you. I like these ones. But you specifically want one that folds small and HAS A ZIPPER TOP.

3. Author Convention Attending Kit

L-R, T-B = promo postcards (also bookmarks), pens for signing all types of books, special cards to give away to kaffeeklatch, small notebook, name tents, newsletter sign up sheet, business cards, book covers (first in each series).

10 Things to includes in an author kit:

  1. promo postcards
  2. promo bookmarks
  3. pens for signing all types of books/formats
  4. special cards/swag to give away to kaffeeklatch
  5. small notebook
  6. name tent
  7. newsletter sign up sheet
  8. business cards
  9. book covers (first in each series) to use as standies
  10. QR codes for preordering any books not yet out

4. Food Kit

At conventions my schedule is often so busy I resort to eating snacks and leftovers out of my room fridge (if lucky enough to have one). My food kit includes:

  • extra mints,
  • condiments (that pass easily through security),
  • mini marmites (legitimately stolen when in the UK),
  • powder flavor packets (for icky water),
  • vitamins & pills,
  • proper tea utensils.

Not pictured: protein bars or some other healthy snack (I make myself dried fruit-and-nut mixes).

I will often use screw top food storage, but the cheap kind (so long as it closes tight) for cut veggies. It’s very useful in the hotel at the other end, and it doesn’t matter if it gets lost.

Also a water filtration bottle for plane travel and tea making once I land. Speaking of tea…

5. Tea Kit

There is the customary tea supply (14 bags, two for each day) plus about 5 caffeine free, powdered creamer for emergency use only, and the water boil coil with European adapter.

Here is how I use it:

Here’s a whole post on my favorite tea related items.

6. Makeup

I have a hanging roll. I got it free with a magazine in England some 15 years ago and I will be CRUSHED when it finally dies since there doesn’t seem to be anything else like it out there. I’ve arranged it so there are no liquids, thus I never have to worry about TSA.

So far, airport security has never asked me to unroll it.

MakeupRoll MakeupUnroll

I use a jewelry roll for my jewelry, no picture, it’s just a cheapie.

I have a post all about my makeup, creating a vintage look while traveling and more.

7. Toiletries

I have three toiletry kits: long haul, on-plane, and short haul.

  •  The black long haul stands up on its own, great for hotels, and gets wrapped in a plastic bag inside my checked luggage, so it doesn’t have to be clear.
  • The littlest one is for on-plane red-eye flights when the long haul toiletry is checked. It is comprised mainly of solid state products and sample products in tiny packages so it gets through security without having to be shown. But it’s clear just in case. Eye drops and lip balm are a must. Also this kit should work for at least one overnight in case I get stranded.
  • Always have at least a change of socks and underthings with you at all times when traveling.
  • The larger clear bag, for week or less short haul trips, does have to be taken out at security, so it’s packed in the outside pocket of my carry-on for ease of access.

8. Emergency Kit

Want a more detailed break down of the contents of these kits?  Find it in this older blog post.

9. Packing Books!

Occasionally I travel with books to donate to charity (or for consignment). I uses a little nubbin suitcase for this, which takes about 25 trade paperbacks. I am looking into easy ways to do this with more than 25 books – staying under 50lbs. I’ll report back if it becomes increasingly necessary for me to find a different solution for this. (I actually don’t travel with lots of books all that often.)

Gail Carriger Packing Seattle Indie Books

10. There’s a podcast for that

My friend Piper J Drake and I have a podcast where we talk all things travel tips: traveling for business, flying alone, test gadgets, argue about loyalty and credit card travel programs, debate chain versus boutique hotels, and so much more.


Yours (destined to be killed in transit, or at least stuck in Denver),

Miss Gail 

Find my books 

Direct | Amazon | KoboBookshop.org | B&N | Apple | FoylesMcnally Robinson | Angus Robertson

Here’s a printable Downloadable Checklist of ALL my books!

  • Did you miss my latest release? Want more sneak peeks, free goodies, gossip, behind the scenes info? This goes to my Chirrup members, because I love them bestest. Sign up here.


Probably my most travelly book series is the Custard Protocol, starting with Prudence.

All Custard Protocol Books USA Prudence Imprudence Competence Reticence Teacups Nook Bedding Free


10 Women Who Changed Sci Fi

Book News:

Feral Wordmonger says of jumping into the middle (!) of the Finishing School series:

“I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how exactly I was able to move so smoothly into the dead center of a book series like that. And all I can reckon is that I was able to follow along because the narrative moved forward just as confidently as the heroine herself.”

Quote of the Day:

“They assault and batter nothing but pianos; they steal nothing but ideas; they murder nobody except Chopin and Beethoven.”

~ P. G. Wodehouse, The Man with Two Left Feet And Other Stories

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Posted by Gail Carriger

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  1. Julie Baker said:

    Your post is well-timed. I am preparing for a 22-day trip to France and Belgium. I just reread your "Long Haul Flight Essentials" post yesterday. Thank you for sharing your packibg tips and tricks!

  2. Julie Baker said:

    Your post is well-timed. I am preparing for a 22-day trip to France and Belgium. I just reread your "Long Haul Flight Essentials" post yesterday. Thank you for sharing your packibg tips and tricks!

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