Life, Meal Planning, Organization, Travel, Working Mom

Gone Again! Packing and Organizing for a Week Long Conference.

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I just got home a week ago and I am already preparing to head out for another week away.  This time it is domestic, so the flight will not be long at all.  Check out my favorite travel accessories here.  I’m heading to Philadelphia for a conference, actually the mother of all conferences for my field, and need to start packing for the week.  See my packing process post here.  In between sorting and packing, I will cook a few meals for the family for next week so that I don’t come home to a mountain of food wrappers.  See my post on that process here.  Since I have never been to Philadelphia, and I’m a total history geek, I can’t wait to try and fit in a few sight seeing activities during my down time (bless my chubby soul, the Rocky stairs must be climbed – heart attack or not!).  There are a few (like the aforementioned stairs) that are not subject to closing hours, so I’m not worried about those.  Others, like the Betsy Ross House and Liberty Bell, will have to be squeezed in after the conference day, meetings, presentations and visits.  I’m determined!


So how do I go about planning out my schedule when the week is going to be packed with work?  First, this isn’t a vacation, it IS work, so those items go into my calendar first.  Meetings with colleagues, editors, etc. are next, then the fun stuff.  I have to put some flowers, a coin, or a key on Ben Franklin’s grave, right?  It wouldn’t be a visit unless I got to say hello to the man himself!  I start my planning like I do any other trip – on Google.  Who doesn’t?  I already knew I wanted to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Betsy Ross House.  What I didn’t know before I went to the Visit Philadelphia web site was that Love Park (really, JFK Plaza) is reopening for summer when I am there.  Yea!  Mama needs a photo with the LOVE sculpture in the City of Brotherly Love.  I already warned you that I’m a geek – it isn’t going to get any less geeky in the rest of the post.  😊  I didn’t realize how close Valley Forge was – I may not be able to squeeze that one in, but wouldn’t it be great?


I divide the items that strike my fancy into three categories – things I want to do, bucket list items (ones I HAVE to see while I am there) and places I want to eat.  You didn’t think I was going to leave that to chance did you?  Absolutely not!  I have to try the famous cheesesteak while in Philly – though I must admit, I don’t really care for them.  I know, sacrilege, but truth.  I’ll take one for the team just to say I have done it.  I like to create a folder to organize my thoughts.  As I see items I am interested in, I print out the article or web page so that I can reference it when I get there.  I categorize them by location or type.  In the photo, you’ll see my big summer research trip divided by location so that I can keep my thoughts straight for each locale.  Once I have my home made guide organized, I make note of any critical items in my journal – I always have it with me.  I am not organized enough no to have my to do lists and info with me, so everything that is important and not electronic is noted in the journal.  I also like to jot down the street address of anything I really want to experience so that if I find myself with a great window of time after my last conference session, I can easily Uber on over and still get back to my hotel before the witching hour.  Traveling alone means I can cover a tremendous amount of ground, but it also means I have to be aware of my surroundings and make sure I don’t put myself in a precarious position in a city I don’t know.


I like pre made guide books (especially Rick Steves), but there is something to be said for doing your research before you travel so that you can customize your itinerary to your own preferences.  Given that I am working around my conference schedule, meetings, etc. I find it necessary to be as organized and structured as possible if I want to see anything at all.  There is no way to see everything the city has to offer on a work trip, so see what you can, note the things you want to see on your next trip, and start a Philly part II folder.  I’m old school like that.

Since I am traveling for work, I have to make sure that I am packing strategically.  I want to be professional and stylish during the day for professional engagements, but I would also love to be comfortable and have items that transition well from conference goer to tourist without killing my feet or having my Liberty Bell photo be in a power suit and heals.  This type of trip will require more organization than I typically have to plan simply because of the variety of activities of the conference as well as the “extracurriculars” that I want to try to fit in.


I like to lay out my items by day so that I can see what clothes, accessories and shoes I will need for each outfit.  For this conference, I am going to try to avoid too many dresses that require heals so that I can have some flexibility of movement during lunch (the conference is in the center of the historic district) and eat on the fly while visiting Love park or another close location.  I have two pair of shoes that I am going to rely on for the days when I have a bit of time to fit something in.  I have a pair of comfy Lindsey Phillips wedges that I adore, and a pair of Rothy’s black pointy flats that are amazing!  They feel like sneakers!    I try to minimize my shoes to no more than three pair – 1 wedges, 1 heals, and 1 flats.  That should allow for any eventuality no matter how formal or casual and still allow for comfort as well.  I also like to take 2 tops for every bottom.  I will be taking a couple of dresses for conference days, but will also try to minimize my packing by taking 1 pair of black slacks, 1 pair of gray slacks and four tops that go with either.  I will travel in capris and a casual shirt so that I have that option as well.  Once I have all my items together, I like to gather them all into a laundry basket and take everything downstairs to pack on my dining table.  The packing cubes I featured in this post are a life saver!


A little strategy and some research will help you cover as much ground as possible whether you are traveling for work or for pleasure.  I can’t wait to update you all on how much ground I actually covered and what I discovered that wasn’t on my lists.  While I love lists and schedules, you have to have a bit of flexibility or you will lose the most important element of any type of travel – discovering hidden gems and meeting people you didn’t expect to cross your path.

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