As I write this, we are in travel transition: driving home from (local) Easter Swing and preparing our suitcase turnaround for Singapore and Thailand. Sometimes it feels like travel is as much a part of my job as moving to music. You could say we are Champion travellers. How did we develop our expertise? The same way as dancing: practice and learning from mistakes.
So here are some tips for dancers who travel. Some are personal preferences, but some are universal essentials if you want to be budget-conscious, ensure your comfort, and reduce stress.
No seriously, plan ahead
Register early, online: The money you save buy buying your pass early, can easily pay for your contest fees. If you can, register for your comps online too.
Always book event hotel: there’s a whole separate blog article on this. Why? Even if you can get a better rate across the street, isn’t supporting the business of this entertaining event worth the few extra bucks you might pay for the convenience of not walking outside to your room?
Book your room early: You don’t want to be in the overflow hotel, having to walk outside to get to your clothes and bed. If you have to cancel your reservation, you can always find someone to give it away to on the event’s Facebook page.
Take advantage of loyalty programs: When I was a starving student I thought it was prudent to just buy the cheapest flight available. But after a few years, I had flown enough that the points I could have earned if I was enrolled would have equalled a few free flights. Now that we travel even more frequently, the points maintain our priority status, which makes the whole process more comfortable and less stressful when things go wrong.
Passports, sim cards, and currency: Something international travellers automatically think about, but if you have never left your own country, make sure your documents are in order (check the expiry date!) before you even book your flight.
Check the event’s schedule and airport before booking flights: you don’t want to be caught missing your highly anticipated Strictly date because your flight was scheduled to arrive after the contest ended. Also consider staying Sunday night – even if the event doesn’t have a dance, this is a great time to catch up on small group social time, networking, and private lessons.
Strictly partners and private lessons: Everyone procrastinates. Try to make a habit of booking your partner at the same time that you schedule time off work or buy your (earlybird) pass. Contact your preferred pro in advance to reserve time: don’t wait till the start of the event or they might not have any opening left!
Plan your floor trials: Discuss with your partner when and if you are going to take advantage of the floor trial times offered, and arrange your travel (and late night) schedule around it.
Suitcases: Prep your bags with identifiable coloured tags/ribbons/stickers, etc. When it gets lost, this will aid in recovery, and helps to prevent someone mistaking their bag for your. Look into Eddie Bauer brand – they have a lifetime replacement guarantee!
Drycleaning: If you need to do drycleaning, give yourself at least a week to remember to pick it up. The week of the event can get really busy with other prep and you might forget.
Online Flight Check-in: Book your seat in advance and avoid long airport lines.
Uber/Shuttle: Check to see if the hotel has an airport shuttle before you travel so you don’t have to be surprised by a huge Uber charge.
Be clean, but avoid perfume! Nothing worse than sitting next to a passenger who is either swimming in their own B.O. or a suffocating cologne. Save the morning perfume application till you arrive at your destination.
Make a packing list: We keep ours on our fridge so we can check it to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. This helps when we are in a rush or distracted.
Download/Update your Apps: We use Texture magazine app, instead of buying physical magazines. Just have to remember to download the newest editions before the flight. Some airlines have free in-flight entertainment on their apps, but you have to make sure you have the app before taking off.
Check for fridge: This will drastically affect your food choices, both groceries and doggy bags.
Shopping: Set yourself up of the weekend: groceries, liquor, 5-hour energy shots, etc. Discuss with your roomies food you can share.
Ask for extra keys, towels: We always ask for 3 keys because Myles *always* loses one.
Add your loyalty number: Just get in the habit – they add up!
Make a shower schedule with roomies: Morning? Evening? Privacy preferences?
Hang up your wrinkled clothes in the bathroom: Whoever showers first will passively steam the wrinkles out.
Look and smell good
Cosmetics: Personally, I keep a Mary Kay rollup travel kit for all my makeup and toiletries. It hangs in our bathroom at home so I can just grab & go. I used to be mildly addicted to experimenting with all the pretty cosmetics colours, but now I know better what looks good on me and I have edited my collection significantly.
Containers: Whenever I visit someone else’s hotel bathroom, I’m always surprised to see full size bottles of anything. Why lug around full-size bottles? I get my travel containers from the travel-size section of Target, Sephora, or from the Container Store.
5-hours and gum/mints: These babies have gotten us through many a 20-hour travel day. We always have some on hand – we can always buy more when we get there.
In Your Survival Kit
Dryer sheets: These work in a pinch to combat static.
Clothespins: For pinching the gap in the hotel room blackout curtains.
Moleskin: For blisters
Toupee tape: Not the cheap drugstore brand – go to the wig store and get the good stuff.
Shoe glue: I keep a mini E6000 for touchups.
Shoe brush: A must-have on today’s slick bamboo composite floors.
The Clothes Position
Strictly colours: It’s nice to match your partner, but don’t stress too much – as long as your outfits appear to “work together”, you’ll look fine. I like to bring 3-4 tops of different colours that I know my partner tends to wear. Universal colours that are easy to match: Black, white, grey, burgundy, royal blue. If you have a weird, hard-to-describe colour, best to show it to your partner in person rather than guess. It might not be a big deal to you, but it is a caring way to begin the partnering conversation before the dancing event starts!
Theme costumes: If you planned well, you will have made note of the themes well in advance and will have this prepared already, so it’s just a matter of remembering to put them in your suitcase.
Hot tub suits: There might not always be an opportunity, but when there is a hot tub /jacuzzi where you are staying and you are stuck without a bathing suit, you will not be a happy camper. I just leave one in my suitcase permanently.
Lay out your outfits: I used to just lay out my trusty black pants and a few pairs of jeans then throw in all my favourite new tops that go with them. But when we started blocking our weekends together into mini-tours, I started planning my clothes a little more intentionally. Now I lay out outfits for each part of each day (teaching, judging, competing, social dancing) so I am absolutely sure I will not have too much of one thing and not enough of another. The confidence is worth the extra bit of time it takes. This also makes getting dressed each day effortless.
Sweaters for A/C: Don’t get stuck in a cold ballroom! North American air conditioning is cold and powerful. Even in the summer, be sure to bring a cozy wrap or sweater for daytime workshops and spectating.
Shoes: Pack your shoes to match your clothes, and be sure to bring a pair to wear for dressing up. Bring at least 2 pairs of shoes to dance in, so you have choices, or in case your feet need a break.
Multipurpose pants: I am continually on the hunt for the ideal multipurpose pants. There are so many choice these days that I find myself in an experimenting phase, which means packing too many pants to try and see what I like best. I need them to look like slacks but stretch like yoga pants, be body-flattering, not be see-through, and have a fit that looks good with all styles of tops. Lululemon has made some good ones for men and women, I just discovered Athleta, and Myles swears by golf pants (Underarmour, Puma, Nike, Champion, etc)
Accessories/undergarments to match: This is where laying out your outfits comes in handy: visualize yourself getting dressed in each outfit, and you will find yourself remembering all the little details, like cufflinks, pocket squares, Spanx, strapless bra, right colour/type of underwear, right colour belt, etc.
Formal wear: Besides dressing up for the awards ceremony (routine competitors), occasionally events will label Saturday night as the “dress-to-impress” night, where everyone is encouraged to dress up in semi-formal attire to watch the evening performances. It’s a nice tradition that should be acknowledged and respected: if you forget to look at the website, you also run the risk of being the only one in your group photos in sweats.
Pyjamas: If you are sharing a room, these are essential. If you normally sleep naked, it might not occur to you to intentionally pack bed clothes.
Sweat management: If you plan on dancing hard, expect to change your shirt at least once per night. You definitely need to change between the daytime comps/workshops and the evening spectating/social dancing. So bring a minimum of 3 shirts per day.
Keep Calm and Carry-on
Routine Costumes: Never be separated from your costumes! These one-of-a-kind creations are irreplaceable and expensive. Always carry your costume in your carry-on bag and never in your checked bag.
Clothes & Toiletries: I pack a full outfit (including shoes, deodorant, and makeup essentials) for whatever activity I will need to do that day (teaching, judging, etc). That way I won’t be stuck if they lose my suitcase, and I can still wear comfy clothes on the flight and not wrinkle nice clothes.
Snacks: Avoid getting stuck hangry (hungry+angry) during long Uber rides, late night hotel arrivals, and tight airport connections. Bring some healthy, filling things that don’t need to be refrigerated and won’t piss off passengers around you: not smelly or noisy. Good: Nuts, energy bars, dried fruit. Bad: beef jerky, onions, potato chips, corn nuts, fragrant fruit, noisy veggies.
Chargers and adapters: We write a post-it note to ourselves to remember to grab our phone chargers before we leave the house, especially for groggy early-moring flights. If you are ever stuck, most hotels have a little lending collection from lost and found.
Earplugs: How did we ever live without these? Crying babies, chatty passengers, vacuuming housekeeping, and snoring roommates are actually tolerable with earplugs in. I always have 2 sets, and I bring extras if we have roommates. They live in my travel purse along with an eyemask, compression socks, portable battery charger, and sleep-aid pills.
Vitamins and Medications: Don’t pack these in your checked bag! Don’t bring the big bottles – use a daily pill sorter from the drugstore. Be sure your prescriptions are still legible in case you need to present them to security or customs.
Waterbottle: Buy or bring one from home, empty it before security, then fill it after security but before you board. This way you won’t have to rely on the questionable water service in flight.
Contacts/Glasses: I learned this the hard way: left for an overseas trip with my contacts still sitting in my medicine cabinet. Showcase is much harder when you’re blind!
Do you have any tips of your own to share? Please feel free to add them below!