Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a workshop virgin, creating a packing list for out-of-town belly dance events will save you time and give you peace of mind that you won’t forget essential items.
I’m gearing up for a 4-day belly dance convention in June and I’m happy that several of my students are joining me. One of them has been to a handful of these events and the other has never been to a belly dance workshop. One of the most common questions that I get from students in anticipation of an out-of-town dance event is “What should I pack?” I make lists for everything. Shopping lists, reading lists, lists of inspirational quotes, and….you called it…..packing lists! Here’s my ultimate packing list for out-of-town American Tribal Style® belly dance workshops. Please feel free to copy this and customize it to fit your individual needs.
Think about the event itinerary. Will you be in workshops all day, never leaving the event location? Do you need to pack clothes to change into after workshops? Are you attending any shows? Here’s what I pack for time spent outside of workshops:
- 1 outfit per day x _____ days
- 1-2 comfortable travel day outfits. Don’t pack your day 1 travel clothes! Set them aside so they’re ready for you. I usually wear the same skirt on both travel days and switch out my top.
- Bra(s) x _____
- 2 pairs underwear per day* x _____ days. You will want to change into a fresh pair after you’re done dancing for the day 😉
- 1 pair pajamas. Hotel rooms can run warm/cold, so plan accordingly. I usually pack 1 top, 1 pair mesh shorts, and 1 pair scrub pants.
- Shoes x _____
- Socks x _____
- Optional: 1 dressy outfit with jewelry and shoes per evening show x _____ shows
- Optional: hafla outfit x _____
- Optional: bathing suit or swim trunks. Most hotels have a pool and hot tub. Great places to unwind after a long day of dancing! Use their towels to save space in your luggage.
- Other non-dance clothes (swim cover-up, etc.) ___________________________________________________________
Although throwing everything into your bag or suitcase is fast, it leaves your clothes rumpled, your items disorganized, and it takes up more space than if you fold them neatly. If I don’t have a lot of clothes, I fold them in half lengthwise and then roll them up. If I have a lot of clothes, here‘s what I do. Put shoes inside a plastic grocery bag or shower cap. Hang clothes that are prone to wrinkling up in the closet and put the rest into dresser drawers when you check into your room so that you don’t feel like you’re living out of your suitcase while you’re away.
*These items get stinky, so don’t skimp on quantities here!
Personal Care Essentials
If you’re staying at a hotel, they will provide shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, and face tissues so you can leave these items at home unless you have particular products that you always use, in which case I recommend investing in empty travel size containers and filling them with your products. If you do this, make sure that you close lids tightly and place the travel containers inside well-sealed plastic baggies so they don’t spill inside your luggage. Many items such as toothpaste and ibuprofen can be purchased at the hotel lobby if needed.
- Oral hygiene: toothbrush, travel toothpaste & mouthwash, floss
- Vision items: contact lenses, contact case, travel size contact solution, glasses, glasses case
- Prescription medications & medical devices. Bring enough meds for a few extra days just in case. It is recommended that you carry a copy of prescriptions in case you lose yours.
- Any OTC health items that you may need for pain, headache, motion sickness, upset stomach, etc. I always bring a few ibuprofen, band-aids, and Q-Tips.
- Hair brush and/or comb
- Feminine hygiene products
- Optional sleep items: eye mask, ear plugs
- Other personal items that you use daily (hair ties & styling stuff, lip balm, makeup & remover, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
Place personal care items by the bathroom for easy access and so that you don’t feel like you’re living out of your suitcase while you’re away. If you’re sharing a room, choose one corner of the sink for your personal items. Many people are sensitive to fragrances, so it’s best to leave your perfume and essential oils at home.
Don’t forget to consider the projected weather forecast, your travel situation (car, plane, etc.), and any ancillary activities (outdoor excursions, etc.).
- Purse or wallet with ID, money, travel documents, health insurance card, emergency contact list.
- Cell phone with charger
- Travel gear (headphones, travel pillow, etc.) __________________________________________________________
- Weather-related items (hat, sunglasses, umbrella, jacket, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
- Bag for dirty clothes. You don’t want that stuff stinking up everything else in your bag/suitcase!
- Ancillary activity stuff (sunscreen, gym wear, bug repellant, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
- Networking swaps: business cards, promotional items, etc.
- Optional electronic devices (laptop, mp3 player, camera, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
- Optional: personal comfort items. Do you get homesick? Maybe you miss a family member or pet? Or maybe you’re going somewhere that you know won’t have an item that you use regularly (I’m looking at you, cigarette smokers). Pack the things that you need in order to keep you comfortable. I always take my husbeast with me in the form of a custom-made amigurumi created by Diana, owner of Mermaid & Weasel. When flying, I take a little good luck bracelet that my sister made for me before I took my first international flight to South Africa. I usually take a small pillow in a pillowcase that my husbeast has slept with too <3
- Other (journal, reading material, food, drinks, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
Wrap any fragile items (did you know that you can check up to 5 liters of wine in your luggage when you fly?!!) in clothing or a towel and place in the center of your bag/suitcase.
The clothes that you wear to ATS® workshops depends on type of workshop. First, read the class description. Does the instructor request that you wear (or not wear) a specific item, such as a 25-yard skirt? Next, think about what you will do in the workshop. Is it a lecture? Is it a technique class, in which the instructor will look at your form? Or maybe you will dance in groups or as a whole the entire time? As a general rule for technique-based workshops, I wear leggings/yoga pants OR an “ostrich tucked” 25-yard skirt with leggings because it is important for the instructor to be able to see your feet and knees in order to make sure that you’re demonstrating proper form. Avoid pantaloons. For lectures, you can wear whatever you like, including street clothes, and for jam session-type classes (Dancing in the Flow®, Club ATS®, Belly Jam, etc.), dancers wear the full spectrum, from everyday dance class wear (leggings & tank top, etc.) to full-blown ATS® costuming. Here’s what I pack to wear to ATS® workshops:
- 1 top (choli, tank top, or t-shirt) per day* x _____ days
- 1 pair leggings per day* x _____ days
- Specific clothing items requested in workshop description: ___________________________________________________________
- Recommended: 1 or more non-jingly hip scarves/belts. It’s fun to add a little decoration to your hips and it helps the instructor see how your hips are moving. Jingles are distracting, so avoid coins, bells, kuchi, etc.
- Recommended: dance shoes (ballet slippers, dance sneakers, or footies) OR 1 pair socks per day* x _____ days. Many large-scale belly dance events take place at hotels, with workshops taught in ballrooms on carpeted floors that can cause joint & tissue pain and blisters. Your feet will thank you for the extra support and padding!
- Recommended: a hoodie, shawl, or something else to wear over your clothes to keep you warm before and after dancing.
- Optional: 25-yard skirt
- Optional: Sports bra x _____
- Other (supportive braces, emergency energy snacks, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
*These items get stinky, so don’t skimp on quantities here!
Dance Bag Necessities
- Dance bag. I use a canvas book bag.
- Zills with tight elastics
- Notebook & several pens/pencils
- Reusable water bottle. If you’re at a hotel, there is almost always water available inside the workshop rooms. You can also refill your bottle at drinking fountains.
- Optional: yoga mat. Some instructors begin/end workshops with yoga stretches, and doing them on a yoga mat provides a non-slip barrier from the floor with some cushioning. I bought a lightweight travel yoga mat that folds up into about 12″ x 12″ square. I sit on it when instructors have us sit on the floor for extended periods of time.
- Optional: cell phone/camera for selfies with instructors
- Optional: If you will receive certificates or handouts, you may want to bring a folder to keep them in so they don’t get crumpled.
Put your name on anything that might be accidentally picked up by others (dance bag, FCBD® OG hoodie, etc.).
Costume & Makeup
Chances are that if you’re getting into full costume and makeup, this isn’t your first time at the rodeo so I will not list everything here (I’ll post a complete list at a later date) but here are the things that you might wear at a hafla:
- Coin Bra
- Belly dance belt
- Hip scarve(s)
- 25-yard skirt(s)
- Headband, hair flowers, hair sticks, bobby pins, etc.
- Jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, etc.)
- Makeup & remover: _________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________
- Other (falsies, lash adhesive, panels, bindi, glitter, etc.): ___________________________________________________________
Miscellaneous Belly Dance Items
- Event tickets
- Travel sewing kit (needle, thread, scissors, zill elastic, safety pins)
- Optional: props _____________________________________________
- Optional: knee pads (for floorwork)
This list is HUGE! It is meant to be a complete list of everything that one might possibly need for an out-of-town belly dance convention. Nobody likes hauling around lots of luggage and it is often cheaper and faster if you have fewer bags, so please take each unique event into consideration and pack only the essentials. Here are some final tips on packing and travel:
- Start your list 2 or more weeks in advance. First, write down everything that comes to mind. When you can’t think of anything else, leave the list on the kitchen counter (or somewhere else that you will visit often). You will think of more things throughout the days leading up to the event. Write them down as you remember them, slowly adding your list. If you’re not home when you think of something, send yourself a reminder text and add it to the master list later. When you think you have everything, consider asking someone else (significant other, family member, friend, etc.) if you can read the list to them and see if they think of anything else.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to pack! This will leave you feeling frazzled (and probably sleep-deprived) before an event that is meant to be fun and physically challenging. I try to have everything except the items that I use daily packed 2 days before traveling.
- Leave room in your luggage for items that you might purchase while you are away!
- If you’re flying, ALWAYS carry-on medications and expensive items like jewelry. If weather permits, consider wearing up to two 25-yard skirts on the plane…they will keep you warm and save space in your luggage (thanks Cat Ellen for this tip!). Read about TSA’s 3-1-1 Liquids Rule here.
- if you’ll use debit or credit cards internationally or spend more than usual.
- If you’re staying in a hotel or renting a car, your credit or debit card will likely have a hold placed on it. Ensure that you have adequate funds to cover any holds and still be able to purchase food and shop.
- If you’re travelling internationally, debit and credit card users should notify your financial institution of your travel plans. Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP), so that you can be notified about safety conditions in your destination country, and help the U.S. Embassy and your family/friends contact you in an emergency. Write down the address and contact information of the nearest US Embassy or Consulate and hospital. Learn about your destination country and read travel alerts/warnings. I always place a copy of my IDs (driver’s license & passport) and my social security card inside of a bag other than my purse/wallet in case I lose my purse and its contents. If you lose your passport (heaven forbid!), this will speed up the process of getting a new one.
- Don’t toss your packing list! Save it for future trips, eliminating the need to try to remember everything all over again and reducing pre-trip prep time. You might even consider having your list laminated at a local office supply store! Then, you can use a dry-erase marker each time to cross off items that you have already packed.
I hope that you find this list helpful. Feel free to comment below if you find that I have missed anything. Safe travels and happy shimmies!