For many of the hundreds of people that attended the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Annual Meeting in early June, it was the first time they’d traveled in a while. Funny thing happened when we all stayed home – we forgot stuff! We forgot where we put our travel-sized toiletries. We forgot we NEEDED travel-sized toiletries. We forgot what the travel sizes were! Our favorite clothes didn’t fit the same any more (and we forget to check before we left). We forgot which clothes we should pack together for optimized mix and match options. We forgot the rules of security checkpoints (shoes on? shoes off? laptop out? laptop packed?). We forgot a lot.
In our defense, a whole lot of new stuff was also added to the travel routine (which country requires what for entry, reentry?). All of our airlines had new apps to help us (uh oh, did I download that app?). And in some cases the rules changed during travel. What was required when you left, was different as you returned.
So, we decided we’d ask the Chefs: What was it like traveling to SSP (or the first time you travelled since 2020)?
Lettie Conrad: I may be the big dork in the kitchen on this topic, because I think I was better prepared for travel to/from SSP this year than any time before. This was my first post-lockdown flight and in-person conference, so I’m not ashamed to say I felt pretty anxious about this trip. I began meticulously planning months ahead, for both travel logistics and how I would spend my 3 days in Chicago.
Luckily, I had *just* bought the best carry-on case I’ve ever used the fall before the pandemic and had 15 years of work travel experience under my belt. I made lists and checked supplies weeks before the trip and had exactly everything I needed and nothing more. I took my Mom’s good advice and tried on the professional gear I hadn’t worn in 27 months, so I had plenty of time to be sure everything was ready to roll. And I left space in my suitcase for a few self-care items — a night light, yoga pants, etc.
I took my Mom’s good advice and tried on the professional gear I hadn’t worn in 27 months
I am so grateful for the opportunity to connect with the SSP community in person this year. However, with lingering anxiety about Covid-19, the big thing that was missing was a happy buzz of adventure and joy that travel used to inspire. In all, fellow travelers were calm and courteous, and I faced only one flight cancellation and a grand total of one-hour of delay, so I can’t complain — but I am also very glad to be home to Southern California!
Haseeb Md. Irfanullah: My first field trip outside my hometown Dhaka/Bangladesh in two years took place in early March 2022. And looking back, one thing I indeed packed in my suitcase was “my anxiety to become normal”!
I was traveling to a remote study area to join my team. I put two pairs of walking sandals in my luggage, because I wasn’t sure if my regular one would survive the first day in the field after gathering dust for two years. Another thing that worried me was how to manage my outside clothes at the end of each day — as the hotel I was staying in was sort of a minimalist, without many obvious facilities. I don’t want to say if I brought enough bottles of sanitizer in my suitcase to wipe “everything” my previous tenants had possibly “touched” — some actions are better kept secret, right?
This field trip, however, helped me to “normalize” myself in the late-COVID-19-pandemic era
This field trip, however, helped me to “normalize” myself in the late-COVID-19-pandemic era — I tried to feel normal while traveling from the hotel to the study sites with eight other vaccinated teammates without masks in a minibus, eating our meals in local restaurants packed with people, trying to blend in the local community without wearing masks but maintaining social distancing, or by forgetting (or rather ignoring) my two years’ habit of cleaning my hands with sanitizer after touching anything (or everything) outside.
And, the best part is — I survived the normalization process!
Todd Carpenter: As I started to think about what I’d contribute, I literally was in a hotel lamenting that I’d forgotten an item of clothing. Of course, I’d forgotten something and brought two extra of something else (for a single overnight!). I’ve forgotten to charge my headphones, and had missed some charging cord. What has struck me most about “reentering” my former life on the road was the lack of fruit. I hadn’t brought any. One of my instincts during the pandemic was to improve my healthfulness. I hadn’t thought about it much at the time, but getting back on the road it struck how horribly unhealthy the food options can be when traveling. Sure, the boxed lunches have an apple or a banana, but how often are they eaten? Salads are on the menu, but the burger or chicken sandwich sounds more appealing. And then there were the french fries! It struck me that for months, I hadn’t had any french fries, since I don’t have a fryer at home and didn’t go to a restaurant for months. Somehow, back on the road, I’d eaten them nearly every day.
If there was one thing I could pack on my next trip, it might be a fruit cup, or maybe an orange.
What has struck me most about “reentering” my former life on the road was the lack of fruit.
- PCR RESULT? 72hrs? / 48hrs? / <24hrs check? USA – you have no idea how much of a PITA 24hrs is for the international traveler.
- COVID Insurance documents (India / and other countries) check?
- Vaccination QR codes check? (who had Global Pandemic turns out to be use case to get everyone using and used to QR codes on their Bingo card?)
- Risk Assessment for country of travel (your org might not be bothered, mine most certainly is) signed off before travel is OK’d
- Is it all printed out and is it in your carry on?
- Have you got all the back-up pdfs on your phone? (this is why the pdf will never die by the way)
- Have you submitted it all online here, here, here, and there? (Special shoutout to the Air Suvidha form – VITAL for an India trip – which can be found behind the ‘beware of the Leopard’ sign in the basement of the New Delhi airport website)
- You didn’t forget your ESTA did you?
And now – The carry on/checked luggage dilemma. WHAT IS THE SIZE OF THE CARRY ON LUGGAGE? I’ve got to weigh it? WHAAAAT? Spoiler – A bag plus a laptop, charger, ipad, phone, headphones, charging bank, adapter and a Kindle is over the weight limit, nearly everywhere… need a strategy for stealthing it through check-in / bag drop.
DEAR AIRLINE APP – I CAN’T CHECK-IN UNTIL I’VE GOT MY PCR RESULTS! STOP HASSLING ME!
Back to the packing. How many shoes/socks/shirts/pants/Pants/shorts/sweater (for the air conditioning) do I need? Do I Roll or Fold? (Roll – always) Do I iron now or at the hotel?
WHERE IS MY TRAVEL WASH BAG?
AND THE CONTENTS OF THE BAG?!
THEY CHARGE FOR DROP-OFF???!!! (I’m looking at YOU London Heathrow)
Yes sir you DO need to take your belt off…
And your watch
And you should have emptied your pockets, yes.
My iPad has just set off the bomb detector… (a lot of people were quite interested in me for a few minutes)
Oh – the machine needs the filter changed does it?
Of course there’s paperwork.
Security now a bit apologetic.
No sir you can’t get your stuff out the overhead until AFTER the plane has stopped. Sir SIR!!!
IMMIGRATION AT O’HARE JUST AFTER LUNCH…
Wait wut? 7 minutes? (20 years I’ve been doing ORD Immigration – never done it in 7 mins before, Have I just jumped a stub?)
Friends, drinks, a catch-up, good times.
Pilgrimage to one of the greatest baseball parks IN THE WORLD (pity about the team).
Beer. Hotdogs. More beer. And Hotdogs.
4hrs later! HELLO JETLAG.
It’s good to be back isn’t it?
Charlie Rapple: My packing challenges were exacerbated by having two conferences during the SSP week. I had to plan very carefully as I didn’t have a laundry window in between. And I have very few items of work wear that are currently “comfortable”, for which you can read “that currently fit”. My feet have also forgotten how to wear anything other than Dr. Martens boots, and once I had dismissed most of my footwear options as being too hard to walk in, I had to plan my reduced wardrobe around the only two pairs of shoes I thought would work (top tip #1: never expect to get through a whole conference with only one pair of shoes — blisters ahoy). In my memory, US meeting room air conditioning is much more aggressive than it turned out to be in reality (is there a climate-led turning-up of the thermostat?), so my clothes were all too warm.
But actually the biggest challenge I had was not with packing. It is that my immune system has been wiped out by two years of barely leaving the house.
But actually the biggest challenge I had was not with packing. It is that my immune system has been wiped out by two years of barely leaving the house. I stepped off the plane in Chicago rapidly succumbed to a stomach bug that basically meant I missed the whole conference. So it didn’t really matter that my shoes were uncomfortable, and that my clothes were too warm. Top tip #2: always pack your emergency meds kit (happily, this was still in my suitcase from Before Times). Top tip #3: take snacks for when you assume you will order room service on arrival at your hotel, only to arrive 2 hours later than planned, and discover they no longer offer room service and there is not even a miniature pot of Pringles to see you through the night. (Pringles are a good snack because they cope well with being crammed into your suitcase!)
Oh and P.S. I carefully packed my plug converters .. for New Zealand. Clearly I have forgotten everything I knew about travel. Top tip #4: next time, consult this handy online tool!
Angela Cochran: Packing for SSP was quite the endeavor, made more complicated by the fact that I was staying in Chicago for the ASCO Annual Meeting. I was away for a week and needed professional attire for all days, some of which had to go from conference to fancy dinner without a chance to change. After I straightened out my itinerary and knew where I had to be and when, I laid out my clothes and made a list of the outfits. I then wrote each outfit on a sticky note and attached it to the correct daily itinerary.
This process was over the top even for me. And, it didn’t work. As I unpacked my extra-large suitcase in Chicago, I realized that I left the two dresses behind in Virginia. Two whole outfits were now missing — and the ones that were chosen for day-into-evening attire! Fortunately for me, my hotel was directly across the street from Nordstrom. I darted in and found a fancier top I could wear with one of the three pairs of black pants I brought. Phew!
Two whole outfits were now missing—and the ones that were chosen for day-into-evening attire! Fortunately for me, my hotel was directly across the street from Nordstrom.
Shoes were another problem even though I literally brought 5 pairs. I had to walk back and forth several times a day from the SSP hotel to the ASCO Board meeting hotel (with a pesky river in between) and then my hotel. I resisted the flipflops for obvious professional reasons. I ended up walking between hotels one night barefoot through the streets of Chicago and right then decided that flipflops were a better choice. From that point on, I carried two extra pairs of shoes with me each day.
A few other discoveries — the grab and go, always ready, toiletries bag needed to be trashed. Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and other staples do not age well. I have replaced them all and am ready for the next trip!
Judy Luther: What used to take 30 minutes to pack, now took considerable thought and hours over a period of several weeks. While I’d traveled by air to visit family twice, that was in winter to UT and FL and both were very casual. Packing to meet colleagues I hadn’t seen in two years was the start of re-engaging with my profession in person – in Chicago – in June. Styles have changed during the pandemic with our appearing in boxes on screen from the waist up. Now that it was time to meet in person, it felt like we had all adopted a more casual style. (Which seemed true when I got to SSP.) While more formal wear felt out of step I was able to put together 3 days worth without feeling that the clothes were not a fit for the occasion, including, after some hesitation, workout attire that came in handy. Looking ahead, style and comfort are the order of the day.
Styles have changed during the pandemic with our appearing in boxes on screen from the waist up.
Although I’ve always traveled light, I examined every item questioning whether it would be necessary. Proud of the fact that I had condensed packing only the essentials I opted for a smaller/wider bag as opposed to the narrower and taller version. HA! The overhead cabins in planes have been redesigned on American Airlines and all bags are meant to be turned sideways. Except my bag was too wide so I left it flat expecting other items to be put on top of it. However, as the cabin steward was seeking to accommodate the last few bags for takeoff, she asked ‘Whose bag is this’? I think she knew by the expression on my face (a useless look of panic) that I stopped checking bags years ago. Somehow she managed to arrange the bags in different bins so that it wasn’t necessary to check anyone’s bag. However, memo for the future – narrow and taller are preferred for carry on.
The overhead cabins in planes have been redesigned on American Airlines and all bags are meant to be turned sideways. Except my bag was too wide so I left it flat expecting other items to be put on top of it.
Usually I’d fly into Chicago on Southwest as Midway is more convenient. However, given the pilot shortage with flights being cancelled, I felt I stood a better chance of arriving on time and getting home with American as they have 8 direct flights rather than only 3. That meant flying into O’Hare. The train seemed to be a good option until I realized that they don’t list all the stops and may not announce them as they are listed. This left me wondering if I had missed my stop, so I got off early. While the neighborhood seemed safe, I had no idea where I was. Fortunately, Lyft did know and took me the last leg to the Sheraton where I was warmly greeted. Lyft has been reliable getting me to/from the airport since my parking lot of many years is now closed, and the others are still sorting out their services as demand increases.
David Crotty: Like everyone else here, I had a mad dash around the house, struggling to find all the essentials that used to live in my go-bag that had slowly migrated over the years to unexpected locations. And, yes, I did forget to pack a phone charging cord, so a new one had to be purchased at the airport (Pro Tip: hotels often have lots of cables and chargers left behind by past guests that they’ll let you use, but I needed to charge up before getting on the plane, so I couldn’t wait until after I’d arrived). But I wanted to bring up packing to return home. One of the revelations of the pandemic was that I realized I hadn’t bought pens, notebooks, microfiber screen cleaning cloths, and various other sundry that I’d been supplied with by meeting vendors for years. So it was exciting to have that burden lifted once again, and a special thanks to all the SSP vendors, glad I could fit your gear (barely) into my bag!
Ann Michael: My first business trip was November 2021 to London for ConTech. I’ve since been traveling mostly to locations within a 2-4 hour driving distance. The car was a great way to re-enter. I almost always had a last minute “I’ll throw this in the back seat in case I need it” moment. I gradually got better at selecting what I brought and getting back to my ship shape one carry on and one computer bag domestic flight structure — and back to my don’t-check-bags-if-you-can-help-it target.
But — it took forever to pack. What I was able to do in 15-minutes pre-COVID took me over an hour the first couple of times. I had to try on clothes, remembering that shorts, sweats, and leggings were now off the table since people would actually SEE my bottom half! And shoes — Oh Charlie, I totally relate. It’s only been fuzzy slippers, Rothy’s, running sneakers, or my beat up old lined boots (for winter dog excursions). My feet were totally not looking forward to REAL shoes again. But we managed.
Happy to report that I’m back to my old timing again. Mostly because my toiletries are doubles and pre-packed and I know what fits me. There has been one change, though.
No matter where I go — my fuzzy slippers are coming with me. They’re my little piece of home.
Now it’s your turn! What was it like for YOU to travel the first time since 2020)?