I wrote a couple weeks ago about what to pack when I go to a conference, including my list so that I don't forget anything critical. I'd mentioned then that I had everything I needed for three days (I left on a Sunday and came back on a Wednesday) in a single roll aboard and my, ahem, large purse. Seriously. It's doable.
Granted, if I'm going to a blogger conference, I'm going to generally bring a larger suitcase to check for a few reasons. I'm more likely there to want truly comfortable shoes to walk around in during the day and fun shoes for the parties at night. Plus, with all the brands represented, there are generally gifts to bring home from both them and from the sponsors of the conference via a bag when you check in the first day. While I am very careful to ensure that I'm only bringing home things that we are truly interested in and passing along to other attendees anything that we won't use. Who needs more "stuff" in their house anyway?
That said, I've got some secrets to ensure everything fits - especially on the way home. While I don't have vacuum sealing bags, I know people who swear by them. That doesn't work on gift-y items, however, just clothes. And I'm always concerned that packing that tightly with clothes means any checked bags will go over the 50 pound maximum and get a hefty excess weight fee.
I have other secrets, the first of which is wearing clothes in a single color palette so I don't have to bring as many shoes or sweaters to toss over my clothes or even pants, since I can reuse them from day to day. The other fun one I learned a long time ago is to roll my clothes. Yep, instead of folding them and laying them in the suitcase, I roll them tightly and place them in. If it's something that you worry about wrinkling, use a dry cleaner bag outside it, then roll it. It's amazing the reduction in wrinkles you'll see just from packing an item of clothing inside a dry cleaner's bag. Try it. It's amazing how much more will fit in a suitcase by rolling. This is my 20 inch roll aboard suitcase with three days' worth of clothing rolled up. And look at how much more room I have for everything else on my list!
When you leave the conference, it's a whole lot harder to get everything to fit because of the gifts you've received. You did remember to leave extra space in your suitcase, right? The other alternative is to ship your items home, but that's frequently more expensive than checking your bag, although not always. Once you've sorted through what you truly want and will use, remove as many items from the packaging as possible. Do you really want to take up valuable space (and weight!) with plastic and cardboard? That makes a huge difference, right there.
You want to ensure that you stack your suitcase effectively, so use soft items (clothing, generally) to fill in the uneven areas in the bottom of your suitcase so that you have a level surface if you don't already. Then put your larger items in first, packing smaller items around them to maximize space. And those smaller soft items - especially if they're dirty already because you've worn them - stuff them inside shoes and other items that have empty space inside them. You can do it. It sometimes just takes a little effort.
So have you started packing yet? Where will I see you this year?