A messenger bag
Last year, I carried a backpack. While it worked great for carrying everything, it was heavy and killed my back. It was also bulky, which made navigating through the crowds and finding space to store it in some sessions difficult. In a couple sessions, I ended up having to put it on the floor in front of me and prop my feet on it. Thankfully, I'm short; otherwise I would have had my knees up around my chin.
Using a smaller bag will force me to limit what I take with me so weight won't be as much of an issue. The smaller size will also make it easier to move through crowds of people and should fit easily underneath my chair while I'm in sessions.
I have a leather portfolio that I received as a gift when I graduated high school. Eleven years later, I'm still using it. On one side it has an address book, a calculator, space to hold three pens, two slots for business cards, and a couple pockets for holding miscellaneous papers. The other side holds a legal pad. I used the portfolio at last year's expo and it was great. It gave me a place to hold my printouts from the syllabus and business cards I had printed up; contained the handouts, business cards and fliers I received at the conference; and gave me a hard surface for taking notes.
A tablet (hopefully)
When I attended last year's conference, I wanted my research files on hand in case I ran into a possible connection. At the time, I had one huge binder for all my files so I added it to my backpack. It was extremely heavy and definitely contributed to the strain on my back, neck and shoulders. I'm in the process of finding a tablet so I can load my files on it and carry it instead.
If I don't get a tablet in time, I'll take our Ipod Touch and load a genealogy app on it. While it has a much smaller screen, it will serve the same purpose as the tablet and won't add much weight. The tablet or Ipod will also allow me to tweet from the conference. While I did tweet using my phone last year, I prefer a bigger screen than the one my phone has.
I actually took my camera with me last year, but for some reason never took a single picture. When I got home and went to write about my experience at my first ever genealogy conference, I was kicking myself because I didn't have pictures to memorialize what was an amazing experience for me. The camera is coming with me again this year and it will be used.
My Flip-Pal (maybe)
I'm a book lover. I currently have five bookcases set up in my home, all full of books, and I actually need a couple more bookcases so I can unpack the rest of my books. So any exhibit that has books is at the top of my list when I visit the exhibit hall. I came across a couple books last year that had information that would be helpful in my research. Unfortunately, my budget wasn't enough to buy them so I resorted to jotting down the titles and authors and hoping my local library had a copy (they didn't).
I'm debating about bringing my Flip-Pal this year. If I only need a page or two of a particular book, the Flip-Pal will allow me to scan just what I need, rather than breaking my budget buying an entire book or set of books when I only actually need a few pages.
I also have tentative plans to meet with a cousin that lives nearby while I'm in the area. This cousin has been researching our family for over ten years and has amassed a lot of photographs and documents, many of which I don't have. If I take the Flip-Pal, I can scan the ones I'm interested in.
My migraine medicine
I never leave home without it. Even though I'm aware of my triggers and avoid them whenever possible, occasionally a migraine will strike for no apparent reason. If I wait too long to take my medicine or don't have it to take, I can easily be laid up for several days until it abates. After saving all year to be able to attend the conference, I would hate to miss it, not to mention have the added cost of a longer hotel stay.
In the cooler months, I frequently have a cough and/or tickle in my throat due to the dry heat provided by heating systems. Sucking on candy will help keep my mouth and throat moist so I don't have to leave a session because I'm coughing and miss out on learning needed information.
Snacks and drinks
I learned last year that conference food is expensive. The selection is also very limited. Since it was in Georgia, birthplace of Coca-Cola, the convention center only had Coke products in the machines. I'm a die-hard Pepsi addict so I had to leave and go to a nearby store to get my caffeine fix. This year I'm packing some crackers, cereal/energy bars and my Pepsi so if I get hungry or thirsty, I have something on hand. I'm also going to have a small cooler in the car so I can replenish if I run low.
A long sleeved button down shirt
When I was researching what to bring with me last year, one suggestion I saw a lot was to bring a sweater or jacket because some classrooms may be cold. I ended up putting one of my light jackets in my backpack and put a heavier one in the car in case the light jacket wasn't enough. As it turns out, my light jacket worked a little too well. In the classrooms that were cold, I would put the jacket on, only to have to take it off a little while later because I got hot.
This year, I'm switching to a long sleeved button down shirt, one of my husband's flannel shirts that I
Some of my family (Maybe)
When my sisters and I were young, my mom started tracing her side of the family. She ended up stopping because she had so much going on, she didn't have the time to devote to it. She has given me a lot of information on her side of the family and she loves hearing about what I have uncovered. Now that she's retired, I'm trying to talk her into getting back into it.
Since I've been talking about last year's conference ever since I got back, she's now interested in going herself. If she does, I'm hoping to convince her to attend the sessions that I can't and take notes for me. There's so many to choose from that I have a hard time narrowing it down to just one and I always end up wondering if I missed out on that one critical piece of information I needed by choosing one session over another.
My daughter, sister and niece may also be going with me. My daughter is five and I've only been away from her overnight for four nights her entire life-one night I spent in the emergency room, two nights last year when I attended the expo, and one night a couple months ago when my mom and I went to a concert . Even though I was only gone a couple days for the last conference, we missed each other terribly.
Since she's out of school anyway for the Veteran's Day holiday, my plan is for her to go with me and stay at the hotel with my sister and niece. That way I can see her in the morning, at lunch break and in the evening. Plus I'll be close enough to get to her fast if she needs me, something that bothered me a lot last year since I was three hours away if something happened.
Last year, I had arranged a schedule of childcare that covered school, her grandparents and my husband so I knew she was taken care of, but I still worried. I'm a mom. That's what we do.