Blog

How I Pack for Travel to WordCamps and Conferences

What’s in my Bag, 2018 Edition

I’ve seen plenty of these types of posts, and can understand the popularity, since I end up comparing everything that I have to the people posting, trying to see where I can improve my travel or everyday carry gear. 

Most recently, Matt Mullenweg did his annual “What’s in my Bag” post, and since I was preparing to go to php[World] to give a workshop on WordPress theme development, as well as have my third conversation in a week around Ethics on the Web, I thought I’d document my packing, since I try to be organized for each trip that I take.

Matt and many of the others that document their packing showcase more of the things that they use as heavy travelers, including a heavy focus on quality of goods. While I like things that work and don’t break, I also don’t travel nearly as much and can get by with a bit less overall. My list is a bit less “here are the best headphones that you can get” and more “here’s what I pack for those few times that I use wired headphones”.

Before I start the list, I want to thank SiteGround for helping to sponsor some of my travel as one of their WordPress Ambassadors. I use them for most of my hosting, and if you are interested in giving them a try I can answer questions that you may have. I also have a discount that you can get for discounted WordPress hosting, and full disclosure, it’s an affiliate link as well.

Now that I’m at it, a few of the products linked below go to Amazon, which are also affiliate links. I wouldn’t push anyone to buy things that I don’t use, and as you see below, even necessarily buy anything if what you have already works for you.


A numbered picture of items that I pack for trips
  1. Electronics Bag – I think this originally came with a tent to hold stakes and ropes. Hopefully that tent can still secure itself to the ground without this handy canvas bag that I put electronics in.
  2. Jetpack Bags – These are little nylon bags that I got at some WordCamp or another where Jetpack sponsored and gave these away. Next time they have them I’m grabbing a few more since they’ve been great for holding together little items. My only complaint is that the zipper opens toward the loop, making it easier to open than close them.
  3. Kobo Aura Edition 2 – OverDrive and Pocket sync directly to this e-reader, giving it a leg up over the Kindle for me. I’m trying out a tablet again right now, but this is the majority of my entertainment in down-time while traveling.
  4. USB C Battery Pack – The one that I bought is no longer available on Amazon, but the linked one is cheaper and higher rated, so bonus for you! I am trying to use USB C for all devices where possible now, but this charger has USB A as well. I have a beefier charger that can add even more power to my laptop, but I rarely use it and this is smaller.
  5. USB Hub – Two USB C ports, four USB A, 60W total, 45W USB C meaning it can charge my laptop and all other devices. Saves carrying multiple chargers around.
  6. Cable for USB Hub
  7. Chromecast – For the few hotels/AirBnBs that this actually works it makes it a lot easier to stream videos.
  8. Business Cards – I was gifted this wallet/bottle opener by an Automattician at a WordCamp and I feel bad that I can’t remember the URL to the store.
  9. Field Notes – When buying these small notebooks I go for the Expedition Field Notes, since they are waterproof and tear proof. Enough sponsors give them as conference swag now that I don’t think I’ll have to buy one for quite a while 😄
  10. Fisher Space Pen – I hate having to search for a pen, and having to try to scribble it to life when I find one. One of these stays in my pocket at all times and can always produce a steady flow of ink.
  11. Mini Router – This is a newer addition so I can’t say how great it is or not, but appears to work so far. A tiny, programmable router/repeater that can use ethernet, wifi, or a tethered phone to provide a secure wifi network with OpenVPN on the go. Bonus for regular travelers with multiple devices is that you no longer need to keep entering new networks once you have the network that you setup saved. Can be powered via battery pack.
  12. USB C Hub – Hub to turn USB C port of many modern laptops into a pass through charger, HDMI, USB A, and SD/Micro SD reader.
  13. USB C to 3.5mm headphone jack, since I don’t rely on bluetooth headphones when traveling much.
  14. WordCamp Orlando and FixUpFox stickers because who doesn’t love giving away swag?
  15. Wapuu pins from WordCamp Orlando 2018 thanks to wapu.us also to gift nerdy conference folks.
  16. Ethernet cable for router on the off chance I have access somewhere.
  17. USB A to micro cable
  18. Longer USB A to micro cable
  19. Raw Wallet with ID and credit cards. I prefer minimalist wallets to avoid having to carry too much and fit it in my pocket.
  20. Some cash stored in bag instead of wallet for my paranoia of losing one or the other.
  21. Gum for plane pressure changes and banishing coffee breath.
  22. Nail clippers because I have a bad chewing habit that I’m trying to break.
  23. Microfiber cleaning cloth – The cloth that comes with a Macbook has been the best to get smudges off of devices and my glasses. I ended up buying a pack of similar ones since the freebies just end up smearing it around.
  24. Spare glasses from Eye Buy Direct. These have a blue-screen coating for us screen starers, though they’re a little tight on my temples. The non-coated pair that I wear daily I paid around $7 for, including shipping, and I think they look nice. Never going to get caught up in another store selling plastic frames for hundreds of dollars then not honoring their warranty when they break.
  25. USB C cable for device charging
  26. USB C to USB A 3.0 adapter since not everything has caught up yet.
  27. Headphones that came with some iDevice or another, so they can skip and pause songs on my Android phone but not control volume. I haven’t found an Android specific pair cheap enough to offset the handful of times I ever use these.
  28. USB flash drives, including a USB A/C combo drive with some dev tools preloaded for when I give WordPress workshops and someone doesn’t have a development environment setup yet.
  29. Whatever meds I’m currently taking in a little pill pack plus aspirin since I’m supposed to not be taking #30.
  30. Some ibuprofen that is basically for others since I’m trying to stop taking any.
  31. When the microfiber cloth isn’t enough, these wet wipes clean screens and lenses well.
  32. A few bandages for my clumsy self.
  33. Hand sanitizer that has way too strong of a scent but is tiny.
  34. A snack because I am pretty much always snacking 🍫

Two things matter to me with what I pack: portability, and price. I agree that it’s worth it to buy quality, but I also think that the amount that I use some of these things makes it irresponsible for me to spend more to get the absolute best. If you remove the Kobo and cash from the above picture, I’m estimating under $200 for everything else, most of it getting use outside of travel too and purchased over time. I don’t want anyone overspending trying to put together the perfect travel gear, especially if you travel as often or less than I do, which is generally 6-10 times per year.

All of the above looks like a lot, but condenses pretty well into the electronics bag and the two Jetpack bags, minus the glasses and Kobo which I keep out. One of the Jetpack bags goes in the front pocket of my backpack with things like my wallet, notebook and pen, headphones, pills, and snack for easy access during travel. The rest goes into the main compartment with the electronics and clothing.

My carryon items packed into smaller bags

I listened to an episode of the WPMRR podcast yesterday where the hosts mentioned that dressing up for a WordCamp or developer conference if you don’t normally would make you stand out in not a good way. Thankfully those are what I travel to most, since t-shirt and jeans is my comfort zone.

A numbered picture of the clothing that I pack for trips

I generally pack for the number of days that I intend on traveling plus one. Since the trip that this was for was three days, that means that I packed four t-shirts, four pairs of underwear, and four pairs of socks (#2, #5, #6). I also knew that it would be cold, so I packed a heavier hoodie that I got from the Nintendo World store (#1), as well as a lighter SiteGround one (#4). Finally for clothing I brought a pair of comfortable shorts for lounging in the hotel room (#3).

Rounding out my bag are the items from the above list (#9, #11, #12, #13), an unnecessarily large bag of toiletries that I’ve since pared down (#10), my laptop and a sleeve since I’m giving a workshop (#7), and a SiteGround backpack that was ordered by someone who clearly travels a lot with a carry-on and wanted something useful, including compression straps, zipper covers, a padded back, and chest and waist straps.

I’ve been trying to travel without my laptop on trips where I am not doing workshops or code demonstrations to take a bit of time off of staring at the screen all day. I’ve begun to learn that it’s OK to let clients know if I’m out, and schedule around trips.

Admittedly, the bag is fairly full, thanks to the larger hoodie that I had to pack, but I can often leave that at home. All of the above totaled about 14.4 pounds, but the laptop and thick hoodie take up about 4.8 pounds, which means I could generally travel carrying a bag of 10 pounds or less.


I’m heading to WordCamp US next week in Nashville, and will be gone for a similar length of time. I’ll still have to pack the big hoodie, but may leave the laptop at home, since it’s doubtful I’ll even open it much with the schedule as packed as it is.

When I come back from a trip I notice how much of what I packed doesn’t get used at all. For this trip, as an example, I used maybe 60% of what I brought. Of course plenty of those things are of the “just in case” variety, but I am always finding things that don’t really get used and can be dropped or picked up where I travel if really needed.

So that’s my long post about what I pack for travel. What about you? Share a link to what you keep in your bag, whether for travel or every day use!

My Ideal Note Service

I wrote recently about using Boostnote, and why I’ve chosen that over other apps for the time being. It is not perfect though, and I’ve been thinking through all of the things that a perfect writing and reading app would have for me.

There are a few things that I’d love to have, and while I’m sure that I didn’t list them all below, I’ve been considering what I’d like to see.

General Features

These are the must haves for a note taking app for me:

Markdown

This should be a given thanks to how popular it is, and how much compatibility there is. It is cleaner than rich text editors, and easier to use while writing than HTML or other markup formats.

Boostnote markdown screenshot
Boostnote offers a side-by-side view for Markdown

Spell Check

This is something that Boostnote doesn’t have, which is unfortunate. Considering that the Gutenberg editor currently doesn’t perform spell check when content is pasted in, I need to manually check content again currently.

Offline & Online Access, Cloud & Local Storage

Having my notes in more than one place is important. I rarely type on my phone but I often consult on it. That also means that I want to be able to work on my computer, but also get to those files elsewhere. Cloud storage will handle the portability, while maintaining local copies, which some apps don’t do, will allow functions to work quicker and be accessible when the internet itself aint.

General File Type Support

As many file types as possible! Of course files that contain text and code, but also images, non-text PDFs, and more. Anything consumable that does not need to be executed separately, preferably.

Outlining and File Linking

I am trying to get better about outlining work before I start. Even if that means creating a series of headings and subheadings that I can fill out later, I’ve got some sort of framework for what I’m writing. Some tools have this built in as a feature.

File linking would also come into play here, where I could indicate that another stored file relates to this file. Evernote Premium has their suggestion feature, where it finds notes that it thinks are related, but I want to specifically indicate that I want to see a certain file related in a certain place. Boostnote has this covered, and I can even share links to specific notes across my machine.

Bonus: External Content Features

My ideal note app would also be able to handle external content as a reader and storage container. One reason for this would be to have a storehouse of research to use while I’m writing. This is probably the hardest thing to find in the same app, but if it exists, here’s what I’d want:

Permanent Archiving

This is something that Pocket Premium gets me, but not by default with most “save for later” style reading services. Basically, after the content has been stripped out of whatever page it was pulled from, a local copy would be saved. This ensures that it’s available even after link-rot or total removal from the web.

Automated Tagging, Folders, & Full Text Search

I don’t like to spend a lot of time sorting my notes. I do like to sort notes into folders, but that’s mainly because it’s a shorthand mental model and way to filter to view specific categories. Pocket Premium will suggest tags, but I want something that can just handle adding those tags from the start. Additionally, some form of index that allows timely full text search would be very useful.

Search of Documents and PDFs / OCR

Optical Character Recognition was one of those nice bonuses that Evernote Premium offers. I could use a scanner to save paper documents that I might need one day but might not, and have them uploaded and taking advantage of that cloud storage. This feature has already been useful for me in the past, and something that I’d love to keep.

Evernote search screenshot
Searching for my name pulls up scanned images of docs with it. On the desktop app it even highlights exactly where it is!

Annotation of Documents and Other Files

Another feature that I’ve seen used heavily in Evernote, but that I don’t personally use, is annotation. You can save images or files to Evernote, make marks over them, and share those files directly with others. When using a screenshot of a site to note an issue with it, this makes communication a lot more clear.

Integration with Other Apps

Since I’m writing a wishlist here, I’ll add that I want to be able to integrate with other apps. Let me use Spotlight and Alfred to search for notes and open the app to that specific note. Let me share them across a variety of cloud services. Let me authenticate with Github and share a note as a gist (and pull gists in as notes).

Why am I writing all of this?

This is mainly a wishlist of what I would like in an ideal note and reader combo app. I’m getting to the point where I’m wondering if it’s worth the effort to try to create my own. In my Boostnote post I mentioned how many other apps that I found that do similar things. I think that there might be an overabundance of this type of app, but I also acknowledge that both writing and reading apps can be highly personal due to how they are used for creation and consumption. It only makes sense that when you can’t find what you want you’d yearn to make your own.

Is there a magical note editor that has most of the features that I want that I haven’t seen yet? Got any suggestions for me, or other features you think are important?

New Communities Can Be Overwhelming

I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the IndieWeb space this year, with the intention of revamping my lifelogging site to both include more services that I still use (and remove the fitness tracking that I decided to stop), as well as become a repository for webmentions.

I started using webmentions on this site, and have been working to integrate the social accounts that I still use together and create a new template more geared toward sharing and displaying information in a canonical area. My need to control and own my data and information is coming around to the point that I’m finding a whole community of people who do the same with their websites.

The issue with a new community is the amount of work that can go into it. I’ve been listening to podcasts, reading articles and W3C specs, and watching git repos and discussion channels. I’m getting close to overwhelming myself with the amount of information that I’m consuming in pursuit of leveling up my knowledge before attempting to make any sort of a presence.

I don’t really have any reason to do this. When I started with the WordPress community I was just some guy who’d been using it for a few years and had never met anyone else just to talk websites. That slowly grew into whatever this is that I do now. I should take a similar approach with a new community, but instead I’m getting too inside my own head.

So my goal now is to start participating, even just to say hey to that existing community of IndieWeb aficionados. I’ve got lots of projects that I want to work on, more than I have time for, but in the meantime maybe there’s something that I know how to do that I can help someone else there with.

After all, the best way to learn is to help others.

WordPress 15th Birthday Party!

Thanks to @SomethingSoSam for the cupcakes!

Tonight we hosted our WordPress 15th Anniversary party at Geek Easy. Yesterday I talked about my introduction to WordPress, but today we just hung out.

For the rest of the day I worked on some IndieAuth integration setup, and some prep work for a new theme.

Then I realized that I didn’t blog today, and at the very least I’ve gotta get this up. Four straight weeks, can’t stop now!

WordPress is 15! Here’s how I found this community.

15 years ago today, WordPress first became available.

WordPress 15th Anniversary Sticker

As WordPress swiftly moves towards its next iteration, with the Gutenberg editor part of core, I want to look back a bit on my time with WordPress.

I had been a professional web developer for several years before I discovered WordPress. My Javascript skills weren’t (and I’d say still aren’t) that great, but PHP was something that I used day to day at work. I think that I came into WordPress a lot differently than many other self taught developers that I know in that regard.

My Introduction to WordPress

I was working for a company doing rote data entry in early 2008, while building small sites for clients on the side. I had seen a basic CMS before, having used CushyCMS as directed by some past clients. The concept of storing content separate of the template files wasn’t pressing though, and I was still working in individual HTML and PHP files using Dreamweaver.

While looking around at some options I stumbled upon WordPress, though I honestly can’t say that I remember where or how I was introduced to it. I do know that I was tasked with helping the company that I worked for build a new website for themselves. This would be my introduction to WordPress, as well as my introduction to doing jobs well above my pay grade for close to minimum wage. That part certainly hasn’t changed for a lot of agencies around Orlando.

Before building the company site I decided to test out this software that was still known primarily for blogging. At the time that I started, version 2.5 or one of its maintenance releases would have been the newest version of WordPress, well before version 3.0 where WordPress Multisite, custom menus, custom post types, and custom taxonomies were part of WordPress core. At that time it definitely still fit the blog category more readily without those features.

So I started a blog. I was a collector and trader of classic video games and memorabilia, and I enjoyed playing old NES games. At the time I was attempting to slowly build a collection of all official (and some unofficial) NES cartridges, barring the few that were several thousand dollars. That was approximately 679 US released games, with a few dozen more foreign exclusives. I made it to about 200 games before I got rid of the collection a year later, which is another story in itself. I didn’t finish that project.

But I did finish the blog. It’s offline now, which is just as well since I didn’t realize at the time that my chosen domain misused the Nintendo copyright, and they were getting into their litigious phase with fans. I would blog about some of the games that I was playing and give them reviews. Not nearly as fancy as the people who do this on YouTube for a living, but it was fun.

My Next Steps

After starting that blog and working on the company site I was hooked on WordPress. I left the company for a job that was actually about web development before the site was complete, but the actual developer at the old company did eventually finish it and put it up.

I spent the next few years at two companies doing WordPress development, which was becoming higher in demand. Those new features appeared, and made it even easier to create sites for businesses and marketing efforts, which really did democratize the web for a lot of people.

I visited the wordpress.org support forums a few times in this period, but don’t think that I ever posted, just read. That’s also a habit that I keep to this day with most sites: I lurk around for years before I sign up, if ever.

Even having seen those forums it didn’t really click for me that there were people behind WordPress. Software was still this far away thing for me where someone made it and I consumed it. If I had a problem that I couldn’t solve, I chose new software or did without.

It was only when I was into that second job that I met another developer who was part of a local technical community and I saw that people actually met up to discuss and build things for the web.

WordPress Orlando Organizers and Matt Mullenweg
Having Matt Mullenweg stop by your Meetup is ????????????

My Introduction to the Community

In late 2011 the WordPress Orlando Meetup was started, and I made sure to make it to the very first meeting. I didn’t know anyone there at the time, but for a new event around a piece of software, there were a lot of people that showed up. I met a few people at that first meeting who are still involved with the group to this day.

I spoke with some folks there and mentioned that I build WordPress sites for a living, something that only a few other people there seemed to do, as most were users of the tool for their own businesses. I quickly got involved with giving presentations on things around WordPress, and was helping set up some events and speakers right away. I became a co-organizer quickly, and within two years was the only remaining organizer, making me the de facto lead when we got pulled into the WordPress Foundation.

Fast forward nearly seven years and we put on multiple events each month with a group of about ten organizers. We also restarted the defunct WordCamp Orlando in late 2012, and I’ve been involved in a variety of roles with a slightly larger group of organizers ever since.

(By the way, our call for speakers and call for volunteers are both open for 2018!)

In between I have attended several dozen WordCamps, speaking at a good portion of them, and making lots of friends along the way. At this point the majority of my social life revolves around the community, which has helped to give me so much that it only makes sense to keep giving back.

A few of the WordCamp and web conference badges that I’ve collected through the years.

15 Years and Onward!

I’m happy to be included in a group of some of the smartest, kindest, and most helpful people that I could hope for. It’s not always the easiest when there is so much coordination and a lot of personalities to keep together, but it’s been worth it for me. It is not an exaggeration to say that discovering WordPress changed the course of my life.

WordPress is one of the rare open source software releases that is still actively developed 15 years after initial release, especially at such a regular pace. The community is thriving, and I hope to see Gutenberg and other future thinking tools continue to improve WordPress for a long time.

Here’s to the past 15, and here’s to 15 more!

WordPress stickers and pins