Travel essentials for writers and book lovers
In 2019, before the world changed, I went on four work trips and one vacation. It was more flying than I've ever done in a single year before. Then, of course, all the traveling stopped. When I finally got ready to board a plane again in October 2021, I felt like I was relearning how to pack, particularly when it came to books and writing tools. Were four books and a kindle too many for a six-day trip? Maybe? Who can know!
Part of the issue is that I like to have options. Typically, I have at least two books going at any one time, one on audio and one in print. When I travel, though, something comes over me that makes me think this is the trip when I’m going to read at an unusually fast pace and obviously I need multiple books in different genres to meet my insatiable reading needs.
The same thing happens with writing tools. Could I write on my work laptop if the mood struck? Absolutely. Will I also bring at least one notebook and my iPad/keyboard combo? Also absolutely.
If you too are prone to packing too many books and notebooks for a simple one-week trip, this post is for you. It includes my shortlist of absolute must-brings as a traveling writer and book lover. For the purposes of quantities, let’s say this a list is for a one-week trip.
Two physical books: I like to take two books in different genres to keep things interesting. I also prefer one of the selections to be a collection of sorts so I can dip in and out as desired. For example, maybe you bring a novel and a collection of essays. (If you’re looking for suggestions, check out my lists of fiction and non-fiction book recommendations.)
Kindle or another e-reader (and charger): This is usually my backup plan in case neither of my two physical books hit the spot or I finish them too quickly. It’s also great if you have digital ARCs to get through like I did during my October trip. I currently use a super old Kindle Paperwhite (like we’re talking one of the first generations here) and I love that its sole purpose is reading and there’s no screen glare.
Audiobooks on your phone and headphones: Personally, I use the Libby app through our public library, but you could also use Libro.fm or Audible. I find that audiobooks are especially nice when your flight experiences turbulence because they bypass the potential motion sickness.
Two bookmarks: Listen, you might lose one. Or what if you want to start both physical books?
Post-it notes or book darts: Really just something to mark any pages, paragraphs, or sentences you’d like to return to or jot down later.
A thin notebook: Particularly for travel, I really love these notebooks from Rifle Paper Co. They’re super thin and lightweight and won’t add too much bulk to an already full bookbag.
Pens: I like to have at least three. Call me overly cautious, but I’d hate to be without a pen when I need one. My favorites are the 05 Micron pens.
A laptop or iPad/keyboard combo: I’m guessing you probably already travel with some version of this, but it’s especially important for us writers. Make sure your current work in progress is backed up and accessible for your trip before you leave home.
A large bag that fits under your seat: This is going to be what holds all your books, electronics, and notebooks for easy access during the flight. I alternate between a canvas and leather tote bag from Barnes & Noble circa 2013 and a backpack.
Space/an extra tote for books purchased while traveling: I can’t be the only one who likes to visit a local bookstore while I’m traveling. Save yourself the headache and bring an extra bag or save some space (do you need that extra pair of shoes??) for your inevitable book purchases.
Do you also overpack books and writing materials? What’s your strategy for reading and writing while traveling?