Bellydancers who Travel: Tips for packing

Welcome back fearless readers. I have a fun new blog for you about packing!

I realized some time ago that packing for dance trips was always extremely stressful for me and it didn’t seem to matter if it was a day trip- a weekend trip or a week long trip I was always stressed, and I was *always* over packing and taking weeks to achieve.

June 5th -9th was my first Suhaila Level 3 (SL3), the first to be held outside of the United States in Sweden.  Sweden is a friendly and affordable, and bonus it values coffee “breaks”, so much so it has it’s own name- the Fika. And if you know me- I highly value my coffee.  It seemed like a great opportunity to travel and do my workshop, so I went all in!

If you are not familiar with the Salimpour School, it’s fair to say the intensives are- intense, require substantial planning and training.  The SL3 is no different and my training plan was rigorous and extensive (if you want to know why there haven’t been many sewing posts- now you know!). Ultimately this meant I had been trying to plan and pack in advance and eventually got all my ducks in a row- and then repeated the process for the repeat July SL3 in CA!  All battled tested and travel sorted!

So here’s a quick (not) video of my talking about some of my things and then the list of tricks below!

“General Good God Damn Advice”

“Take only what you need”

Mahin of the Daily Bellydance Qiuckies and Shes Got Hips is a regular minimalist traveler and we had a great conversation about how she travels so light when she tours for 2-3 weeks with essentially a pack and one travel suit case.

I loved her tip “take only what you need- not what you think you need” 

If you actually need it- odds are you can go buy it somewhere locally.  Take only the essentials and what you can’t get that you absolutely need.

“CC and Upgrade Ya”

Suhaila Salimpour is regular globe trotter and after years of travel is a firm believer in the extra comfort. Anyone who travels a lot and is an athlete- needs the space and comfort. And the more I travel- the more I agree- I look for things that make my life easier for travelling, my bags carry themselves or reduce my over all load and stress.   Any chance I’ve had to upgrade to more leg room or even business class- I 100% do it. I feel so much better when I have more leg room and more lay back space. It’s divine!


Sabriye Tekbilek also makes regular trips back and forth from Sweden, Egypt and the US and her major advice was HYDRATE- plans and travelling and workshops are a combination of ALL THE DEHYDRATION- so bring your water bottle or buy a big one and drink lots.   Yes- being an adult and having a good cocktail for travel is lovely but having water and staying hydrated is super critical.


This one is one of my own personal rules. I am chronically hungry and have sometimes a persnickety GI track, so I make a great effort to maintain my most consistent food choices and not eat extravagantly just because. (least not till after the workshop!)  I stick with consistent foods and chicken and veggies and I tend to be more cognizant of when my food schedule is not always knowing where my next meal might be coming from so I always eat before the the plane and have breakfast before my workshops!

“Plan your packing”

Seems silly right? But I took Aziza’s workshop at AOTB about dance craft and one of her big suggestions was packing cubes like these here“keep organized”  was the initial suggestion followed up by color coded packing cubes!

It was helpful for me I found to have 2 different types- I had smaller slightly structured ones for smaller toiletries and underwear and things that get lost in a bag and then the larger ones for all my clothes and my costume skirts.

For my homework and paper work- I ordered these mesh zip pouches. They are mostly water proof (other than the zipper) hold full sized 8.5 x 11″ documents and are color coded. I use them for my dance notes and all my magazines that I have cut up for collages.

“Pre-pack and practice”

Something I’ve learned for myself AND from other professional travelers is – pre-pack everything. Once you’ve made a trip packing list, and you have some time lay it all out where you can see it.  Look for redundancies, eliminate what you can and once you think you’ve done that, then pack it up. If you’re using a back pack- try packing the bag and taking it with you for a few days to make sure you have everything you need.

For my make up- I have been travelling so much I went ahead and built a travel make up kit. I invested specifically in separate brushes and built two small eye shadow pallets from Make Up Geek and Karity I don’t have to stock anything but liquids (primer/foundation/glue/mascara) that I can grab and go.  Once I built my kit- I started using it- I used it at home and I traveled with it and figured out if I really did have everything I needed. Once I used it 3 or 4 times and figured out what I didn’t have or if I had duplicates I cleaned it up and was ready to roll.  That in and of itself has been a HUGE stress relief- I have a lot of make up and constantly packing it up to go was really anxiety inducing.  And if little things like that stress you out, go ahead, invest in something that will solve the problem.  Travelling and dancing is supposed to be fun, not anxiety producing. Followed up with I got this fancy new Henry Charles make up bag– you can see my initial unboxing here:

Get yourself a travel mirror too- I recommend this other Donna inspired purchase Just Own it, it doesn’t have to be THIS one specifically- but get any one with a built in light. Going to hotels and venues with no lighting and no mirrors is THE WORST.

“Get your electrics sorted”

Electronics are pretty much mandatory these days for travel, music, headphones, movies etc. In my case- I needed a lap top not just for entertainment purposes but for homework assignments- so a computer and access to a printer. Important questions to ask: what do you need, can you charge it, do you have a back up and how are you organizing your cables?

Power Pack: If you don’t have a power pack- consider purchasing one like this (there are tons out there- just do some research and get one that makes you happy)

Power Adapters/Converters: If you’re travelling internationally you need power adapters AND power converters. Not only are the plug configurations different but so are the power capacities- don’t just get an adapter that allows you plug into the wall- make sure you have one that allows you to step the power down/up as needed based on the country you are in because they are all not the same. Something like these– you can check on line and figure out which ones you need to bring with you in advance.

Cable Adapters/Organizers: if you have a lot of cables- having  way to reduce the clutter or organize them well is super important! consider a kit like THIS to reduce clutter. Nothing is worse than trying to find your charge at the bottom of the bag and you have to dig through every cable BUT the one for your phone!  This helps cut down on all the cables and you can make do with one or two and just use an adapter for you other equipment.

Noise Cancelling Headphones: If you don’t have them- get them- they are essential for flying.

Bluetooth Headphones: Yes- I do indeed travel with two sets of headphones- if you’re going to an intensive- odds are high you need blue tooth headphones for running homework and choreos on your own in the quiet.

Travel Specific Items

Travel Wallet: this was new for me- I picked up this fun travel wallet from this “Amazon Travel Essentials” video and I’m really glad I did. It’s pretty much essential to have a wallet large enough to keep all your things together so it’s easy to access your ID/passpord/cards and money.  Hunting through your bag to find your passport at the air port when you get off the plane is THE WORST. If not this some sort of other semi large clutch- OR bag (like a fanny pack) is super helpful- just keeps everything handy and accessible instead of juggling through your bag.

Space Saver Bags: There are a few versions of this- the ziplock self roll kind– and the original space saver bag. The travel bags either roll to compress or have a little hand pump.  The hand pump works better at compression but the one downside to more compression (YAY SCIENCE) is the same stuff packed in a smaller space = density. Super dense things are hard. I was genuinely concerned about my make up and my light being packed so tightly against such rigid structures.  So SUPER helpful for reducing space- but if you have fragile items- I’d recommend packing them in a separate bag or not compressing the clothing as much.

Luggage: I’ve been schelping my shit for years, usually my gym back and a back pack. The older I get- the less I like it and the more intense the workshops- the more annoyed and frustrated I get at having to juggle my baggage.  On top of that for these workshops, homework, textbooks, a costume/cover up, gig dress and workout clothes are mandatory- so there is no “one bag travel” minimalist shit going on for this type of event. sure that works for vacationing- but this is not vacation.

Everyone’s needs are different, and how you set up your baggage will depend on what you have and what you need and what you’re comfortable managing.

For my SL3 trip to Sweden- I decided it was finally time to invest and get set up right. I thought I’d want 2 rolling suit cases and a back pack.  After purchasing these two super fun unicorn luggage cases, one over head sized and one checked (pro tip- don’t by black luggage is so easy to lose them or for someone else to grab them) – I realized I really did NOT want to juggle two rolling suit cases and a bag. I also didn’t want a duffle bag.  I eventually settled on this little Samsonite “under the seat” rolling case. it’s small enough to stow under the seat- but has a handle and wheels so you don’t have to actually carry it.  It also has the strap that allows you to stack it on the larger suit case’s handle so you can roll them all as one unit.

For me it was the perfect solution for my space issue- and the second I repacked my things I felt instantly better and knew this was the right set up for me.   The upside to this little rolling case is that it allows you to take it to a one off gig with your costume. If you only travel with a larger checked suit case and a back pack- there isn’t a convenient way to get your costume to your gig- it’s either shove it in the back pack (fine- but kind of unprofessional) or you have to lug your over sized bag to where ever your going with one tiny costume in it.  This was perfect for me.

Some of the things I really liked about this little roller was that it has a lap top pouch or a tablet pouch- and I could put my  lighted mirror  (side note- if you don’t have one- you need one- it’s 100% worth the investment) and keep it safe- it’s a little bulkier than a lap top and I was terrified to pack it in my luggage. This allowed me to pack it safely with my stuff and not have to keep it on my back.

This was the perfect size for my books and my make up. Make up is an investment- and it does NOT travel well in the belly of the plan unless you pad it really well and even then it’s a gamble.  I always prefer to keep my make up with me- but sometimes that’s very cumbersome and takes up valuable cabin space if you only have a back pack.  This allows me to keep my make up with me- and know it won’t be thrown around- but also not taking up valuable under seat storage.

Back Pack:  Get yourself a good travel pack.  There are a TON of options out there. Tech focused bags, hiking/travel bags, one day packs, multi day packs, organizational packs- you name it- there’s a bag for it. For me- finding a pack that was NOT top load only- and had SOME organization (but not a million pockets) was critical. Too many pockets means I lose things. Not enough pockets means there isn’t a “place for that thing that needs it’s own place” and then I hae to dig and that makes me mad too.

I think we ordered something like four or five packs before we finally settled on this Thule bag. (one day I’ll review it!)

The truth is- any bag will work as long as it suits YOUR needs.   Timbuk2, Osprey, Northface, Wolffe Pack, Samsonite, REI, Kelty, URBEX (we got 2 of these- these are COOL bags) Equilibrium Urban Survival Gear (also super cool, super customizable, but pricey) are all a few we looked at in the “hunt” for the perfect bag. 

There is no right answer- do your homework- find a bag for YOUR needs and what you want so you can be really happy with your choice. if you’re going to spend 100+on a bag- make it what you want so it works for you. nothing can ruin a trip faster than uncomfortable bags.

“run around things”

I like to have some bag options so I don’t have to take a larger bag out every time I go out and in the case of my workshops, just the essentials.  I have a great sling dance bag from DWebb Designs that I brought with me. It’s perfect for walking around, it doesn’t scream tourist and you can stick gifts/purchases in it with no issue. Down size- its’ just a sling bag- if you throw something small in it like AN earring- you’ll probably spend 20 minutes looking for it. My jazz shoes, cymbals, notes and yoga blocks go in it just fine and that works perfectly for me.

I love some good flip flops and some casual clothes as well with layers- I always find myself short of “casual” clothes to just hang out- or make quick run out to Target!  So don’t forget those.

Thanks for reading and please let me know about what tips and tricks you’ve found to help you with travelling.    Till next time fearless reader and safe travels!

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