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SEA MONKEY & BOB Book Tour (Part 1): Prep and packing tips

Navigation: Sea Monkey & Bob Resource page
Book Tour: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7

Author book tours are a rare animal these days, so I am incredibly grateful to Simon & Schuster Children’s for giving me the opportunity. I’ve been on two book tours for my publisher so far, one for NAKED! and one for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?

What I have found: Book tours can be gruelling and stressful but immensely satisfying as well as inspiring.

From a practical standpoint, I’ve also been learning more about what to take and not to take as well as things that work for me and what doesn’t, and I’ll be sharing some of these tips in my book tour report. Keep in mind, however, that what works for me may not work for you. I’m hoping, though, that at least some of this info might help others who are going on their own book promo tours, whether sent by their publisher or on their own. If you have any extra tips, feel free to comment!

I’ll be continuing my book tour report as well as more tips in the next instalment.

Q. Why did you travel with just carry-on?

Short answer: To minimize potential travel hassles.

Longer answer: When my publicist first strongly suggested I travel with carry-on only on my very first book tour, I was aghast. I had NEVER travelled with just carry-on! How on earth was I supposed to take everything I need? 

There are good reasons for not taking checked luggage, though. If your checked bag goes missing on one flight and you are moving around a lot on your trip (I flew to a new state every day), chances are good that your bag will never catch up to you. Travelling with just carry-on makes you more flexible at the airport in case you need to change flights, have a tight connection etc.

What I discovered: travelling with just carry-on requires more planning ahead of time but is entirely doable AND makes things a lot easier in the long run.

Q. Do you have any packing tips?

BAGGAGE: My carry-on is a Land’s End wheeled bag (see above) with wheels that make it easier to maneuver. Advantage of a spinner bag: easy to turn sideways to push down narrow aisles on airplanes, plus they are super-easy to push through airports unless there is a carpet. Disadvantage: if you’re on a slope, the bag will roll down the slope unless you’re holding onto it; there is no way to lock the wheels. My bag holds much more than it looks like it can hold! Sadly, the bag doesn’t seem to be available on the Land’s End site anymore, else I’d include a link.

I also take a backpack: I use a black Peralta Balani laptop backpack from Waterfield – it’s pricey but I have found it so worth it. The black version looks nice enough that I don’t feel weird taking it to business meetups, it’s durable, plus it has a special extra section inside where I can stash my laptop and iPad. I always leave enough room at the top where I can stick my cross-body small purse, in cases where the check-in attendant insists I can only take two personal items as carry-on (no matter how small my purse is, it would count as a personal item). Shipping to Canada is expensive so when I ordered it online, I had it delivered to a hotel in the U.S. when Jeff and I were at a board gaming convention.

SHOES: I opted NOT to take boots this time, but mainly because I knew I’d be in the Southern states so wouldn’t encounter any snow. In the past, I’ve worn boots (the kind you can wear with a skirt but are also comfortable to walk around in) and taken a pair of flats with me in my carry-on. This time, I wore a pair of black Rockport slip-ons instead but also the flats in my carry-on.

CLOTHES: I generally aim for two outfits. My main outfit, which I wear for presentations. The other is a backup, just in case. It’s good to have mix-and-match, to give the illusion of variety, and aim for clothes that don’t wrinkle and are light, especially ones that can layer. I also take a travel pack of Tide, just in case I have to wash something by hand in the sink. I use the hotel room blow-dryer for fast drying. I also bring an oversized t-shirt and soft cropped leggings to use as pajamas that also double as a “hang out in the hotel room” comfort outfit.

PACK STRATEGICALLY TO MAKE FAST UNPACKING/PACKING EASIER: My typical book tour day started with packing up and checking out of a hotel, going to several school presentations and/or bookstore event/signings, packing up right after a presentation to head directly to the airport. Sometimes there would be time to rearrange my carry-on bag contents at the airport, sometimes there wasn’t. I learned to pack my things so that I could access items without having to unpack EVERYTHING. I also learned to pack so that if I needed up open up my carry-on in the middle of a bookstore or just before a school presentation, my underwear and other not-meant-for-public items didn’t immediately fall out for everyone to see. 🙂

PACK YOUR CARRY-ON ASSUMING THAT YOU MAY HAVE TO CHECK IT ANYWAY: On several of the American Airlines flights via smaller planes, passengers had to gate-check their carry-on wheelie bags. I was also aware that if the flight is very full, some airlines might treat my carry-on as regular checked baggage, so I always had certain essentials grouped together in separate clear baggies so they would be easy to grab if I needed to.

TRY TO LEAVE SOME EXTRA ROOM for items you may be given along the way. Whenever I am presented with a gift from a school I’ve visited, I am grateful but also panicked. My immediate worry: Will I be able to fit this in my carry-on?? One way I’ve made more room in my carry-on: to wear more layers on the plane and to carry more layers (coat, fleece jacket) over my arm, freeing up a bit of space in my carry-on. But I’ve still had to leave stuff behind sometimes. This time I managed to squeeze almost everything in, yay! Left some candy/chocolate with one of my escorts, but that was probably better for me and my sweet tooth. 🙂

Q. Any other prep tips?

In addition to keeping an electronic version of my book tour itinerary, I also printed one out just in case my phone got lost or died.

Think about what you’re going to write when signing books ahead of time! To illustrators: consider adding a little illustrated component when you’re signing books. Make sure it is something that you can draw QUICKLY and EASILY even if you are signing hundreds of books in a short time.

Bring your own pen(s) to sign with, just in case (this also cuts down on potential germs & getting a cold on the road). My own fave: a black Sharpie with a medium point. 

Take the time to check over your itinerary in advance. Clarify details, ask questions. This is easier to do beforehand than when you’re on the road.

Bring a portable charger for your device(s). I used my Anker portable charger a LOT during my book tour. Advantages of having a portable charger: (1) I could charge up my phone or iPad (or both) inside my backpack while I was on the move, (2) I didn’t have to rely on working/available power outlets at airports.

Q. Do you have any extra tips for Canadian authors and illustrators travelling to the U.S.?

– If you’re a Canadian who does a lot of travelling between Canada and the U.S., I encourage you to get a Nexus card. Yes, it costs money ($50 for 5 years) and you do need to get interviewed the first time, but it is SO WORTH IT. I have skipped huuuuuge lines at U.S. customs/immigration because of my Nexus card. Because I travel with only carry-on, this usually means I can just fill out a form via a kiosk and not have to talk with any human (I find the latter stressful because no matter how honest I am, I always feel guilty and am then worried that I look guilty as well!).

– Get a roaming plan for your phone. I signed up for Bell’s Roam Better plan, which costs $5/day and includes unlimited talk & text, plus 100 MB of data a day. I know another option is to get a U.S. SIM card, but then I’d have to make sure everyone knew my different phone number, make sure my other phone was forwarding text messages etc. I may still try the U.S. SIM card option someday, though.

– If I’m going to the U.S. for business, I say so. Here is a helpful Globe & Mail article: “Travelling on business? Don’t say it’s tourism.” 

Do you have any comments? Questions? Additional tips you’d like to add? Please post below!


Hints From The Pros: Book Tour Tips – by Greer Macallister on Also see the follow-up post, Hints From The Pros: More Book Tour Tips.

5 Tips For Going On An Offline Book Tour – by Joel Friedlander.

20 Things Every Author Should Know Before Starting A Book Tour – by Stephanie Steinberg