I’m gearing up for the upcoming South by Southwest festival in March. I’ll pretty much be spending 16 days straight in downtown Austin, which makes me a tourist in my own city. I love that. I normally wouldn’t walk as much, see as much, or do as much in the city I live in unless forced to, which SXSW does. You have to take full advantage of every show, panel, workshop, and party since it’s all rolled into the passes. And while taking advantage – you must pace yourself. It’s a balance, but it’s also being prepared.
This is my second year at SXSW so I have a few things figured out. If you’re coming to my fair city, or even live here, you might want to make a knock-out list of crap to bring.
1. Good shoes. This seems obvious if you’re doing a lot of walking, but the important part is breaking them in first. I know since it’s a hip event to see and be seen you might want to show off your fancy shoes, but resist this urge. Or get some cute shoes that aren’t blister-inducing. And when the day is turning to night, switch to a different pair or at the very least put on a new pair of socks. It will give you a second wind, I promise.
2. Extra-sticky band-aids for blister prevention. Even the best shoes will rub if you walk 19 miles in a week. This has been tracked with a pedometer by a friend.
3. Get your bike on and ditch the car. It’s stupid trafficky downtown. Last year I drove in the middle of the day to pick up a debit card Hubs left at a restaurant the night before and it took something like an hour just to get on the other side of all of the hub-bub. Don’t do it. There’s so little parking, the lots fill up, it’s expensive, and it’ll make you a crazy person. We park just outside of the ring of fire and then bike in. There are so many bikes and peds meandering through the stand-still traffic that it’s the safest I’ve ever felt biking on streets without bike lanes. If you don’t have a bike or are coming from out of town, use the SXSW bike share. Don’t forget your helmet and safety lights though. Those are your brains – protect them.
If you don’t feel like biking, catch a SXSW shuttle bus (free if you have a pass) or get dropped of at the corner of 6th and Brazos. This is straight from the mouth of the safety department. This is the safest corner to arrive/depart the madness that is downtown during SXSW. There are police on multiple corners here in case you’re coming by yourself, but let’s all acknowledge that the buddy system is the smartest thing, right?
4. An easy-to-wear bag. I treated myself to this cute messenger bag off of Etsy because I can put it over my shoulder and bike with it. It has enough room for the rest of the crap on this list, I don’t feel like anyone will swipe it walking down the street, and I can dance with it without constantly adjusting.
5. Water-resistant windbreaker. It rains on the strangest days down here. It will be a drought until everyone is walking around and needs it to be dry. It’s also nice and warm during the day but cool in the shade and at night in March. On a bike you’ll need some protection. And when you’re overheated from dancing, your light windbreaker or hoodie will fit in your cute bag.
6. Lactation station. I know I can’t be away from my baby or pump for more than 3 hours without leaking, so if you’re a lactating mama, hit up the pumping/nursing room at the ACC (What SXSW calls the Austin Convention Center) called The Mother’s Room in Storage Room B. This is open to the public, and not just registrants. Since I’ll be down there for 16 days straight, I can’t just pump-and-dump, so I’m bringing a thermoelectric cooler with AC adapter like this one from Amazon. This might not be so bad if you have a downtown hotel room, but I live here and and work the festival, so I feel comfortable about leaving a cooler at the ACC all day. You might just want to bring a travel pump and not leak.
7. Water bottle. I have a mini Nalgene bottle that I can fit in my handy purse. You must hydrate – it’s imperative. There’s lots of free booze and walking around, so you forget about these simple acts that keep you feeling good so you can enjoy the entire festival and not burn out early. It doesn’t hurt to have a handful of EmergenC packets to add once a day, either.
8. The small things. I like to keep a stock of chapstick, deodorant, gum, hair ties, hand sanitizer, and a wad of tissues/napkins (for the porto-potties that will inevitably be out of TP).
9. Cash. Don’t be a fool and bring a dillion dollars, but those ATMs will eat you alive. This will make your life easier for eating downtown, tips, and the whatnot. It’s also good for taking pedi-cabs if you want someone else to bike you around.
10. Phone charger. There are lots of charging stations set up so you can plug in and meet new people who are also recharging. You can also buy one of those cases that charge your phone, but I didn’t want to splurge on it this year. You might wonder why you’d need to recharge mid day – well, the awesome SXSW app that helps you organize your schedule can be a huge battery drain, and you’ll be texting, calling, and accessing the web WAY more than you normally do during SXSW.
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Last year lots of sunglasses were given out free – otherwise that would make the list – so I’m assuming there will be similar swag to pick up. Did I miss anything that you brought that made your life easier? Or is there anything you wish you brought? Tell me in the comments.