Keeping Company on the Road: Packing

Join CJ Greer as she travels the country in the Broadway touring production of Company – coming to a city near you! Each month she discusses the ins and outs of life on the road.

 

“What would we do without you? How would we ever get through?”

 

You booked a touring contract! Congratulations! And you’ll be heading out on the road for 6 months? 9 months? A full year?! Holy smokes. What the heck should you pack? During the month of January alone you will be in Florida and Milwaukee—so down coats and bathing suits? Snow boots and flip flops? There are season changes to consider, rehearsal/dance wear, backstage robe, stage and personal makeup and hair products, specialty outfits for opening night parties and cabaret benefits, not to mention the gym wear, the occasional masterclass you are invited to teach, the day to day…and then all of the different shoes you may need for each of these. If you’re lucky, the producers will travel a trunk for you on the trucks. Otherwise, you get one suitcase (up to 50 lbs), one carry-on, and one personal item. 

Clothing and Laundry Options

The clothes you choose to take with you will have to be reused regularly, so you must consider the laundry situation. You will be reliant on a) laundry facilities available in the hotel or Airbnb you are staying in, or b) your ability and desire to find a laundromat where you can do it yourself or will do your laundry for you for a price. If I am going to be reliant on washing machines and dryers I do not know or trust to take care of my clothes, then I am going to pack the clothes I care about the least. If my favorite, most comfortable t-shirt I own and have worn and loved since high school is going to possibly be shrunk or ripped or get stained from the person’s laundry that was in the washer before yours, then I am not taking it. 

I will take the clothes that are on their last legs but still get the job done, that I’ve worn out already and can throw out along the way, or that I bought at the thrift store for $6 and don’t care if I lose it. You’ll want a balance of clothing items that are for function and for fun. For your nicer outfits, this is more difficult. I recommend selections that do not wrinkle easily. Jersey knit material is one that is very packable. If you don’t have anything that fits this description in your current wardrobe, a purchased piece or two will be well worth eliminating the hassle of bulky items and ironing boards.

Travel Trunks

On some contracts (this one included), the company provides a trunk that you can fill up to a certain number of pounds. They travel these trunks on the “tech trucks” (the 18-wheelers that are hauling your sets, costumes, props, etc) from city to city. Your trunk is usually made available to you when you get to your next location, and then loaded into the trucks at the end of every stop in preparation to leave for the next city. Trunks really help expand the amount of ‘stuff’ you can travel with you. 

My trunk currently holds my yoga mat, mini foam roller, personal steamer, extra shoes (winter boots, fancy high heels, hiking shoes—the shoes I would like to have with me but don’t need on a regular basis), an extra duffel bag, books (for research I am doing for outside projects), winter sweaters, coats/hat/gloves, beachwear, hotel cooking accoutrements, and more. It has been an immense help in packing for seasons and traveling ‘stuff’ that I could probably live without but prefer not to. Not every touring contract gets a trunk, and some are smaller than others. If you are offered a touring contract that does not have a trunk, I highly recommend adding this to your list of negotiations. 

Luggage and Packing Cubes

I also have decided to take (and pay for) an additional checked bag. This is to help me reduce the amount I carry through the airport on to the plane, and it accounts for a few home amenities I have decided to bring along. Though it’s an extra expense, the total for the entire tour adds up to less than one week’s paycheck. I’ve decided the comfort and convenience it brings to my quality of life on the road is worth it. Several people have switched their luggage options while on tour from rollaboards and rolling duffel bags to spinners. Some of our airports are huge! “Spinners” can make a world of difference when you are hauling your bags from baggage claim to the bus that will take you to the hotel. My cast and crew mates also offered many suggestions related to cooking and hotel kitchen setups. We’ll chat about those more in a future blog.

For your clothes, Packing Cubes have been very helpful for finding space and keeping clothes organized. I got mine on Amazon, but you can find them in stores as well. When I travel, even if I am only there for a week, I like to unpack. These packing cubes make unpacking and repacking at the end of the week a breeze. However, they also wrinkle your clothes, and tempt you to fill that extra space with more ‘stuff’ that will add weight to your bag. Another cast member mentioned her giant clear plastic Ziplock bags. She doesn’t like to unpack in a hotel, but this way she can see everything she has and keep it all organized in her suitcase. 

Electronics

I travel with a number of electronics in addition to my laptop and phone. I have a small tripod/ring light for when I am teaching (the hotel rooms can be dark), small Bluetooth speaker, external hard drive, several thumb drives (which have come in handy, even in the era of airdrop), extra charging cords and plugs for ipad/phone, and a few other cords and chargers for my headphones, an extra powerstrip, my Firestick/remote, and a remote control for the PowerPoint presentations I am doing while on the road. It all fits into an old toiletries/makeup bag that I can repurpose and helps keep me organized. 

Other Helpful Items

I use a luggage scale, laundry sheets (as opposed to liquid that can leak and spill into your bag), dryer sheets, a small laundry bag for my delicates, reusable Ziploc bags of varying size (I use small ones for jewelry, hairbands, cotton balls, etc), a dry bag for wet bathing suit or gym clothes, and many extra bags or containers to keep my stuff organized and to haul groceries or items from my trunk to your hotel room. This is most helpful when you are someone who likes to unpack and settle into the hotel, even for just one week. I have been using those clear, plastic bags that sheets, blankets, and pillowcases come in. They usually have zippers and they make great bags for touring—you can see everything inside them and they keep the loose stuff contained. 

Polling my pals on the Company tour, here are a few of their favorite tour items that they can’t live without: personal humidifier, personal steamer, nebulizer, mini space heater, heating pad, lavender bed spray, containers for your trunk, full and travel size toiletries (so you can refill along the way), a candle and favorite throw blanket or duvet cover, bed/room spray or perfume, pillow, pillowcase, Belt Box (for all you singers!), little piano keyboard, Clorox wipes for the hotel, a favorite drinking glass, pictures—actual hard copies (not just on your phone), and probably my favorite response from one of our tech crew—his Squishmallow bunny. Fun, right?! “It’s the little things” that help make your space feel more like ‘home.”

One friend pointed out that here in America we are fortunate to have easy and ready access to things—whether it is a local grocery store, a corner bodega or pharmacy, public transportation, Amazon, and also apps for Uber, Lyft, etc. that can take you anywhere you really want to go. So don’t forget that if you can’t bring it with you but find that you want or need it, you can probably grab one from somewhere. Just make sure you have the space to travel with it or send a few items home along the way. 

Finally: pack all of the underwear you have. Or at least two weeks’ worth. You may not have easy laundry access for a couple of weeks. I also recommend some quick dry options that you could wash in your hotel room and hang dry in a pinch. You’ll be glad you did. 

We’re wrapping up in Memphis and headed to Florida, South Carolina, Connecticut, Ohio, and a few other places over the next month before spending a few weeks in St. Louis and Washington DC—shout out to the Kennedy Center! Hope to see you on the road!

Happy Packing!

 

Come see us: https://companymusical.com/tour/  

Find us on Instagram: @companybway

CJ Greer

CJ Greer is an assistant professor of Voice and Music Theatre at the University of Nevada, Reno and performs professionally in musical theatre and opera. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre Pedagogy and Performance, a Master of Music in Classical Pedagogy and Performance from Penn State University and teaches both classical and musical theatre/contemporary voice. She regularly presents research at NATS and MTEA conferences. CJ has performed on Broadway and across the country in regional and national touring productions. Favorite roles include Donna/Mamma Mia, Mimi/La Bohème, Fantine/Les Misérables, Florence/Chess, The Witch/Into the Woods, and more. Her students perform on Broadway, in national tours, regional theatres, theme parks, and on cruise ships. To find out more and get in touch, visit www.cj-greer.com and @cjgreerstudio on Instagram.