Tips & Advice

Packing for tour: What to take, what to leave

Ashley Klinger (center) in 'A Chorus Line'. Photo courtesy of production B-roll.

Packing for tour is an art of its own. How does one pack up his or her life into a suitcase and spend several months to a year on the road? Flying on planes, driving on long bus rides, traveling internationally, checking in and out of hotels, and changing climates can make packing difficult — especially when you’re only allowed a suitcase or two. Dance Informa tracked down a whole lot of tour veterans to get you the inside scoop on what to take on tour — and what to definitely leave at home.


#1. Packing cubes. I cannot stress enough how amazing these are! I got mine from Marshall’s, TJMaxx and The Container Store, and they are lifesavers. Even when we’re only in a city for a week, I can ‘unpack’ my suitcase (I just unzip the cubes and put them directly in the drawers), and then, I just roll my clothes back up, put them in the cubes, zip and go. I have a cube for pants/skirts/shorts, two for workout clothes, one for tops, one for socks/tights, an extra for pajamas and any spill-over, and a special one just for bras and undies. I always know where everything is, and re-packing on Sunday takes me less than 45 minutes.” — Kristen Beth Williams (Tours: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, 101 Dalmatians, White Christmas)

Bradley Allen Zarr in 'Bullets Over Broadway'. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Bradley Allen Zarr in ‘Bullets Over Broadway’. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

#2. Lots of underwear. Trust me! You want about two weeks’ worth of clean undies. Everything else can be worn a few times, but there will be stretches of one-nighters where you can’t find/won’t have access to a washing machine, and the last thing you want to do is wear dirty underwear.” — Bradley Allen Zarr (Tours: Bullets Over Broadway, Anything Goes, Catch Me If You Can, Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone)

#3. Luggage scale. Usually, your tour company will pay the general baggage fee at the airport, but not if your bag is over the 50-pound weight limit! I can’t tell you how many times my portable luggage scale saved me from having to unpack and repack my suitcases at the airport (and how many people borrowed mine)!” — Chaz Wolcott (Tours: Newsies, Cats)

#4. HDMI cord. You can connect to almost every TV on the road and watch your favorite movies/TV shows. It always helps for Game of Thrones season, and you’ll be everyone’s best friend on tour!” — Carissa Fiorillo (Tours: Radio City Rockettes, Bullets Over Broadway, Guys and Dolls)

#5. Tea/coffee travel mug. Every gas station, hotel and theater is sure to have hot water. And a travel mug keeps your tea/coffee hot (and safe from spilling) for much longer than a cheap to-go cup. Always carry a few tea bags in your backpack, and you’re good to go.” — Ashley Klinger (Tours: A Chorus Line National/International, Flight)

#6. Mini kitchen kit. Pack some Tupperware (stock up on those hotel continental breakfasts!), a can opener, a wine/beer opener, a small knife (be sure to pack this in your checked suitcase), a small cutting board, spices (my stash included salt, pepper, cinnamon and cayenne pepper) and utensils.” — Kelly Peterson (Tours: Radio City Rockettes, Bullets Over Broadway)

Ashley Fitzgerald Kelly in 'Come Fly Away'. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Ashley Fitzgerald Kelly in ‘Come Fly Away’. Photo by Joan Marcus.

#7. Candle. Pack a lovely-smelling candle or wall plug-in to make hotel rooms and dressing rooms smell a little more like home.” — Melissa Jones (Tours: Beauty and the Beast National/International)

#8. Eye mask and ear plugs. These will save you when napping on plane flights and long bus trips.” — Debbie McCasland (Tours: My Fair Lady International)

#9. Flat iron. Use it for your hair, sure. But it also de-wrinkles clothes faster than a hotel iron!”—Tripp Fountain (Tours: Evita, Cats, Hair)

#10. Doctor’s note. Go along with me here… Find a way to get your doctor to write a note for you saying you have ‘specific dietary needs’ and require a refrigerator at all times. Securing a fridge in your hotel room will save you so much money on groceries! And if you can’t get a doctor’s note, try to always call ahead and reserve a fridge for your room.” — Ashley Fitzgerald Kelly (Tours: Fosse, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dirty Dancing, 101 Dalmatians, Come Fly Away)

#11. Exercise bands. You can get a gym workout in your hotel room using just these lightweight bands that take up practically no space in your suitcase. It’s important to stay in shape on the road, and workout bands are great because you cannot always assume there is a hotel gym where you’ll be staying.” — Kimberly Dawn Neumann (Tours: A Chorus Line; Joseph…Dreamcoat; Kiss Me, Kate; Annie)

#12. Yoga mat. It keeps your mind and body active. I practice several times a week, and even if I couldn’t find a yoga studio in the city I was in, I could always pull it out in the hotel/apartment and practice in my room. Even if it was for 10 minutes, it really helped keep me grounded and maintain some sense of normalcy on the road. Bonus: if the floor of the dressing room is hard or cold, your mat can double as a stretching space.” — Marina Lazzaretto (Tours: Wicked, Come Fly Away, West Side Story International)

#13. Foam roller. Find a small, hollow one so you can pack extra clothes and things inside of it in your suitcase.” — Vanessa Mitchell (Tours: 42nd Street)

Brittany Marcin Maschmeyer in 'Young Frankenstein'. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Brittany Marcin Maschmeyer in ‘Young Frankenstein’. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

#14. A picture of the people you love. Always keep it on your bedside table or on your makeup station.” — Brittany Marcin Maschmeyer (Tours: Young Frankenstein, Dr. Dolittle, The Will Rogers Follies)


#1. Lots of shoes. Shoes are heavy and take up a lot of space in your suitcase. You’ll need sneakers, one nice pair of black or nude heels for the occasional dress-up event, and a pair of boots or flats. That’s it!” — Lauren Gemelli (Tours: Chicago, The Drowsy Chaperone)

#2. Dressy clothes. Bring one to two nice outfits for opening night parties or other sporadic special events. Other than that? Comfy clothes only!” — Ashley Talluto (Tours: West Side Story, Flashdance)

#3. Nice clothes. Does the label read ‘Dry Clean’, ‘Hand Wash’, or ‘Line Dry’? Leave it at home. On tour, free time and free money are precious, and no one wants to waste either getting their clothes clean. Choose sturdy, easy-wear clothing that can be washed and dried in commercial machines (usually commercial machines that hundreds of people have used before you). Jeans, knits, spandex-y stuff, cotton-y stuff, polyesters and the like all do really well; delicate silks and fine merinos do not.” — Ashleigh Junio (Tours: Elf)

#4. Generic toiletries. Use the free ones in the hotel to save money and room in your suitcase. You can often call the front desk if you need any extra items like toothpaste or a razor.” — Mallory Nolting (Tours: 42nd Street)

Lauren Gemelli (left) in 'Chicago'. Photo by Matt Polk.

Lauren Gemelli (left) in ‘Chicago’. Photo by Matt Polk.

#5. Fancy hair dryer. There’s always a hair dryer in the hotel room!” — Abigail Gatlin (Tours: Beauty and the Beast National/International)

#6. Laptop. Unless you need it for work, it’s better to leave your bulky, heavy laptop at home. Hotels often have business centers for surfing the web and free printing. If you have an iPad or tablet, I’d recommend buying a keyboard for it and packing that instead.” — Amy Ruggiero (Tours: Come Fly Away, Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversary Tour)

#7. Room in your suitcase! Haha, get it? You’ll accumulate a lot on tour, so make sure you leave space to bring it all home.” — Heather Klobukowski (Tours: The Producers)

By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Ashley Klinger (center) in ‘A Chorus Line’. Photo courtesy of production B-roll.

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