Guest Post: P.J. Hoover on Author Travel Tips

P.J. at the Solstice launch party

By P.J. Hoover

P. J. Hoover here, author of the dystopian/mythology YA novel, Solstice (Tor, 2013), and today I’m talking about travel.

Specifically traveling as an author.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling lately, with pre-publicity stuff, book tour stops, conferences, and yes, even general family trips. And the thing is that traveling can be exhausting.

So why not make it as easy on yourself (and those you may be traveling with) as possible?

A few simple travel techniques can make all the difference in the world.

Before You Travel…

First, let’s talk about preparation. Spending a bit of time before the trip can make everything easier.

Start with a list.

P.J. with fellow Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels

No matter what the situation in life, a list will make it better. Travel is no exception. I keep a handful of travel lists on my computer, organized as needed.

Are you heading to ALA? Have you been before? Then it’s easy. Pull up the list you made last year, copy it to a new file for this year, and update it. Haven’t been before? Then create your list today.

I suggest organizing it in sections such as (a) toiletries, (b) book/author related stuff, (c) carry-on bag items to have handy, etc. The more you can put on this list the very first time you make it, the easier each year will be.

Side note: This list is great for family vacations, too. DisneyWorld, the beach, the parents’ house. I organize by family member, print it out, and let them gather what they need.

Travel size items

Redundancy is a great asset in the case of travel. If you always use a certain hair gel, invest in a travel size of it that you can keep in your toiletry bag. Ditto skincare products. I personally am a fan of Clinique products. So for all those skincare products, I have separate travel size items I keep in my bag. Same thing for general items like toothpaste and shampoo. It makes picking up and going so much easier.

Most grocery stores have a whole section of travel items. Buy liberally because not only will it make the packing and unpacking easier, it will way reduce the risk of forgetting that face cream you can’t live without.

Side note 1: Use Ziploc bags to pack all your toiletries. You seriously don’t want them leaking all over your carefully chosen clothes, do you?

Side note 2: If you’re trying to cram everything into a carry-on bag on the airplane, keep airports restrictions in mind.


With fellow YA author Mari Mancusi

If you’re like me, then you have either a curling iron or a flat iron. Invest in one of those curling iron travel bags . . . you know, the kind where you can put your curling iron away just seconds after using it. That way, when you finish getting ready, all you have to do is stuff the curling iron into the bag and go.

Also, unless you’re living in another century, you have a cell phone. There is something about conferences that makes my cell phone drain faster than a puddle in the Texas summer. So invest in an extra power cord and keep it in your travel bag. Ditto headphones. That way, you’ll never be without.

While Traveling…

Hopefully the actual travel portion of your trip is a short one, but no matter the length of time, it’s important to make the most of it and keep yourself happy.


Drink water. If you’re flying, buy a water bottle after you get through security or bring an empty one and fill it up. Lots of times, we get headaches when we travel because we aren’t getting enough water. Whether flying or driving, drink up. Don’t let your goal be to not use the bathroom the entire trip. Stop often.

Side note: If you see a Buc-ee’s, stop there. They have the best bathrooms in the world. And then there are the pickles. Delicious! Which brings me to the next item…

Snack Smart

P.J. at Comic Con

Traveling without giving any thought to food ahead of time can lead to unhealthy eating which will end up making you feel worse. Think about your snacks ahead of time. What do you like to eat? Is it something that you can put in your carry-on luggage? Is it something you need to bag-check? Is there a grocery store nearby your destination where you can run in and grab a couple must-have foods?

Whether it’s fruits or nuts or Twinkies that make you feel great, prepare ahead of time.

Side note: It’s also a good idea to scope out restaurants. If you must have your sunny-side-up eggs each morning, find a diner online and check the menu to make sure they have what you want.


What are you going to do while you are actually traveling? If you’re driving somewhere alone, can you use that time to listen to an audiobook? If so, download it ahead of time. If you’re on an airplane, what are you going to read? Or write? Plan it out so you can make the most of your time. And remember, you can’t e-read for those first and last fifteen minutes of a flight. What else can you do in this time?

Side note 1: I was able to download a version of Word for my iPad so I could edit on a flight without having to drag my computer along.

Side note 2: Decide which electronic device will meet your needs for the trip. Is your smart phone enough? Your iPad enough? Or does this particular trip demand your computer?

Once You Are There…

Great! You’ve made it to your destination. Now is the time to relax and enjoy the show (or conference as the case may be). But don’t think all the travel planning is behind you.

Here are a few tips for making the time at your destination that much better.

Be a considerate roomie.

Lots of times when I travel, I share rooms with other people I know. Whether this is due to friendship or cost-sharing, it’s important to be considerate of those around you.

For starters, if you are the type who has to blow dry your hair (like me), then bring your own hair dryer. Sure, most hotels supply them these days, but you aren’t the only one who needs to get in that bathroom. Take your shower, brush your teeth, and then let your roomie have the bathroom. You can blow dry your hair in the main room. (Unless of course your roomie is still sleeping. Then the most considerate path is to stay in the bathroom.)

In addition, please keep your stuff neat. Piles of dirty clothes and suitcases all over the floor aren’t going to make anyone happy. And it certainly won’t make anyone want to room with you again. So pick a spot (be it a drawer, a chair, whatever) and keep it tidy.

Side note: Silence your phone at night. I adore my “Star Trek” notifications, but my roomies may not have that same love for ST:TOS that I do.


Practicing kung fu

Right. So there could be (and should be) an entire blog post dedicated to the importance of exercise. It’s a great habit to be in and really helps relieve the stress of travel and the author life. So let’s assume for the moment that we’re all in that habit.

Don’t let travel get in the way of your amazing routine. Pack exercise clothes and shoes when you go. Almost every hotel out there has some sort of exercise room. When looking at hotels, make sure you choose wisely. And then make sure you follow through and keep your momentum going.

Side note: This is where packing those headphones for your cell phone also comes in handy. Pandora. Netflix. It’s all right there to help you stay motivated.

Be comfy

Think about what makes you more comfortable when you travel. For me, it’s a travel blanket and a light weight jacket (because my temperature threshold tends to run a bit lower than everyone else). For others it may be a favorite stuffed animal. Whatever you specifically need, bring it along.

Side note: Conferences are typically chilly. A lightweight sweater can help you concentrate on the conference and not on the goosebumps forming on your arms.

Never Leave Home Without…

Learn about the Forgotten Worlds trilogy

And there are, of course, a handful of must haves. Don’t leave home without them.

  • Irreplaceables (medications, retainer) 
  • Excedrin (for post-late night recovery and dehydration survival) 
  • Extra set of clothes (for those unexpected coffee spills while traveling) 
  • Swag (always have a business card or postcard or something to be able to hand to people) 
  • Sharpie (have one on you at all given times for book/swag signing) 
  • Breath mints (no one wants to smell your coffee breath)

Hope your travels are safe and successful in every way!

Cynsational Notes

From Cyn:

Print and pack backup copies of your itinerary and any presentation texts–one for your purse, one for your suitcase, and one for your carry-on bag. Also be sure to email yourself copies of them (that you can access online) and your visual presentation (PowerPoint, etc.).

You may also want to email your visual presentation to the event planner in advance of your trip; just be sure to emphasize that some materials are under copyright and should not be used outside of your event or without your consent.

See also Event Report: P.J. Hoover’s Solstice & Mari Mancusi’s Scorched from Cynsations.

P.J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton.

After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens.

When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik’s cubes, and watching “Star Trek.”

Her first novel for teens, Solstice (Tor, 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own.

Her middle grade novel, Tut (Tor, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who’s been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat.

5 thoughts on “Guest Post: P.J. Hoover on Author Travel Tips

  1. Great tips! I'll be traveling to Madison next month and am going to try to get by with only carry-on luggage to make things simpler. I do need to put things like headphones in my purse, because that's one of those things I tend to forget.

    Also making a hair appointment for the day before I leave so I won't need to take my hair stuff!

  2. Happy travels, Lynne! I love Madison, one of my favorite cities. And headphones are a great idea. I need to become more determined about my plane-trip-soothing strategies. I'm not a white knuckle flyer, but I don't love it either.

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