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April 16, 2007

One Week Until the Tour

Holy crap, I've only got one week before I hop on a plane and begin my book tour. Some random thoughts on this:

* The book tour, as most of you know by now, is going to be three weeks long. On one hand: Excellent. I feel like a rock star being out on tour this long. I feel like I should have roadies and tour managers and wreck hotel rooms and stuff (note to Tor: I will not wreck hotel rooms). On the other hand: Three weeks is the longest time I will have spent apart from my wife in 11 years. It is the longest I have ever spent apart from Athena. People who know me know that after three days away from my family, I get a little twitchy; this is three weeks. I'm specifically not putting Journey's "Faithfully" on my mp3 player because I know if I listen to it midway through the tour I'll cry like a baby, and then I'll feel like an ass.

* Also, while I am bringing work with me and intend to update blogs and what have you, at the end of the day for those three weeks my job is to be on tour, and to promote the hell out of The Last Colony and the other books. That means that this week is going to be devoted to actually trying to get a whole bunch of crap done on the assumption that John Scalzi in heavy-duty self-promotion mode isn't necessarily going to be writing scintillating prose.

I mean, who knows, maybe I might: Maybe all those lonely nights on the road, with only my laptop and a bottle of Coke Zero to keep me company, will be perfect for banging out chapters of The High Castle and jamming through interview questions for authors and finally writing that rock opera I've been meaning to get around to since high school. But I suspect it's best to work on the assumption that what I'll mostly be doing with my nights is lying on a hotel bed in a daze, watching whatever's on HBO. So: this week -- worky worky worky.

* Here's a fun wrinkle I gave absolutely no thought to: The public announcement of the results of the SFWA presidential election will be made during the Nebula Awards Weekend in New York City, which takes place May 11 - 13, which is the weekend immediately after my tour ends -- Indeed, I fly home from the tour on May 10 (which is, coincidentally, my birthday). So if I want to make the Nebula Awards Weekend, what I do is fly home, spend 12 hours or so with my family after three weeks of not seeing them, and then get on a plane to spend another three days away from home. As you may imagine, I'm full to the brim with ambivalence for this plan. Not that I don't want to go to the Nebula Awards Weekend; I think it would be cool. I just wish it were, you know, two weeks later.

Now, one simple solution is to take them with me to NYC, and if I do go, then at the very least Krissy will come along. But I'm sure we all recognize there's a difference between that and actually being home after three weeks. This is what I get for being a write-in candidate and not thinking ahead.

* On the other hand, how cool is this: At most tour stops, I have an escort, paid for by Tor. No, not that kind. Really, you people disgust me. I mean someone who's there to pick me up and drive me around to where I need to go and then drop me off at the airport so I can catch my flights. Yay! Someone pointing in the direction of where I need to go! After a few days of this, I'm gonna need that, you know?

* All right, here's a theoretical question for you all: Do you think it's possible to pack for a three-week book tour using only carry-on luggage? Because you know what, I'm going to 14 different cities on this tour, and that'll be about a dozen opportunities for lost luggage. And once that luggage misses a flight, it's done -- by the time they get it to me, I'll be two cities forward on the schedule, and wearing the same underwear, which I'm sure will be a treat. If I keep everything in carry-ons, the only person who can be faulted for losing my luggage is me.

Now, I think I can do it, because I'm a pretty low-maintenance sort of guy: I'm going to be mostly be wearing "author casual" (i.e., t-shirts and jeans), the components of which can generally be jammed into a duffel bag without too much damage. I might bring a more dress-up ensemble for a couple of events, but I'm not really worried about them getting wrinkled because most hotels have irons, and I actually know how to use one. As long as there's someplace for me to do laundry somewhere along the way, I might actually be able to pull it off.

Am I deluding myself, here? Seriously, I want input on this. One carry-on bag, one backpack. Will it work for three weeks?

* Okay, since you asked, I'll tell you the one thing I'm nervous about, which is that this tour is not exactly cheap. Plane tickets, hotel rooms, escorts, fresh stuffed animals made each day from the local Build-a-Bear franchise propped up on my hotel pillow, as negotiated in my contract rider, a constant stream of Coke Zeros -- all these things add up. So what I'm worried about is Tor dropping all this cash for the tour, and having, like, six people show up at every stop. It's not that I won't be happy to see those six people -- really, thanks for coming out, you guys -- it's just that at that rate the promotional cost comes to a couple hundred dollars per head.

So, please, if you're thinking of coming out to one of the appearances -- and I hope you will -- won't you please also drag along every single person you've ever met in your entire life? Or at least a couple of friends. I promise to be vastly entertaining: I'll do a little reading, I'll answer questions, I'll even re-enact the entire Día del gato del tocino for your amusement. Really, you and every single person you've ever met in your entire life will have a good time. And of course, every appearance is free (although if you pick some books at the bookstore while you're there, the proprietors will thank you -- and if the books you happen to pick up are mine, I will thank you too, and sign them, even). Honestly, this is a hell of a deal for all y'all. Please come. Please please please oh God please.

* To sweeten the deal for you, here's a little tidbit: One of the things I'm considering reading on the tour is the first chapter of The High Castle, my novel that's set for release in early 2008 -- provided, you know, I finish it in the next few months, WHICH I WILL (he says, loudly, because he knows his editor is reading this). This is the chapter whose first line is "Judge Sn's assassination was getting in the way of his golf game," and it only gets better from there, honest. By showing up, you'll be getting a sneak preview of a work no one else will be able to get their hands on until next year. Heck, I haven't even sent my editor this chapter yet (although, uh, I should probably do that soon).

So: If you don't come out for the tour appearances, you'll just have to wait for this chapter until 2008. Like a common troll! And we both know you're not a common troll. You're an uncommon troll -- the kind who goes to see authors on their book tours. And that's the best kind of troll there is.

Wait, that didn't come out right. Well, you know what I'm saying.

Posted by john at April 16, 2007 10:18 AM

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kelly | April 16, 2007 10:29 AM

Still no swing through New England on the tour? Say it ain't so!

JimW | April 16, 2007 10:31 AM

No Chicago appearance - I guess that makes me one of the ordinary trolls.

Neth | April 16, 2007 10:38 AM

I'll see you in Arizona.

John Scalzi | April 16, 2007 10:40 AM

Guys, I'm already out for three weeks. We really couldn't add more dates without me forgetting what my family looks like.

For those of you in cities I'm not going to, the best thing you can do is encourage the people you know in the cities I am going to, to come around to the appearances. That way, when Tor hears back from the bookstores "OMGWTFBBQ Scalzi packed the joint and we sold every single book we had," they will say to themselves "Hey, we'll have to put him back on tour sometime soon." And when they do, the chances are good they'll send me places I haven't already been, like New England and Chicago (and the south-east, and Texas, and etc).

That's my theory, anyway.

Fred Kiesche | April 16, 2007 10:41 AM

Dang. No New Jersey stops? O.K., I can understand that, but no NYC stops. I'd take a day off if I had to go to NYC.

Will there be enough Coke Zero to support the tour? Or will Scalzi turn to a hot cup of a#$ in the morning (as I sip my third cup while contemplating the water swirling around three sides of the house. And I always wanted waterfront property!).

Ah well, back to the marathon of reading/re-reading Old Man, Ghost and Sagan before eventually getting Last Colony.

Lynn | April 16, 2007 10:45 AM

Sniff. No Chicago. Anderson's Books in Naperville is an awesome venue.

WaywardSailorGirl | April 16, 2007 10:53 AM

I'll be there in Seattle with a couple of my cronies...I just started rereading Old Man's War yesterday in anticipation. I hope to get through it AND the Ghost Brigades again before 24th. Then it will be Last Colony time for moi!

michael | April 16, 2007 11:04 AM

Re: living out of carry-on luggage.

Dude, do you clean yourself? Do you brush your teeth?

REMEMBER, you cannot take more than three ounces of any one fluid with you in carry-on. That's not a lot of shampoo. Oh, wait a minute it's Scalzi flying, so scratch that; but you do brush your teeth I suppose.

Good luck going Bohemian in this TIME OF WAR.


Jonathan Vos Post | April 16, 2007 11:08 AM

I spent a professional lifetime learning how to spend a week or more in another city, with everything tucked into a carry-on suitbag. Everything. Well, I'd carry the CD-ROM or DVD with my paper bullet-charts and graphs and illustrations with me. In a pinch, if the suitbag vanished, I'd still be able to make my presentation, albeit in wrinkled clothes. Whereas a nicely pressed suit and tie doesn't help if you're in front of an audience with Nobel prizewinners and all you've got is a little tap dance around the results that you partly remember. Humbert Humbert gave a talk like that to a ladies' group in Lolita, but that's another story.

This carry-on-only was a key to being able to present or co-present 20 papers at two back-to-back science conferences in June 2006 (CASOS and ICCS = Computer Applications in Social and Organization Systems and International Conference on Complex Systems) in two different places (Notre Dame and Boston). The other key, of course, was in good collaboration with good coauthors.

My logistics were perfected to get on and off the plane without endless delay due to luggage. Then those pesky Saudi suicide-ideologues decided that 70 virgins trumped all other concerns.

Now jetliners are busses with wings. Now 9/11 means we all have to carry the requisite items and not carry the requisite nonitems. And accept delays in the name of Allah, the Ayalotollah, and Dick Cheny's hunting buddies.

Worldcons in other countries, of course, force Customs, and finding either locals to stay with, or fellow worldcongoer to share hotel room. Budgets are budgets. Worldcons are worldcons.

The Asian Worldcon looks like a winner, but I can't justify going on a pure bottom-line basis, not having a book to flog at the moment. I designate my coalumnus Dave Brin to represent me cohort.

Which reminds me. Someone commented dubiously that you shouldn't need a CPA. They're wrong, you're right. The American tax system was designed by people with complicated wealthy lives for the sake of people with complicated wealthy lives. We may not be wealthy, but we have to act in complex ways to get some of our own money back.

It's not brain surgery; it's not rocket science. I know -- I used to be a rocket scientist. Folks, I tell you three times -- doing taxes is hard, if you don't want to leave money on the table. I've been Treasurer of a nonprofit, acting treasurer of an Opera company, and boardmember of a software start-up. Taxes are hard. And it's not a matter of "do the math" and understand Economics. People, I'm a many-times published Mathematical Economist. And I find doing taxes, given that there are at least 2 Schedule C small businesses in my household, is hard.

A paper ("Japanese Corporate Strategy, Nash
Equilibrium and First Mover Advantage") coauthored by Jonathan Vos Post, Philip Vos Fellman, and others (a sequel to some other papers by subsets of these authors) has been accepted by


AJBS will hold its 20th Annual Meeting in cooperation with the Academy of International Business (AIB) in Indianapolis. The combined conference will be June 24 to June 28 (the AJBS conference on June 24-25 and the AIB conference from June 25-28).

About AJBS: From its genesis as an informal network in 1982, AJBS was officially organized and held its first conference at the Wharton Business School in January 1987. AJBS continues to hold annual conferences at venues throughout the world, providing an opportunity for discussion of current developments and research on a wide range of business, public policy and teaching issues related to Japan. Papers for AJBS conference presentation are peer reviewed and selected conference papers are published in the journal, Asian Business & Management (ABM). AJBS welcomes scholars, students, and practitioners from all disciplinary backgrounds
ho have an interest in Japanese business issues.

Phil Fellman and perhaps some of his postdocs and
other coauthors will present it in Indianapolis, home of the late Kurt Vonnegut.

I am not Japanese, nor do I play a Japense person on TV. But business is business...

Bottom line: Scalzi is right. Move the Nebula Awards to fit his book tour schedule. And move the AJBS to Yokohama so I can go to it and the Worldcon on one trip. And taxes are hard. We now return you to your regular program, already in progress.

John Scalzi | April 16, 2007 11:11 AM


"REMEMBER, you cannot take more than three ounces of any one fluid with you in carry-on. That's not a lot of shampoo. Oh, wait a minute it's Scalzi flying, so scratch that; but you do brush your teeth I suppose."

I'll be staying at hotels, which generally have adequate complimentary supplies of every toiletry except shaving cream and toothpaste, but you can get both of those in TSA-appoved tiny amounts now.

Chris S. | April 16, 2007 11:13 AM

Carry-on luggage, seriously. It's the only way to travel. Well, it's the only way to travel if you want to end up with everything you started with. Roll everything; iron as needed. Plus: hotel towels! It's all good.

Ewan | April 16, 2007 11:14 AM

Which reminds me. Someone commented dubiously that you shouldn't need a CPA. They're wrong, you're right. The American tax system was designed by people with complicated wealthy lives for the sake of people with complicated wealthy lives. We may not be wealthy, but we have to act in complex ways to get some of our own money back.

It's not brain surgery; it's not rocket science. I know -- I used to be a rocket scientist.

May possibly have been the dubious commenter (although I didn't say that, quite); may likely have been wrong. Not the reason for posting.

Which is: great enjoyment of the traditional 'it's not [rocket science/brain surgery]' comment when it comes from a rocket scientist to a brain surgeon (which is what I do, sort of, for a living).


punkrockhockeymom | April 16, 2007 11:20 AM

I will see you in Novi, Mr. Scalzi.

And you should take that as a huge sign of my regard, really, because I actually make it a point to stay THE HELL out of Novi every day. Seriously. People might ask, "So, Kimberly, whatchya up to today?", and my answer is frequently, "Oh, you know, this and that, and the other, and, of course, NOT going to Novi."

In fact, I'm very, very busy NOT going to Novi today. So you know you rank, mister. I'm braving that enclave of suburban bedroom community McMansion hell for you.

gpike | April 16, 2007 11:25 AM

You can ship clean clothes via UPS to a few selected hotels along the route and, which I'm sure your wife will just love, ship the dirty stuff home in the same box.

Dan Bailey | April 16, 2007 11:33 AM

Crap. I'm trying to get someone to cover my shift for me @ the bike shop. Or maybe I'll try to demand the day off. Why, John? Why'd you have to come to Minneapolis on a Saturday?

Also, WTF with the official release date on TLC? I've seen two different dates on the Innarweebs -- the 17th and the 27th. Amazon says the latter, and I'm assuming that they have their shit together, but I'd love to buy it to read tomorrow while my GF is out of town for work...

John Scalzi | April 16, 2007 11:33 AM

Dan Bailey:

The official release date for TLC is: Tomorrow!

Chewie | April 16, 2007 11:34 AM

Good luck on the tour, champ. I think lots of us are pulling for "Scalzi Tour 2007, Leg 2 - 'Ballz to the Wallz'" in the summer, with stops throughout the northeast including NYC and Beantown. Big ups to ya.

Matthew Appleton | April 16, 2007 11:37 AM

Oh, I'll be there when you show up in DC, and I'll be sure to fetch you that cool beverage as well. :-)

Ann Vallier | April 16, 2007 11:38 AM

My husband does a lot of business travel, sometimes consecutive weeks, and usually packs it pretty light. If you stay in a more "uptown" hotel instead of a budget you usually have overnight drycleaning and you can even send the socks and undies through (he has). Barring that, ask your escort what to do about getting your clothes cleaned - they should be able to figure out something even if they take it and do it themselves. I would even talk to someone at Tor and make sure the escorts are made aware that this request may be made at some point in the tour; it certainly isn't an unreasonable one.

Good luck. I'll be (hopefully) seeing you in Milwaukee.

gerrymander | April 16, 2007 11:49 AM

So long as you commit yourself to the cost of hotel laundry, the "carry-on and backpack" travel method can work very well. It's not cheap, but it is very doable.

RitaInHood | April 16, 2007 11:51 AM

On Luggage:

You really need to get ahold of fellow author Pratchett's sapient pearwood luggage, so you dont have to worry about it getting lost (although you would have to pack along a lot of extra footpower).

Failing that, here's some advice from someone who does do those multiweek trips with a roll-on and backpack.
1) Don't pack jeans. They're bulky. Maybe bring one pair, but for extra slacks get some zip-offs, which are comfy and double as shorts. Yes, it's that warm out on the coast, you'll want shorts. Sweatshirts don't compress, some sweaters do. One rainjacket with hood can cover your outerwear needs if you have some optional insulation.
2) Eagle creek makes a velco-sleeve-thingy that compresses without wrinkling for folding your shirts into. My experience is that it works great. Make sure you can fit this the short way into your roll-on.
3) bring flipflops or some other slip on, bulk-less shoes that you can wear sockless around the hotel, giving your primary shoes some time to air out.
4) Because you won't be able to hit the laundry regularly, fill a toiletry bottle with powdered laundry soap (label it), or get the individual packs of woollite, so you can do sink-sized loads of socks and boxers, and then hang 'em over a chair next to the hotel room heater overnight to dry - or bring a cord to make a drying line.
5) All clothing should match - random shirt+slacks+socks pulled out of the suitcase should be an outfit you feel confident in.
6) Don't fill your bag. Leave extra space, incase your fans/publisher/bookstore gives you tshirts, or you just get the wild hair to shop. If the bag does fill up, make some choices and ship stuff home, then start over.
7) Pick an hour daily for calling home, make sure Krissy & Athena know what time zone you'll be in and plan on hiding away for that home time once a day. Rather then phone call, videoskype.
8) No matter what, get 30 minutes of excersize a day. Helps you sleep with time zone change, raises your spirits, keeps you from snacking - who knows, you may return home with a fitter-looking you (a better present then a grumpy, bleary-eyed, puffy returnee for the spouse). If the hotel is close enough to the bookstore, allow enough time to walk.

Yeah, some of it's obvious, but we've all left the house thinking, "Now what did I forget this time" . . .

G. Jules | April 16, 2007 11:51 AM

All right, here's a theoretical question for you all: Do you think it's possible to pack for a three-week book tour using only carry-on luggage?

Theoretically? Yes. Practically? That depends.

Among other things, it now depends on how many liquids, gels, creams, pastes, and other Product Non Grata materials you need for self-maintenance. Current policy is to put these materials in a Zip-Loc bag and get them specially screened as you go through the checkpoint. This takes time and is irritating. The product containers will also have to be below some maximum amount, and said amount changes at random intervals.

(Also, I suggest bringing extra Zip-Loc bags with you. If you don't need them, someone else will, and there's nothing like the warm glow of saving a stranger's facial wash and mascara from the TSA trash can. Airports which provide their fliers with free Zip-Loc are greatly outnumbered by the "tough noogies" airports which do not.)

Many hotels have laundry service available, but available is not the same thing as inexpensive, timely, and easy to use. I suggest getting your laundry's estimated time of return clear before sending it off. And I mean getting it clear by checking with the front desk, not just by reading the form.

If you run out of clean socks or underwear, Target is usually pretty easy to find and has both for cheap. (Less than the hotel charges for laundry, even.) I'm sure media escorts are used to this.

If you're bringing a laptop, I strongly suggest buying a backback laptop bag (if you don't already own one). They make everything better. The sun shines brighter, the flight attendants bring you extra peanuts, the airport MuZak turns into your favorite song... and the bag can fit approximately twice as much stuff as in a traditional laptop bag, with a quarter of the back pain. And they usually fit under the seatback in front of you.

Seriously, that's my #1 travel recommendation. $50, Best Buy, hands-down the best travel-related purchase I've made.

Mary Dell | April 16, 2007 11:51 AM

D'OH! Not coming to Chicago...waah!

Hm, I see you'll be in Stoplight City, IN on June 30, however. I have family down thataways so maybe we can come to that one. It's one way to beat the crowds, anyway :)

SarahP | April 16, 2007 11:57 AM

If you need an escort (no, not that kind) when you come to Iowa City, let me know. The airport is a quick trip up 380...

G. Jules | April 16, 2007 11:58 AM

...Backpack laptop bag, even.

Christian | April 16, 2007 12:08 PM

John -

Take it from someone who has been married to a travel agent for 11 years, and has been all over the world : Those who travel light, travel fast!

This guy has had this website up for years, and he is THE pro:


It's the only way to travel!

Hope to see you in Richmond on the 9th.

Percy | April 16, 2007 12:10 PM

No chance of your making it to Bangalore and no chance of my making it to the US, so I'll have to give this tour a miss. Hope to see you in my neck of the concrete jungle sometime.

If not, I'll have to write a *really* good book, it'd have to sell *really* well, I'd have to become *really* famous, and my agent would have to be *really* good and get me to go on an international tour...

Really John, you coming over here would be much simpler. Good luck with the tour, I'm sure it'll be great fun--wish I could've been there.

Meghan | April 16, 2007 12:11 PM

I just spent three weeks traveling with just a carry-on and a laptop backpack in march, to three very different destinations, no less -- new york, LA, and Joshua Tree. It's totally doable. Just wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane. And, you know, don't pack three pairs of heels. Or acquire more shoes and strange dresses while shopping in LA. Don't make my mistakes, scalzi!

Steve Buchheit | April 16, 2007 12:28 PM

I think the promotional masters at Tour (not sure if I should say the name) should get Coke Zero to cosponsor the tour, One hand, big pile-o-books, on the other, a Coke Zero display. Could work.

Trollin' trollin' trolling, keep them trolls a rolling. Trollin' trolling trollin' along. Tape the cat up, troll them out, Bacon wrap up, troll them out RAWHIDE!

Steve Buchheit | April 16, 2007 12:45 PM

Instead of using the hotel "laundry service" some hotels do have small laundromats, or there might be a coin-op close by. Take dark t-shirts so you can wash them with jeans and then get new underwear when you get home (unless you like the grey look).

Joemedic | April 16, 2007 12:50 PM

I have connections at the local jail and can show up with lots of people in orange jumpsuits, handcuffs and leg chains. I'm not sure how many of them are fans, but they could probably use a break from jail (and wouldn't Tor be impressed!)


Robin Catesby | April 16, 2007 12:53 PM

May 2nd: Beaverton Powell's.

Yes! The Powell's with reasonable parking spaces. This is most doable. I'll be the troll with the glass eyes, plastic smile, and two foot tall shock of neon pink hair.

Buck | April 16, 2007 12:54 PM

Traveling with one carry on?

Pick out your most threadbare dozen pairs of socks and underwear. Each morning as you get ready, throw out the socks and underwear from the day before. You will be actually increasing your amount of luggage space during the trip.

I understand as a married man, you may have a smaller supply of threadbare disposable underwear than a bachelor, but it's something I've done on overseas trips and it not only lightens the travel load, but forces me to go out and buy new, decent undies.

Erbo | April 16, 2007 01:08 PM

Well, the "official" release date may be tomorrow, but I already found a copy at the Barnes & Noble on Colorado Boulevard...and a review has already been posted to Electric Minds here. Executive summary of review: "Woah!" :-)

Old Jarhead | April 16, 2007 01:15 PM

1. in light of your comments about being away from family, John (which I support wholeheartedly) it might be a good time to remember the men and women deployed away from their families for (thanks, george) up to 15 months at a time. Regardless of anyone's opinion of the mission, the people who are carrying it out are decent, dedicated, and courageous folks who miss their little boys and girls and wives or husbands too.

2. Packing - the answer to your question is Yes! Log on to Rick Steve's website (Europe Through the Back Door). He goes on at length about how to spend a month on the road with carry ons.

3. Is it possible to establish a thread for each stop on the tour so that those who are going to attend can check in and we can know which of the brilliant and incisive minds that post here will be attendance? That way those of us who do not meet that description can bask in the intellectual glow from you and them.


Betsy Whitt | April 16, 2007 01:22 PM

I'll toss in my vote with those who say doing the trip with carry-ons is completely do-able. I spent five weeks in Europe with no more than I could carry on my back - versatile outfits, wear the bulkiest stuff on the plane, make optimal use of those hotel toiletries (and some hotels do have toothpaste and shave cream at the front desk if you ask, btw).

Also, I'd recommend camping laundry soap rather than traditional detergent - less suds to rinse out. Wash your undies and socks every night (even better - plan to wear sandals most of the time, and ditch the socks altogether). I did my trip with two pairs of underwear (gasp!). Did my wash every night and carried my clean pair with me until the next night's wash.

And if you can't get a backpack laptop case, I'd say be sure you've got a rolling suitcase that you can rest a traditional case on top of, and pull both together. In areas where smooth pavement won't be hard to find, it's the easiest way to go.

Oh, and I forget whether you're a Mac used, but the iChat video chat function is really quite good - my husband and I use that when we're stranded away from one another for any amount of time and both have internet access.

I'll have to catch you on the next tour... no stops anywhere near Denver, alas, or I'd be able to make a showing.

Have a good trip!

Adam Rakunas | April 16, 2007 01:22 PM

I think the three-week bag is totally doable, especially since it sounds like you don't need to deal with suits and all that clothing that needs to appear unwrinkled. I went on a two-week trip to Lithuania with my dad and brother. They loaded up their rolly bags, and I got a backpack from Eagle Creek (not sure about the model, but I can find it when I get home). It had a detachable day pack that could slip under my airplane seat while the bag itself transformed itself from an internal-frame backpack to a neat bundle that fit snugly into the overhead compartment. And while Dad and bro clacked and bounced over the cobblestones, I walked silently, like a travel ninja.

As for the socks and skivvies, find stuff that's meant to wick moisture 'cause it'll dry quickly. I'm a big fan of REI's MTS boxer briefs and DeFeet Air-E-Ator socks, which you can probably find at your local bike or run store (or online at a place like Performance Bikes). Stuff that wicks moisture also dries quickly, which means you can give 'em a quick wash in the sink and have 'em dried by morning. And there's also a brand of underwear called ExOfficio that claims to be the only pair of shorts you'll need on a trip because they're meant to dry quickly, though $25 a pair seems a little steep.

Shawn Struck | April 16, 2007 01:44 PM

Well, I'd love to go, but living in Texas, those are all quite a drive.

I will tell my friends in WI all about it, though.

Tor | April 16, 2007 01:45 PM

You probably already know most of this, but this is everything I know about airtravel in 2007...

Bring a pair of sandals, topsiders, loafers or other slip on and off shoe for airports. Nothing sucks more than standing around a TSA checkpoint while trying to get your shoes on while corralling your backpack, suitcase and laptop, and then tying your shoes while some idiot steps on your fingers.

Put everything in your pockets and clipped to your belt in your jacket pockets, your jacket will have to go through the x-ray anyway, and this way you'll breeze through the metal detector. Don't put your boarding pass in your jacket.

If you are flying Southwest at any point, remember you can check in 24 hours in advance, even if you can't print the boarding pass, so that you are A group (the first 45 people to board the plane - i.e. always a window or aisle seat). You can 'reprint' the boarding pass at the airport when you get there. B is ok. C group sucks.

Make sure your carry-on fits in the overhead compartment, and board as early as you can. No-one wants to check a bag anymore, and every flight I took in the last month (10+ flights) had an announcement partially through the boarding process that the overhead bins were full and any further bags would have to be gate checked.

If you see a long line for security, look or ask for another checkpoint. At BWI, Southwest's A gate security usually has long lines, and the B gate usually doesn't (A comes up first as you arrive at the airport) - both are connected by a food court, so you can enter either place.

If you are delayed (and you will be) find a Departures screen and look for alternate flights. Go to the gate of the alternate flight and ask if you can transfer to this undelayed flight (of any other airline except for Southwest, JetBlue, ATA or smaller regional carriers who don't belong to the multi-airline agreements). While you are walking over there (it is always a hike, and there may be a line when you get there - so you'll have lots of time), call your original airline and ask them, while you are walking, if you can switch to that flight, or if there is another flight.

If your flight is delayed for ANY mechanical reason, switch flights. Gate crew lie, are told to lie, and will do it to your face. When they aren't lying, someone lied to them, or was just horribly misinformed. Again, ANY mechanical reason, switch flights.

If your flight was delayed due to weather, ask if it is already in the air, and on the way here. Ask if there is sufficent crew, or if the crew will be under their limit on flight time. Waiting for any crew member? Switch flights.

If your flight is cancelled, call the airline. You can get in line, too, but calling will almost always be faster. If you get stuck, your airline owes you stuff. It won't compensate for getting stuck, but if they get stingy, mention their contract of carriage, which states what they need to provide when. Post something here - we'll do the research for you. And if you get stuck in DC, you are welcome to stay in a house of chaos (and a nice garden-in-progress) in Annapolis (30 min outside of DC - offer includes transportation to and from Annapolis in a minivan).

Good luck.

P.S. Don't write 'Kip Hawley is an idiot' on anything TSA may see. It seems funny now, but then you remember that rendition can also be a verb.

Laurie Mann | April 16, 2007 01:49 PM

The neatest thing on your whole tour is that stop at Google. Wow.

Good luck and just pack comfortably.

Muneraven | April 16, 2007 01:50 PM

See you in Minneapolis, Mr. Scalzi. I'll bring along at least one person. :-)

Audrey | April 16, 2007 01:52 PM

Robin: The Beaverton Powell's might have parking, but it's a lousy choice for those of us who don't live in the suburbs, and especially for me who doesn't drive. Who am I going to talk into driving out there during rush hour? It's an hour via bus from downtown.

Now I'm sad.

But I agree with everyone else about sticking to carry-on luggage. Very do-able, totally worth it.

Tim Elliott | April 16, 2007 01:54 PM

I develop hazmat training for first responders, and I'm on the road for six weeks at a time. I can attest it's both possible and preferable to avoid checked bags even for long jaunts.

I carry my laptop and assorted cellphone and iPod gear in a black shoulder bag from eBags. The Firewall is terrific, well-reviewed, and on sale here, though they seem to be out of black ones:


The Firewall also slides down easily over the telescoping handle on the second bag, a sturdy bag from snowboard company Burton. It's the Wheelie Flight Deck, best in a color called "True Black," and also on sale now here:


The onebag guru and I disagree about having wheels on the Flightdeck bag, but otherwise I second Christian's earlier rec for the onebag.com site, too, as well as Adam's suggestions about wickable, fast-drying undergear.

Tor | April 16, 2007 01:54 PM

P.P.S. If you see 'FFFF' on your boarding pass - usually the lower right corner, plan on extra time. Congratulations, you are a Selectee! No, you don't get a cheeseboard for this one. You may see a lot of FFFF's, as you will be doing a lot of one way travel.... Get your boarding pass in advance if at all possible. You can ask the concierge to print it for you at many hotels, or just use their business center. This will save A LOT of time at the airport.

If at any time you are concerned that your bag will be over the 50lb limit (to check), get a second bag (easy method) or curb check it and tip the sky cap *well* BEFORE he weighs your bad(crafty method). You will likely avoid the fine if you give him $5-10 in advance.

Jim Wright who hates air travel | April 16, 2007 01:56 PM

Arrgh! You people are killing me. There are many things that make modern air travel equal to the inner circle of hell. But if there's one thing at the friggin' top my list of stuff that just plain pisses me off it's waiting to board the plane while every single asshat ahead of me tries to stuff a baby grand piano into the overhead luggage compartment. For the love of all that is holy, just check your Goddammed luggage already, will you? It's easy, there are rules: 1) One small carry-on please, 2) get the shit out that you need on the plane (IPOD, book, whatever) before you board, and 3) go to your seat and sit the fuck down. Repeat: Just get on the plane and sit the fuck down!. When the flight attendant keeps announcing "we can't move the plane until everybody is in their seats" she's talking to you. Sit down. If you look behind you and see a guy with a military haircut who looks like he wants to kill you because you're holding up the line while trying to shove that over-stuffed one-suiter in the overhead, that's me, and I will kill you unless you Get. The. Hell. Out. Of. The. Way.

While we're on the subject, a couple more items:
1) No, I will not swap my isle seat with you so you can sit next to your buddy. I reserved it weeks in advance, piss off.
2) No, I will not hold you jumbomochagrandelattehalfcaf while you get your laptop out. If you put in on my tray anyway, I'll drink it, or maybe just lick the lid.
3) If your ass is wider than your seat either buy two tickets or suck it up, but keep your fat ass out of my seat. I paid for it, and I want all of it.
4) Don't talk to me, ever. I don't care where you're going. Really.
5) Don't try anything stupid, or I and every other military guy on the plane will jump on your ass and beat you senseless. I'm not ending up as strawberry surprise in a bean field somewhere because you suddenly got an IM from the voices in your head.

Yeah, I've got issues with air travel. So what? All the more reason not to irritate me, I might snap and then everybody will be sorry.

Darkson | April 16, 2007 02:04 PM

Looking forward to saying "Hi" in Minneapolis. I'm just about done reading my advance copy of The Last Colony. Great series. Looking forward to seeing what else you come up with. I picked up a copy of The Android's Dream yesterday. I'll tell Don to stock some Coke Zero for you at the store.

Mary Dell | April 16, 2007 02:13 PM

"Air Bags" are a big help for travelling light. You roll your clothes up, put them in the bags, and then roll the air out of the bag. They come in different sizes and you can get them at drugstore chains. Have one for clean clothes, one for dirty.

Air bags are also great for car trips...we like to do a weeklong road trip once or twice a year, and you sometimes end up in a less-than clean hotel. Having a set of sheets and towels in airtight bags in the trunk makes life much pleasanter.

CosmicDog | April 16, 2007 02:13 PM

RE: Carry-on luggage

I live in a house and do not go on tour, and I pretty much survive on three outfits, a pair of sweats, a laptop computer, and a guitar. Since you're not me, you probably won't be bringing a guitar with you wherever you go, so you should be fine.

And, yes, I do have a job, thank you very much.

Mary Dell | April 16, 2007 02:15 PM

"Air Bags" are a big help for travelling light. You roll your clothes up, put them in the bags, and then roll the air out of the bag. They come in different sizes and you can get them at drugstore chains. Have one for clean clothes, one for dirty. You don't need a vacuum cleaner or any of that nonsense, these just use a basic one-way air valve and a ziploc-style opening on top.

Air bags are also great for car trips...we like to do a weeklong road trip once or twice a year, and you sometimes end up in a less-than clean hotel. Having a set of sheets and towels in airtight bags in the trunk makes life much pleasanter.

Mer Haskell | April 16, 2007 02:17 PM

I'll come see you in Novi if you can assure me that it won't be snowing.

*shakes fist at sky*

So, in brief--learn how to control the weather and I'm your huckleberry.

Ellen | April 16, 2007 02:24 PM

One carry-on bag, one backpack. Will it work for three weeks?

Not a problem. I've done two weeks on just a backpack. And if you get desperate, maybe the fancy Tor escort can find a laundromat and go wash some of your clothes...

Robin Catesby | April 16, 2007 02:28 PM

Perhaps interested locals could arrange for some carpooling? I'd be happy to help out in that regard. As a former long-time carless bus rider I know your frustration. I also know that for us folks who need to take cars for various reasons, finding parking near the downtown Powell's is a major p.i.t.a., and I've skipped events because of it. It's a shame there isn't a location that suits both drivers & non-drivers equally well.

Dr. Phil | April 16, 2007 02:36 PM

3) If your ass is wider than your seat either buy two tickets or suck it up, but keep your fat ass out of my seat. I paid for it, and I want all of it.

While I sympathize with the sentiment and aren't particularly interested in picking a fight, don't bloody well blame me because the airlines can't figure out how bloody wide to make an airline seat when faced with a nation of traveling fat asses. Funniest thing I ever saw was on a Northwest flight to Amsterdam when they ran a video showing how you could do some exercises in your seat in order to restore circulation and feel better -- the model in the video was a size 0 sitting in a first-class wide-bodied seat. Not exactly the kind of seat I was sitting in.

Oh, and as a physicist, I should point out that technically "sucking it up" will not diminish the width of my ass -- "sucking it up" goes in a different direction and has a distinct tendancy to cause expansion in the lateral direction, which isn't the result you seem to be looking for.

So trust me when I get cranky because they don't make tray tables which I can use, but do have the random seat spacing exactly mismatch with the intrusions from the wall panels so that my elbow ends up at an oblique angle, and cleverly make seatbelts so that at maximum length the buckle ends up inboard of the hard edge of the seat, embedding it into my fat leg (thank you Airbus -- you've just given me a BIG reason to prefer my jets carry the Boeing logo).

And for your information, buying a second seat doesn't change a single one of those defects I mentioned above. The good news? I wouldn't drink a jumbomochagrandelattehalfcaf if you paid me, so I shan't be carrying one onto an airplane, and I always pull out my PDA beforehand (can't use the laptop in flight because as my cats have noticed, I have no lap and as previously mentioned, the tray table won't work for me).

Amazingly, one of the more comfortably fitting coach seats for me is on the Canadair Regional Jet -- but they don't provide seatbelt extenders on some flights anymore. Certain seats are equipped with extra-long seatbelts, but they don't know which ones when they assign seats. Now that's clever -- and don't tell me to reserve a seat ahead of time -- I DID. The game of seat exchange is the airline's fault.

Dr. Phil Who Is Not Of The One-Size Fits All Persuasion

pollox | April 16, 2007 02:57 PM

re: carry-on only travel

the website 'One Bag' http://www.onebag.com/ is all about how to travel the world living out of a carry-on. You might find it useful.

Christian | April 16, 2007 03:05 PM

Remember, when we brought the slaves over from Africa - they each had 23 inches of space (in width).

The airlines have seen fit to give us all 18 inches!

Go figure.

Scott Marlowe | April 16, 2007 03:06 PM

No TX stops? Why doesn't anyone ever come down to Texas? Some of us aren't from around these here parts and we can read! ;-)

(at the risk of offending any Texans out there, I was born here if that counts for anything... though my natural-born-Texan-wife doesn't think it does!)

Mary Kay | April 16, 2007 03:10 PM

John: What Buck said, really. Toss underwear and socks and buy new. They're cheap and life is too short to do laundry on the road. And it's really amazing the places you can buy underwear and socks these days. My drugstore carries them.

Take earplugs with you. On the plane, put in the earplugs, put on the headset and turn up the classical station nice and loud. This allows you to read without being interrupted by friendly seatmates, crying children, or the guy 2 rows back who is a salesman and wants to talk to *everybody* at the top of his lungs. Yes, I do travel a lot. If you're taking a suit or jacket along, wear those on the plane. People who are nicely dressed get treated better by flight attendants. As do people who say please and thank you.

I'll see you in Seattle. Would you like me to bring you underwear and socks?

MKK--but first I'll see you at Penguicon

Jim Wright who is properly chastised | April 16, 2007 03:17 PM

Sorry Dr. Phil, no insult intended. Sincerely. I may have had a stuck sarcasm button on my keyboard, or I may just be a jerk today. Not sure yet.

In my defense, I book an aisle seat because I got my left shoulder pulverized in a desert in the Middle East and I have serious problems sitting for a long time in one of those Torquemada seats (North West is the absolute worst, Alaska Airlines is the best). And because I usually travel on government orders, I can't upgrade to first class even if I pay out of my own pocket. Getting pressed against the armrest by some linebacker sized gorilla next to me is agony. After an hour or so, I start to come unhinged. Another result of spending most of my life in the Middle East is that crowds, and being crowded especially, makes me very uncomfortable. Combine that with the constant pain of my shoulder and I start to get obnoxious pretty damn quick, you bet. I know it's my problem, and I try to deal with it, but there it is anyway.

Once, on a grueling 8 flight from GA to AK, I completely lost it and demanded $114 from the guy sitting next to me. At his somewhat puzzled expression I explained that I paid $1140 for the seat, he was sitting in 10% of it - 10% of 1140 is $114 and he could either cough it up and get out of my seat. They moved me to business class, so it worked out for everybody. But I was so crippled I could barely walk after I got off the plane.

As a side note, Dr. Phil, I take it that the hot redhead on your LJ page is not actually a picture of you? :-) On the other hand, I think I'm now a regular reader. Gas prices here aren't as bad, but they're getting there. Again, my apologies.

Cassie | April 16, 2007 03:19 PM

Too many comments to read while I'm trying to help my daughter write her research paper on Neptune, but I'll tell you the neatest trick I've found.

Pack clothes in large ziplock bags. I got the giant size at Sam's Club. When everything is in the bag, sit on it and zip it closed. It reduced volume considerably.

Of course, you won't want to do this with a suit, but for undies, it's good.

Joe Rybicki | April 16, 2007 03:19 PM

You can totally do three weeks in carry-on. Consider: Just how many people are going to be seeing you in more than one location? So who cares if you're wearing the same outfit three times in one week?

Another suggestion: Set aside your "reading clothes" and wear those only for the readings; when you get back to the hotel change into something you can easily stuff into a laundry bag between stops, and not worry about wrinkling. That way you can prolong the shelf life of those garments between washings.

Also: Ask if they have irons and ironing boards in the rooms when you check in -- if they don't have them, they'll send 'em up. Cuts down on the waiting-for-housekeeping time and adds to the stuff-your-face-with-m&ms-from-the-minibar time.

And one more random suggestion: If you're stocking up on travel reading, you may be tempted to buy Mark Helprin's Freddy and Fredericka because Winter Tale was so damned good. You will want to suppress this temptation. A comedy writer, Helprin ain't.

Safe travels!

Douglas | April 16, 2007 03:21 PM

I apologize if this strategy has already been suggested (too busy today to scan comments to confirm):

Only pack one suitcase full of the most comfortable clothes you like to wear. Show up at each signing in a worn out tshirt and flip-flops. Claim the airline lost your luggage and all you have are the clothes on your back.

Makes for a good self-deprecating ice-breaker--you know, since you're shy.

But its comfy AND plausible.


John Scalzi | April 16, 2007 03:29 PM


Yes, except too many people read this blog, and they'll recognize the excuse. D'oh!

Philm | April 16, 2007 03:31 PM

Didn't see it mentioned yet (I admit, I only scanned the comments so far):

Assuming you know what hotels you'll be staying at ahead of time, consider mailing yourself stuff (like clean socks and skivvies) in advance. If you've got a reservation, most decent hotels will hold it for you for a couple of days, and you won't have to carry it with you.

If nothing else, maybe you could send it to the escort (*hehheh*, he said "escort") that Tor's got lined up for you for a particular city.

My father-in-law used to do a lot of multi-week, multi-destination travel, and he'd do it all the time. Worked beautifully for him.

Philm | April 16, 2007 03:32 PM

Didn't see it mentioned yet (I admit, I only scanned the comments so far):

Assuming you know what hotels you'll be staying at ahead of time, consider mailing yourself stuff (like clean socks and skivvies) in advance. If you've got a reservation, most decent hotels will hold it for you for a couple of days, and you won't have to carry it with you.

If nothing else, maybe you could send it to the escort (*hehheh*, he said "escort") that Tor's got lined up for you for a particular city.

My father-in-law used to do a lot of multi-week, multi-destination travel, and he'd do it all the time. Worked beautifully for him.

Cassie, back from Neptune | April 16, 2007 03:46 PM

Why not send the stuff to the store where you'll be signing books? Surely they'd hold stuff for you there.

There's also the "take the old underwear that needs to be tossed anyway and throw it away and buy new as needed" trick.

Buck | April 16, 2007 03:52 PM

By the way, who else is going to Penguincon? We should get together for lunch (that is, unless this website is really just me and Scalzi and his desperate need to be validated causing him to make it look like all these different people write comments on his website)?

Dr. Phil | April 16, 2007 03:52 PM

Jim Wright -- I didn't think you were too out of line, we both have our issues. (grin) I did, however, want to point out that they don't make it easy for us fat slobs either -- and tried to make my posted response semi-humorous. I injured my back A Long Time Ago while a yearbook photographer in high school and can't easily sit in one place for much more than an hour or two at a time without paying dearly for the experience, so I truly understand about your shoulder. On the other hand, the Airbus seatbelt design really is evil, so they rightly deserve my ire.

Also, flying to/fro Alaska is a chore and a half right there. A buddy of mine from college days tried to fly from Chicago to Juneau for Thanksgiving and literally spent the entire Thanksgiving Break in airports and airplanes, and never did see his folks.

As for the hot redhead, that's the incomparable Kate Winslet from Titanic, the finest actress of her generation.

Dr. Phil Is Happy To Have Another Visitor To His Blog

Jordan | April 16, 2007 04:02 PM

You can absolutely pack for three weeks in one roller bag. I visited Scotland for three weeks with only one suitcase. Make sure that you have the plastic bag containers that hold the clothes flat after the air is removed from them. Also, only take one pair of shoes. If you absolutely have to take two pairs of shoes, then stuff your socks and underwear into the extra pair. That should give you enough room to carry everything. Just a tip, stick a clean pair of underwear into your shoulder bag in case the airline checks your bag at the last second. Hopefully that won't happen. Have a safe journey.

Jim Wright | April 16, 2007 04:20 PM

Dr Phil: Yes, I realized that was Kate right after I clicked "post." Ms. Winslet has certain properties that bend photons in defiance of current field theory as we understand it. Since you are a physicist, I can certainly understand your interest.

As a side note, I see you live and work in Kalamazoo, I grew up just north of there in Middleville, my folks still live there. They run the best dammed produce farm in Michigan, Parmalee Hills Farm Market, should you be in the neighborhood.

Lady M | April 16, 2007 04:21 PM

I actually had something useful to contribute, but pollux beat me to it. I think I'll leave the link anyway. Hope to meet you in SF!


DM | April 16, 2007 04:27 PM

Three weeks with just carry-on luggage is possible. I've been to England, France and SE Asia (not all at once, obviously) with either a small wheeled suitcase or a backpack that conformed to the size/weight limits for carry-on. The backpack was easier to schlep on and off the plane, though.

As much as I love jeans, they were too bulky for this kind of thing, especially when I had just the backpack. They also took much longer in the dryer. My preference is cargo pants with useful pockets everywhere, lightweight t-shirts I can roll up tightly and stack in the suitcase like firewood, and as few pairs of socks/underwear as I think I can get away with taking. Good luck!

Dawn B. | April 16, 2007 04:29 PM

John, just a quick note (feel free to delete): Did you get my email to you regarding the book tour?

David | April 16, 2007 04:31 PM

John, people will give you stuff. You will either have to carry it with you thereafter, or do something else with it. So if you bring some preprinted labels (ups, fedex, whatever) that can be slapped on a box and/or handed to your minder, you can send the stuff home with much less hassle, instead of trying to find room for it in your luggage.

Cassie | April 16, 2007 04:35 PM

Did I miss the name of the tour announcement? Being on Neptune does interfere with catching the latest Whatever news.

Chris Mirell | April 16, 2007 04:43 PM

Glad to see you going to the Bay Book Company in Half Moon Bay-I just discovered it two weeks ago-wonderful place-I'm two hours away, so I hope I can make it-maybe I'll stop by in Berkeley. Thanks for all the great books so far!

Jason | April 16, 2007 05:01 PM

Everybody who is heartbroken because John Scalzi is not coming to Chicago should come on up to Milwaukee. A ninety minute drive, maybe less- mayber more depending on how fast you drive, and no tolls in Wisconsin.
Visit Schwartz Bookshops- www.schwartzbooks.com- Anderson's is fantastic and I love them, but I would like to think we are too. If enough people trek up and see the author maybe the publicist will notice that and schedule him in Chicago next time.

Thats it- I hope to see some of Chicago at the event.

Cassie | April 16, 2007 05:17 PM

I think that everyone from Whatever who goes to see John needs to bring him some toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, etc.

David Neal | April 16, 2007 06:17 PM

Can you live out of a carry on suitcase? Absolutely.

As others have mentioned, leaving a few "fallen soliders" along the way will help;
to wit buying clean socks, undies and t-shirts from the local drugstore/target/walmart once a week
will mean no schlepping around with two to three weeks of undergarments.

Since even what constitutes carry-on can vary by equipment type, you want to go with lowest common denominator on size, though.
And of course if you fly a turboprop all bets are off.

David Neal | April 16, 2007 06:18 PM

Sorry should have included dimensions.
According to Jetblue:
Your personal item must not exceed 18"l x 15"w x 8"h in order to fit under the seat in front of you. To fit in the overhead bin, your item must not exceed 24"l x 16"w x 10"h.

Roger | April 16, 2007 06:54 PM

One carry-on for the whole period definately depends upon what you're doing. I had the same amount of luggage once for three weeks as for three days - happened the same semester in graduate school - as one trip was field work and the other was concerts. We did three concerts in one day and so I had dress clothes that I had sweated through and changed into travel clothes, then dress clothes then... the picture should be clear. But, as people before have said, light clothes, no blue jeans, leave things behind, mail things ahead. And most motels/hotels have soap and shampoo provided so just skip those and there should be somewhere nearby to get laundry soap - in my motel there's some in the vending machine by the washer and dryer - so that you don't need all of those extra articles. In the chain where I work we are also supposed to have complimentary razors, shaving cream, deodorant, combs, shower caps, tooth brushes, toothpaste, and sewing kits at the front desk. Check out the motels/hotels on their brand web page and I suspect many have some complimentary items that you won't need to carry.

sam young | April 16, 2007 07:08 PM

if i can go to europe for seven weeks with five changes of clothes in a duffel bag, i think you can manage

Old Jarhead | April 16, 2007 07:15 PM

"Why not send the stuff to the store where you'll be signing books? Surely they'd hold stuff for you there.

There's also the "take the old underwear that needs to be tossed anyway and throw it away and buy new as needed" trick."

I can visualize it now - at the end of each reading John stands up, raises yesterday's skivvies high and lights them with a match, tosses them triumphantly in a trash can and says "Another one bites the dust".

BTW I hope the Google event is out of synch with lunch since you don't want to get between Googlers and the gourmet chow they get free of charge there. Especially stay out of the way of my daughter who will mow you down and take no prisoners.

nzbeads | April 16, 2007 07:17 PM

Shampoo (free hotel stuff*) works very nicely as laundry soap. Haven't traveled with more than a carryon for years. Last week's carryon had 44 pounds of beads and 5 pounds of clothes. I wore half my clothes and packed half. Nobody noticed and I saw pretty much the same people every day. You are forced, however, to wash out socks and underwear every night. Get the fast drying Coolmax stuff. Even mens socks which are really hard to get in a lightweight fast-drying mode. Expensive but beats schleping the stuff.

The 'buy more stuff' deal never quite works for me. I'm never in a place where I can buy more for reasonable prices at times when one can actually buy stuff. It's always the middle of the night when I'm through working/socializing/whatever it is with the locals.

* Last weeks' hotel shampoo was 'volumizing'. Did wonder what it might be doing to my hips.

Pat Logan | April 16, 2007 08:14 PM

I take one bag to travel. I have a second collapsible carry-on bag I fold up and put inside the first for any items I collect along the way, because you do get two carry-on bags on most US airlines. I've never had to mail things home yet...

Bring the thinnest, lightest things you own; layer if it's cold. Carry or wear your coat, and wear the nice shoes on the flight. I don't bring belts or chains or anything not absolutely necessary. You can buy anything you forgot at 7-11 or Wal-Mart or something.

Waiting for your luggage is the worst. I refuse to do it ever again.

Old Jarhead | April 16, 2007 08:33 PM

I have to admit that I went to the "check it and pray" mode b/c it makes the rest of the experience so much better.

1. I don't end up like Quasimodo (or even a real Modo) from humping a 35 pound "carryon" around the airport for the two hours youi are hostage there prior to the flight.

2. I can sit smugly (except on SouthWest)and watch the throngs trying to beat each other onto the plane so that they will have room to store their bags in the overheads before some dipwad comes along with a grand piano.

3. When I do ease onto the plane as virtually the last passenger boarding my "I can't STAND IT! I've gotta get OUTA HERE!" clock has just started while those of the pax who boarded first already have a half hour on theirs and have been doing the "bump" with Dr. Phil :):) and having a ferocious stare down with Jim Wright over the percentage of square inchage they are using.

4. I walk smugly down the aisle bruising no one and inflicting no head injuries with my Lands End cloth monogrammed briefcase.

5. I slip into my aisle seat and toss my LECMB at my feet leaving most of the room for said pedal extremeties where it is also available to disgorge iPod, headphones, magazines, and Scalzi book o' the moment.

6. When the plane hits the gate I do not cause a cascade of luggage onto the domes of the poor schnooks sitting under my overhead bin - instead I stand up, put my shoes back on, and walk comfortably out of the plane to the luggage carousel. Wackiness may ensue there but on balance it is still the best plan.

Steve Buchheit | April 16, 2007 09:05 PM

Okay, just make sure you have your towel, John. The strags will loan you everything else you need. After all, if a man can traverse the west for three weeks on a book tour and know where his towel is, this is surely a man to be reckoned with.

I can't believe anybody else hasn't cracked that joke yet.

ian | April 16, 2007 09:23 PM

old mans war, the ghost brigades, and the android's dream already. i doubt i will be able to finish the sagan diaries audio-book because computers are distracting.

Cassie | April 16, 2007 09:39 PM

Old Jarhead, you scare me. lol

glinda | April 16, 2007 09:48 PM

Sorry I can't bring anyone to the Seattle signing; my SF-fan friends who'd normally want to go either are working (!) or have severe health issues. *sigh*

I'll be the one apologizing for only being able to buy a paperback Old Man's War (*wry expression*) (well, two; one for me, and one for a birthday gift for one of the abovementioned non-attending friends).

Lee W | April 16, 2007 09:57 PM

Looking forward to seeing you at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. They had a good turnout for Jim Butcher yesterday and Jim mentioned that he had just read Old Man's War and really liked it (and one of the staff gave him an ARC of The Last Colony to read). Jim was doing his first ever book tour (after nine Dresden novels - about time) and had been pretty much on the road for the last two weeks and was ready to get home for a few days.

One suggestion for doing a three week book tour is something Neil Gaiman does. He packages up his dirty clothes and sends them home while getting a care package from home with fresh clothers shipped to him at one of the stops. Of course, if you don't have that many clothes it may not work as well...

Lee Whiteside

Joyce Reynolds-Ward | April 16, 2007 10:33 PM

Does this mean they switched your Portland visit back to Beaverton?

Darn. Guess they don't value the East Side Portlandites, then.

Sorry, Robin, but not all of us value the drive to Beaverton. I simply do not go there and my time is such that carpooling isn't the issue. It's the traffic.

Tor | April 16, 2007 10:38 PM

Old Jarhead:

When you say, "it makes the rest of the experience so much better," I'm a little confused. You sound like you might have had a good experience on an airplane. I'm not sure what airline you are flying, but I usually travel with only a cloth briefcase, and it still sucks. Cramming a suitcase in the overhead compartment hasn't made much of a difference when I've done it.

Of course, I usually fly Southwest and check in as A, so MMMV...

Dave | April 17, 2007 12:07 AM


Regarding your packing dilemma... Look at your schedule about a week in and then at the two week mark, find the hotel and Fedex/UPS/USPS whatever .. some clothes to yourself.

That way when you arrive, you'll have a package waiting (let the women in your life pack the box, they'll add good stuff into the mix) of new clothes to wear and goodies too! Then pack back into the box the same amount of clothes you dont want to see again and ship it off.

Voila! honestly, it sounds crazy, but its not THAT expensive and it'll give you fresh clothes.


-et- | April 17, 2007 12:41 AM

Dr Phil said:
"On the other hand, the Airbus seatbelt design really is evil, so they rightly deserve my ire."

I really do not want to speak well of Airbus, especially since they are the competition, but I really hate to see them dinged for something that is not their fault. If you are unhappy with any aspect of the seats - or the seat spacing - on a commercial aircraft, you need to start collecting scalps at the airline you are flying, rather than throw stones at the aircraft manufacturer.

We (Boeing, Airbus, Saab, etc.) sell an airline operator a paper aircraft without seats. The individual operator buys seats directly from one of 6-8 seat manufacturers located in various countries around the world, and has that seat manufacturer send his product to the aircraft manufacturer for installation prior to delivery. The airline also specifies the seat spacing (legroom) desired in each ticket class, and the seats are installed per those instructions.

I've seen mechanically identical aircraft right next to each other on the production line with seats that were night and day in comfort when compared with each other. The reason - those two aircraft belonged to different operators, who had bought different seats from different seat manufacturers, and who also specifed different legroom.

Personally, the most uncomfortable seats I have ever experienced were the ones that Saudi Arabian Airlines bought from an Italian seat manufacturer and had us install on their Douglas MD-90 aircraft. The seats were probably the most stylish and visually impressive aircraft seats I have ever seen, and also the most miserably uncomfortable.

If circumstances force you to regularly fly a specific airline that has uncomfortable seats, fire off a letter to the President / CEO of that airline, and raise hell about them cutting corners by purchasing cheap seats that make the customers suffer. (Price is not always the reason, but making that accusation may be productive.) Tell him that if you don't see comfortable seats in his new planes, you will be flying with his competition. (Even if that is not a viable option for you, he won't know that it is a bluff.) Get a couple of friends to write similar letters over the next couple of months - just a few letters can make a big difference when they are ready to make a purchasing decision in the future.

With best wishes,
- Tom -

Lisa | April 17, 2007 12:42 AM

I used to travel a lot for business, and I always travelled out of a niced sized carry on. Although my trips were rarely longer than a week. But there is laundry service on the road, and most places do have a little shop where you can get toothpaste if you run out. It's not like you are going to the middle of a desert.

Funny blind story for ya'll:
The reason I started using all carry on is that I used to travel with a guide dog, which meant that I travelled with dog food. Now, after you get picked up by security because their bomb/drug/contraband sniffing dogs have marked your suitcase as searchworthy, and you end up opening up your suitcase and digging around your unmentionables IN FRONT OF YOUR MALE BOSS to prove that all you have is dog food, you tend to figure out how to stuff everything you need in a carry-on bag. I still brought dog food in the bag, but not so much that the airport dogs were after me.

Not to mention that trying to find your luggage on a luggage carousel when you're blind is a bitch.

PixelFish | April 17, 2007 01:02 AM

I told my friend Denis--who I was not aware was one of your readers, but he IS!--about your signing at Borderlands....and while I was doing so, some guy at the Burger Bistro said, "Hey, Borderlands, that place is cool." And then asked who was going to be there and when, so I dropped the info on 'em.

Sadly, my boy and I will be en route to Boston and totally missing out on Scalzipalooza.

Chris | April 17, 2007 01:37 AM

I've pretty much cemented plans to hop on over for your S.F. stop, but dragging along people I know is unfortunately not feasible as, well, I'll be coming directly from a class. A class full of non-book-reading people! I know, it's a shock. But it's true.

But, uh, I promise I'm really cool.. or something.... I'll be like three people! Except I don't think I can afford to buy three copies of a book.

Jos | April 17, 2007 02:52 PM

I will keep my whine short. Why no love for Canada? Well, really, i only care that you aren't visiting Toronto, if i was to be totally honest.

But i'll get over it.

Dr. Phil | April 17, 2007 04:05 PM

You're right that airlines configure their own aircraft with great whim and vigor -- and the companies usually put up with the customers' choices. So perhaps it isn't Airbus' fault.

On the other hand, I never had a problem with the seat belts on any other major U.S. carrier with products from MD or Boeing, so when I fly Northwest's Airbus and get a differnet design which has a problem, then there's an issue. Perhaps NWA could've specified the same seats and seatbelts as their US-made brethren, but perhaps shipping thousands of seats to Europe instead of buying from a European vendor might've been a cost issue. In that case it becomes an Airbus issue. Equivalent sometimes isn't. (grin)

I clearly don't know the real story on this one, I am surmising much, but I also teach Occam's Razor in my Physics classes, so...

Dr. Phil

Tempest | April 17, 2007 05:09 PM

I wish I could come to one of your tour stops, but I cannot get my butt out of NYC for a while. however, here's a tip: In Cincinnati be sure to eat 1) LaRosa's pizza (if you like pizza) 2) Greater's Ice Cream (if you like ice cream) 3) Skyline Chili (if you... i think you know by now) in that order. You'll not be dissapointed.

I wish I still knew anyone who liked SF in my hometown. I would send them at you.

Also, if you do come to NYC for the Nebula thing, save a dinner or lunch or afternoon tea slot for me!

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