TRAVEL TIPS FROM A YEAR ON A BUS
This week marks a year since I flew to New Orleans to join Brandy Clark at The House of Blues; the start of an amazing year that took us all over the USA, Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland, and saw us performing in clubs, theatres, arenas, playing headline shows and opening for some amazing artists including Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, Dwight Yoakam, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. It was my first year living in a bus and that part of touring was certainly a learning curve for me. I'm immensely grateful to my friend, the wonderfully talented and charismatic Annie Clements, who brought me up to speed on a lot of the "bus rules" that make life on the road easier and (hopefully!) meant I didn't step on the toes of my new band and crew-mates. There's a lot of obvious things people who tour will tell you. Like sleep with your feet facing the front (so you don't break your neck if the bus brakes suddenly), bring shower flip flops (some of the showers you encounter are a little questionable), don't drink the bus water because it's not filtered, don't do number two's in the bus bathroom, and bring your own sheet/blanket/pillow to make it feel more like home and help you sleep.
Over the last year I discovered a few little things of my own, and here they are...
Bunk Humidifier - The bus air can be brutal on your skin and respiratory system. The AC dried me out in the summer, the heat dried me out in the winter and when we were touring in the depths of the Canadian winter the combination of the winter conditions and the bus air left me waking up with a nose so dry it cracked and bled most mornings (fun!). I got this travel humidifier ($16) that was small enough to stand in the bunk pocket and had two settings, either puffing out a mist every few seconds for 8 hours or running continuously for 4 hours. My one tip is that you try to put this in the lower pocket of the bunk or, if you don't have that option, tuck it in the far corner between the wall and mattress - basically as far from the bunk ceiling as you can get it. I had mine in the top pocket one night and the mist gathered on the ceiling of the bunk, eventually formed drops and dripped on my face. Creating a weather system in your bunk isn't the aim here!
Bluetooth Keyboard - I very rarely bring my laptop on the road for short runs, opting instead to watch TV on my phone (usually propped against the wall as I lay sideways in my bunk) and replying to quick emails and messages on my phone as well. It was mostly ok, but I found that I was putting off replying to longer messages because the prospect of having to type out extensive messages on my tiny phone screen filled me with dread. So I bought this Logitech keyboard ($25) and it is an amazing addition to my tour life. It has a gutter/trough so you can prop up your phone or tablet to use as the screen, it's mac and android compatible, and you can switch between 3 connected devices. I intended to use it just for emails, but I've been using it to write blog posts, emails, messages and long texts (sorry friends, that's why you're getting novel-length texts from me).
Luggage Rack - Getting a luggage rack for home seemed a little excessive at first, but after a few months of it living on the floor in my room in various states of disarray I thought I would give it a try. I bought a slightly wider one ($30 - though it's listing at closer to $40 right now) because my small suitcase is the largest carry-on sized one you can get, and I have really loved having my suitcase up off the ground and looking (marginally) less messy sitting out when I come home for only 24-48 hours. It's also just a nicer packing experience when it's up off the ground and easier to reach, and when you're packing every week you want to make it as easy as possible. If you're traveling a lot for any reason, and frequently come home only for long enough to do laundry and then re-pack, this might be something to try.
Packing Cells - I've always used packing cells to travel, but typically only for underwear and knick-knacks, usually keeping shoes in torn plastic grocery bags and all my show clothes and day clothes in a jumble. I bought these packing cells ($24) and these shoe bags ($13) and it has been amazing having everything completely separate in my suitcase. Running shoes, show shoes and shower shoes are separated and protected, I have separate cells for underwear, show clothes, day clothes and work-out clothes, and the best thing is being able to grab the "cell" I need before I head to the gym or to the dressing room to change for the show - leaving everything else in the suitcase. It also makes it easy to quickly see what's in my suitcase before I leave home, so there's less chance I'll accidentally head out for 2 weeks with no socks.
This is not advertising for Amazon or even these particular products/brands. I'm including links to make it easier to find them if you do want to try any of them out.