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Packing for the Sundance Film Festival: The Agony of Advance Planning

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I’m just a wee bit excited about my third trip to the Sundance Film Festival, next January.

So I started packing in October.

This is always a bad idea; it gives me too much time (and too many holiday sales) to throw in extra gear, making the final consolidation that much more painful. When I came across Jason Cochran’s WalletPop.com article, Savings Experiment: Packing light and cheap, I thought I’d give it a try. I mean, it’s already Thanksgiving, for goodness sake—I need to get cracking. January 20th is right around the corner!

I pulled out my suitcase and laid everything out. Cochran offers several helpful suggestions:

Bring fleeces instead of sweaters. Check.

Choose one pair of multi-use shoes. Not so easy when dealing with snow on hilly sidewalks and short sprints to the free shuttle buses, as well as nice-casual theater and dining situations. I compromised. One pair of cute, waterproof, all-terrain walking shoes and one pair of snow boots. Done.

Wear layers. I think I’m good on that score…I have a unique, fully-layered outfit (from long underwear to fleece coat) for each day of the week. Hey, it’s only overkill if you don’t actually use it all. It’s darn cold in Park City, Utah.

Wear darker clothes to hide the travel grime. Ostensibly this is so I can wear the same clothes repeatedly throughout my trip, but it won’t work if I’m crammed into close quarters in a theater or wait line all week. This must be a guy thing (sorry, fellas). I did do a good job of choosing clothes I could mix and match: black, brown, grey, white, with a little red and blue thrown in to keep me from washing into the background. You know, in case I end up taking photos with Jake Gyllenhaal…I don’t want him to outshine me.

“If you’re really feeling clever,” Cochran writes, “pack clothes you want to get rid of.”

Brilliant! How about…no, not that. Or maybe…no, not that either. The truth is, the only time I was able to do this was when I was 26 years old and working at a youth hostel where stored luggage that was unclaimed was divvied up amongst the staff. Whatever scraggly, used gear I snagged that winter, I donated back to charity before I jetted home. But you don’t go scraggly to Sundance. Casual, yes. Scraggly? Not so much. Unless you’re a filmmaker, in which case scraggly is Indie Survivalist-cool.

My dream is to one day have enough saved up for a trip like this that I can take nothing but a toothbrush and an overnight bag, buy everything local along the way, then ship it all home before I step on the plane. But for now, it’s champagne tastes and a tap water budget. I did get smart last year, and bought a few trinkets from the Sundance online store before I left. After squishing my beloved 2009 poster in the airport shuttle, I wised up and had 2010’s shipped directly.

I’m a religious Southwest Airlines flyer, so I’ve never had to worry about avoiding extra baggage fees, which was Cochran’s initial theme. But there’s nothing worse than lugging a monster bag through an airport, wrestling it to your final destination, then having to repack it, later. Although I know I’ll never get it down to carry-on proportions, I’m taking Jason Cochran’s suggestions to heart and repacking…all throughout December.

You can never start too early.

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About A. McCarthy Orr