Whether you're going on tour or leaving for a summer stock contract, inevitably you will find yourself staring at an empty suitcase, wondering what to pack. Some items are obvious: rehearsal clothes and shoes, an opening night outfit, extra underwear. But after three national tours and numerous regional gigs, I've compiled a list of six unexpectedly useful things to toss into your suitcase. All are lightweight and inexpensive, though a few should be packed in checked luggage.
You can thank me later.
1. A mug.
Not only does a mug provide a little taste of home, but when living without a kitchen, it can function as a coffee cup, a soup bowl or a place to store your toothbrush. Even at an extended stay hotel, the mugs provided seem piteously small to coffee lovers like myself. Don't drink coffee or tea? Bring it to the theatre to store makeup brushes. There are a million uses for a sensible mug. Wrap it in a sweater and toss it in your suitcase. You won't regret it.
2. A binder clip.
As I write this, I'm using one to hold my curtains open to reveal the sliver of open window that allows fresh air to permeate my otherwise stale hotel room. At night I use it to hold my shades together to block out that annoying slice of light in the morning. I can use them to hang things, to cover a sharp razor (just attach the head of the clip over the blade), to keep my phone/computer cords organized, to attach a contact sheet to my script, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.
3. A magnet.
I didn't bring a magnet on my current contract, and I have been kicking myself ever since. When attached to your full or mini fridge, magnets can hold show schedules, photos, the class schedule at the local gym, contact sheets, take out menus, and so on. It can attach to an upright surface all those papers that clutter your precious counter space. Like the mug, it is another small token of home.
A paring knife, sensibly sheathed in your checked luggage, comes in extra handy when eating in your room. It can peel fruit, chop vegetables, cut meat (including leftovers), slice through cheese, and open tricky packages. It can substitute for a scissor's edge, yet is more practical than a pair of scissors, which won't be useful with food. A Swiss Army knife is also a good option, which many people carry anyway. Invest.
5. A wine key.
Because... duh. Be sure to put this in your checked luggage as well.
6. A candle
A friend gave me a scented candle as an opening night present on my second national tour, and I wondered how I'd ever gotten by without one. A candle will eradicate weird smells and alleviate garish lighting. But it mostly provides a sense of familiarity from city to city. Most hotels don't officially allow candles, but no maid has ever tattled on me for having one in my room. As soon as I get settled, I light my candle, and I am home.
Many items on this list have been included because of they retain a sense of familiarity. While it can be fun to travel for a few weeks at a time, those who spend a lot of time on the road begin to yearn for those little comforting touches of home. These objects fulfill that need, while also serving a practical purpose.