Braving the crowds, hustling for tacos, decoding the buzzwords and searching for quality swag—it’s all part of the SXSW experience. Being a local, I know that what you bring (or forget to) can make or break your Austin experience. That’s why I’m sharing my handy-dandy SXSW packing guide. Sure, you can take a detour to the nearest drugstore if you forget something, but who has time for that?

Pack This

  • A folding water bottle. Staying hydrated is huge. Whether you’re partaking in the multiple free drinks or just checking out as much of the city as possible, make sure you’ve always got some agua on hand. You can roll this bottle up, fold it, or stash it when it’s empty. You’ll have less bulk to carry and more space for collecting that sweet, sweet swag.
  • Comfortable shoes. SXSW takes place all over the city, meaning you will probably end up walking more than you expect. Opt for some comfortable footwear or at least make sure you can swap out your stylish kicks for something easier on your tootsies when you’re at your fifth venue of the day. Happy feet, happy life!
  • Backpacks. You’ll soon realize how inefficient it is to only have two arms when you’re at a networking event and have one hand occupied with a drink and another with your phone. I strongly recommend bringing a backpack or cross-body bag to ensure a solid grip on your tacos and no handshakes gone awry.
  • A compact umbrella. March is notorious for its unexpected rain. I’ve been at sunny South Bys and also been caught in torrential downpours. There’s no telling what a day can bring in terms of weather in the ol’ ATX. Be prepared so you don’t get rained out.
  • A hat and sunblock. The sun can be brutal here and a painful sunburn makes for a crappy souvenir. Protect yourself from the relentless midday sun and carry some SPF with you.
  • Layers. There’s nothing worse than entering a venue and finding out the thermostat is set to “Polar Vortex”. I recommend layering your clothing or that you bring something light to throw on when you walk into that icebox someone dared to call a “networking event”.
  • A “back to life” kit. Whether it’s South By or Austin City Limits, I always carry a few essentials to help me feel like I’m back in the game after a long day. I carry makeup removing wipes, lip color, concealer, and gum. Pack travel sizes of whatever helps you feel re-energized and ready to meet yet another group of new friends.

Don’t Forget:

  • a battery pack for your phone
  • lip balm
  • sunglasses
  • business cards
  • sanitizing wipes
  • bandages (if you decide to ignore my shoe advice)

Take my advice, pack wisely, and get the most out of your stay in the Live Music Capital of the World.

Share this SXSW packing guide with your travel companions! Got any other essentials you like to bring along? Let me know in the comments.