Expo West 2019

As some of you may know, I’ve spent the past 15-ish years working in the natural products industry. Every March, the industry’s largest US trade show, Natural Products Expo West (Expo West for short) takes place over the course of 3-4 days in Anaheim, CA. For retail buyers and other attendees, this is a one-stop-shop for seeing everything new in the natural products industry – from supplements to bath and body products to natural foods and way more. Thousands of brands exhibit, and most folks who attend need at least two days, if not three, to see everything they want to see.

For exhibitors (such as myself and my team) this show entails super long days, standing in a small space, saying the same things over and over again to thousands of people, with no time to eat a full meal, take a break, or do much more than run to the bathroom once every few hours. Even if you bring loads of snacks and have time to hide behind a banner somewhere long enough to chew and swallow, you really aren’t eating proper meals with enough protein and fiber. You aren’t drinking enough water because you don’t want to have to go to the bathroom too many times. And you’re hardly moving, so not only are you sore from your lower back to the balls of your feet, but your digestion is probably pretty messed up too.

Compile all this with the stress of the show, and just all the digestive and sleep issues that come along with changing time zones and sleeping in a hotel, it’s just ironic that at the country’s “healthiest” trade show, most everyone working is tired, starving, and dehydrated. Oh, and did I mention that this show ALWAYS takes place during my period? Without fail.

I’ve been working this show with various brands for a decade and a half now, though, and every year I get a little bit more clever about how to get through it all without disaster. So here’s what I’m packing for Expo West this year:

Hotel Room Breakfast

Steeped coffee

Even if we had time to go get breakfast before the show opens each day, there really isn’t anywhere in Anaheim to get a good vegan breakfast (not to mention the fact that everything is totally bananas there because tens of thousands of people are there for the show). Our team always stops for hotel room groceries the first day we get in, and all of our rooms have a mini fridge and microwave. I’ll be grabbing a large container of unsweetened almond milk so I can make Oats Overnight and my protein shake. Most of the vegan Oats Overnight flavors contain 20g of protein, and a good amount of fiber so I’ll actually feel like I ate something. I just have to remember to make them the night before, which I guarantee I will forget at least once during this trip. I’ll also portion out my protein shake and creatine before I leave so I can just shake it up with some almond milk each morning.

If you think the local restaurants are busy during this show, you should see the Starbucks. Now, I personally think Starbucks is an insult to coffee, but hotel room coffee is an insult to humanity. Those cheap single-cup brewers they put in the rooms now spit out ashtray-flavored brown water and I am simply too snobby for that. So I always bring Steeped Coffee with me when I travel. This ethically-sourced coffee comes in compostable tea bags that you simply steep in hot water. The resulting cup of coffee isn’t quite like the Americanos I make at home, but it’s worlds better than Starbucks or hotel room coffee. Once I’m on the show floor I can usually find a coffee exhibitor, or a nondairy milk brand that’s making drinks at their booth, and that takes care of my second cup for the day.

Booth Snacks

Greenbites Go vegan protein cookies

Between my shake and my overnight oats, I’ll have about 45g of protein and plenty of fiber in my system to keep me feeling pretty good for a few hours. But we’re inside the convention center for 7-10 hours most days so we need some snacks. I’ll grab some kind of produce at the store – either an apple or some baby carrots – just so I’m not eating 100% highly processed stuff all day long. But since we don’t have a refrigerator, and there’s no time to eat a salad, my access to fresh food is limited and I just have to deal with it. I always have protein bars, and this year my preference is NuGo Slim bars, which taste good, and have 17g of protein in them. (Use code NATALIE50 for 50% off a variety pack!)

I thought about packing some mixes for protein mug cakes with me, but I’d need to make those in the hotel room and I already have shakes and oats there, so this year I ordered some things from Greenbites, which is a vegan protein bakery based in Florida. Most of the flavors have 18g of protein in them, and they have a lot of great reviews from people I follow on social media, so I have high hopes.

I’ll also be bringing my largest water bottle so I can do my best to stay hydrated in the booth. I’m a big fan of Ghost BCAA Powder in the Sour Patch Kids Redberry flavor, and they make Hydration Sticks in that same flavor, so I’m going to bring some along.

When we do finally make it to dinner, I prioritize eating lots of vegetables, and a good amount of easily digestible (for me) protein like tofu. Which brings me to my next subject…

Pooping and Sleeping

white toilet paper
Photo by hermaion on Pexels.com

Whether I’m traveling for fun or work, on a 12-hour flight to London or a 60-minute flight to Atlanta, I can pretty much count on getting traveler’s constipation. It’s just something that always happens to me. I have a few tricks for making it less terrible, if not avoiding it completely, and they start at home the day I’m traveling. I make sure to drink extra water, eat something healthy and full of veggies, and do the same at the airport and on the fight. It’s very easy to get dehydrated while traveling by air, and that leads to an unhappy digestive system. Once I arrive in L.A. I’ll take any chance I get to eat vegetables or fruit, drink water, and walk around. Show days are challenging, because even if you eat a lot of fiber and drink a lot of water, you’re hardly moving. So I always pack a gentle, overnight laxative just in case.

I have a hard time sleeping away from home. I’m a creature of habit and I like to sleep surrounded by my own things, with my dogs and my husband, after doing all my little rituals like taking a bath and drinking some tea. I try to bring some comforts from home with me – bags of tea, my satin pillowcase, an eye mask in case there are street lights shining in my room, but worst case scenario, if I can tell it’s going to be a bad night, I take melatonin.

Looking Like a Human

Peace Out Puffy Eye Patches

If I can manage to sleep decently, drink water, and poop regularly, I’ll consider that a win. But if I can do those things while also not looking like a goblin who rolled out of a dumpster? Incredible. I always travel with Peace Out Skincare (20% off with this link) Peace Out Puffy Eyes patches and Acne Healing Dots. I put the eye patches on first thing in the morning and wear them while I make coffee and eat overnight oats. The acne patches are in case of emergencies, if I feel a zit coming on I sleep in an acne patch and it’s almost always gone by morning. I also travel with Pacifica Beauty (10% off with this link) Wake Up Beautiful Super Hydration Overnight Mask and use it at least the night I get in from air travel because my skin is always dry after a few hours on a plane. I already mentioned that I bring my own satin pillowcase, but this helps keep my hair from getting frizzy on changing weather conditions, and I also bring my own microfiber hair towel because cotton towels and my hair do not get along either. Finally, I pack a diffuser for whatever hair dryer my room comes with. I’m not extra enough to travel with my own blow dryer, but I do want the one I end up using to gently dry my hair and not air fry it.

Pack It In

Eagle Creek packing system

As you can probably tell, most of my suitcase is snacks, blender bottles, and beverages. But, I’m also required to wear clothes at work events, so I bought some Eagle Creek Packing Cubes to use my suitcase space more efficiently. I like to use a small cube for socks, underwear, and jewelry; a medium cube to keep all my protein bars and snacks in order; and then I use the garment bag (which kind of looks like a school folder) to pack my shirts without wrinkles. It’s usually better for me to roll up my pants, and then if I need to pack shoes I use the space inside the shoes to tuck in small things like charging chords.

As much as I’ve complained about all the hardships, I actually do look forward to this show every year. It’s really cool to see all the products natural brands are launching before they hit store shelves, and to reconnect with people I’ve been seeing at this show for more than a decade. So that’s it, that’s what I’m packing! What items are on your list of travel must haves?

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