Residency Interviews: Packing and Traveling

Welcome to the Residency Interview Series. Be sure to check out the posts on what to wear to the interview, preparation tips, and the crazy price of it all! I'm always happy to answer any questions in the comments section.



Rule #1-100: Keep everything you will need for the interview on you.

The best piece of advice I received for interviews is invest in a carry-on garment bag. It was such good advice I started dating the guy who gave it to me (I used this one). Log into your flights early. I paid the extra $10 or so on Southwest to have automatic check-in for flights to interviews. It is worth it. If you're traveling to multiple interviews in a row, lost luggage is detrimental (especially since you put so much time and effort into your interview day attire). I carried a separate bag that I checked for weeks when I would be gone for 5+ days and needed to bring extra travel clothes (although I don't think I ever wore anything out of it).


Now what to pack in your fancy piece of luggage:

My carry-on with items 1-18 (excluding winter coat)

My carry-on with items 1-18 (excluding winter coat)

  1. Photo ID to board flight (pack two just in case)
  2. Money - cash + card
  3. Suit x 2
  4. Tops x 3-5
  5. Interview day shoes
  6. Tights (if needed)
  7. Interview dinner outfit
  8. winter wear when needed - hat, gloves, coat*
  9. Lint brush
  10. Sleep clothes
  11. Toiletries: toothbrush, hair brush, straightener, shampoo, conditioner
  12. Make-up (if needed)
  13. Daily medications you take
  14. Tylenol (headaches, menstrual cramps.. it happened to me)
  15. Travel itinerary - what plane are you getting on, then what shuttle, to what hotel?
  16. A good book to read (and talk about on interviews)
  17. Thank you cards (I sent only one all season - to my #1 transition year program; this will vary by specialty and by program)
  18. Electronics - laptop, ipad, headphones

*It's pretty impossible to fit a coat with carry-on luggage. Wear this through security and then put it up in the overhead bin with your carry-on during the flight.

Remember to not use your purse as an extension of your carry-on unless you want to show up to your interview with crap hanging out of your purse like I did! (I don't recommend this)



Beware of time zones

New York, NY - January 15, 2015

Make sure when save your interview and flight times you know what time zone they're in! On the iphone, it will let you put in time zones which is really helpful, but on my macbook it would automatically save things as Eastern time zone and then switch the times when I crossed state lines! This is REALLY dangerous when you're all over the country. I once showed up at the airport at the wrong time because of this time change - luckily I was in a central time zone so I showed up an hour early. If I'd added the time on my computer in a central time zone and then traveled to an Eastern time zone, I would of showed up 1 hour late!

San Francisco, Ca - January 19, 2015


Fly Southwest as often as possible.

Delta will charge you $200 to change your flight and they don't care about your plans to cure childhood cancer. You will inevitably have to change/cancel a flight as interview offers start coming in. Southwest doesn't charge a fee. A lot of people get a Southwest credit card during this time. You will spend a depressing amount of money during interview season, might as well get a flight or two out of it. Also, if you get 100,000 miles or a certain # of flights within a calendar year, you can get a companion pass on Southwest that allows a companion to fly wherever you go for free. This sounds like an ad for Southwest. I don't have a Southwest card. I have a Capital One Venture Miles Reward Card but I didn't get it until residency.


TSA pre-check is a wonderful luxury

Rochester, Minnesota - January 8, 2015 - Landing just as a blizzard starts

TSA pre-check allows you to keep your shoes on (unless they have metal in them, which is every Tory Burch shoe I've ever worn) and you don't have to take your liquids or laptop out of your bag. This means you don't have to be strategic when you pack your carry on, the line goes faster, and there's hardly ever a wait. You can get to the airport much later, and security will never cause you a headache. If you plan to do a lot of global traveling, global entry might be a better option. It's a shockingly simple process. You can apply online here. I was told that you have to wait until you get your login in the mail in about 2 weeks, but apparently you can log on and get it immediately after you've been fingerprinted.


Minneapolis, Mn - January 9, 2015 - exhausted post interview

Just stay at the hotel

I mentioned this in my previous post about the cost of residency interviews, but I wouldn't try to save money by staying in crappy living arrangements that require you to rent a car when you can stay in a incredibly comfortable hotel bed and walk/shuttle to the interview location. The hassle may not seem like a big deal when you're booking it, but if it's your 8th interview that extra energy might drain you. There are some hotel rooms that I paid $100 for that I stayed in for a total of 6 hours, but because it was easy to get to and from I got 6 hours of sleep vs. spending $60 for a further away place that required me to wake up earlier and spend time and money arranging travel to the interview. If you're familiar with the city and/or are staying with someone who is familiar with the city, that might be okay.


Comment below if you have questions or advice for the interview process!