Packing for the NFR

So, so true! Might I add: Utilize your carry-on for your boots, shoes, and heels, because chances are, you’ll be bringing enough to fill it.


Yes, it’s survival. It’s the highlight of the year, for sure, but 10 days in Vegas is not for the faint of heart or the weak immune system. That said, the following are a few things I’ve learned about packing and preparing for the NFR, and some of my favorite things to do when you get to town.

  1. Stay somewhere you can get some rest. Yeah, I know, I sound lame already, but you’ll thank me later. The Luxor was my go-to for three years because it’s connected to the Mandalay Bay (where the BHN booth is, come check us out at booth 251!) but considerably less expensive than most of the other casinos, and much quieter. On that note, I’ve never gambled in Vegas (I’m a barrel racer, I gamble enough on a regular basis), but I do like to stay at the casinos because I just feel safer there than at a hotel, especially getting to and from my car. It’s not something I worry about in most places, but it’s definitely something to think about in Vegas.
  2. Getting around. Taxi fares add up – fast. If you’re in Vegas for any length of time, renting a car is the way to go. And if I, a girl from small town Minnesota, population 340, can drive there, anyone can. You might need to channel your inner barrel racer (your slightly crazy, thrill-seeking side), but you’ll be fine. If you choose to let taxis chauffer you around, just be ready to wait in lines, especially after the rodeo. (And bring a jacket, it’s chilly at night.) Visiting with the drivers was one of the highlights of the days I did cab it. Don’t forget to tip them; they deserve it.
  3. Getting around, on foot. Anywhere, and I do mean anywhere, you walk is a LONG ways. Luxor and Mandalay Bay are connected, but it still took me 30 minutes to get from my room in the Luxor to the BHN booth in Cowboy Marketplace in Mandalay Bay – and that’s pretty standard for anywhere you want to go. There are literally miles of aisles in the trade shows (check out Cowboy Christmas at the Las Vegas Convention Center, NRS Shopping Experience at MGM, and Cowboy Marketplace at Mandalay Bay, for starters. The one at South Point is growing, so whether you’re there for the World Series of Team Roping or the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund Style Show and Luncheon, check it out. I’ve heard the Sands has one, too, but I’ve never been to it. It’s on my list this year – along with Anthony Lucia’s talk show there, “Live with Lucia,” everyday at 1 pm.) But I digress. My point is, if you’re walking anywhere, give yourself plenty of time and, even more importantly…
  4. Wear good shoes. Your footwear is probably the most important part of your wardrobe, and not just as the opportunity to wear your favorite boots or new heels. The NFR is a marathon, and you’ll probably walk the equivalent of one while you’re there. Ladies, do yourself a favor and wear comfy shoes as much as possible, especially during the day. And hey, nights are long. I usually don’t get out of the Thomas and Mack before 10 or 10:30, and then it’s suppertime (Tacos & Tequila in the Luxor is still my favorite, after five years) and who knows what else. (By the way, did you know that Heart is playing at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay this weekend? My friend Olivia has been sending me Snapchats of herself singing “Alone.” It’s going to be good.) If you’re like me and used to wearing boots or Nikes, you can rally for a night or two in stilettos, but 10 is a recipe for laminitis. Also, keep in mind that you will almost always be on really hard, unforgiving surfaces, not in the cushy, good-ground arena that you’re more accustomed to.
  5. Stock a small pharmacy. Whether you’re out too late or just getting run down, Vegas has a way of wearing a person out – not to mention the air in the airplanes, airports, and casinos, and the thousands of people you’ll be sharing all of that with. So bring your favorite vitamins and immune boosters. My friend, Jeye Johnson, who’s on the up and up with all of that natural wellness stuff, suggests rose hips, elderberry, vitamin C and B12, in particular. Some people swear by hand sanitizer, but the air in Vegas is sooo dry, the alcohol in it is going to dry your skin out even more. On that note, bring good lotion – something that is oil-based. Again, no alcohol. And keep Chapstick in your pocket at all times. Another brilliant suggestion from Jeye is a portable humidifier or an essential oil diffuser to make your hotel room less dry. Other items may include Band-aids or More Skin in case of blisters from those super-cute stilettos (you’ve just gotta wear ‘em, I get it), ibuprofen, and whatever else you think you may need.
  6. Let’s get to the good part. Clothes, of course! There are NO fashion police in Vegas, even when it turns to Cowboy Town, so if you’ve had your eye on some wild fringe, shiny sequins, or leopard-print leggings but think you can’t pull it off, I promise, you can. It’s Vegas. Go for it! That said, as much as possible, I try to bring some versatile staples that I can dress down, for daytime shopping, or up, for the rodeo and nightlife. For example, one of my favorites ever is this black, button-down shirt from Target that I can wear with distressed black skinny jeans during the day and a sequin skirt at night. The thought is to save space in your suitcase to fill with everything you buy at Cowboy Christmas!

Speaking of clothes, I’ve got to run out and get some Downy Wrinkle Releaser. I’ve heard it works miracles on the closet you’ve managed to cram in your suitcase. To find out what Sherry Cervi, Kaley Bass, Samantha Lyne and other qualifiers won’t leave home without, check out “In The Bag” in the December issue of Barrel Horse News. See you in Vegas!


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