This is the first post that follows the theme of becoming conference elite. This idea is a work in progress to hopefully be released as a book in the upcoming months. These posts contain tips, tricks, tools, and items that allow you to get the most out of your travel and conference experience.

As someone who is lucky enough to travel to different conferences, I’ve started working on different lists that I regularlary share with people on how to get the most out of your conference experience. For this post, I wanted to cover the “before” of a conference, specifically breaking down the travel experience. It is usually very easy to register for a conference, where the stress comes in is figuring out your travel plans on how to get there, how to stay, and how to make it home. These tips will help take some of that stress away and let you focus more on being excited about the upcoming conference.

Loyalty Programs Are Your Friend:

A lot of the time, people ignore when they are prompted about loyalty programs. Maybe this will only be a one time conference or maybe you’ll only be going someplace once, so why would I waste my time to sign up. The problem with this logic is companies are trying to give away features/experiences to you. Yes, you are going to get spam mail from them all the time. However, by utilizing an email account just for travel or “ad-mail”, you won’t ever have to be bothered by it. As more of the hotels partner up with rewards programs, you can end up with free wifi, hotel upgrades, early check-in/late check-out, and even free nights. When I went to my first work conference, my boss made sure I had signed up for United’s miles program. I had never flown United at that point. Now after a few years of traveling for work and personal reasons, I have a free round trip ticket in miles saved up that I can use to vacation. All of this can be all yours for just giving up an email address, not too shabby!

Knowledge Is Power – But Battery Packs Are Better:

If you are a tech savvy traveler, you are going to need to invest in a battery pack. As we travel with more and more devices, having access to power can be a life saving thing. I regularly travel with my iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, and now my Nintendo Switch (another post coming later about this amazing travel gaming system). All of these need power and it is a toss up whether your flight will have outlets and even finding outlets can be tricky depending on what airport you are at. Having a battery pack that can re-charge your devices is important to keep you going. Whether you are stuck on the tarmac or have a lengthy layover, it becomes a great thing to have. As I’m writing this, I’m on a plane listening to podcasts on my iPhone while it is re-charging on my battery pack. When researching for a battery pack, you have to understand what you plan on using it for. Bigger isn’t always better, especially when traveling. So use the following information to help you get exactly what you need:

  1. What kind of connections do you need? USB, USB-C, Full 120v Power?
  2. What size are the device batteries you need to charge? Think about how big the battery is. iPads need more power than an iPhone to recharge.
  3. How many devices might you have to charge during your battery pack life cycle? If you can only charge your battery once, what will it be able to save before it dies?

Making sure you always have the power you need, keeps you happy while traveling, and happy traveling is the best kind of traveling.

Hotel Ammenities, Book The Right One:

So this section depends a lot on what your travel experience is going to be. If you are traveling on a budget vs traveling with all expenses paid. If you stay in the major chains like Hyatts and Marriotts, you’ll start to notice something that has started to annoy me – you won’t have a mini fridge in your room. Now, I love eating food from each area I’m traveling to, however I am also on a budget when I travel. I want to order in bulk and have left overs to save me the extra costs of having to purchase more food once again. (In fact, while I was at HOW Design Live 2017 in Chicago, I got pizza so amazing that I had to turn my ice bucket into a converted fridge to keep my left over pizza good for the next day’s lunch.)

One thing that I have found is the benefit of staying at a extended stay hotel. These places are great (think Candlewood Suites). Not only do you have a semi-full kitchen to work with, but they also treat it more like an apartment. You only see housekeeping once a week, most have free laundry, and the one I just stayed in during my stay in North Carolina even had a dishwasher in my room. So to keep things affordable, I could order food out in bulk (think family meal deals) but I also was able to run to the Walgreens across the street from the hotel and buy some items for breakfast and quick lunches. Again, if you like the luxury of turndown service every day and can afford to eat out for every meal, then by all means do it. Live like a king/queen. But for me, I try to stretch my dollar as far as I can.

Flight Issues Got You Worried – Stay Ahead Of The Problems:

Living in a small town with one airport, one airport terminal, one airport gate, and 2 outbound fights a day to Chicago ONLY…I run into flight problems all the time. It sucks. Nothing makes you feel more uneasy than knowing there is over a 50% chance your flight will get delayed or cancelled. This is the worst case situation that I have to live with on a regular basis. The positive side of this is that I’ve come up with a system to monitor your flight better than most people know about.

A.) Locate Your Plane: Always know where your actual plane is. I don’t mean what gate it should be at, but actually look online and find your physical plane. Sometimes you can predict a delay a lot faster than what any airline will tell you, just by looking through where the plane is coming from before. I’ve actually been able to go back 4 flights to find a 2.5 hour delay, which ended up resulting in a cancellation. I knew this almost 3 hours before my flight was even suppose to start loading. However, I wasn’t notified through my airline app until then.

B.) Flight Tracker Flight Plans: If you run into a lot of flight delays like I do, you’ll learn about another fun way to stay on top of your flight data, tracking flight plans. I like to use FlightAware. I can follow my plane and actually watch it fly from airport to airport. If there seems to be an issue, Flight Aware will update with the new flight plan before you’ll ever head anything from your flight provider (I had a flight turn around and go back to Chicago and I knew about it 35 minutes before it was ever announced by the airline).

By looking at these things, you’ll be more confidant in knowing what challenges you might face or if it is nothing but smooth sailing through the friendly skies.

Taxi Ride – Forget That, Uber/Lyft It Instead:

One thing I’ve noticed as someone who has always been a taxi ride person is most of the time, if you’re riding to/from an airport, is that you are getting overcharged. I took a taxi ride from the airport to my hotel while I was in Cincinnati and it ran me about $35. However, when I went home, I took an Uber. That only cost me $17. So definitely look at your transportation options ahead of time. Sometimes those shuttles are the best deal, but they usually aren’t the most convenient.

The nice thing is you can check out all of this before you even pack your bags for your trip. By having a good idea of what is to come, you’ll not only feel more prepared and less stressed, but you’ll be able to take advantage of your traveling and actually start to enjoy it!

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