Conference Travel Tips

Earlier today, I was looking at my recent posts and noticed that 90% of my posts in the last three months have been my coverage of conferences.  Building on that, I thought I would share what I've learned and unlearned in the last few months.  If you're considering any sort of professional travel, check these out:

  1. Know your airport.  Everyone knows the rule about being there two hours before your flight.  For some airports – LAX for example – you can easily need this time.  Other airports – such as Reagan National (DCA) – the airport itself is relatively small.  Once you're through security, you have less than ten minutes to any gate… five minutes if you run.
  2. Know the carry on rules.  Just know the rules.  Don't bother trying to bring anything big and metal or sharp or anything else that might confuse security.  A bottle of water is going to cause you problems, but odds are a bottle of contact solution will not.  Of course, sometimes security won't know what something is and cause you problems.  My Power Squid (pictured right) was nearly confiscated at Dulles (IAD) on my way to ZendCon08.
  3. Don't check your bag if you can avoid it.  If you have a small backpack in addition to a laptop bag, you probably don't need to check anything and can simply board the flight.  This can save your 5-10 minutes boarding and 15-30 at your destination… and you don't have to worry about your bag being lost.
  4. Plan your wardrobe.  I used to bring a suitbag on all my trips in a vain effort to limit wrinkles in my shirts.  After 2-3 years of this, I finally realized… hotels have irons.  You'll probably have to iron it on the other side anyway, why stress about wrinkles?  Just put the shirt in your bag and go.
  5. Plan your wardrobe (again).  If you're going to a developers' conference, most of the time the crowd will dress relatively casual.  There will be a few people in shorts, but the vast majority will be in jeans and t-shirts with the occasional guy in khakis and a polo.  Either way, there are likely to be vendors giving out free shirts.  You can probably get away with 1-2 less shirts than you might bring otherwise.  It's silly to travel cross country with clean clothes just to bring them back clean.
  6. Always have a plan B.  If your bag is lost, your laptop dies, your hotel reservation is messed up, or you get mugged, you need to be able to recover.   If you're speaking, have your slides on multiple medium… your laptop isn't good enough.  Put them on a memory stick, they're cheap.  If you have any friends, colleagues, or local contacts, have their contact information handy.  If you need to have your passport, make a copy and keep it elsewhere.  Keep the name, address, and phone number of your hotel handy.

You're right, none of these are complicated… in fact, I suspect that's why many people don't consider them.  They're so simple and uncomplicated that they're overlooked.  At to be honest, there are probably another ten tips I could come up with… what do you suggest?