I'm most of the way through my first trip as Assistant Convention Manager for MLA. The outgoing Convention Manager, the former Assistant-now-Convention Manager, and the incoming Assistant CM (moi) converged in San Jose for a combination transition meeting and site visit.
What can I tell you at this point? Are you treated well by the hotel staff and the city's Convention and Visitor's Bureau? ABSOLUTELY! Wonderful hotel rooms, amenities (e.g., wine and fruit platters waiting in your room), and sometimes special opportunities (we saw a live streaming Jewel concert promoting her new CD, great light dinner, free drinks, and an opportunity to buy her new CD a day early last night). You see your own name and institution and information about your organization on the event screens for the hotel -- they're all wanting your attention, which is good. However, I wish most of these had gotten my institution correct (It's University of Missouri--Kansas City, not just University of Missouri). Details, details.
Is it exhausting? Yes. How so?
We received proposals from three different hotels for our conference. We spent two nights in the first hotel, and one each in the next two. We walk all over the hotels in these sites twice. Once on our own, checking out meeting spaces, and then once with the hotel staff. There's a good reason for this-- when you're on your own, you see things with your own filter and can have questions ready for the hotel staff about the needs of your group and how that may or may not work with the hotel layout. Sometimes events or meetings are in the space during this time, and that's a great opportunity to see the hotel staff at work without it being obvious you're a potential customer.
We also scout out the fitness center and pools where available. And other services--for example, one hotel had a guest laundry facility -- a coin operated laundromat. Great if you find you spilled food on an outfit and you need to wash something rather than send it to an expensive dry cleaner. We check out prices at the hotel's bar and restaurants, and usually eat at least one meal on our own at the hotel to see what it's like. The hotel staff usually have a meal meeting to kick things off, but it's good to try the food again on your own if you can.
We do a lot of walking in the blocks surrounding the hotel, scouting out places where our membership can grab a quick meal, coffee, or have a more leisurely meal. I do a quick comparison of the costs of hotel coffee versus a cafe just outside the hotel (this morning's site had a $1.40 difference). We also look for other things -- museums and concert venues in case members want to explore the host city a little, and how close/far these are from potential hotel sites.
How did I prepare for this trip? Just like my San Diego trip, I packed a carry on bag (my Tom Bihn Aeronaut). I wanted to use my Tri-Star, but because of the longer trip duration and various goods (electronic files in CD format), I went for the Aeronaut. I'm very glad I did -- my colleague who was flying on the same airline (but not same flights) had her luggage catch up with her a day later. Not a happy thing when you've staying in 3 different hotels for a trip.
The NYTimes had a great article "Packing Tips from Travel Pros" in May 2010 that I recommend highly. One of my colleagues tried her tips and was amazed at how much more she got in her suitcase. I used packing cubes again, but I think I'm going to try just rolling everything for the next trip and use a cube for underwear.
Wardrobe planning is essential. Before every trip, I lay out what I plan to wear every day and generally stick to that plan. If I have any doubts about something fitting, I try it on before I lay it out -- and yes, I do lay the clothing out in the day order I plan to wear it and check it against the list of events for the trip.
COMFORTABLE SHOES!!!! Really. This is not the time to test out those cute new heels. Check the weather forecast before you lay out your clothing and shoe choices. COMFORTABLE SHOES!!!
Toiletries: I've said it before -- hotel soap and shampoo are usually good quality. I bring small amounts of hair gel and hair spray. I bring a small sized comb-- got one just for travel. I wear very little makeup, so I bring small amounts of my favorite facial products, and just use the same color of eyeliner and mascara for the entire trip. I go through my wet and try toiletries before the trip to make sure I bring only what I need and one or two backups (a bandage or two is good). The wet toiletries are the 3 oz or less size. I use Tom Bihn products to store these, and they are great.
I brought a hat with me for our longer walks on Sunday -- I have a Tilley hat, which is crushable and washable. It takes up next to no space in my bag and is great protection for my oh-so-fair skin. I also bring 2-3 all cotton men's handkerchiefs. Again, takes up little space, but quite versatile and can be washed out and hung up to dry overnight if needed.
Part of this post sounds like a Tom Bihn commercial, and here's part of the reason why:
My first flight on Saturday was full, and by the time I boarded, the luggage bin looked pretty full. I moved the bags a little to the right and my Aeronaut slid right in without a problem and without squishing other people's bags. When I deplaned, I quickly deployed a backpack strap and I was on my way.
My connecting flight was on a Canadianair 700 and this flight was packed too. The luggage bins are pretty shallow, and at first I was afraid my bag wouldn't fit. But I pushed down a little, and it slid right in with a little room to spare.
I'm also a big fan of the 3D Organizer Cube for my wet toiletries. I slip this in one of the end pockets and pull it out for a quick trip through security.
And a large organizer pouch keeps the paper stuff organized and flat:
I carry a Ristretto as my purse and have my Dell Mini 10 in it. Again, the ease of pulling out my Mini makes for a quick trip through security.
One more hotel night and then back home. And the Aeronaut, along with careful packing has helped accommodate the addition things I've picked up this trip -- files, etc. I plan to mail them home tomorrow, but I still need to get them to the next hotel -- they'll have more paperwork, etc. for us.