Tips for Successful Conference Travel

Chicao O'Hare Airport

Conference Travel - Chicago O'Hare Airport

This morning, David Lavenda of Fast Company, posted an excellent article entitled “10 Practical Tips to Make Business Travel Less Miserable.”  While the intended reader of that post is most likely a person who travels frequently, all travelers can benefit from his recommendations.  As we enter the new higher education academic year, a plethora of conference opportunities will soon face those in student affairs, resulting in difficult choices about which conference would provide the most opportunity for professional development.  With this in mind, I want to expand on Lavenda’s tips by offering a few additional ones that can benefit travelers.

  1. Plan for a layover.  This does not mean to expect a layover.  Rather, it means to include the type of layover you want when planning your trip.  If you know that you are more productive during the daytime, then schedule a 3 hour layover and feel good about it.  It can be a great way to accomplish some work on your laptop or tablet.  If you know you are more productive at night, then perhaps a shorter layover that gets you into your final destination earlier makes more sense.   Either way, plan your layover, matching your preferred way to travel.
  2. Buy items when you arrive.  Why stress over fitting all of your items into your bags when you can purchase them upon arrival?  When you arrive, plan on heading over to the nearest drug store where you can pick up travel sizes of deodorant, contact solution, shampoo, etc.  Many travel items will be used enough to discard before returning.  So, just purchase them when you arrive.  Buying these items in your destination city also helps you avoid bringing a quart-sized plastic bag in which to place liquids at the airport.  Thus, it speeds up your security check and saves space.  Many hotels will also offer some of these items for free (although it may not be the brand you want).
  3. Bring back-up data access, if you are presenting.  When you are presenting a session that requires internet access, consider bringing a back-up data access device (i.e., hotspot, mi-fi, etc.).  While hotels and conference centers often have internet access, your host may not have paid to have these items turned on.  Bringing a hotspot, or using your smartphone as a hotspot, ensures your presentation will work as designed.  Check with your IT or telecommunications department to see if they have devices you can sign-out for these purposes.  For a low daily rental fee, you may get the access you need.
  4. Balance finances with personal stress level.  Sure, booking a room together for four people will save each person significant amounts of money, which is particularly important when business travel is not covered in full by your employer.  However, at what personal cost will saving that money come?  Will rooming with four people for several days push you over the edge?  What is your tolerance for intrusion and need for personal space?  If rooming with four people will cause more stress, then be upfront with your colleagues and see if you can break into smaller groups.  It may cost more, but everyone may be happier as a result, saving both friendships and working relationships.
  5. Don’t pay for extras.  When you get to your destination city, do not pay for extras you do not need, such as a rental car GPS.  Use your smartphone or bring your GPS device from home with you.  In addition, book a lower class rental car than you need.  Often, the rental car company will offer a free upgrade upon arrival when they have additional vehicles on the lot.
  6. Spend wisely.   The hotel buffet breakfast looks appetizing, but a coffee and a muffin are about $12 less expensive.  Eating this instead may ensure that you will probably be hungry for lunch, which will be about $15 or so.  Now, combined with your coffee and muffin, you may have spent more than if you just had a large buffet breakfast at the hotel!  Consider if eating a large breakfast can hold you over until dinner.  If so, you may actually save money.  In addition, compare conference hotel rates to special rates you can get on your own.  Sometimes, booking a special rate that includes parking or breakfast will be less expensive in the long run than booking the negotiated hotel rate and paying for each item separately.  Do your homework.

Combined with Levenda’s tips, these six additional suggestions listed above can help you have a successful trip!


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