Whether you’re a frequent flyer or once-a-year excursionist, you probably know the basics of travel survival: arrive early, keep your electronics charged, and drink plenty of water. But what about those obscure travel strategies jetsetters always seem to know? If you’re attending a conference or in-person event this year, and you find yourself wistfully longing to be the sort who arrives refreshed, networks with ease, and finds time to experience local culture between breakout sessions, then this is the blog for you. Consider making your next conference trip less stressful and more successful with these five lesser-known tips from the travel pros.
- Ask the locals for advice before you leave home
Have you ever wondered how savvy travelers innately dress for the weather, even in unfamiliar places? It’s because they leverage insider knowledge to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re not familiar with Reddit, you should know it’s more than a top 10 social media platform, it’s also a direct connection to residents who have practical advice about your travel itinerary, including sites to see off the beaten path, risky areas to avoid, and how to dress in every season. The best part is you don’t need a Reddit account to gain the insider advantage, as chances are good someone has asked the same questions before. If you’re heading to Las Vegas, for example, a quick Google search for “Reddit Las Vegas travel tips” provides endless threads of dos and don’ts from the people who live there. And if you already have a Reddit account, subreddits like r/Travel or r/LasVegas have an abundance of invaluable insights to keep you safe and productive during your stay.
- Get an immersive view of important event locations
Another way to ensure you’re not overwhelmed by uncertainty is to use technology to see the area beforehand. While Google Maps can get you to your designation, their Street View feature helps you safely plan your way around the city long before arrival. In fact, the service recently added new features that provide up-to-date views of important locations, including time sliders to see how areas looks at different times of day or in various weather conditions. And once you’re on the ground, their live view feature lets you “see” directional arrows and use other accessibility features as you navigate, which is extra convenient if you plan to walk. The app also offers alerts for health risk information, including travel advisories or restrictions, that might impact your trip.
- Navigate the tradeshow floor with maps and accessibility apps
After hours of packing and airport traversal, the last thing you want is to feel like the new kid at school when you finally walk through the doors. Some venues are good about providing attendees with maps, and in many cases they have their own mobile apps that provide vendor and location information. But in case they don’t have one or you lose your map, consider downloading vendor floorplans from the venue’s website to your phone ahead of time. These are sometimes called “Exhibitor Manuals” or “Target Freight Floorplans,” but they work just as well for attendees and can help you plan out face-to-face time with exhibitors. Likewise, if you need accessibility support or you often get lost in new buildings, consider leveraging mobile apps like GoodMaps, which use camera-based positioning (CPS) and geo-referenced imagery to pinpoint your location indoors to help you find the right areas, even without a venue map.
- Keep your attendee bag small and plan for safety restrictions
Safety is a top priority for in-person events, and most venues have regulations around things like bag size or allowed items. In some cases, bags may be searched at the entrance, so consider using a clear bag made of mesh, plastic, or vinyl to expedite entry. Rolling bags are usually prohibited, so plan to leave your luggage at the hotel. Of course, with any large crowd gatherings, health risks are also a major concern, and the venue will usually have additional guidelines or recommendations for health safety. Make sure to look at the event’s website or carefully check your email for any health or safety precautions before you arrive onsite.
- Maneuver the social scene with LinkedIn’s mobile features
They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but small talk can certainly make or break your conference experience. If you need help navigating the social scene, make sure to follow event hashtags on social media before you go to keep updated on any noteworthy buzz. Also consider using LinkedIn's free QR code generator available in their mobile app to quickly and easily connect with vendors or prospects in person. Simply hold up the QR code on your device and let them scan it with their mobile camera, and you’ll be instantly connected. Finally, plan to stay active on social media throughout the event by sharing speaker quotes or summarizing what you’ve learned for your own audience. And if you tag speakers and attendees in your posts, they can follow, like, and comment to give you greater visibility.
Of course, there are dozens more tips for a positive conference travel experience, like keeping a mobile charger with you and wearing comfortable shoes. But maximizing your time like a true jetsetter means planning ahead for the little things that get overlooked, like street travel, venue layouts, and pop-up networking opportunities. The more you can prepare and leverage technology before you go, the better and more productive the trip will be.