Category Archives: Travel

Travel Packing Tips for Meeting and Event Planners

Originally published Meetings Today 

 Travel Packing Tips for Meeting and Event Planners

Travel is exhausting; it didn’t used to be.

My first flight was in the late ’40s, which means I’ve been a frequent flyer for more than 70 years albeit not earning frequent flyer points until the start of the programs in the ’80s, with my Dad on a prop plane from Ohio to New Jersey.

I only remember it from photos commemorating my first flight.

That first flight took place during the days when we walked on the tarmac and up steps to board planes and when we arrived, those greeting us came to the tarmac as well.

For that first trip, I didn’t have to pack and I’m sure what was in Dad’s suitcases for both of us was far different than what I later needed as an adult for my travels!

Being a prepared and well-packed traveler allows us to make one part of the experience less stressful. After months of writing about critical industry issues, this April 2018 edition of Friday With Joan is taking a break from issues that impact our industry to issues that impact us and our sanity as individual business travelers.

For those among us who are experienced; for those still acquiring business travel experience; and for the hospitality and meetings students that are in this to travel, here are some travel and packing tips.

The Basics

My esteemed colleague, Marlys Arnold, has written and prepared an interactive CD-ROM entitled “Pack Your Bags: Tips and Tools for Savvy Travelers”—and it’s currently on sale!

She provides lots of information for non-business travelers as well including a reminder of “3-1-1”, the TSA travel rule for liquids and gels where each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of 3.4-ounce containers.

Keep in mind that you may know how to travel but for your meetings and shows there will always be a first time traveler for whom basic information is useful. Note too that the rules do keep changing especially for international flights.

Keep up to date by following @TSA or @AskTSA on Twitter.

1. Buy good luggage: Though the initial investment may be greater and sturdy luggage may be a bit tough for all to afford, if you plan to travel more than a few times a year, it’s worth every penny.

Frequent travelers have learned that luggage takes a beating whether it’s checked or carried on. Ensure what you buy meets the carrier’s requirements and can be locked with a TSA-approved lock.

Sometimes gate-checking is required when a plane is full and your hoped-to-carry-on bag has to go below. You want to make sure your valuables (which for me includes medications, makeup, clothing, emergency radio and files) are as safe as you can make them if you cannot carry them with you.

When you consider a wheeled bag, if possible, test it first. Handles are of varying length and depending on your height, may be awkward to pull through an airport. And there are different types of wheels, too.

And if you think a bag over your shoulder is a good idea, take it from me: the damage to your neck and shoulders from years of schlepping shoulder bags is now terribly painful.

Roll, don’t carry.

The most useful device I recently acquired is a Bag Bungee. It has allowed me to attach my backpack with laptop inside to my rolling bag far more easily than I had before with the hook on the suitcase or sliding it over the suitcase handle.

2. Ticketing: Whether traveling by air or rail, booking through discount websites may be a great way to save money. I don’t. I’ve heard and read too many stories of those denied boarding or not having the seats they thought they had when doing so.

Or if a flight is canceled or changed, the inability to then change other legs of trips, including changing carriers, may not be as easy as booking elsewhere.

I prefer booking using a travel agent or directly with the airline.

For train travel, I book directly with Amtrak on their websites or by phone.

Note: some airlines charge an additional fee to book using their reservations agents. Decide if it’s worth it by checking the airline’s website or asking when you call if there is an additional fee. Amtrak now too has fare rules similar to airlines regarding cancellation or changes.

Check before you commit.

Like many business travelers, I’m very picky about seat location. The sooner a ticket is booked (on most airlines) the more options one has for flights and seats.

Caution: there are now as many classes of seats and fees for specific seats including seats allowing you to sit with traveling companions as there are airfares. Check frequently. Aircraft changes for your flights may cause seat reconfigurations.

If you are flying on a commuter jet or smaller plane, find out the ability to take carry-on luggage on board. This will also help you decide which luggage to purchase and use.

Additionally, it will help you decide what to pack.

3. Boarding: If you are in a “priority” boarding class, arrive in time to do so. This is more likely to ensure space overhead for luggage.

And if you are traveling by rail, most Amtrak stations have great Red Caps who can board you early especially if you want an Amtrak Quiet Car seat which quickly fill.

Do remember to tip those who assist you.

What’s in your suitcase?

It was delightful to learn what colleagues pack for business trips. Each has different priorities. Of those queried, none noted required medical devices such as a CPAP machine, which is not included in the two-bag maximum for most carry-on luggage on U.S. flights. It may mean you have to schlep a bit more and you should plan accordingly.

I try to limit what I take with me. The ability to do so goes back to my dad, of blessed memory, who traveled by car as a salesperson.

Dad limited his wardrobe to easy, interchangeable items.

Like him, I have a “uniform.” His was khaki slacks or, in winter, gray flannel, button-down collar shirts and navy blazers of different weights for different seasons. Mine? A black jumper dress, good T-shirts, and shawls along with jewelry, the latter two the equivalent of Dad’s tie changes to create different looks.

Make a list

I’ve learned that without a list, something is forgotten. And even with an always-packed-with-essentials suitcase, items (shampoo and soap* for example) need to be replenished.

For me, writing the list helps me think versus using a pre-printed list to check things off. I think from head to toe, literally, and what I’ll need, always planning at least one extra of most items “just in case” a connecting flight is canceled and I need to spend a night.

In addition to the usual for some (laptop, iPhone, chargers, medications, makeup, underwear, something to wear to sleep, and clothing accessories—for me, jewelry, for others, belts or ties), I take:

  • Unscented or scents-I-can-tolerate toiletries*: hotels if you’re reading this, please have an option for unscented products! Some of us have chemical sensitivities and cannot use the soaps (or shampoos, conditioners, lotions) in the rooms.
  • An emergency radio for its many components (There are other brands and places to purchase).
  • A travel-size white noise device. Yes, there are apps for that and sometimes no convenient electrical outlets. Having this makes a difference for a good night’s sleep.
  • Traveling duct tape. It comes in rolls or flat packs and can be your best friend for anything that needs to be fixed from hems to tacking down electrical cords in your guest or meeting room.
  • Multiple small flashlights (in my luggage and purse), extra batteries and two battery-operated alarm clocks, one of which has a flashlight built in.
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses, or when I wore them, contact lenses plus eyeglasses.
  • Antiseptic wipes to wipe down armrests, tray tables, hair dryers, TV remotes and other items where germs flourish.
  • “Emergency” (Mylar) blanket(s) like a shawl or sweater, this is great for flights, delayed flights sitting on cold tarmac, or cold meeting rooms.
  • A small personal fan for flights delayed without air conditioning on or in over-heated meeting rooms, or, well, you know, women of a certain age!
  • A collapsible wind-resistant umbrella and a hat that repels rain.
  • Face masks especially during flu season.
  • My passport, D.C. ID [I don’t drive so it’s a non-driver ID] and TSA Pre-Check card because even though my boarding pass shows I’m Pre-Check, it always pays to have, as Timothy Lam notes, extra ID.

What about packing clothing?

Above I noted that my dad was very simple in what he packed.

I’m fascinated by those who take many multiple outfits and shoes while I travel with minimal clean clothes that can be mixed and matched and try to get away with one pair of shoes that can look fine for business or casual wear.

If I worked out, I’d ship the extra items that I would need. As Reiko Tate said, a large shawl is great as an accessory and an airplane blanket or warmth in a cold meeting room.

Like others have noted and Marlys Arnold stresses, roll your clothes.

They are neater and take up less space. Use the inside of shoes, if you take extra, for smaller items like sox, jewelry, belts, and scarves.

What about checked luggage?

Only when absolutely necessary.

Waiting for checked luggage is for me a colossal waste of time. Years ago, on a trip to the neighborhood dry cleaners, I ran in to a colleague who was picking up her clean clothes to be put in a box to ship to her next meeting.

I began doing the same.

There are now luggage services that ship and some airlines provide that service.

I put clothes and other items that may be too bulky for a carry-on, like a small battery operated table fan for stuffy rooms, neatly in plastic bags and directly in a box and send them by overnight or two-day service.

If you do this, check ahead to ensure the availability at hotels for accessing your box if you arrive late or on a weekend and the handling charge for their receiving (and reshipping) the box (with dirty clothes and other items not needed) for the next stop.

Hotels with in-house UPS and FedEx outlets can, even when you have an account with the service, charge a significant fee for handling and delivering the box to your room.

As a number of those interviewed said, check to see if you can do your own laundry at the hotel [for that I have to send unscented detergent and softener or dryer sheets] or the cost of dry cleaning. It may be worth it to take fewer clothes.

Hot shipping tip

Although I love USPS Priority Mail flat rate box service, I learned the hard way (is there any other?) that not all mail addressed to a hotel goes to the hotel itself. Rather it may go to a post office to be picked up by the hotel … and never seen again!

Ask before you mail or ship what the services are.

Ensure your box or luggage has additional labels (to the shipping label) inside and on the outside with your name and arrival, hotel name and address (An inside label is smart for inside your checked and carry-on luggage too).

If you’ve read my blogs and comments long enough you probably wonder if I’m worried someone will see that information and have more than I want them to about my whereabouts.

Yes, I do think about it and yes, I still ship.

Lastly, as others noted, take less than you think you want. Overpacking is easy and causes overstuffed or too heavy bags. No one is going to care if you wear the same outfit with different accessories (ties, jewelry, scarves or shawls) daily.

Pack in a way that allows you some flexibility.

Now, tell us your travel, and especially packing, tips in the comments below.

We all learn from each other.

Safe travels!

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

Any products or services noted are for reference and do not constitute an endorsement.

Related Reading From the April 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

6 1/2 Practical Steps to Emergency Preparedness … Right Now!

Originally published Meetings Today 

Right, there are many more steps that should have begun at the destination and site selection phase and while you planned your program. But we’re about to have a blizzard in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions of the United States and I’m guessing that some of you are both personally not prepared and, in my opinion, worse, have meetings that are going on now or scheduled over the weekend or early the week of January 25 and aren’t prepared.

Your local media have told you some of the logical things—stock up on batteries, keep flashlights at the ready, have plenty of bottled water and blankets; if you live where you’re responsible for shoveling or putting out de-icer, be ready to do so. If you aren’t listening or reading local media or social media, here’s a great U.S. government resource where you will find more information.

For your meetings going on now or early next week (or the next time a weather or other emergency happens):

  1. People First: Whatever you do, consider people and their safety first. Nothing is more important! How you will shelter in place or how you will help people depart—or not arrive if your meeting is upcoming—is the most important part of what you will do. Because you follow my blogs and those of others like Tyra Hilliard, you made an emergency/contingency plan long ago … right? … and know this. In case you didn’t, you will put into place the following aspects and people will be foremost in your thinking and actions.
  2. The Show Will or Will Not Go On: Discuss the alternatives with management or clients, with your venue(s) and vendors. Remind them “People First” as you plan. Decide now—and I mean right now—if you will attempt to get people out of harm’s way now or postpone the arrivals for next week or plan for people to not arrive at all and what the contingencies are for each potential action (See item No. 4).
  3. Communicate!: As soon as you’ve determined No. 2, communicate in all ways possible (in person at face-to-face meetings today, via email, phone, text, via app if you have one for the meeting) your recommendations for those who are at a meeting or those planning to travel today, tomorrow, or in the days following the emergency, in this case, the blizzard.

    If your office/agency didn’t make individual’s travel arrangements, communicate via email and text and app (multiple ways not just one assuming people will see it) how and what people should do regarding leaving including contact information (airline, rail and bus company phones and URLs), best methods to get to their mode of transportation. If people drove to the meeting, provide information about road conditions and do not send people on their way if there is a better than 30% chance they will be in harm’s way.

    Recommended: follow tweets for local police, municipalities, and travel providers. I like Joe Brancatelli (@joesentme) because he has lots of good information about airlines and trains.

  4. It’s Not Force Majeure If It Hasn’t Happened: Postponing a meeting today for next week is pre-mature if you hope to invoke force majeure. Nothing much has happened. In D.C., where I live and work, we had the “rehearsal snow” last night that caused icy roads, road and school closures or delays. (I’ve not checked to see if there were flight delays and cancellations last night or this morning).

    If you have a meeting for which people plan to travel beginning Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday—or even Tuesday—you should talk with the hotel and other venues and vendors immediately to determine what considerations there are for all parties. After a blizzard, nothing will operate immediately. Making plans for postponement or holding a meeting with fewer people (including speakers who may be unable to arrive) is a plan to put in place.

  5. Work On Shelter-in-Place Plans: It’s possible that people will have to stay longer at the hotel in which your meeting currently is being held and locals may also want to stay there, taxing the facility and staff and their supplies. Determine what rates will apply to those who need to stay longer. Those “three days before and three days after” clauses may not help because their conditions may not apply in an emergency or they weren’t specific enough (This, we’ll discuss later in a webinar on contracting for accommodations!).

    Find out what supplies the hotel has ordered in today, before the blizzard, and how they plan to accommodate staff who volunteer to stay in the hotel to serve guests or what their plans are if staff cannot arrive. Reconfirm (because you asked at site selection, right?!) what their back-ups are for power and water. Find out what emergency plans the city has. News stations here reported that in Omaha, Neb., the other day, police stopped responding to emergency calls unless people were injured, so bad were the conditions (It is expected in the D.C. area that we will have winds up to 50 mph and severe conditions and though the sun is shining as I write this, I’m a believer in what the forecast says).

    If you’re in a hotel that doesn’t allow AEDs, and if you think that emergency responders may not be able to get there, see if you can—if you don’t already travel with one—find an AED to purchase at a local store to have on hand just in case. It’s the one item that may really save a life in an emergency.

    Oh and don’t think that serving alcohol freely to those who are sheltered is a good idea! During one emergency (a tornado) a facility at which I did training did just that in the one building where they had an operating generator. Drunk people in emergencies are potentially more dangerous to themselves and others. You too need a clear head!

  6. Don’t Leave Without Ensuring Every Detail is Covered: One of my best learning experiences was when a colleague left without telling me and I had to handle arrangements for a class on 9/11. YOU have a responsibility to the people and meetings you plan. Don’t leave without ensuring all things are in place to protect people and property, or put in place plans for what may happen for next week’s meetings.

    I know you’re worried about yourself, family, friends. You want to get home or to the grocery store to get supplies. But if you are on-site today reading this or you’re getting ready for a meeting for next week, put all plans in place for the people who count on you.

6.5 And when this blizzard is over, you’ll revisit your contingency planning and start again to fill in the blanks for what wasn’t done and what you can do better, beginning with site and destination selection. Be safe. Be careful.

Check in here via the comments or on Twitter @meetingstoday to let us know what you do, did, and how you are. Ask your participants to do the same when they are safely home.

7 Predictions and 6 Resolutions for 2015

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

When I began drafting this blog, I ran the idea by a colleague who has been a hotel CSM and sales manager—with a third party—and is now a director of meetings at a major medical association.

He laughed with me as I said, “Whatever I predict could have an opposite and equal prediction!”

And so it is.

Predictions

1. Hotel rates will go up in some markets and down in others.

2. Non-U.S. individuals and entities will continue to buy and own hotels which may cause more brouhaha (like it did when the Sultan of Brunei purchased the Plaza in New York) among some groups opposed to various entities or individuals owning hotels.

3. Hotel owners will demand even greater profit; some will continue to oppose an increase in the minimum U.S. wage.

4. The US Airways/American Airlines merger will be fully implemented in 2015; we’ll lose more lift for secondary and tertiary markets. That won’t be good for tourism, or for state or regional meetings.

5. Gas prices will stay down for a bit; airlines won’t lower ticket prices.

6. Most every meeting will still be set in straight rows—theatre or classroom—with some considering crescent rounds innovative. Few will be experiential even when the opportunity presents itself. The fear of change will continue.

7. Our industry, collectively, will think it’s smarter because of the use of technology; alas, it will remain the same unquestioning business it has been for too long.

My Professional Resolutions

1. I will continue reading and disseminating information via Twitter as @joaneisenstodt and for @meetingsfocus.

2. Even when a hotel puts forth a badly worded contract, I’ll maintain my calm and cool and realize it’s another training opportunity as we negotiate.

3. I’ll continue to promote Paul Radde’s book, Seating Matters to as many hoteliers and planners as I can, in an effort to help others realize the options in setting rooms for meetings. Insist hotel sales people and CSMs read it and practice different room setting.*

4. At any industry or other program in a hotel or public space, I’ll test the ADA capabilities and capacities and challenge the entities that are not in compliance or not accessible (Join me at ExhibitorLive in March to learn more about “Inclusive Hospitality”).

5. When I attend a program that is just not working for me, I’ll practice what I teach: the rule of “motion and responsibility” apply and I’ll leave.

6. I’ll promote—to legislators, family, friends, strangers—that what we do is critical to bring people together to explore, create, think, and act. Every “it’s not brain surgery or rocket science” comment will be challenged immediately with the facts. I’ll show ’em that meetings do mean business.

Your Professional Resolutions

Write a few. Think about why they are important to you and what you can do—what we all can do—to support change in each other and our industry. Grow in what you do by reading more and experimenting more with meetings. 2015: let’s make it a revolutionary year!