Before the conferenceAt the conference
After the conference
Making the Most of Your APHA Conference Experience
By Laura Larsson, HAS Newsletter Editor, and Colleagues+
Before The Conference, Part 2
Check the Weather
What is the weather like in SF in November? Knowing what the weather is likely to be will help you determine what to wear during your stay. It will also tell you what time the sun rises and sets – important for planning exercise and dinners away from your hotel. San Francisco can often be foggy. Plan for it with appropriate clothing.
Conference maps. Print out the map of the conference venue and study it so you know where the conference hotels are in relation to the convention center and so that you know where the rooms are in the convention center and in the hotels. Otherwise, you will waste time searching for rooms.
State and city maps. The hotel you are staying in and the conference center as well as tourist information centers will have city maps; however, there are other places where you can get maps ahead of time. If you are an AAA member, visit a nearby AAA outlet and get a street map of San Francisco and a map of the state. On the Web you can find maps of the city and get directions to specific places within walking distance of your hotel using MapBlast or MapQuest. These maps can be stored in your PDA or printed out.
Research the City
San Francisco is a wonderful city to visit because there’s a lot of energy stored there above and below ground. There are many methods of finding out about the city’s food, restaurants, and cultural and sports events. One of the fastest ways of finding out about the city is to read over the article by Piccagli and Chan written especially by Giorgio Piccagli and Monica Chan, both natives of San Francisco, for this Annual Meeting.Web Research. Use your favorite search engine to find content. Use "San Francisco tourism" to find many helpful sites with suggestions for what to do and eat in this city.
Ask friends. Friends and colleagues are often the best source of information on where to eat and what to do in a city. Especially useful are people who live there or who have lived there recently. Ask them for their ideas on where to eat and what to do. They’ll tell you about their favorite foods, restaurants and museums. And, they’ll be honest about what they like and don't like.
Tourism board. Contact the city’s tourist board to get information sent on the city/area. San Francisco's Convention & Visitors Bureau is a great place to start your research.
Travel magazines. Since we always know where APHA will be from year to year we can keep our eyes out for magazines, including Sunset, that discuss various aspects of the city.
AAA. Remember to visit your local branch of AAA before you leave to get maps and hotel suggestions. AAA staff are trained travel consultants and often have travelled to the city you’re most interested in and can provide good, first-hand, advice.
Do a laundry well ahead of time. Make sure all the clothes you want to take with you are clean and ready to be packed. You likely will not have time for hand washing miscellaneous garments during the conference and dry cleaning is usually very expensive if you have it done through the hotel. Don’t bother ironing your clothes; they’ll just get crushed and wrinkled. Just pack and plan on ironing as you need the clothes.
Pack the night before. If you’re not rushed when you pack, you’ll be less likely to forget some important piece of clothing. but not if it means that you’ll be up late.
Clothes to bring: Female. Think business casual - unless you are presenting. Some of the female attendees travel in two colors - black/tan or navy/khaki - and pack lightly. Count the number of days you will be attending the conference and bring along a clean blouse or T-top for each of those days. Two suit jackets, two skirts and two pair of nice slacks should get you through a long conference. Scarves are a nice accessory as are pins (jewelry) and are very light to carry. On the other hand, jeans and a top and some kind of jacket will work just as well if you are not presenting and are past the stage of worrying how you look to your colleagues.
Clothes to bring: Male. Male attendees can bring a suit for presenting and nice slacks or jeans with the appropriate number of shirts and a sweater for attending scientific sessions. Again, you are always safe with business casual clothes.
Formal events. If you have to attend a formal event, bring along one dress suitable for that event. A plain black dress, short, works well and can be used over and over again. For men, a nice suit generally satisfies most fashion requirements.
Suitcases. Small is better when it comes to suitcases. Take as small a suitcase as you can get away with and plan on checking it at the airport. With security measures as tight as they are, you will be allowed one carry-on and one other item (like a coat). It’s almost easier to check your bag than to worry about getting it through security.
Remove sharp objects from your purse or carryon. Although knitting needles are now approved for carry on, knives, corkscrews, nail files, even ones with blunted tops - and any other tool that could potentially be used as a weapon - should be packed in your suitcase and checked through to your destination.
Cover your luggage tags. For security reasons it’s a good idea to use luggage tags that can be covered. There is no reason for anyone else knowing your address and that you won’t be at home for a few days. For the same reason, use your business address instead of your home address.
Print or ebooks. Take along a few print books to read - or if you own a PDA or laptop, bring ebooks to read instead of carrying along a stack of paperbacks. Most ebook readers allow you to increase the size and width of characters to an enjoyable size. For more information on finding and using ebooks, do a Google search on the phrase “ebooks AND use” or “ebooks AND about”.
Comfortable shoes. Shoes should not only be comfortable but they should be sensible, too. Many APHA sessions are spaced out in different buildings and even if there are buses to shuttle you around, there may be a lot of standing and waiting - and some running around within the convention center once you get there. If your hotel is a distance from the conference site, you may not get "home" until late in the evening after you’ve gone out for dinner. By then your feet will be sore and swollen. At least two pair of comfortable shoes to use for trading off are good to bring with you. Wear your heavy running shoes to travel in so that you don’t have to carry them, keeping in mind that you might have to remove them during a security check.
Sweaters/jackets. With the air conditioning often set very low in conference hotels, you can freeze to death even with thousands of colleagues throwing off heat. Bring a sweater or jacket to put on when you get chilled. If you get too cold leave the room and run up and down a flight of stairs or find a spot of sun to get your blood circulating. Complain to the room monitor if you are freezing. Often hotel staff can reset the thermometer to make the room more comfortable.
Snacks. Buy snack foods for the times when you won’t have time to go out to buy lunch – or the inclination. Interested in what to buy? See the accompanying article titled, “Starve at a Conference? Nah!”.
Handiwipes. The cold and flu season will be well underway in November. Be sure to bring wipes to clean your hands after touching commonly touched surfaces. They’re also useful for freshening up after a day of travel or conference sessions or meetings. Wipes come in a variety of differently sized packages.
Small bills and change. Bring along a lot $1.00 bills for tips and for vendors who do not have exact change. Keep in mind that many states have sales tax that you’ll have to add on to any bills. Having lots of coins, especially quarters, handy is helpful if you are going to be at the conference for more than three or four days and need to do a laundry. One load of laundry can cost more than $5.00 in change to do.
Business cards. Bring a stack of business cards for colleagues, those you want to network with and for giving away to anyone you’ve just met who seems interesting. Keep a stack of cards in your suitcase and the rest in your purse or pocket.
Note taking equipment. Pack paper, notebook (and pens or pencils) or laptops for taking notes during the sessions. The new Tablet PCs are also handy for taking notes as the notes can be converted to text for reuse; handwritten notes can be indexed for easy retrieval.
Travel documentation. Gather all of your travel documentation in one place (i.e., paper tickets or e-ticket confirmation). Make sure your photo ID for airport security is in your wallet in an easily accessible spot. You will use your photo ID several times as you move from ticketing to the gate. A file folder or plastic folder work really well to store documents and don’t take up much space in your purse, brief case or back pack.
Pack your conference confirmation materials. As mentioned previously, keep conference materials in a file folder that you carry with you.
Daypack. A small daypack to carry all of this in is also a possibility – or a large over-the-shoulder bag.
Fold-up suitcase. Bring an empty rectangular, fold-up suitcase for all the professional publications you pick up or buy. This avoids the problem of having to pay to ship the publications home.
Money. Take half the clothes and twice the money you think you will need - or locate the cash machines and be prepared to pay a premium surcharge.Lost baggage. Tape your destination/contact info inside the suitcase in case it gets lost or drop a business card on top with your local (hotel) phone number written on it.
Security IssuesCopy wallet contents. Make copies of your wallet’s contents in case they get lost/stolen. Copy down credit card phone numbers so that you can call to report them missing (if they get lost or stolen).
Volunteer to moderate a session. Early on volunteer to be a moderator for sessions that need one. This is a great way to get to meet new people, people who have something important to share and it’s a lot of fun. Plus, it helps the program planner for your Section, SPIG or Caucus.
Get to the airport terminal at least two hours ahead of time. If you plan on driving to the airport and catching a shuttle to the main terminal, leave more time than that. Tight security, bag checking, check in at the gate, and catching a snack will take time. Don’t be rushed. Expect that something will go wrong and plan for additional time.
Airport Security. Expect it. Prepare for it. Have your e-ticket confirmation and identification out for checking. A driver’s license or passport should be acceptable to the security personnel.
Be patient. Those who lose their tempers generally end up being thoroughly searched and may not make their plane.
Be polite and terse. If you are asked to step aside for a search of your possessions and person and a personal wanding to detect metals, be polite, answer the questions tersely and don’t babble.
Slip-ons vs running shoes. Wear slip-on shoes for security at airport. Expect that you will be asked to remove running shoes for examination. Those with steel-shanks in their shoes should remove them as a matter of course and put them into a tub to be x-rayed. Removing your steel-shanked shoes ahead of time saves time and wear and tear on your nerves.Tape your business card to the bottom of your laptop. On occasion two notebook PC's have rolled down the security belt at the airport and two people stared at the two identical computers in the trays with dismay. Business cards provide instant identification.
Other computer tips. Also, do not send your PC though the security machine until the person in front of you has successfully passed through the security gate and then do not take your eyes off it. Refuse to get distracted by other travelers or your own pat down. Be absolutely obsessive about this if your presentation is on that machine!! A recent Wall street journal article described the how grown men broke down in tears when they realize their notebooks were stolen from the security belt while they went through the extended pat downs.
Duplicate your presentation. Packing a duplicate copy of your presentation on a CD that you carry separately is a smart idea. Be sure to test the duplicate before packing it to make sure it will actually work. For really important presentations, carry two duplicates in different places.
Net wash bags for unmentionables. Since security personnel have begun rummaging through suitcases at the airport, use the net wash bags to pack your underwear in. Security can see through those bags well enough to know the contents are not dangerous - and it avoids the problem of having your wares displayed to the world.
Undergarments for women. Women might be interested in wearing bras that have no metal fasteners, that use plastic clips to close them, to keep from setting off the alarm.
Reading materials. Assuming all went well and you’re reached your gate in plenty of time, pull out the reading materials you’ve neglected because you’ve been so busy. Fill your carry-on with unread magazines and discard them after reading. Or, pull out your PDA for reading some of the free ebooks that you’ve been collecting.
Magazines. Rip off labels on your magazines if you leave them behind either on the plane or in the airport – or discard them appropriately.
Rental Cars. Be sure to reserve the car of your choice so that it will be ready for you when you arrive at your destination – if driving into San Francisco is your choice. It is acceptable to refuse a rental car if it is dirty or clearly not a no- smoking car. If you asked for a specific car and the only one available is an upgrade, ask for it for the same price.
BART. Bay Area Rapid Transit runs from the San Francisco International Airport to the Moscony Convention Center. Visit their Extended Trip Planner page to get BART schedules, directions, and station area maps.
At Your Hotel
Arrive early. Arrive at the hotel as early as possible to avoid being bumped to an off-site hotel - they occasionally SHAMELESSLY OVERBOOK for conferences. It’s not good if you are bumped and you are the 8 am speaker. Arriving early can get you a room on a floor you prefer – if the floor is available. If you arrive early in the day, check in and go sightseeing - or nap if it is a boring or remote place. This certainly isn’t the case in San Francisco.