Conference and Meeting Travel: Pack for the one-night trip

meeting travelOne-day (or even one-evening) events can be fast and tiring, but it’s usually worth pushing for a fast turnaround so you can get home sooner and be back in the office with less disruption. I just took a short-burn business trip two weeks ago to Boston, and I found that it sure beats planning for a few days on the road. For a trip that’s few days long, I need to tote along a carry-on. For single-night trips, I don’t even need to go that far: I can just stuff what I need for the next day into my messenger bag.

Packing for one-night business trips is a lot like doing so for visitation weekends with my son when I build in an overnight. Clothing just isn’t that big a concern. The big question is when the business is actually happening.

If I’m traveling in the morning for an event at my destination later that day, I’ll generally dress in the morning for the event that evening. This may mean traveling in business casual attire or a suit so I can just arrive at my event. I won’t need to check in at the hotel or find a bathroom stall in which to change. When I hit the ground, I can just grab a cup of coffee and a smoke before making my way to the event.This was my plan last week in Boston. I had three meetings in a row, and fortunately, they were near each other. The first was a series of video interviews about social media, conducted by a local venture capital firm, OpenView Venture (one of the videos is embedded below). That was followed by a few drinks with Gadling’s own Melanie Nayer, after which I went back to OpenView Venture’s offices for a meet-and-greet where I talked to people about corporate blogging and investor relations (I know … fun stuff, right?).


I was lucky: the dress code was casual. Nonetheless, I had to wear a decent looking shirt because I knew I’d be on camera and filmed from the waist up. And, hey – it’s never bad to wear a shirt that you could be seen in on television. The instructions I got from the company were fairly specific: no stripes and no sheen. So, I dressed for that in the morning, caught the Acela up to Boston, and arrived for my video shoot half an hour early and with no need to get dressed. The shirt was fine for the two later appointments, as well. I only had to back a change of clothes (except jeans) for the next day, and that was easy to stuff into the bag I carry every day.

Now, arriving the night before an event is a bit more difficult. You need to make sure you can accommodate clothing that will meet with the dress code, and you can’t just travel in your business clothes. So, you might have to drag along a carry-on with a suit or business casual clothing in it. To avoid this (except for a suit), I tend to change into the required clothes right before my “night before” travel, so I won’t need to pack it. This way, they won’t be as wrinkled or dirty when I need them the next day.

The key is to wear as much as you can and pack as little as possible. Keep your bag simple, and the short-and-fast business conference or meeting trip becomes much, much easier.

Conference and Meeting Travel: How the packing list is different

meeting travelMy bag looks different from usual on this trip. Convention travel, though not usually as productive as other forms of business travel, does bring with it the benefit of a lighter bag.

When I go on a regular business jaunt, I usually wind up having to overpack. The problem is that there is just too much happening, and none of it is related. On a normal business trip, usually to visit the IR magazine team in London, I have to be ready for:

• Meetings with my team
• Meetings with my boss
• The sort of work that I do every day
• Special events that have a dress code
• Casual dinners with former colleagues
• Recreational travel, which I usually like to tack on to the back end of a business trip

Conventions and conferences are totally different. I go for one reason, not many. Conference events dominate the agenda, so there really isn’t much time to build in recreational meetings or visits with friends or colleagues – and needless to say, I won’t be seeing much of Vancouver when I’m in town for the RIMS 2011 event. And, I don’t build in leisure travel when I’m on a conference trip, mostly because I’m so busy at the event that I can’t put off returning to the office to catch up.

So, what’s the upside? Well, a lighter bag …Unlike my last few trips – to Palo Alto, Toronto and London – this run up to Vancouver has the benefit of a lighter bag. I won’t need a suit on this trip, just a bit of attire on the upper end of business casual. This also means that I can make the trip with the shoes I’m wearing, which saves lots of space. Since the suit and shoes are usually in addition to a day’s attire, they wind up consuming a disproportionate amount of space. On this trip, everything I need, from socks to cigars, fits in a small carry-on.

Because of the single purpose and straightforward attire, packing for a convention/conference trip is pretty easy. So, what’s in my bag right now?

• Two pairs of pants (for two and a half days on the ground in Vancouver)
• Four shirts – just in case I spill something or have an unexpected night out
• Socks, toiletries, etc. (the basics you’ll need to pack for any trip, regardless of purpose)
• I’m wearing the jeans and shoes that I’ll wear on the flight home

Just to play it safe, most of my shirts can be worn with either pair of pants packed, so if I spill something on a pair of pants, I won’t wind up in a weird stripes-on-pinstripes predicament. Also, I’m short on gadgets for this trip. Since I probably won’t be doing anything other than working the RIMS 2011 event, I don’t need my camera (which takes up far too much space); my BlackBerry camera will get the job done if necessary. My Flip is small enough not to be a bother, and my laptop is tiny. Anything else doesn’t make the cut.

Convention and conference travel can lead to heavier bags if you’re on an event management team, and you get stuck toting marketing materials, brochures and other equipment for a booth or other presence at the event. If you can ship as much of that as possible ahead of time, though, you’ll find yourself with easier shoulders, free hands and the fresh look that comes with not having to check a bag!

Conference and Meeting Travel: Five ways it differs from other business travel

business travelAs I write this, I’m en route to Chicago from New York, the first leg of a trip that will bring me to Vancouver where I’ll be when this story runs. For the first time in a few years, I’m headed to a professional conference, and the preparation process, it has occurred to me, is different from other forms of business travel. From the packing list to the mindset, it’s unlike the other business trips I’ve taken this year.

So, how is conference and meeting travel different? Here are five ways that came to mind pretty quickly:

1. The packing list: my bag is a lot lighter than it usually is (I’ll write more about this later in the week). Convention and meeting travel usually translates to a lighter load (unless you’re stuck toting last-minute items that weren’t shipped in advance)2. The intent is focused: when I go to a conference or event, I usually don’t have a lot of ancillary business scheduled … unlike a routine trip to see my team in London, in which case I try to lump in both business and travel stuff with friends, contacts and former colleagues. On a conference trip, I’m only thinking about the conference – nothing else.

3. The schedule and priorities shift: on a normal business trip, I try to have a return flight later on my final day in town. This gives me the maximum amount of time on the ground relative to cost, ultimately making my trip more productive (better return on investment). On a convention/conference trip, you can wind up stuck in town for a final morning, in order to maximize the value of the last night of the event – and the day after becomes a total flush.

4. The pace and agenda are wacky: client visits, regular visits with my team and even sales calls tend to be predictable. Even if I can tack on recreational travel or additional business, I tend to know what’s going on before I hit the ground, and not much changes once I arrive. Sure, crazy stuff arises from time to time, but most trips are predictable. One conference trips, you wind up hoping to score meetings, drum up some new contacts and just “see what’s out there.” This means that a lot can change quickly, and you have to be ready for anything!

5. The end is much more welcome: at the end of a convention, I usually just want to get home. I’m tired from walking around, making contacts, meeting people I know and generally being “on.” Even trips to meet with clients aren’t this exhausting, because the agenda is usually set and the objectives are so specific. On the last day of a conference, I actually find myself looking forward to getting on a plane … for a change.

The Jesse James farm

Jesse James, Frank James
Jesse James grew up both lucky and unlucky. His father, Baptist preacher Robert Sallee James, owned a prosperous farm in Clay County. His slaves cultivated hemp and other cash crops, and Jesse and his older siblings Frank and Susan grew up in comfort. Robert kept a large library and both his sons became avid readers. Frank loved Shakespeare, while Jesse was more devoted to the Bible and newspapers.

The boys’ luck quickly changed. Although Robert had founded a successful Baptist church and was respected by his neighbors, he wasn’t content. In 1850 he decided to go to the gold fields of California to preach to the miners. Jesse James, then only two years old, clutched his leg and begged him not to go. Robert went anyway, and within a few months had died.

This was a financial disaster for the James family. It turned out Robert had left many debts and some of the family possessions had to be auctioned off. Jesse’s mother Zerelda, a tough Southern woman, married a wealthy farmer named Benjamin Simms, a man twice her age. This saved the financial situation but did not stabilize the children’s lives. Simms rejected his stepchildren and made them move into a relative’s home. Simms soon died by falling off a horse and Zerelda, showing little grief, married mild-mannered physician Reuben Samuel. The children moved back to the farm and Samuel treated them as if they were his own.

All should have gone well, but Clay County was on the border of the Kansas Territory. In the 1850s, there was a bitter fight over whether Kansas would be admitted into the Union as a slave state or a free state. Immigrants from the north arrived armed, ready to make Kansas free, while Missouri “border ruffians” crossed the border to disrupt local elections and skirmish with the Free-Staters. Kansas “Jayhawkers” raided Missouri, freeing slaves and killing slave owners. As slave owners themselves, the James family wanted Kansas to become a slave state. The majority of Missourians agreed with them, although a growing minority were outspoken abolitionists.

%Gallery-108204%Bleeding Kansas, as the fight was called, was the precursor to the Civil War. When the Confederacy formed in 1861, Missouri’s governor and much of the legislature wanted to join, but they met fierce resistance. Soon there were two Missouri state governments on opposite sides of the Civil War. Jesse was still a boy, but Frank was old enough to enlist in the Missouri State Guard, a Confederate outfit. He saw fighting at Wilson’s Creek and Lexington, both Confederate victories, then fell ill and was left behind and captured. Frank swore loyalty to the Union and went home, but when the Unionist state government required that all able-bodied men join a local Union militia, he fled and became a guerrilla under the command of William Quantrill.

Quantrill’s band of guerrillas, often called “bushwhackers”, terrorized Unionist civilians and attacked Union patrols. They became famous for their lightning raids and merciless persecution of Unionist civilians. Their worst atrocity was attacking Lawrence, Kansas, a center of abolitionism, and killing 200 mostly unarmed men and boys.

Everybody knew Frank rode with Quantrill. The local Union militia, the same one Frank had refused to join, showed up at the James farm. They had heard Frank and the bushwhackers were camped nearby. Finding 15 year-old Jesse working in the field, they demanded to know where Frank was. When he refused to tell, they beat him. The militia had better luck with Reuben Samuel. They put a noose around his neck, threw the rope over a high branch, and hauled him up. Just before he passed out, they dropped him back down, then hauled him up again. Eventually Samuel revealed where Frank was. The militia rode off in pursuit, but the bushwhackers got away.

Jesse never forgot that beating, and when he was sixteen he joined the bushwackers. He became one of the toughest of a tough crew and participated in the Centralia Massacre in 1864. His mother Zerelda stayed at home throughout the war, helping her boys on the sly and giving the militia a severe tongue lashing any time they appeared on her property. A local Union commander called her “one of the worst women in the state.”

After that the James farm never knew peace. Frank and Jesse, unable or unwilling to adjust to life after the war, continued their guerrilla activities as outlaws. They lived more or less openly on the farm. Many of their neighbors supported them as loyal Southerners, while others were too afraid to cross them. One night in 1874, a group of Pinkerton detectives, thinking Frank and Jesse were home, snuck up to a window and threw a bomb inside. The explosion mangled Zerelda’s arm and killed eight-year-old Archie Samuel, Frank and Jesse’s half brother.

In 1882 Jesse was assassinated by Robert Ford and Frank gave himself up shortly thereafter. He was found innocent of all charges (this was a time before fingerprinting and CCTV) and settled down to a peaceful life. Zerelda stayed at the farm until her death in 1911, giving tours of the farm for the curious. She even sold pebbles from Jesse’s grave for 25 cents. When she ran out of pebbles, she’d go down to the nearby creek and get some more.

At the James Farm Museum just outside of Kearney you can still buy a pebble from Jesse’s grave, and they still cost 25 cents. The visitor’s center explains the life and times of Frank and Jesse and displays many artifacts from the family. Hidden behind a screen of trees the James farm looks much as it was, lovingly restored in the 1970s by James devotees and filled with family heirlooms. The legend lives on there, as it does in many other spots where the James brothers fought, robbed, and died in Missouri.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: On the trail of Jesse James.

Coming up next: Jesse James robs his first bank!

Dates for 2010 Travel Blog Exchange Announced

Last July, travel writers and bloggers from all over the world came together in Chicago for TBEX, the Travel Blog Exchange. It was a day to meet people in the industry, to learn from other writers and bloggers, and most of all, to start a conversation about the business of travel blogging.

Topics covered at the inaugural event included “Creating a a Lively and Successful Travel Blog”, which was led by Bootsnall’s Sean Keener, Nomadic Matt, Micheal Yessis from Worldhum, and Gadling’s own Heather Poole (who did a stellar job explaining how she keeps her own blog stocked with informative and entertaining posts). There was a session on working with PR people, one on podcasting and video (featuring Chris Martin from the Indie Travel Podcast and Chris Elliott from National Geographic and MSNBC) and a panel on the difference between travel journalism and blogging, led by Conde Nast’s Wendy Perrin and Jen Leo from the LA Times. Between sessions there was plenty of time for networking.

I had the chance to attend the 2009 event and was glad I did. I learned a lot, got to meet several people whose blogs I have been following, and made some valuable connections. As soon as the event was over, I signed up to be alerted with news about the 2010 Travel Blog Exchange.

Today, the dates and locations for next year’s TBEX were announced. This year’s event will be held June 26 and 27, 2010, and sounds like it’s going to be even bigger and better than last year. It will be held in New York City, is an extra day long, and will offer more in-depth session for niche discussions. Plus, Gadling is going to be one of the sponsors.

Speakers have not been confirmed yet, but based on the experts assembled last year, I’ve no doubt that next year’s attendees will be treated to an all-star panel. Early Bird registration (before January 1, 2010) is just $40. After that, it’s only $80, making this one of the cheaper blogger conferences available and well worth the money. You can sign up now to attend in person, or stay tuned to the TBEX page for information on watching the event via live stream.