Hey friends! It’s the time of year when we all start gearing up for Alt Summit, the design bloggers conference in Salt Lake City. I wanted to share with you my tips for traveling light and making it easy on yourself. I’ll admit, I packed a little heavy last year. Not TOO bad, but still, I brought plenty of things that I wish I hadn’t bothered with. So, here’s my advice to myself
1. TWO BAGS IS ALL YOU NEED.
You don’t even need a big suitcase. Travel clutter is the result of poor planning and indecision. You’ve got time right now to plan your outfits and decide what you want to wear each day. I have advice about the outfits you need too, and I’ll cover that in a minute.
The efficient traveler explains:
You need a lovely large tote that goes with everything. This should be big enough for your laptop, but small enough that it doesn’t look like you are an insane bag lady who carries her entire family in her purse. These gorgeous totes by Fossil are PERFECTION.
You’ll carry this on the plane as your PURSE. You will put all your most important stuff in here for your trip.
You will then need an expandable CARRY-ON BAG. I kinda dig this one because it can also be a backpack, but I’m kind of a backpack wearing sort of person, and not everyone is. So, now listen, don’t go buy a fou-fou piece of luggage just because you think you need to impress other designers as you are rolling through the lobby. Let’s be practical here. It’s more important to get a bright luggage tag, just in case you do end-up having to check your bag and identify it amongst a sea of black bags.
The reason you need the expandable bag is because you WILL come home with swag. All kinds of little things you didn’t plan on bringing back with you. You’ll note I didn’t say — bring a fancy notebook or pen, because I got gifted with 3 notebooks last year, and a bunch of pens. You’ll be set on that front.
2. WHAT DO I WEAR?
There are going to be lots of people telling you WHAT the heck to wear to a design blogger conference. Last year it was a sea of stripes, polka dots, and top knot buns. I don’t have enough hair for a top knot, and I don’t own any polka dots. So, I just go with what works for me, and that basically involves boots, tights, cute dresses, a cool jacket, and a scarf. If you want to see my style board, you can check it out here: Alt Summit Fashion
The efficient traveler knows the following little bits that should help you narrow down your choices:
a. Your travel wear should be comfortable and layered. It’s cold outside in SLC, as in absurdly FREEZING, but it can get very warm in airports and planes when you travel. So wear sensible boots, and layer your shirt, sweater, and jacket. Bring your scarf & gloves in your carry-on.
b. Day wear for panels & classes should be feminine casual. It’s plenty warm in the hotel, but the temps can vary depending on where you are. You’ll be doing a lot of trucking around in the hotel, so be sure to test your kicks and make sure they are broken in before you go. I think it’s important, especially if you’re networking, to wear something notable to help people find you if they need to. “She’s over by the giant swan wearing a bright yellow scarf!”
c. Evening wear should be fun and memorable. This is a chance to wear something over the top. Most people are looking for an opener to chat, and a crazy dress or shoes are a great way to be remembered.
d. Don’t leave your wardrobe open ended. The schedule at Alt Summit moves at a brisk clip. You won’t want to miss out on things because you’re agonizing over what to wear. Pick your outfits ahead of time, take a photo of each one and save it to your phone. It’ll make getting out the door each day a breeze and leave more time for doing all the stuff you want to do.
3. GETTING AROUND
The staff at Grand America was pretty helpful last year when it came to transportation. If you’re concerned about getting to & from the airport or around town, be sure to read up on the shuttles, taxis, and the Light Rail that runs right in front of the hotel. Be sure you have a little cash on hand for tipping the taxi drivers.
4. DIVING IN
If it’s your first time at Alt Summit, you might be nervous. I was. I’m an extrovert who will talk to ANYONE, and I wasn’t that nervous before I arrived, but was nearly paralyzed with nerves for half of the first day. It’s overwhelming! There are so many new faces. Beautiful faces you KNOW , but can’t quite recall their actual names. (You can call them by their Twitter handles…but it’s a little awkward.) At any rate, I want you to know that it’s best to get your bearings, and just sit down next to anyone that you meet and strike up a chat. We are ALL there to meet new friends and connect. Have your cards at the ready, and just dive in. I made SO many wonderful friends last year and I almost can’t believe that I was so nervous at first. I didn’t have a single negative experience with anyone. Even some of the famous bloggers that I was nervous to chat with were just so warm and friendly.
The efficient traveler says:
a. Sit next to a new group of people at every class and at every meal. Even if you came with friends, do not sit with them! 🙂 Break out and go meet new folks and you’ll get so much more out of the event.
b. Unless you REALLY need to type your notes and live-blog your panels, I’d say forgo bringing the laptop to the panels. I ended up traveling light during the day and taking notes on paper most of the time. Bring your smartphone and take photos, but mostly — just try to be present. Don’t spend your whole time on a screen. You can always break away in the afternoon to go blog or type up some notes in the afternoon.
c. Bring a clip or rubberband to collect your business cards. This is a really big deal at Alt and you want to be sure you don’t lose track of your collection. Each evening, I made sure to follow my new friends on Twitter & add them to my Feedly under “Alt Summit” friends.
5. MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TICKET
The Alt Summit coordinators do an excellent job of setting you up for success in terms of what you will learn. They have different “tracks” for beginners and intermediate bloggers, so you should be able to identify quite easily where you should go during the conference. But, I will tell you a little secret — the REAL stuff happens in the conversations. And by real I mean, the connections and plans. It’s normal for us to sit in our little bubbles and make plans about the future, but Alt Summit is where you go to connect with people that can help you make things happen, and vice versa. This means you have to extend yourself more than you’re probably used to and take a chance on talking to people about big ideas. This isn’t the time to sit back and observe. If you’ve wanted to connect with someone, you have an obligation to yourself to make the most of this chance.
The efficient traveler says:
a. Make a list now of people you’d like to connect with at Alt Summit. Consider reaching out to them via Twitter or email and set up something informal.
b. If someone reaches out to you, even if you’re not sure why or how you can help them, just GO WITH IT. Maybe you won’t end up collaborating with that person, but at the very least, you will have a new friend or connection that will enrich your experience.