North American Trade Show Travel Tips
October 17, 2019
As the old saying goes, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” You actually have no idea what is going to happen at a show – what could go wrong or who you might meet. There are a LOT of moving parts to a show – from the travel to the hotel to the display setup to the tech. Anything could happen. So, why even have a solid plan? Because the actual planning of the trip helps you think through all those moving parts. Even if you’re a veteran exhibitor, you need a checklist and a plan to help your trip go smoothly. Here’s a quick list to keep you from stressing out about the details and to help be plan-savvy about the parts you CAN control.
THE WEEK BEFORE
- October 1, 2020, every adult needs to show a Real ID-compliant driver’s license (or another acceptable form of identification such as a passport) to fly within the United States. As of today 27 million people in the United States will need to update their drivers license and only about 3 million have done it as of this month. That said, expect delays in getting this done. So consider encouraging your team to get ahead of this and make it a “before the holidays” checklist item.
- Double-check your shipping details to make sure all of your products and display parts will arrive on time to the correct address. If you happen to find something missing, things can always be overnighted to your hotel and held until you get there.
- DUI’s in Canada: If a staffer happens to have a DUI in the United States and does not declare it coming into Canada, there is a chance that staffer may NOT be able to enter the country and could be detained for a short time. If you happen to be going to a show in Canada, please be sure to check the laws that you must abide by. Having grown up in Minnesota, I have personally observed on 2 different occasions people getting detained and in tears at the boarder because they didn't know the rules. In Canada, DUI’s can be an indictable offense (felony) and in turn they can turn you away from the border.
- Create event notebooks for your staffers. This isn’t a necessity, but it’s an incredibly smart idea. You can include personal information (flight info and hotel arrangements), company instructions (booth setup, expectations, and show schedule), and also good general information (local maps, nearby restaurants, etc.). Having a binder with all this information in one place is a no-brainer.
- Create your out-of-office message for phone and email and turn on your auto-response.
- Update your calendar and provide your home office team with your complete itinerary.
THE DAY BEFORE
- Before you begin packing, CHECK YOUR AIRLINE’S regulations about legal/illegal carry-on items.
- Pack your clothes for the show. You’ll need a few versatile outfits and a couple of pairs of comfortable shoes. Remember that you’ll be standing for hours and hours in one place likely. Prepare for that. You’ll need clothes for the exhibit floor during the day and for events in the evening.
- Pack your usual personal items you travel with (toiletries, prescription meds, etc.). In addition, include mints and hand sanitizer (think of all those people you’ll be glad-handing!) and maybe some freshening towelettes for long days.
- Pack some first-aid items. Sure, you might be able to bum some Ibuprofen off someone, but do you really want to be asking around for an anti-diarrheal because those tacos didn’t sit right? No. And you won’t regret having some handy Band-aids, eye drops, painkillers, and antihistamines with you when you need them.
- Pack your business travel supplies. Besides your business cards and travel pillow, it’s a good idea to have some high-protein snacks, a Leatherman tool, and anything else you can think of to make your travel easier. Also think about what the booth might need – extra zip ties to secure wiring, duct tape, small scissors, and a few Ziploc bags.
- Pack all your tech and supplies. The last thing you want is to be running low on battery when you’re in the middle of the show. Besides your phone, laptop, and any other devices, be sure to pack your chargers, WiFi hotspot, extra batteries, and a portable power bank. Consider also bringing extra USBs and noise-cancelling headphones.
- Before you leave, be sure to backup all your contacts. Were you to lose your phone during the show, you don’t want to be stuck without your contacts.
THE DAY OF
- Double check the TSA rules for checked and carry-on baggage. Make sure you’re not breaking any of the weight limits or liquid restrictions with your bags. TSA regularly changes restrictions at their security checks. For this reason, it’s best to regularly check current regulations. Each airline and even individual airports have their own travel “culture” about how strict they are with carry-on baggage and other restrictions. Know before you go!
- Have all your documents handy. Whether you check in online and use a digital boarding pass or have an old-school printed boarding pass, you need to have your documents in order. Be sure your boarding pass, reservation number, itinerary number, and purchase confirmation number are at your fingertips. Keep them in a jacket pocket or in a front pocket of your personal bag.
- Have proper ID ready. Once again, on October 1, 2020, the TSA will ask all travelers to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or alternate acceptable identification to fly domestically. Without it, travelers will be unable to fly. Most state DMVs already issue compliant licenses, while others have been granted an extension to make their internal processes and IDs compliant. In lieu of a driver’s license, a military ID or United States passport will suffice.
Attract Decision Makers to Your Exhibit Through Design, Strategy, Marketing, Information and Technology!
This article was inspired by ""Domestic Trade Show Travel Checklist" by Nicole Klein and first appeared at skyline.com