The latest version of the Survival Guide, updated and edited. Enjoy!
Thanks to everyone who has posted suggestions and comments over the years. And please, if you come up with an idea or suggestion or correction, send an email to me (my email address is at the end of this document) and I’ll add it next time.
The Most Important Thing You Need To Do:
Write the words “Have fun” on a Post-It note and stick it to the mirror that you use the most in your room. These are the most important two words to remember when you attend SCC. It is acceptable for you to enjoy yourself this week! I give you permission, okay?
Getting There/Getting Around:
-Give yourself some extra time traveling. If you’re flying, there will be something to slow things down at the airport. If you are driving, traffic will be terrible and construction will make you crazy. The Crowne Plaza is located near I-285-aka “The Perimeter”-and Atlanta’s rush hour traffic is legendary. Rush hour never really ends in Atlanta. Leave an hour early; if you get there early, more time to relax. If someone tells you something is “Inside the Perimeter” that means it’s within the boundaries of I-285, which includes most of metro Atlanta.
– It is not a joke that half the streets in Atlanta are named “Peachtree!” Street names change from one block to the next, and it’s not all in a nice grid pattern. Then add in road construction on both surface streets and highways . . . I used to say get a good map, but a good GPS is probably better. I like the Waze app, which is driver-sourced; it takes data real-time from users to notify you of traffic and hazards on your route. The Google Maps app is still one of my favorites. Both are available for iOS and Android. Neither is perfect-I’ve had both give me routes that were longer than I’d have chosen, and even those “How did I end up here?” moments-so pay attention to what you’re doing!
-MARTA is Atlanta’s mass transit system; their website is www.itsmarta.com. There is a MARTA station at Dunwoody Plaza, on the western side of the mall across from the parking garage. The hotel offers shuttle service to and from the station. I have heard both positive and negative things about MARTA. Some locals feel it’s not a good thing to be on if you’re in girl mode; others say it’s fine. I have only used MARTA in drab, and it was a pretty good option. The Red Line will take you from the airport to the Dunwoody Station, which is the closest to the hotel. Look for a train that has a sign for “North Springs.” The airport station is right off the baggage claim. It’s $2.50 each way, and you can purchase multi-trip and multi-day passes at vending machines at all stations.
-I’m sure there are taxis in Atlanta, but you don’t see them very often. Ask the concierge for recommendations, and make sure you get the company’s phone number so you can have a cab pick you up when you are finished. Pricewise, they’re about the same as most other major cities.
-You can never bring too much with you. At least that’s my excuse. But airlines restrict the number of bags you can check, and sometimes there are things you would rather not trust to them. Now they are using baggage as a profit center. Most airlines charge for one or more bags, and the fees vary. Before you book your tickets, check the airline’s website for fees. If you are using Kayak to compare ticket prices, you can also check these fees there as well.
UPS and FedEx have been promoting using their services to ship your luggage to your destination. You can box them up (or take them to a UPS Store or FedEx Office location and let them do it), and ship them to the hotel. Make sure you put “Hold for guest (your name), Arriving (your arrival date)” on the label. Let the hotel know you are shipping a package so they will hold it for you. On arrival, ask the desk to have the package brought up to your room. And, if you’re smart, you’ll get a return label to ship it all back home after the convention. I have used UPS for years and it’s been a very convenient, hassle-free method. My only problem was in 2010, when the hotel had failed to have the package picked up after I left (which is why you keep your tracking numbers; I found out on the UPS website it hadn’t been picked up and called the hotel to find out why).
-Atlanta’s Hartsfield/Jackson Airport is the major transit hub in the South. There’s an old joke that when you die, to get to Heaven you have to transfer through Hartsfield. There is some truth to this . . . Atlanta is the hub for Delta Air Lines and for AirTran (and the irony is never lost on me). With the merger of Southwest and AirTran, there are now more options to flying into and out of Atlanta. Before you go to the airport, check their website (http://www.atlanta-airport.com/) and find out what terminal you’ll be flying out of. When you arrive, go down the escalators and take the shuttle train to the Domestic Terminal, where you will pick up your baggage and check in when you leave again. It is actually a nice airport, just incredibly busy.
-While flying has gotten more expensive, it is still possible to find good flights for less. Bing Travel (http://www.bing.com/travel) uses Farecast’s fare forecasting algorithm to predict if and when prices will change. I use this in conjunction with Kayak (http://kayak.com), which searches airline websites and the online travel sites to find the best prices. Kayak, like all other sites can’t get prices from Southwest, which means an extra step but sometimes it is worth it. Kayak also has an option to show you how much a flight is with baggage fees included-which can make a huge difference in the cost. Remember that Southwest will allow you to check up to two bags under 50 pounds each for free.
-When should you start looking for flights? As soon as possible. The best day to shop is Tuesday afternoons, when airlines post sales and other airlines try to compete. The best deals are often the earliest. Booking within thirty days of your flight or less will get you the highest prices. Subscribe to your favorite airline’s newsletter to find out about sales and other perks available.
And this article is worth taking a look at regarding why air travel is so expensive and how to save money: http://lifehacker.com/why-plane-tickets-cost-so-much-and-how-you-can-still-g-485767079?utm_campaign=socialflow_lifehacker_facebook&utm_source=lifehacker_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow
The Hotel and What to Know:
The 2013 Southern Comfort Conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta-Ravinia, which is across the road from Perimeter Mall. The hotel is near the intersection of GA400 and I-285. There are also a number of places to eat and shop in walking distance. The hotel does have a shuttle service, within a three-mile radius; ask at the Concierge desk for reservations.
-Perimeter Mall (http://www.perimetermall.com/) is directly across from the hotel, and is where most of us go at least once during our stay. There are a lot of shopping and dining options in the mall.
-This is our seventh year at the Crowne Plaza. The hotel is to used to an SCC crowd by now. But we still overtax the staff, and your drink and food orders take a bit longer than normal. Please be patient! And tip well for good service.
-ALL Hotels have bad lighting in the bathroom. Saves energy, makes doing your makeup or shaving harder. Bring a lighted make-up mirror.
-The City of Atlanta and Fulton County have a non-smoking ordinance, so if you have to indulge you can’t do it in the bar or the lobby. You’ll have to go outside the hotel; there is a smoking area set off to the right as you exit the main doors.
-The hotel charges $9.95 a day for internet service throughout the hotel. If you are a Priority Club member, ask about complimentary wi-fi (I did last year; not sure if it’s still offered). Panera Bread, 4531Olde Perimeter Way #100 offer free Wi-Fi and are near the mall. Starbucks will give you free Wi-Fi as well; there’s one in Perimeter Mall, and the closest standalone stores are at 1155 Mt. Vernon Parkway and 5561 Chamblee-Dunwoody Rd.
-And for those of you who need caffeine in the morning, there is a Starbucks in the lobby open until 10 AM (no idea how early they open; never up that early…)
-Yes it’s been mentioned before, but please, be a lady in the restroom. Or a gentleman. It is a public area, and you need to behave like you belong there! Girls, do NOT STAND UP TO PEE. And it’s not a dressing room. Go to your room if you have major work to be done, okay? The hotel WILL ask you to leave.
-Parking is free at the Crowne Plaza, unless you use the valet service. The parking garage is behind the hotel. Follow the signs, and park in the guest spaces. The hotel does not hold spaces for guests, so it does fill up. Take the first space you can find!
Things You Might Want To Bring:
-Calling cards. You may think they are silly, but when you are writing your contact information multiple times and looking for scraps of paper, you’ll wish you had some. You can use Microsoft Word to create a card, and Avery (avery.com) has templates on their website. Print them out on your inkjet on good paper, and presto! Another option is VistaPrint (www.vistaprint.com), which will let you create cards online and sends you nice, professionally printed ones in a very short time. I started leaving the backs of my cards blank so I could write notes on them.
-A small survival kit, with safety pins, a sewing kit, batteries, first aid supplies, meds, a small flashlight, etc. A Swiss Army knife is useful; a multitool is even better. If you are flying, make sure you pack the knife in your checked luggage! And pack a few zip top bags; they come in handy.
-Pack at least one pair of comfortable shoes. You may love your heels, and can walk all day in them, but at least once you’ll wish you had some flats or tennis shoes. And guys, I know how long it can take to break in those great boots you just got. How many times have you worn a new pair of shoes all day and your feet were in pain afterward?
-Snack bars or something similar, for those mornings when you don’t have time to get breakfast. If you are me, that is pretty much every morning…There is a Starbucks nook in the lobby, for emergency caffeine (and yes, I need my latte fix in the mornings. Please remember this if it’s before noon and I am not holding a cup).
-A small notebook. Any notebook you can fit into a purse, bag, case, back pocket, etc. will do. I never go to a convention without one, usually filled with notes on places I want to go, directions, things to do, and note from seminars. I used to love Moleskines, but there’s a lot of good ones out there now.
-A camera, for high-quality photos. And make sure you have a large enough memory card that you do not need to download shots constantly. A tripod would be nice to have, even if it is a tabletop one. If you are doing self-portraits, it makes things a lot easier. Don’t forget extra batteries and/or a charger!
I used to say use your smart phone for quick shots, but nowadays the quality of the photos you can take with one are as good as many cameras. And because it’s so easy to take decent photos with one, you will be more inclined to capture the fun moments.
Please remember to ask permission before taking photos of other people and to make sure that you are not catching someone in the background who might not want their picture taken. If you don’t get permission, don’t take the shot!
-Makeup wipes. Those disposable, moist towelettes you use to remove your makeup. Use them to remove most of your makeup, then a good cleansing-which will leave little no makeup on the towels. The housekeepers will appreciate it. I prefer Boots (from Target), but Ponds or Neutrogena’s work as well.
-A towel. Preferably a dark one, which you can use to wipe your face while you’re cleaning off makeup. This keeps you from making a mess of one of the hotel’s towels, and if you have to go interstellar hitchhiking . . .
-Whatever electronic devices you bring, remember the cables, chargers and accessories for it. Many devices use the same kind of cables and chargers now, which cuts down on how much extra stuff you have to bring. If you have room, bring a power strip so you can plug all your things in and not have to dig under the desk. Forgot something? There is a Best Buy across the road from the hotel.
-A shoe shine kit. You’ll want to put a nice shine on your shoes before going out, and you might find someone who needs a good shoe shine or boot blacking…
-A swimsuit. There is a pool party on Saturday afternoon, but the pool is available during the day and evenings. Work on your tan, unless you’re me of course.
-If you use injectable medications (hormones, insulin, etc.), bring a sharps container. The hotel does not have these in the rooms, which is not unusual. However, you do not want to dispose of needles, lancets, or other sharps in the regular hotel trash. In a pinch, you can use an empty soda bottle or can. Tape the opening shut before you throw it out to protect hotel employees from accidental sticks.
The Conference and Things to Know:
-Remember, you need to use the name you registered with on the SCC website when picking up your packet. The registration people will appreciate it. Check your packet BEFORE you leave the desk; if something is wrong, let the registration people know.
-Print out a copy of the schedule before you go and make a rough plan of what events and classes you want to go to. You will find conflicts-with so much going on you can’t do it all! The key here is “rough plan” okay? Don’t try to plan the entire convention! Leave time for the unexpected and the last minute adventure. I have SO violated this one too many times-made too many plans and ended up miserable for a day. Learn from my failures, okay?
-If you have the opportunity, go out and explore the city. Atlanta’s one of the most LGBT-friendly cities I know, and there’s lots of places to see and do. Again, it’s up to your comfort level but I will say Atlanta expanded my horizons . . .Lenox Mall in Bucktown is fabulous, and Little Five Points is a funky, boho (think Deep Ellum in Dallas or Magazine Street in New Orleans) neighborhood. One of the best aquariums in the world is here; so is the World of Coca-Cola. Tour the Carter Center, or the King Center. See where Margaret Mitchell wrote “Gone With The Wind,” and where she’s buried. In other words-GET OUT!
-If you have questions, ask! SCC staff members and volunteers are always there to help, and no question is stupid. I know we’ve been asked EVERYTHING! Most years we have special lanyards on our tags, or the tags themselves are different. Or go to the registration desk-someone there will find you a staff member to help you.
-Keep your name tag on you. Not only will this identify you, it lets people know who you are. How often do you realize that the person you just saw is someone you’ve talked to online for years? It’s happened to me many times. You will need your name tag to enter the seminar areas, events, and it is also your meal ticket for the lunches and dinners (if you ordered them). And when you leave the hotel, take your name tag off or you look like a tourist (trust me, I know).
Created, compiled and edited by Zelda Rose ([email protected])
Permission to reprint with attribution; please contact the author
Comments Off on SCC Survival Guide 2013