Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Conference Insider

Today is dedicated to all things related to traveling to conferences, from airlines and hotels to conference tips. Plus we have a special visit from Marlena Fortune on Conference What Not To Wear.


Before you book, check out,, to compare prices.

Remember you can get the best prices if you are willing to be flexible about your departure and arrival times. Consider flying into a smaller airport nearby if you were going to rent a car anyhow.

Currently some of the most affordable pricing is available through Southwest and Frontier Airlines. AirTran is right in there with some great web specials and they take Paypal. AirTran also has Wi-Fi available on their flights (cost is not listed on the webpage). You can expect the other major airlines to follow suit by the end of the summer.

You can expect to pay $15 dollars for a first bag and $25 for a second bag (one way) at all major airlines except Southwest, which allows 2 pieces of checked baggage at no additional cost. Don't let your baggage weight exceed 50 lbs or you may be paying from $50 to $110 dollars excess baggage fees. Mail your conference books and freebees at the conference hotel.

Check out SeatGuru for insider information on all major airlines for: seating charts, in-flight amenities and airline information.

Most airlines have eliminated snacks and meals on flights less than 3 1/2 hours. Several offer meals for a fee. Consider packing healthy pre-packaged and sealed snacks or buying meals to take on board after you pass security.

Remember, once you are in flight, cash is no longer an option. You must have a credit card or debit card for all in-flight amenities to include food, movies, alchoholic beverages.

Current TSA guidelines for liquids, gels aerosole sprays:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently limiting liquids, gels, and/or aerosols in carryon baggage. These items include beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel, hair spray, and other items of similar consistency.

Customers are presently allowed to bring with them one clear, transparent, resealable, 1 quart (1 liter) size, plastic bag containing liquids, gels, and/or aerosols in containers of 3 oz. (90ml) capacity or less per container. (Most "travel size" items found in grocery and convenience stores are 3 oz. or less.) The contents of the plastic bag must fit comfortably within and be completely closed/sealed. These items will be subjected to x-ray inspection separate from the Customer’s carryon bag.

Additionally, Customers may have the following items, but must declare them to TSA at the security checkpoint if not contained in a clear, transparent, resealable, 1 quart (1 liter) size, plastic bag and/or are over 3 oz. (90ml):

  • Baby formula/milk (to include breast milk) and baby food in containers if a baby or small child is traveling

  • Medications (liquid, gel, and aerosol)

  • Liquids (to include juice) or gels for diabetic or other medical needs

Electronic items (including notebook computers, MP3 players, PDAs, etc.), and solid cosmetics as well as personal hygiene items (such as lipstick, solid deodorant, lip balm and items of similar consistency) continued to be allowed through the security checkpoint.

Customers are permitted to take onboard the aircraft liquids, gels, and/or aerosols purchased beyond the security checkpoint.


Just a few simple tips to make your hotel stay more pleasant:

  • Avoid rooms near the elevator unless you want to stay awake all night.

  • Remember to tip the housekeeping staff daily (a dollar per person at least).

  • Never leave your bags unattended in the hotel.

  • Mail items to the hotel ahead of time to make traveling easier and of course use the hotel business center to mail home.

  • Don't leave anything you cannot replace (valuables, sentimental items, iPods charging) in the room when you leave for the day.

  • Bring simple amenities to utilize with the in-room coffee pot to make your trip more comfortable (favorite tea, instant soup, hot chocolate, oatmeal).

  • Talk to the concierge ahead of time about your departure arrangements.

  • I personally never have my room cleaned if I am staying a short time and traveling alone. Instead I ask for towels to be delivered when I return each day. This avoids having my room open to the public.

  • Find out ahead of time if the tip is included with the room service charge.

  • It of course goes without saying: do not use the the major in-room rip offs, the phone and the mini bar. Make sure you know the rates before hooking up to the internet.

  • Find out the location of the nearest drugstore or grocery store and buy items such as bottled water there instead of paying $3 to $5 at the hotel

Inside Notes on RWA:

  • The simple truth is RWA National is huge. Plan everything ahead of time. Utilize your breakfasts to meet with your online pals. If you don't plan to specifically meet you may not find someone in the 2,000 + crowd even with GPS tracking.
  • Peruse the schedule carefully. You can always get the CD later but once an untaped workshop is over. It is over.
  • Publisher booksignings are a wonderful opportunity to get free books and meet your favorite authors but beware, the lines are very long and time consuming. So decide your priorities right away.
  • Don't miss the Literacy Signing. The cause is great and there is a lot of fun going on.
  • If you want to attend what you know will be a packed workshop, the best strategy is to get an upfront seat at whatever workshop is in the room the hour before. Then stay parked in your seat.

Inside Notes on ACFW:

Conference insider has the following information from our unnamed inside source:
  • Late Night Chat Update: LNCs have changed this year. The traditional editor and agent panel is gone and all of the LNCs will feature publishing houses or literary agencies and are being taught by agents and editors only. Friday's LNCs will spotlight literary agencies and Saturday's will spotlight publishing houses.

  • Faculty Hosted Tables: Hosted by editors, agents and authors, these tables are free for the seating and offer an opportunity get close and personal. Inside sources say these will be available at three conference meals.

  • Editor/Agent Appointments: Two things to remember. Scout out the location for your appointment ahead of time so you won't be late. Then if you want more than your allotted appointment/s--inside sources say keep checking the appointment area to be ready if more open up due to cancellations.

Marlena Fortune on Conference What Not to Wear

Darlings, it has always been my belief that a picture is worth a thousand fashion faux pas. So without further ado, I bring you Do and Don't (or I will have Clinton Kelly hunt you down)!

Don't You Dare!

Muffin Top


Visible Panty Lines

Flip Flops

Do Darling!

The simple suit to mix and match

And I know every one of you wants a hat, not unlike mine. Correct? So I shall share my insider secrets with you. Hats In The Belfry! , Louise Green, and Ellen Christine Millinery.

I'll be back later for your pressing wardrobe questions.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

OMGGSA, this was awesome.


THANK YOU for the tips, the reminders, the fun as always! Yowza, conferences can be so exciting, exhilirating, amazing and totally daunting.

Unless you just sit in the lobby or bar watching the people parade. That's a book in the making right there. Observing wannabes and newbies trying to schmooze...

Oh my stars, can't you just see Kate Hudson in that role, sizing everyone up, appraising their clothes, their panache, their fear, their nervousness, THEIR SHOES????

Because shoes are vital. Comfy if you're walking the Rockies or the mall, or sight-seeing Colorado cowboys.


But a savvy author worth her salt ought to have some butt-kickin' shoes along, something that says I'M HERE in big, bold letters.

Or something that says "not much cash but lots of class"...

My SIL grabbed a great pair red leather designer pumps at a consignment shop that she paid $5 for...

You wanna talk statement? Those shoes make it for her. Yowza.

Great shoes make you walk with confidence. Mind you, I didn't say swagger.

Save that for the contest win! But a confident walk that says "Hi, I'm Ruthy, I'm good, and I've worked hard to become so" is the confidence strong business folk take into every meeting.

Oh, man, I prattled so long I forgot the food and burned the muffins inspired by Tina's muffin-top jeans which weren't nearly as nice as apple-bottom jeans, right?

Do you know I thought apple-bottom was a brand name until not long ago? I'm such a dork.

Now I get it.

Oy vey.

Okay, THESE NEW MUFFINS are fine. Blueberry (with thick sugar crystals on top), chocolate chip, cranberry orange, banana walnut and cinnamon crisp.


Coffee's on. Creamers and cappuccino bar are fully stocked (and I took Tina's idea and brought tea and hot chocolate too).

Let's seize the day!


Marlena Fortune said...

Ruth, darling....

Ever at a loss for words I see.

I look forward to seeking you and all the Seekers at ACFW.

Remember, I'll be watching you.

Tina M. Russo said...

Good morning, Ruthy.

Muffins are the food of the day.

Looking forward to the big Seekerville meet at ACFW. We have some exciting stuff, yet to be unveiled.

And I promised someone I would bring Lamars donuts? Which Seekerville guest was that?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, honey, you can bring ME donuts even though I'm not a guest.

Or better yet, I'll buy YOU donuts in Denver.


Can't wait.

And Marlena, just be checkin' mah hat and mah shoes, darlin' girl...

A statement, no doubt.

Maybe multiple statements.

And I DO love your hat, Marlena, though the ring's kind of overkill.

Still... It says M-O-N-E-Y and that's a statement in and of itself.

Which means you buy the Starbucks, Marlena.


Marlena Fortune said...

Ruth, I never buy.

But for you, perhaps.

Feeling a bit cheeky today are you?

Lisa Jordan said...

Hard to believe the ACFW conference is less than three months away!

Love the Clinton Kelly reference. WNTW is one of my favorite shows. When I turned 40, I gave myself a makeover because I was fine with being 40, but I refuse to look it. No, I'm not dressing like my sons' girlfriends.

About the no cash while in flight--I think it depends on the airline because we just returned from Sanibel, Florida and our NWA/Delta flights accepted cash.

Cash, especially $1s, is good to have for tipping, quick trips to the pop machine, etc.

I like shoes, but due to foot problems that run in my family (thanks, Mom), fun shoes can be painful. I've made up for it by using handbags that make a statement. For graduation, my friend gave me a divine Dooney & Burke pony bag. That baby is heading to Denver with me. Plus, it's large enough for my Mac. :-)

Great post!

Krista Phillips said...

HILARIOUS "don't"'s but I gotta say, you won't see me in your "do's" either. Except maybe for my actual appointment time. I go for the "comfortable" professional look, and a suit or dress is SO not on the list of comfort pieces!

The hats are hilarious! Love it!

And the muffins for the day is so appropriate given the "muffin top" picture.

And finally, can I just say? I bought my plane tickets a month or so ago, and am NOT happy that they've gone DOWN. Last year I waited too long to buy them and they went UP $200 overnight. We ended up driving/carpooling. So, congrats to all you buying your tickets... I'm still grumpy about my extra $20 I spent! *grin*

Tina M. Russo said...

Ooooh I am surprised about the Delta cash. Thanks for the heads up Lisa.

Morning, Krista. Looking forward to seeing you both in perso

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for all the conference info, Tina! And fashion tips, Marlena. I love party clothes and conferences give me a chance to dress up. Can't wait to see Seekers and our regulars in Denver and Washington D.C.!!!!

Thanks for the yummy muffins, Ruthy!


Cathy Shouse said...

Thanks for the fun post!

I "talked" too long yesterday, so I'll keep this short :)

Is it possible to be overdressed at conference?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cathy, overdressed?

Depends on the author, Sweet-cheeks.


You'll see everything from Wal-Mart jeans to Byer suits.

Juicy sweats to Bisou Bisou.

And I think they're dressing up for the awards night now, right gals?

I wasn't at ACFW last year, but I heard the awards was a dolled-up evening.

And have you guys noticed the spike in Farrah Fawcett hairdos? I'm seeing them everywhere from the grocery store to the bakery to church.

And it doesn't look bad. Whaddya think? I'm needin' a new do.

Farrah feathering for Ruthy?

Ruthy (who IS feeling a bit cheeky today)

Gina Welborn said...

Going to Denver is an iffy for me, but I'll be in DC on Wed and Thurs for RWA. The cool thing is I'm traveling home from DC on the train. Call me Hobo Gina. :-)

Pepper Basham said...

Thanks for the muffins. Fine to eat but not to wear, I see. :-) What a great post and reminder. There are more do's and don'ts with the airlines than the Bible - yikes. Within the next two years, I have a goal to attend RWA so I'll pack my best hats...and thanks so much for the tips. I've never been to a LARGE conference, so this info is invaluable.
Marlena, you are fab.

JStantonChandler said...

Excellent information! Thanks for this. I have yet to go to a conference, but I'm bookmarking this article so that when the time comes, I'll have all my info in order!



Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Tina honey, I'm printing this puppy off!! What GREAT advice, even though as a former travel writer, I am a bit red-faced I didn't think to write this first!!

And Marlena? Uh, sorry ... I will be wearing flip-flops a good part of the time ... after 5:00 PM, that is, but not for seminars, so does that save me?


Melanie Dickerson said...

Marlena, darling, if I looked like those models I could wear those clothes too!

Thanks for the tips! Do you really have to put all your liquids, etc, in a single plastic bag? Is that just for a carry-on?

Who's going to ACFW?

Cara Slaughter said...

Thanks for the awesome tips! Even though I've gone to many conferences, I always seem to leave something important behind--like a comfortable pair of shoes etc. Can't wait for the conference. Not so much the plane ride.

Mary Connealy said...

I think the muumuu has gotten a bad rap. There is room for the muumuu in our country today.

I say YES to muumuu.

Mary Connealy said...

Melanie, you have to put all your liquids in a zip lock back, in your checked luggage. It can be any size bottle.

In a carry-on bag it needs to be in a zip lock bag too, but no bigger than THREE ounces. And a large bottle, mostly empty does NOT count. They'll throw it out.

No half drinked bottles of water or diet Coke, neither.

Melanie Dickerson said...

But Mary, I have this wonderful Mary Kay bag with little plastic zipper pouches for all my make up and little bottles of stuff and I only use it when I travel. Will that work?

TINA!!! RUTHY!!! Are you guys coming to the ACFW Conference in Denver??? I can't wait to meet you.

Tina M. Russo said...

Mel!!! I live in Denver.


We have a great Seekerville fun thingie planned for all our visitors. A secret still in the planning stages.

Marlena Fortune said...

Mary, one more word about mumus and we shall have to do an intervention.

Julie, I have one word for you.


Myra Johnson said...

Melanie! Clearly you have not flown much in the past few years! Think sandwich-sized zip-top baggie, and EACH liquid container can be NO MORE THAN 3 ounces. You can go to the TSA website and get full details. It's worth the effort to read through all the items to make sure you aren't surprised when you get to security.

And whatever you do, don't buy a huge Starbucks BEFORE you go through security unless you have plenty of time to sip it first.

All that said, I am so glad my hubby agreed for us to DRIVE to Denver. I despise packing for air travel. I need too much "comfort stuff" when I'm away from home, so I like to just throw anything and everything I may possible need in the next five years into the back of the car.

Jody Hedlund said...

Awesome conference advice! Thank you! I will definitely be referring back to this post as we get closer to ACFW!

Audra Harders said...

LOL!!! What? No muffin top?? I can't afford the cost of size-larger pants!! ROFL!!

Okay, seriously, those are awesome tips, T. Comfortable shoes are the first items to go into your suitcase and then another pair as you prepare to zip the case shut. And then ANOTHER pair on your feet as you run for flights, buses, taxis, any activity outside your home address!!

Oh and hey, while you're counting conference pennies, make sure you bring a credit card with enough slack to purchase conference CDs at ACFW! I have a running library of them and they are cheaper if you purchase them on site.

Marlena Fortune. Tina. Thanks for all the conference pointers : )

Tina M. Russo said...

Myra, 12 hours exactly from Tulsa to Littleton, CO. Drove that many times all by myself.

Ayrian Stone said...

I'm so sad I'll be flying away from all you ladies come September. But I'm looking forward to catching the ACFW buzz online . . . and I can stay in pjs! :)

Denver, enjoy the bubbling atmosphere!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Melanie, you've never met Ruthy?

Wow, let me give you some advice.

Indulge in the thrill, the anticipation, the excitement of the coming event. Really revel in it and enjoy the heady feeling.

..........'cuz once you actually meet her,'ll be glad you had a good time earlier.

Carrie Turansky said...

Great info! Thanks so much.

jociegal said...

Just stumbled upon your blog today and I think I am hooked. There is nothing I love more than some good 'ol practical advice. Thanks for the great post!

Melanie Dickerson said...

I'm with you, Myra, I'd rather drive. But I'm thinking, Alabama to Denver would be a pretty long drive, maybe 20 hours? I'm just guessing.

I can't wait to see you all!!! I'm still thinking I can get away with the Mary Kay bag. I got away with it last year flying to Minneapolis. I figured those regulations were only for carry-ons.

And Mary, I think you're wrong about Ruthy. Anyone who could love my contest entry about 2 1/2 years ago and give it a high score (the only judge in that contest who did so) must be a lovely, lovely person.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post as always, Tina. I especially like the info on not having the room cleaned on short stays. That advice is so simple yet it never dawned on me. It's huge...huge...for my peace of mind.

Last year when I checked in, the desk clerk (DC) gave me a hassle. I'll relay the convo here starting after she confirmed my booking:

DC - Where's the All Dressed?

Me - Huh?

DC - (sigh) I'm sorry but I can't let you register without a bag of All Dressed Chips.

Me - Why not?

DC - Because everyone knows you can't buy All Dressed Chips in the US and as a Canadian, it's your duty to bring one with you.

Me - I didn't know that.

DC - Well...we'll honour your booking this time, but please remember on your next visit. grin

So Tina, knower of all things wise, along with a bag of All Dressed chips, what else do I need to book into the Denver Marriott? And please don't say Tim Horton's coffee because it'll be real yucky after a 2 day drive...

Marlena Fortune said...

Welcome Jocie. How fortunate you stumbled here when I was present. Anything I can do to help, please let me know.

You certainly appear very chic..I am guessing I won't be wrestling you to the ground for your mumu like someone else here.

Tina M. Russo said...

Ruth is a contradiction.

Sweet yet tart.

The best of all worlds combined into one.

She'll kill for you but always count on her to call a spade a spade.

Tina M. Russo said...

Anita, as far as I can tell there are no secret handshakes in Denver. This particular hotel is located on the edge of Denver proper and more in the burbs. Very very nice.

As we get closer I will do a drive by and photo shoot for you all and present a blog on the hotel and the area. Also doing one on what to do in Denver. So stay tuned.

Missy Tippens said...

Great post! But I may boycott it. No flip flops????!!!! That's all I ever wear!! :)

Of course, not at conferences. I'll be a good soldier and wear real shoes. :)

Melanie, you can check your cool MK bag. You can even carry it on if it's not full of liquids. :)

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Fun post. Thanks for the reminders and the insider info, Tina!