Since I've attended SQL Pass Summit a couple of times, this year I volunteered to help out with the "Summit First-Timers" program. This program is designed specifically to help people who are attending SQL Pass Summit for the first time to get the most out of their experience at Summit. I've decided to post a series of blog entries here to not only help out my flock of first-timers, but to also ensure that the information is shared with as many other first-time (and alumni) attendees as possible. This is the second posting in the series – Part 1 can be found here.
I’ve heard that as far as cities go, that Seattle (at least the area near the convention center) is safer than many major cities, however as someone who lives out in the country where the most dangerous evening encounters usually involve surprising a skunk or twisting an ankle in a mole’s burrow, any city can be considered a scary place.
- Don’t leave valuables in the hotel room. There’s always the chance that something may “disappear” when the maid cleans the room, or perhaps you may accidentally forget it in the hotel room when heading home and not notice its absence until after it’s too late (those multi-colored bedspreads do an amazing job of making small earrings invisible). It’s better to simply leave those things at home rather than chance loss or theft.
- Don’t tempt the bad guys. In the evenings, you’ll be walking the dark city streets on your way back to your hotel room. You may or may not be able to find a group of others to walk with (my first year, I stayed in a hotel about 10 blocks away and walked back alone each night), so you want to be sure you are not a tempting target for thieves. Expensive, shiny watches or rings are fairly easy for thieves to remove without you noticing. I wear cheap ($10) watch and leave my diamond engagement ring at home.
- Don’t carry a purse. I know many ladies love carrying large purses so they can carry everything that they might possibly need at any time during the day. Leave it at home – if you don’t have a purse, no one can steal it. I carry everything I need in my pockets. Most other items that I carry in my purse are either left at home or are tucked in my backpack along with my notebooks and water bottle.
- Minimize your wallet. Take only what you will actually need – cash, credit card, ID and hotel key. You can leave your store rewards cards, library cards, social security cards, coupons, etc. at home. You won’t need them and they could be lost or stolen, so why bother carrying the extra weight? Besides, without all of those extra items, you probably won’t need to take a wallet.
- Get a money belt. The best piece of “underwear” you’ll ever purchase. It’s basically a wallet you can wear discreetly under your clothing. It is the ideal place to carry your ID, credit card, airline tickets, passport and money. There are several styles available, so research them and pick the one that works best for you. I use one of these instead of my wallet, and it’s thin enough that it is not visible underneath my dresses.
- Pay attention and be alert. Bad guys depend upon surprise for being able to get away with taking your possessions, so when walking the streets, if you are constantly aware of your surroundings and act like you know where you are going and what you are doing, you will more likely notice any potentially threatening people or situations before you get close to them and will easily be able to circumnavigate them.
Unless you’re local to the area (in which case you’ll be sleeping at home), you will have to pack some luggage to take all that you will need for the week that SQL PASS Summit will be held.
- Take only carry-on size luggage. The convention is less than one week long, so a small bag should suffice to hold all the clothing you will need for the days you’re away. Besides, if you are flying, you will avoid paying checked baggage fees since most airlines charge for checked baggage. Having lighter luggage will also make it easier for you to walk from the train station to the hotel (saving you Taxi cab fare money), and the lesser burden will prevent you from becoming exhausted lugging your stuff around.
- Leave your laptop at home. It’s unlikely that you will actually need your laptop computer while at SQL PASS Summit. In the break area of the convention center PASS provides some free internet workstations where you can check your email between sessions. Also, most of the hotels have computers you can use for a small fee. If you believe you really would need to have some sort of computer, consider bringing a tablet since it’s smaller and lighter than a typical laptop. For taking notes, I strongly recommend having a college rule lined notebook and a set of pens in various colors.
- Ensure your jacket / raincoat has plenty of pockets. I love pockets – and the more the merrier. It’s amazing how much one can carry in a jacket, especially one full of pockets. I certainly wouldn’t go as far as Eric Le Fou with over stuffing my jacket pockets, but I hope you can understand the potential there. There are many excellent sites that offer travel gear that is designed for holding more than the typical jackets and coats available.
- Bring a small backpack or tote bag. The bag will be handy for holding your notebook, pens, extra water and other items you will need during the day. Also, since you’ll likely collect a bunch of documentation and items from vendors, you will want a place to put them. Please note that in some previous years, PASS provided participants with a backpack or other bag (covered in sponsor logos) at registration. I do not know for certain whether or not they will provide one this year, so be sure to have an extra bag with you.
For additional tips for packing light, visit OneBag.com.