The 2011 Southern Comfort Conference Survival Guide 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. And don't forget that GA-400 is a toll road; bring change. -If you're driving in Atlanta, get a good map. It is not a joke that half the streets 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 . . . Go online to Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, MapQuest, or your favorite mapping site and do some trip planning. Or invest in a GPS. -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. 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 North-South Line will take you from the airport to the Dunwoody Station, which is the closest to the hotel. The airport station is right off the baggage claim. -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! 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). 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. 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 or JetBlue, but since neither flies to Atlanta this is not really an issue. 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. -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 Hotel and What to Know: The 2011 Southern Comfort Conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta-Ravinia, which is near Perimeter Mall. The hotel is near the intersection of GA400 and I-285. There are also a number of places to eat and shop within a short distance. -This is our fifth year at the Crowne Plaza. The hotel staff now knows what dealing with an SCC crowd is like. But we still overtax the staff, and your drink and food orders take a bit longer than normal. Please be patient? -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. -The hotel charges $9.95 a day for internet service throughout the hotel. Panera Bread, 4531 Perimeter Way, and Caribou Coffee, 123 Perimeter Center West, 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. -Most hotels charge a fortune for outgoing calls-local or other. Bring a cell phone or a calling card and use the payphones in the meeting room areas. -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. And the hotel does not hold spaces for guests, so it does fill up. 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. -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 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 (stories of my need for lattes are not exaggerated). -A small notebook. I prefer the Moleskine books that you can pick up at Borders or Barnes and Noble or any good stationary store. Small enough to carry in your pocket or purse, they have a small pocket in the back to store cards and notes, built-in bookmarks and a good elastic band to keep them closed. But any notebook you can fit into a purse, bag, case, 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. -A camera. Even if you don't think you will take one shot, trust me, you'll want to carry one around. And make sure you have a large enough memory card that you do not need to download shots constantly. Of course if your phone takes high quality shots, you can use that for quick photos. 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. Oh, don't forget extra batteries or a charger! 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 can use to remove your makeup. Use them to remove most of your makeup, then a good cleansing-which will leave no makeup on the towels. The housekeepers will appreciate it. I prefer Neutrogena's, but Ponds or Boots (from Target) 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… -If you bring your laptop, remember the cables for your charger, camera, iPhone, and whatever other devices you connect to it. It's not fun when you are far from home and you can't download your shots, charge the iPhone or the laptop...Many devices use the same kind of cables. And do not forget the charger for your cellphone and other electronic devices. -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 :P -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! It is easier to plan ahead. -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... -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! -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... And Finally: Again...have fun! 7/6/2011 v.1.2 Created, compiled and edited by Zelda Rose (firstname.lastname@example.org) You may reprint this if you keep the attribution.