By Julia O. Bauscher, SNS 2016-06-10 04:48:52
A well-traveled “road warrior” shares valuable advice to help you make the most of #ANC16. The biggest gathering of school nutrition professionals in the United States is right around the corner! So far, more than 2,500 of you have registered for SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) in San Antonio, including nearly 700 first-timers. This is shaping up to be an incredible event—and it’s not too late to join in (visit www.schoolnutrition.org/anc for details). Whether this is your first ANC or your 30th, you always can benefit from the experiences of others—and isn’t that the truth about everything in school nutrition? I’m excited and delighted to have been asked by School Nutrition to share some of the “insider tips” that I have honed through years of travel as a national leader in our Association. I hope you find my suggestions helpful in making your journey to and from San Antonio easier and let you get the most out of the school nutrition event of the year. TRAVEL PREP If you are reading this magazine soon after it arrives in your mailbox, you have about one month until ANC begins. If you have yet to register, there’s still time. If you have registered for the conference, have you made your hotel and travel reservations? In general, the earlier you make these arrangements, the more likely you are to get your top preferences and discount rates. As the time for departure approaches, I encourage you to go online and familiarize yourself with the lay of the land in San Antonio. How far from the airport is your hotel? Does the hotel offer free shuttle service? Is there a discounted shuttle service between the airport and downtown hotels? Or will you have to opt for a taxi? Are you traveling with others? Will you save more money if you share a cab than buying individual shuttle tickets? This homework will help you budget wisely and feel more confident upon arrival. Of course, you’ll also want to think about getting around throughout the week. How far is your hotel from the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center? This year, all of the official ANC hotels are considered within walking distance, and there is no shuttle service. Check to see exactly how many blocks away you’ll be and remember that you’ll be applying a lot of “pedi power” during the event—this can help you decide how many pairs of comfortable walking shoes you should pack. PACK SMART Speaking of packing, I proudly proclaim myself an expert luggage packer! I start by reviewing the conference schedule as soon as I register and make a day-by-day plan about what I’ll be doing from dawn to dusk—and after—and the appropriate clothing that I’ll need. I usually pick one outfit for meetings scheduled during the day, and plan to change one or two pieces—a different top, bottom, shoes or jewelry—to make the same outfit a bit more casual or fancy for evening activities. With the hassle and costs associated with multiple pieces of luggage, I certainly don’t want to pack two outfits for every day of a weeklong trip! In fact, in leadership preparation workshops, Jean Geraghty, SNA’s chief of staff, has taught the concept of planning a “base” outfit. This means, based on the length of your trip, packing just one (or two) nice pairs of slacks and a few matching or contrasting tops. Then, a variety of jackets or sweaters can turn those minimal items into several different outfits, while helping you to reduce the amount or size of your luggage—and/or free up space for another pair of comfy shoes! (Take the advice on page 8 about the value of alternating your shoes each day.) To help me stay organized in planning my outfits, I have a handy portable clothing rack that I stage in a prominent area at home. As I decide which suits and outfits I am going to wear, I hang them on the rack, in the order that I will wear them on my trip—and I write down the details. Be sure to go ahead and line up your shoes, jewelry and other accessories at the same time. This advice works whether you will be wearing business outfits or packing a mix of business and casual outfits. Leave room for a few other suitcase essentials. A comfy pair of slippers always makes me feel like I’m at home. I’d also recommend a scarf or wrap for cold planes and convention meeting rooms. Remember that layers are your friend! (And for San Antonio, don’t forget your tie-dyed tops, headbands and flower-power jeans to wear at the Final Event concert, RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles.) Be smart about the other items you’ll require during your week away from home. Do you need a heavy umbrella when a light rain poncho will do? Drug stores regularly carry travel-size versions of just about every personal care or beauty product you need. Still worried you’ll run out? When doing your “lay of the land” research, you can check to see if there’s a Walgreens, CVS or other retail chain within a block or two of your hotel. (Most hotels also carry personal care essentials, but charge a pretty penny for them.) Don’t forget to pack an appropriate supply of your prescription medications, as well as contact lenses and your eyeglasses. Make sure you have chargers for each of your electronics (phone, tablet, fitness tracker, camera, etc.). I don’t pack these in my suitcase, by the way, but make sure they are with me in my carryon. I recommend buying a small extension cord (and putting this in your checked bag) for occasions when the outlets in your hotel room are few in number or inconveniently located. Be smart when it comes to the extras. You’re going to be busy all day and there is much to explore in San Antonio in the evenings (see “Alamo City: San Antonio,” page 124), so the heavy library book, your needlework and even most work-related projects should stay at home. I even stopped carrying my laptop, because I never had time to use it! Finally, I recommend you deliberately try to under-pack your suitcase, so that you have room to pack items that you’ll collect or purchase in San Antonio. Even if you’re not a shopper, you may find yourself picking up so much product literature and samples (and fun giveaway items) on the ANC Exhibit Hall floor that you come home with one more bag than you left with. Consider packing a small, lightweight, foldable duffle in your suitcase that you can use for this purpose—but remember that you may have to pay additional checked-baggage fees on your return. TO CHECK OR NOT TO CHECK Even when I’m traveling with only a small suitcase for a short meeting, I almost always check it and carry on only my purse and a small bag. Yes, most airlines charge a fee for checked luggage, but I find it’s a price worth paying to be unencumbered during the TSA screening and in fighting for limited compartment space onboard. My personal carryon is usually small. I keep a folder with details and notes about the conference, my travel arrangements and any business I need to take care of while I’m gone. I also pack the latest issues of School Nutrition and Southern Living magazines. The flight time is a perfect opportunity to prepare for the learning ahead or to just relax. If you have a connecting flight, you may want to pack a slightly larger carryon that can fit a few toiletries (packed according to the TSA screening protocols), a change of underwear and a fresh top, just in case your suitcase is delayed in the transition from one plane to another. Again, make sure your chargers, your medications and your glasses always stay with you and not your checked luggage. THE “FRIENDLY” SKIES Most of you will travel to San Antonio by plane. A day or two in advance of your departure, do a little Internet research with your airline, the airport and the general news media about rules and changing conditions that could affect your travel. These range from reminders about items prohibited in your carryons (don’t let any expensive beauty products be confiscated because you packed the wrong size in the wrong bag) to the number and weight of your luggage pieces and more. As this magazine went to press, there were many grim headlines about long security wait times at large airports. This means you may need to get to the airport much earlier than you did the last time you took a flight. To that last point, one way that I prepare for unexpected changes in arrival and departure times is to pack a few snacks in my purse. I’m not very nice when I’m hungry, and I want to be sure I remain polite with airline personnel and my fellow passengers—and arrive at my destination with a smile on my face! If you’ve heard the news stories about long waits at TSA, you’ve also probably heard about a program called “TSA Pre-Check” that can allow you to bypass some of the screening protocols and speed up your wait time. You can pay to participate in this program, but you must submit an application in advance, so this likely is not an option for you in time for ANC. That said, you may be selected randomly for TSA Pre-Check on a flight-by-flight basis and not know it! After you check-in with your airline, which you can do up to 24 hours in advance, and print your boarding pass, look for the “TSA Pre-Check” symbol above or below your name, usually in the upper left hand corner. Congratulations if you have been selected! It means you can use the designated Pre-Check security lane and skip removing your jackets/sweaters, belts, shoes, etc. and even leave your laptop in your bag. Easy peasy, you’re on your way! But if you aren’t selected for TSA Pre-Check, take the warnings about airport arrival times seriously. It’s better to hang out at the gate longer than you expected than miss your flight altogether. WELCOME TO TEXAS Now the fun begins! You’ve checked into the hotel, have unpacked and are now ready to head to the Convention Center. If you are arriving on Friday or Saturday, I recommend getting to ANC Registration as soon as possible, during its hours of operation. Sunday morning’s conference agenda is packed with activities, and you don’t want to miss anything because you were waiting to check in. Give yourself the opportunity to get your bearings and scout out locations for the SNA Marketplace, the General Sessions, the Exhibit Hall—and the restrooms! If time allows, make an early visit to the SNA Emporium (some merchandise will sell out quickly!) and the School Nutrition Foundation booth (even small monetary gifts that you make add up to provide valuable scholarships and other resources). The Marketplace features many other resources where you can update your mailing address, ask questions about the SNA Certificate Program, learn about the Star Club and more. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet and thank our amazing SNA staff members. Check out “An Unforgettable ANC,” on page 112, for details about other conference-specific features, functions and activities that make ANC such a unique and wonderful experience. It’s truly unlike any state, regional or local conference. YOU GOTTA HAVE A PLAN Planning is a key step in making the most of your ANC. Once you’ve arrived, registered and have gathered a sense of the Convention Center, your hotel and the neighborhood, sit down to review your onsite ANC Program Guide, along with other members of your school or district team. Read through the education session descriptions, identifying topics you want—or need—to know more about. Have a backup plan, because many sessions fill up quickly. I do this with my team each year. I also ask them to report out what they learned when we get home, so that we can strategize how to take advantage of all we’ve learned. No matter how many times you’ve attended ANC, entering the Exhibit Hall with a plan in mind will pay off. More than 900 booths featuring the latest school nutrition products and resources are available for your shopping pleasure. Once again, plot a strategy with your team or ANC buddies to tackle the miles of aisles. Take your time—you have several hours on three different days. Take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of the company representatives at each booth. Ask questions and let them scan your name badge and send information to you after the show. (That may help reduce the weight of your luggage going home.) Be sure to thank the vendors for their continued participation and support. Don’t miss the many special events scheduled, including the inspirational General Sessions speakers, book signings, the Red Carpet Awards Ceremony, the membership section meetings, the STEPS wellness activity, the opportunity to speak with the authors of the “posters” presented at the School Nutrition Research & Best Practices Showcase…the list goes on! Use the Program Guide, Learning Journal and ANC on the Go mobile app to be sure you know the start times and locations of each activity. Whatever you do, don’t waste a minute! There’s no better opportunity to find friends and discover fresh ideas, solutions and approaches. I guarantee you will learn something new, help someone else solve a problem and make a lasting connection. ON THE TOWN Whew! Do you have any energy left? The evening is your time to explore San Antonio’s famous River Walk and the Alamo, meet up for dinner with friends or relax and recharge for another busy day. The “Alamo City: San Antonio” article on page 124 will give you some insights, but remember that your hotel’s concierge is a terrific resource for recommendations. Call an old friend you’ve known for years or invite a new friend you made at an education session to grab a meal. (When I enjoy a great meal at a restaurant, I take a picture of it and post to my social media page—not to brag, but to remember for a return trip or make dining recommendations to others.) Be smart about staying safe. Travel with a buddy or two when exploring the city. Are you a runner? Ask the concierge to recommend safe areas for you to get a few miles in and warn against dangerous neighborhoods. Don’t give money to panhandlers. Don’t open your hotel room door to strangers—if you’ve ordered room service, check the peephole first. If someone gets off the elevator with you and seems to be following close behind, bypass your room and return to the elevator and the lobby instead. Don’t leave valuables unattended in your room, keep your purse between your feet at a restaurant and just be sure you stay alert. HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN As the conference winds down, you’ll find yourself exhausted and energized at the same time! Be sure to plan your trip back to the airport. If everyone is leaving the hotel at about the same time, it can be hectic, so give yourself plenty of lead time. Check your room carefully before leaving—every drawer, under beds/sofas, etc. It’s unlikely that you’ll be reunited with an item you accidentally leave behind. Remember to pack practically—after every ANC, I regularly see trash cans full of Exhibit Hall goodies that were confiscated from carryon luggage by TSA. Make sure that your house/car keys are in your purse and not your checked luggage. I like to use the time while I’m waiting for my plane to depart to write a few notes, perhaps to thank folks for the knowledge they shared or to tell them it was nice to meet them. I travel with blank cards/stationery for this purpose. You can also use this time to write down some post-conference reflections and goals—ideas and reminders for follow up that might get lost once your attention is back to regular family/work routines and crises. Back at home, you’ll soon receive an emailed ANC conference evaluation. Please complete this promptly; it is such valuable feedback to SNA staff and leadership in making sure that next year’s conference is even better. And that brings me to my last insider tip: Mark your calendar now for ANC 2017 in Atlanta! Buddy Up! If you are staying in a single hotel room in San Antonio, you might want to consider saving some money in Atlanta for #ANC17 by having a roommate. This is not an option for everyone—and it doesn’t always work out. But for me, some of my very best friendships—personally and professionally—began because we were roomies. Take a risk and share a room: It’s a great way to make lifetime friends and save money. An App for That Do you own a smartphone? Check out two of my favorite mobile app recommendations for travelers: Red Clock and SleepFan. • Red Clock allows your phone to act as a terrific bedside clock. The one in the room rarely has the right time and who wants to figure out how to reset? It’s brightly illuminated and easy to see, providing the time along with local weather information. (Note: You may opt to pay a few dollars to get rid of the scrolling ads.) • At home, I sleep with a box fan blowing on me. It helps me stay cool—and it muffles outside noises from the nearby airport and train tracks where I live. I also find the fan noise very relaxing. The SleepFan app will replicate that sound—or produce white noise, if you prefer. (Too bad it doesn’t provide the same cooling air, too!) Look for these, or alternatives, on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Julia Bauscher is director of School and Community Nutrition Services for Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools and served as 2014-15 SNA President.
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