UtopYA 2015 starts 4 days… 4 days folks! And that meas it’s time to get ready for real–no more lists in our heads of what we want to bring, who we want to see, and what we want to do–we’ve got to pull out the suitcases, pack ’em up, and make sure we have everything we need. It can be a daunting and scary process leading up to the con, from packing, to traveling and getting to the hotel, to meet and greets, and toting your books around and getting to the right places, but I’ve got some tips and advice for you.
Pack light. You’re only at the conference for four days, and you don’t need to change your outfit multiple times a day. TRUST ME. You may feel like you’ll need extra clothes just in case, but you truly don’t. PACK LIGHT. The more room in your suitcase when you arrive, the better off you’ll be when you leave with ALL YOUR BOOKS!! Plus, I hardly packed anything to wear last year, and I still didn’t wear it all.
What you need:
- 1-2 pairs of comfortable pants (or dresses)
- 2 comfortable tops—you’ll probably want to buy the t-shirt at UtopYA, so count that as a third
- 1 pair of comfy sandals (shoes if you want)
- 1 “formal” outfit for the awards ceremony with shoes and accessories to match (think PROM) and 1 costume for karaoke.
- Pajamas (we’re talking pajama parties, here)
- Undergarments (socks optional)
- Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail file, perfume, hairbrush, women stuffs, straighteners, etc.—they have hairdryers in the rooms)
- ANY BOOKS YOU ALREADY HAVE THAT YOU WANT SIGNED and a rolling carryon
- Saran Wrap and Bubble wrap (you will want to double wrap your books in stacks for the travel home so they don’t flop all over the suitcase and end up damaged) ====> Newspaper is NOT a good idea, though, as it leaves black ink on things and is too thin.
- Cash for books—some authors take credit cards via PayPal, but it’s just easier with cash on hand. There are ATMs in the hotel, though, if you run out.
- Name Badge that shows off your icon. People don’t know my face or necessarily my full name, but they DO know my blog, so last year I made my own badge to stick over the white badge UtopYA gives out, and it worked like a charm. Bring business cards to hand out as well, if you have them.
If you can drive to Nashville without getting car sick (like I do), then do it! But, if you’re like me, or if it’s just too far by car, then fly. If you’re taking SOUTHWEST, then you’re already ahead of the game–Southwest is the only carrier I’ve found that doesn’t charge for luggage. This is a book conference, so that means you’ll have LOTS of books to take home. You could mail them, technically, and spend a lot of dollars doing it, OR, you could fly Southwest, which allows you TWO FREE CHECKED BAGS UP TO 50 POUNDS EACH! Yeah. <== This.
I flew Southwest last year based on their stellar service and the free checked luggage. Remember, you don’t need a suitcase filled with clothes. But you DO need lots of space for your books. I checked two bags for the conference last year, and one was completely empty on my way down to Nashville. Hey, it’s free, right? And it saved me a ton of cash when I left the conference because I checked all my books… my combined weight with books, swag, and clothes was about 76 pounds between the two bags (not counting my 30 pound carryon). And about 50 pounds of that 76 was book weight. Imagine the price tag on mailing home 50 pounds of books?
BUT–maybe you’re not flying Southwest and there’s a fee to check your bags… find out how much that fee is for a certain weight… sometimes it’s just $25 extra for 50 pounds… still cheaper and faster than mailing them. Check around and see your option.
ALSO–make sure you bring a carry-on, and that it has wheels. Put as many books as you can IN IT for the trip down to Nashville, because if you’re packing light for the con, and your checked luggage is sparse, as it should be, you want to keep your precious books safe from flopping around as the luggage gets thrown around. Plus, you will want it for the conference to transport all your books and swag (and, it’s gentler on your body). I wheeled my carryon all over the conference this year, and it was a real life saver. Even though my room was just upstairs, and totes are everywhere and they’re fun to use, carrying books around is heavy, and it hurts your back. So bring a rolling carryon. Trust me.
And if you have the chance, do what I do when flying home: if they’re asking people to standby and take another flight because your flight is full, DO IT–if they’re offering vouchers! In 2013, Southwest asked me to take the next flight out, which was just four hours later than my original, and they GAVE ME A VOUCHER FOR DOUBLE WHAT I PAID FOR MY ROUNDTRIP TICKETS. That means my flight for the 2014 convention to Nashville was completely free!
In other words, make sure you don’t schedule any pressing engagements for June 22, 2015, and take the voucher on any flight if they’re offering, and it’ll add up to some awesome free flights. I took my voucher from 2013 and paid for BOTH my trip to Nashville AND my vacation to Florida. For real. Take the voucher if the opportunity arises.
So you’ve arrived at the airport and you don’t have any friends coming to pick you up and take you to the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel. NO WORRIES. The hotel does offer a FREE shuttle service roundtrip to the airport, even if the concierge tells you they don’t… however, for the sake of time, you may want to go ahead and just book a shuttle service instead, which is what I did my first year attending in 2013.
While FREE is nice, I did spend over an hour waiting for the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel Shuttle to pick me up from the airport (only seats 10), and I spent a good 45 minutes waiting for it to take me back to the airport at the end of the conference. So plan accordingly and make sure you head out for the shuttle early, especially if you are under any time constraints.
May I suggest InShuttle… a very prompt service that will take you roundtrip between the Maxwell House and the Airport for ONLY $18 (it will also take you other places, but the fee is a little higher). I used this service in 2013 and really enjoyed it.
Once you get to the hotel, check in… to both the hotel and UtopYAcon 2015 (if that’s an option at your arrival time). You want to get registered as soon as possible… trust me. If your room isn’t ready and you have to wait in the lobby, ask the concierge to hold your bags for you (they will), and go grab a bite to eat in the Bar.
Outdoors — Outdoor Pool
Activities — Golf Course (within 2 miles), Fitness Center
Food & Drink — Restaurant, Bar
Internet — Wired internet is available in the hotel rooms for a fee of $9.95 per day, but it is free of charge in the lobby. Our internet didn’t work in the rooms at all this past weekend, so it was taken off the bill for all guests.
Parking — Free! Free public parking is available on site (reservation is not needed).
Services — Room Service, Airport Shuttle (free), 24-Hour Front Desk, Baggage Storage, ATM on site, Laundry, Ironing Service, Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Business Center, Fax/Photocopying, Souvenir/Gift Shop
General — Newspapers, Safe, Non-smoking Rooms, Facilities for Disabled Guests, Elevator, Heating, All Spaces Non-Smoking (public and private), Designated Smoking Area
Upon checkout, the hotel does automatically add on a $50 a day amenities charge JUST IN CASE, so if you see a pending transaction for a lot more than your bill AFTER you check out of the hotel next year, rest assured that it will be taken off—it’s only a security measure. But do make sure you FOLLOW UP with the hotel about it!
Bring it. Not a ton, but definitely have snacks. The hotel restaurant and bar is indeed delicious, but they’re both tiny, and when 700+ people are all hungry for lunch, it just doesn’t work. If you want to eat in either of these places, plan to eat during off times. 11am brunch, or 2pm lunch… avoid the crowds so you don’t have a long wait and can get back to conferencing.
Go in knowing that this conference is epic. I adore it and the laid-back nature of it all. Janet Wallace, the founder of UtopYA, has made it an unforgettable event that you just cannot miss!
This year’s keynote speakers are Denise Grover Swanke, Lauren Miller, Kim Holden, and Lauren Miller. From Thursday-Saturday, each will speak, beginning at 9am. But don’t wait until 9am to get your seat!! There are always amazing giveaways to start the mornings, so make sure you’re in the conference room by 8:30 at the latest!! So many people showed up late, missing the opening statements and, therefore, lost out on their prizes! Hey, more for me! But seriously, you don’t want to be late for the opening announcements each morning.
We also have a full day author signing event on Saturday from 11-4! It’s FREE to the public, but you STILL NEED A TICKET–get it now, time is running out!
What does an all day signing mean for you, you might ask? You have MORE TIME to get all the signatures you want! So, you have time to go to the panels. Last year I struggled getting to panels because I wanted to make sure all my books were signed, and hunting down people was difficult at times, but with a public signing from 10-4am, you’ve GOT TIME! So hit those panels!! Check out the schedule here: http://utopyacon.com/2015-schedule/ or better yet, use the Sched App, which you can sign up for, or log in to, just by clicking “sign up or log in to bookmark your favorites and sync them to your phone or calendar.”
Books and Pre-Orders:
Moving on, I HIGHLY suggest that you bring as many books as you can TO the con
ference as many authors only bring limited quantities. Though, there is a bookstore on site, it also seemed a bit limited itself last year.
BUT–Pre-order’s are available for a TON of authors! Check out this pre-order list hosted by Maria Pease. You can check out what kind of deals/sales the authors are offering, and find some amazing swag. Just click the name of the author to go to their pre-order page, and MAKE SURE you write down what books you purchased on a spreadsheet so you don’t forget, especially if you’re buying a lot! Many authors also have deals for those pre-ordering, like extra swag, lower prices, etc., so do check out the pre-orders list.
And, be sure to check out Jo Michael’s Blog Post about giveaways, freebies with pre-orders, and her advice of what to bring/do while at UtopYA. It’s great!
Likewise, you will acquire much swag and meet tons of authors you haven’t read yet. So bring cash in case you decide you want to buy their books as well—I met so many new authors and after connecting with them and learning about their books, I just had to have them! Set a budget and plan accordingly.
Mailing Books Home:
If you didn’t drive, or you just can’t check anymore bags for whatever reason… so you need to mail them home. That’s cool, just make sure you send it USPS (regular mail) and tell them it’s MEDIA MAIL (if you’re mailing in the USA ONLY–media mail doesn’t exist for international mailing)! I highly suggest avoiding FedEx because it’s mad expensive. USPS is the least expensive, and media mail makes it even less so. But you can ONLY send books media mail—not swag, so I suggest putting on the swag in your checked luggage as it’s light (and make sure you put any and all magnets in your checked bag—I made the mistake of putting my business card magnets in my carryon and the TSA agents flagged it and were seriously nervous about going through my bag).
And did I mention costumed karaoke? Because, yeah. That happened, too. BRING AN OUTFIT–you don’t have to sing!!
This year I am saddened to say that I will NOT be in attendance… school is STILL in session and my students are taking their finals through June 19… and since I’m not allowed to take off during finals, it just didn’t work out this year. Had I been able to come, THIS would have been my karaoke outfit. You’re welcome.
The awards are a BIG DEAL at UtopYA. It’s like a red carpet event; it’s not a sit down dinner event, but there is a cocktail hour prior to the awards, and the hor d’oeuvres are delectable, though you still might want to eat a light meal prior to the awards ceremony.
What to wear? Well, really it doesn’t matter. Since it’s like a red carpet event, most people were dressed to varying formal degrees—from sundresses to prom dresses, I saw them all. I also saw slacks and jeans, so don’t feel like you have to dress up! It’s not mandatory. The only thing that is mandatory is that you have a good time, and that’s a given.
And make sure you stick around for the after-hour dance party, which is great fun!
And over the course of the year I’ve posted a TON of information about UtopYA–check them all out below.