Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











{March 20, 2016}   {UTOPiA 2016} Everything You Need to Know to Be Ready

UTOPiA 2016: 5-Yr Anniversary Book Lovers Convention and Celebration for Writers and Fans

UtopYA, LLC

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 7:00 PM Sunday, June 26, 2016 at 3:00 PM (CDT)

Nashville, TN

Utopia 2016 Fight For Your Right

Deep breath! The countdown is REAL! UTOPiA 2016 starts 2.5 months; I can barely contain my excitement!  And that means 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 start preparing now, because 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, and waiting to the last minute is really not advised!  But rest assured, I’ve got some great tips and advice for you.



Packing:

Wrapped BooksSo, you’ve purchased your ticket to the con, but still need to pack, right? Wait, you haven’t purchased yet?  Whaaat? Go here and do that now! 

Pack light.  You’re only at the conference for five 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 UTOPiA, so count that as a third

  • 1 pair of comfy sandals (shoes if you want) — I suggest arches.

  • 1 “formal” outfit for the awards ceremony with shoes and accessories to match (think PROM) and 1 costume for karaoke (more on this below).

  • 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.  Wrapping paper also works great.

  • SNACKS.  Seriously.  You’re going to want munchies, and sometimes the line for food in the hotel is just way too long (more on that below).

  • Cash for books—some authors take credit cards via PayPal and Square, 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 UTOPiA gives out, and it worked like a charm.  Bring business cards to hand out as well, if you have them (bloggers, I’m talking to you).

NameBadge



Getting There:

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.

SuitcaseI 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 options.

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 in 2014 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 27, 2016, 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.



Shuttle:

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.

InShuttle



Hotel:

Don’t have a room yet?  Go to http://www.utopiacon.com/hotel/ and use code (1606UTOCON).  You can also reach out to the unofficial “We Are Going to UTOPiA” FB page and see if anyone there needs a roomy.  The more in a room together, the cheaper it is!

Once you get to the hotel, check in… to both the hotel and UTOPiACon 2016 (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. <== Be sure to try the official UTOPiA drink!  They’re always fabulous!

Millennium Nashville Exterior Image

Here’s some info about the Hotel:

Facilities:

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

Extra Charges:

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, 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! (I would call after 3 days.)



Food:

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, 2pm lunch, 4 or 7 pm dinner… avoid the crowds so you don’t have a long wait and can get back to conferencing.

Millennium Nashville Dining Image



The Conference:

2016 authors

Go in knowing that this conference is epic.  I adore it and the laid-back nature of it all.  Janet Wallace, the founder of UTOPiA, has made it an unforgettable event that you just cannot miss!

This year’s keynote speakers are Alex Flinn (Beastly), Alessandra Torre (Sex, Love, Repeat), Myra McEntire (Hourglass), and Janet Wallace (Founder of UTOPiA).  From Wednesday-Saturday, each will speak, beginning at 7pm Wednesday, and 9am the following three days.  But don’t wait until 7pm or 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 (also, the bookstore opens at 7:30 so, it pays to be up early!)!!  So many people show up late, missing the opening statements and, therefore, losing out on their prizes!  Hey, more for me!  But seriously, you don’t want to be late for the opening announcements each morning.

Check out the 2016 schedule here: http://utopyacon.com/2016-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.”

Need help? Watch the following short video I made in 2015.  While it says 2015, rest assured that the same process works for 2016 concerning adding events and panels to your schedule:

Easy, right?  That’s all there is too it!

 



Books and Pre-Orders:

Moving on, I HIGHLY suggest that you bring as many books as you can TO the conference as many authors only bring limited quantities.  Though there is a bookstore on site, I wouldn’t bank on it having every single book you want.

THANKFULLY–Pre-orders are available for a TON of authors!  Check out this pre-order list hosted by Maria Pease of THE PAISLEY READER. 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.

TPR

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).

media_mail_1



Costumed Karaoke:

And did I mention costumed karaoke?  Because, yeah.  That happens, too. BRING AN OUTFIT–you don’t have to sing!!  This year it’s…. 80’s THEMED!!  GET READY!

Minion Love



The Awards:

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.Awards

What to wear?  Well, really it doesn’t matter.  Since it’s like a red carpet event, most people are 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 UTOPiA–check them all out below.

{UTOPiA 2016} Nashville Hot Spots For Food, Fun, And Celebrity Sightings

{UTOPiACon 2016} Sponsor Spotlight: Fire Quill Publishing, Sponsorship, and General FAQs

{UtopiaCon 2016} Severus Snape and the Mauraders Screening, the Idea Exchange, and a Romance Author Documentary

{UtopiaCon 2016} Invited Guests Information and Ticket Sales



All in all, UTOPiA is beyond fantastic! What do I love about it?  Everything!  But especially that authors and aspiring authors, publicists and publishers, bloggers and readers, cover designers and cover models are all in close proximity to one another, chatting, networking, eating, singing, dancing… and the list goes on. It’s like one HUGE slumber party for four days, and mixed in are awesome activities, with keynotes, panels, visiting booths, signings, pool parties, an awards ceremony, dancing, costumed karaoke, games, and even some sight-seeing, should one so choose! I love that it’s a camaraderie of talents where attendees are willing to share their experiences, jump out of their comfort zones, do some crazy fun things, and all the while make long lasting friendships. You’re going to have a blast.  What are you most looking forward to???

BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Event Pricing thru June 22, 2016:

Here’s the current** price range you’re looking at to attend–prices go up as we get closer to the con:

==> $119 Silver Package

  • 5-day pass to the UTOPiA convention (UTOPiAcon), including welcome bag, keynote speeches, panels, exhibitor hall, karaoke, pre-awards happy hour
  • Admission to the Public Signing Event
  • Admission to the Fifth Annual UTOPiA Awards and After-Party
  • NOT INCLUDED: lunches, apparel, preferred seating at awards, workshops

==> $199 Titanium Package

  •  5-day pass to the UTOPiA convention (UTOPiAcon) with VIP Registration/Badge pick-up, as well as a welcome bag, keynote speeches, panels, exhibitor hall, karaoke, pre-awards happy hour
  • Admission to the Public Signing Event
  • Early seating to the Fifth Annual UTOPiA Awards
  • Lunch Thursday and Friday
  • Souvenir T-shirt
  • NOT INCLUDED: Workshops

==> $41.30 One-Day Fan Wristband

  • Admission for one day–you choose the day and purchase the ticket specifically for that day
  • Access to all official events — speakers, panels, exhibitor hall, signing area, other official events
  • NOT INCLUDED: Workshops, private events, or any other event listed at an additional charge on the ticket page or web site. You must wear your wristband at all times or you will not be allowed into any official area.

==> Want to be an Exhibitor at UTOPiAcon??? Click the link above for prices and info

But act fast, because prices will continue to rise as we get closer to the con date.  REFUNDS ARE AVAILABLE until March 31, 2016 (minus processing fee), so act now—I know it’s a few months out, and your circumstances may change, but I highly, highly suggest that you book now.

**prices subject to change—I will post updated prices as they rise.  Have questions about UTOPiA 2016: Five-Year Anniversary Convention & Celebration for Writers & Fans? Contact UtopYA, LLC

Still nervous you might not be able to attend in June? Purchase now to lock in the lowest prices, and rest easy knowing refunds, minus the processing fee, are available until March 31, 2016 (or a full refund within 60 days of purchase, whichever comes first).

Utopia Con Blogger Badge

Remember to check out all of the official blog posts this month for more awesome Nashville sites and eateries:

Week 1: Jo Michaels and Maria Pease
Week 2: A Book Vacation and Delphina Miyares
Week 3: Ren Reidy
Week 4: Ashley Bodette and Kathryn Grimes

Advertisements


A wonderful post, Shana!



Comments are closed.

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: