Planning & Preparing for a Conference

I am going to my first conference (yay!), which I am so excited for. It’s a leadership conference in the States. Since it is my first conference, naturally, I was wondering what I’d need to prepare for this particular trip. My travel experience helped me and a little research helped to answer the rest.

Hotel stays

When you sign up for a conference, I would definitely check and see what hotels are recommended and stay at that venue if possible. It has a lot of potential to be right in the thick of things. It’ll be easier to get to seminars or talks and it’ll be easier to meet other attendees during down time.

Because conferences tend to start early in the morning (like 8 am, sometimes even 7:30), it’s a good idea to be close by so that you can get there early easily and avoid paying a ton of money for taxi’s and such.

Plus, many conference centre’s will offer discounts on the hotel room for the conference attendees.

If your conference doesn’t recommend anything, try emailing them to find out if they have recommendations that they haven’t posted online

If nothing else, there are always good apps like Travel Advisor to find other good hotels.

Booking flights 

Find out when the conference starts and ends and base your flights on that. For the conference I am going to, I knew it is be important to be there on the first day because of how it was structured, so I planned to fly in a day before. Weather at this time of year can be pretty sketchy, so this also accounted for any potential delays.

That said, other conferences aren’t structured in the same way and sometimes you even have to sign up for individual events. If so, you can probably base your arrival on the events you want to go to, which won’t necessarily mean having to fly in on the first day if you are unable to do so.


Bring a passport if you’re flying. If you don’t have one, bear in mind that it can take a few weeks for your passport to be delivered to you, especially before peak travel times. Once you know you are flying to a conference, get one right away. For Canadian citizens, here is information about passports from the government website.

Pro tip: keep your passport in your hotel room’s safe. You can keep a photocopy of it in your purse too if you can – I like to keep pictures of the key pages on my cell phone or tablet too just in case. 


According to a video on Jackson Bird’s YouTube channel, something really awesome to bring is a multi-plug wall adapter.

The kind of clothes you bring will largely depend on the kind of conference you’re going to as well as your personal style. The conference I am going to has a casual dress code, so I’ll just wear what I usually do and be comfortable. I’m also bringing a bathing suit and a nice dress because there is supposed to be a formal dress-up event.

Lap tops, tablets, and cell phones are always awesome; don’t forget their chargers.

Lastly, bring a pad of paper or notebook and some pens. Even though I rarely write by hand any more (what can I say, I’m a millennial), I do like to take notes in learning situations and it was a tip provided by the conference planners.

Pro tip: If you’re planning to wear outfits that involve tights, remember to bring extras. I learned the hard way about a year ago when my only pair of tights ended up with a big tear and I had no back up. 

Planning for free time

Depending on the conference, it might keep you pretty busy. But you might also be like me and have a day to spare at the start or end of your conference or you might end up with free time in the evenings/nights.

Trip Advisor is seriously the best website/app for finding stuff to do, places to eat, and so on. Typically, my other solution is to Google “things to do in Panama City”, “where to eat in Seattle” and to also ask a concierge or front-desk person at the hotel you’re staying at. Looking for things to do in your locale on Google will pull up a number of cool things – museums, festivals, lists that people have compiled, and that sort of thing. I’ve also tried finding a locale person to ask, which is how I found out about the EMP Museum in Seattle a few years back and that is still my favourite museum of all time.

When planning for free time, remember food. Personally, I like to try restaurants that don’t have a comparison at home, for example, I like to go to seafood restaurants when I am on an island or coastal city.


Hopefully when all is said and done, you will have an amazing conference and this will give you an idea of what I think are good things to plan/bring.

Interested in more tips? Watch Jackson Bird’s Travel Tips For Cons video:

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