My job entails the following types of trips. I will describe each one in brief and include some memorable experiences.
These are generally trips somewhere to shoot one or more surgical procedures. I leave Hartford or LGA mid-morning, or at the crack of dawn if it is a cross country flight. We used to travel later in the day, possibly doing some work on the ground before leaving. However,lately the airlines seem to have improved their baggage losing capabilities, probably due to some new bar code software, so I like to allow extra time should a bag become lost.
Feet on the ground, rent a car, find hotel (thankfully Google Maps have made it much easier to not get lost. Back in the Mapquest or Yahoo Maps days, I found myself getting off the highway for .2 miles then back on the highway, then a slight left onto the same highway, then exit onto Main St for .2 miles, left on Spitbrook, right on Daniel Webster (someone in the Boston area will get that one). Now I just print out several Google map views especially in downtown areas with lots of one-way streets (Seattle, for example).
The rental car maps are usually useless, and way too small to read while driving.
Find the hotel, check in, immediately plug in camera batteries, laptop, iPod, cell phone. Most hotel rooms do not have enough plugs. Short of carrying a powerstrip, I sometimes unplug the TV, a lamp or plug something in in the bathroom.
If I am lucky enough to be in a major city, finding a decent restaurant for dinner is not a problem. If in a secondary city, the mall is sometimes the best bet. Olive Garden is better than nothing...and those breadsticks!
Inevitably I cannot sleep in hotel rooms. I avoid hotels advertising Sleep Number beds - I find those the most uncomfortable beds ever. A trend lately has been pillow top beds, lots of different pillows and high threadcount sheets.
On a recent trip, the hotel was doing construction, and the hotel smelled a bit odd. I complained, but the clerk did not offer any consolation. One night my room really stank. I do not like the smell of aerosol air freshener, so I made a pot of coffee using the free in-room apparatus and coffe grounds. I let this simmer for an hour then shut it off. The smell of freshly brewed coffee was a big improvement.
The next morning is usually up at 4:30 or 5am, get to the hospital by 6 or 6:30, then wait until the first case starts. Assuming the city is east of the Mississippi, I schedule a flight home around 8pm, and land in Hartford around midnight. Feet on ground, get bags, shuttle to valet parking, 45 minute drive home, sleep.
LGA at midnight is not so fun, so first coffee, then 2 hour drive home.
Multiple days on a shoot is usually something besides surgery, such as interviews, documenting a meeting or on-site editing. All of the same principles apply, however it is less rushed, and there is more time to discover multiple restaurants.
Conventions mean we have a booth at a trade show, such as the American College of Surgeons convention, held in San Francisco, New Orleans or Chicago, repeating each city every three years. Convenient, as I know the dates I will next be in each city years in advance.
The travel day usually gets us there on booth setup day. We take a taxi straight to the convention center and proceed to our empty booth. 50% of the time, the freight shipper is either late or held up in the off-site labor yard, or some such thing. If this is the case, and we do not have our crates, we can grab lunch or see if the hotel rooms are ready.
Assuming the crates have arrived, and there is carpeting and electric service installed, we setup the booth. This takes about an hour to setup the folding displays and signs, and another hour to set out our products, catalogs, brochures and setup our video kiosks.
Once the booth is ready we can check into hotel. However at some meetings I also provide AV support to various clients, deliver DVD loops to other booths, or attend educational committee meetings to discuss ongoing projects and new work.
Conventions usually have one or more hotels associated with special room rates. These tend to be nice hotels, such as the Paris in Vegas, the Sir Francis Drake in San Fran and the Hyatt in Chicago. At the Paris, for whatever reason, I got a free upgrade to a nice room.
On this same trip, I also stayed at the Flamingo for a few nights, as the Paris was sold-out. Here, for whatever reason, the only room they had for me was a suite. It was a shame I had to switch to the Paris, although the rest of the Flamingo was kind of dated.
An advantage of arriving in Vegas a day early was the ability to attend NAB.
Cool lights too.
As described above, finding a good restaurant is a key component of preparing for the next day, which is spent standing in dress shoes wearing a tie. Luckily, convention cities are teeming with restaurants.
Obviously, many people who visit the COW visit Vegas for NAB frequently. If you want a unique dining experience, check out Sensi at the Bellagio. It is a bit hidden, but worth the walk. The kitchen is encased in glass and stuck in the middle of the restaurant. If eating by yourself, or with others, you can sit at the counter, and make googly-eyes at the sous chef throughout your meal, and possibly see your own food being prepared.
In his book Heat, Bill Buford advises:
If Short Ribs are on the menu, get them. Short Ribs cook for hours ahead of time and are usually well worth it.
Another memorable convention was the year New Orleans was secretly replaced with Orlando. The Orlando Convention center on International Drive is actually quite a long bus ride from the Caribbean Beach Resort on the Disney property. Walking back to the hotel mid-day to pick up a package is out of the question, unlike in New Orleans or San Francisco. So that aspect was not so good.
However I did discover Ohana, a unique restaurant at the Polynesian Resort. Check it out, especially if you are there with your kids or significant other.
A final memory was a small meeting we held in Jackson Hole, WY. This was a continuing education course for vascular surgeons, consisting of 2 full days of lectures and panel discussion. My job was to videotape the proceedings and to provide AV support to the speakers.
Held at the Teton Mountain Lodge, this was quite a nice venue. My room, as it turned out was in the Best Western next door, luckily on the ground floor of this elevator-free hotel. The room was your basic hotel room. Luckily it included a free sample of an adhesive blister bandage, which I required after taking a hike in inappropriate shoes!
Dinner (here I go again) the first night was at the hotel with the faculty, and was a buffet of various cuts of Elk and other four and two legged creatures. The next night we were guests of the course's chairman, who lived on a ranch nearby. If this is how the other half lives, sign me up! The final night we ate in downtown Jackson, and once again Elk was on the menu. Not quite as tasty as buffalo but still a treat.
In summary, travel can be a hassle, especially with airline procedures, long security lines and delayed flights, not to mention sleeping in imperfect beds. Once on the ground, a carefully planned shoot or meeting can proceed with success.
However there are also opportunities to make the most of your personal time while away. Exploring new cities, taking in local attractions if time permits and enjoying new and familiar cuisines can make the time away enjoyable.
Thanks for reading.
PS - If you ever have the chance, check out the Omaha Zoo, the Des Moines Botanical Garden, Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa and the Little Rhine Steakhouse in San Antonio - the best steak ever!