My laptop charger decided to bite the bullet as soon as I got to Ft. Wayne last week, so I wasn’t able to write my intended daily blog posts – and of course, I’ve been playing catch-up with emails, laundry, and everything else that the house elves didn’t take care of while I was gone. So – yes, I’m behind. Instead of rehashing my days one by one – and mainly because I don’t think I have the capacity to remember what happened on which day anymore – I am going to provide some helpful hints that I have picked up over the past couple of years.
If you are driving, you’re lucky. You don’t have to be quite so picky with what you take to a conference. However, be mindful that even though it will fit in your car, someone still needs to carry it to and from your hotel room. Chances are, that someone will be you. Lesson learned.
If you are flying, you’re pretty safe because you are basically limited to what you can fit in the overhead bin and in a 45 lb suitcase.
Probably one of the best decisions I made for this conference was to share my hotel room. The hotel and parking for 6 nights ended up only costing each of us about $300. If you consider that you are really only in your room to sleep, it really does make sense.
Also, check for cheaper hotel rates – but do it early. I was able to get my room for $20/night less than the conference rate because I booked it as soon as I could (which was right after I got home from FGS 2012). Over the course of the conference, that was a savings of $120. Guess how much I spent in the vendor hall? Yep.
I know that you’ve spent a lot of money on registration, travel, food, and hotel, but don’t feel like you need to spend every waking moment in a session. That doesn’t mean the sessions aren’t worth attending. They are! But if you try to go to a session during every period of every day, you will be burned out by the end of day 2. There are other learning opportunities at pretty much every conference out there – Unconferencing sessions or Genspiration sessions, nearby historical venues, etc. Sometimes just sitting in the lobby talking to someone you’ve just met can lead to all sorts of new ideas and information!
If you can arrange to have a refrigerator in your room (or a large cooler and access to an ice machine), you can save a ton of money just by bringing foods for breakfast and lunch. You’ll probably want to do the social thing in the evenings, so leave room in the budget for that – but there will be more room if you bring two meals a day with you. Plus, then you don’t feel so bad about splurging and having the really decadent menu item. (And it doesn’t hurt to have something handy when you need a midnight snack!)
When your class sessions only last until 6 p.m., what do you do with all that extra time? Well, most conferences have some fun activities, which may or may not cost a little extra money. Sometimes the extra money is worth it when you consider the historical nature of the venue or whether food/drink is involved. Sometimes it’s worth it just to meet new people who share your passion for genealogy. Make sure you read the “fine print” about all the activities that are being offered and choose wisely. It may be that the $20 ticket only comes with light hors d’oeuvres and a tour around the block – and by the time you get back to your room, you’ll still be hungry and your feet will hurt.
Announce Your Surnames
No, I don’t mean to channel the town crier in the lobby of your hotel. But DO have business cards/contact cards with the surnames you are researching, in case someone else might be researching the same names. When you are talking to people and they mention a locale you recognize, ask them what surnames they have in the area. You might be surprised. I met two people with one of my more obscure surnames in their lines this year!
Also, if you happen to be in a research venue – like the Allen County Public Library – leave some of your papers spread out in your work area with your surnames prominently displayed. I use a file folder for each individual with their surname written in all caps on the tab. I kept several of these on the table while I was researching last week and while I was retrieving some books, I came back to find a note from another researcher that we had a surname in common. It ended up being a red herring (for now), but you just never know …
Don’t Ignore the Living
For me, one of the most important parts of a conference is meeting new people and reconnecting with friends. Don’t be afraid to approach people you don’t know – most of them don’t bite – but also BE approachable. If you’re sitting in a corner with your face in your cell phone, you might be sending a signal that you want to be left alone.
Sometimes it’s nice just to sit in the bar or the lobby of the hotel and see who wanders in. At FGS last year and this year, I met some of the nicest folks that way.
Always Bring a Tiara
I don’t really think this requires any further explanation.
The Most Important Thing
Have fun! What’s the point in doing all this if it’s not fun?
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
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