A few safety reminders for attending conferences or #rwa12

I travel a lot for Harlequin and I stay in a lot of hotels. I also go to a lot of conferences, and I see attendees doing some unsafe things, probably without even knowing, at every single one of these conferences. So as you prep for #rwa12, please keep these things in mind

1) After you get your room keys, do not, under any circumstances, keep them in the package that has your room number on it. Once you get to your room, throw that little envelope away in your hotel room bin (don’t toss it in a trash in the lobby, just to be on the safe side, either). It’s so easy to lose this envelope, or if you have your purse or bag stolen (god forbid) you don’t also want to give the thief free access to all of the possessions in your room. Memorize your room number and keep your room keys somewhere else in your purse or pocket. Not in the envelope.

2) As soon as you know you’re leaving the hotel, take off your name badge. There are a variety of reasons behind doing this, but all of them are meant to keep you safe and from being a target. Gently remind the people with you to take theirs off as well.

3) Know where the stairs are in case of a fire alarm. Yes, it’s a running joke that the fire alarm seems to always go off at RWA, but even so, there is always the very real possibility that it’s a genuine fire. Don’t get caught not knowing which direction to go. If you’re not sure, there’s a map on the back of your hotel room door, but scope it out ahead of time. It only takes a minute and it could literally save your life.

4) Keep your valuables in the safe in your hotel room. Jewelry, ereaders, cash, small laptops. Anything you’re leaving in the room while you’re not there. And even if you decline housekeeping, don’t assume no one will be coming into your room. You’d be shocked at how often hotel employees may have reason to enter your room (checking air conditioning filters, restocking the minibar, maintenance issues, etc.) there are also other people who might enter your room (see #5)

5) And on that note, when you ARE in your room, put the security bar (you know, the one you always forget to take off before you open the door. Or is that just me?) on. As I said, hotel employees often have reason to enter your room, and it’s my experience that they rarely actually give you enough time to get to the door after they knock. You don’t want them walking in on you at any time, though especially while in the bathroom, changing, napping or doing other, er, more intimate things. Not only that but hotels often mistakenly assign rooms more than once so it’s entirely possible they could give someone the key to your room–and your possessions. I have twice been given the wrong room and I know others have as well. Never assume your room is a totally safe haven, free from others entering, because it is not.

6) This is common sense but…if you’re leaving the conference hotel to go drinking, please have at least one person who’s staying relatively sober, who can make good decisions for getting everyone safely back to the hotel, keep an eye on everyone while they’re drinking, and basically make sure nothing tragic can happen. The same things that can happen to us at the bars at home can happen at the bars in the conference city.

7) and on that practical note, here’s another that every college-age girl knows: whether at the bar in the hotel, at the bar somewhere else, do not, under any circumstances, leave your drink or drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. It should come direct from the bar staff, bartender or one of your friends. If a stranger hands you a drink, decline politely. If you all want to go dance, finish your drinks and get fresh ones when you get back, or leave someone to guard them. You guys know this, but I see people treat their time at conferences like it’s life in a bubble, not the real world. Don’t do that.

8 ) Last, be cautious about sharing your room number. Of course you can tell your conference buddies where to meet you. Just don’t shout it across the bar, okay?

I know I’m forgetting some important tips but I’ve covered some of the key things I’ve noticed at conferences. Please share your conference or travel safety tips in the comments.

…the end of my trip

I left my Twitter friends hanging last night. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that my travel luck has been…poor…lately. Ever since February, when Delta lost my bags twice in two weeks, things have gone crazy when I try to travel. This past trip, on my way to Cincinnati, my flight was canceled, they were going to keep me in the airport for ten hours before the next flight (after generously giving me a FIVE DOLLAR meal voucher) so I opted for rerouting to Dayton. But not before running into my ex-husband in an airport in a city in which neither of us live. Travel karma, I haz it.

So on the way back, I was bemoaning that I was once again facing bad travel mojo, as my flight was delayed an hour and a half (and once again US Airways wouldn’t let me on an earlier flight due to checked luggage. I HATE that policy), putting me home at midnight. I was grateful the flight wasn’t canceled (since it was the last flight out of the day) and thought that once I boarded, my travel woes were done. Not so.

The flight from Philadelphia to my town is not a long one, maybe 40 minutes. It was late at night, I was tired and a little irritable and so I didn’t appreciate it when the flight attendant spent the entire flight standing in the aisle talking to the woman in front of me. In fact, she spent so long talking to her that she did none of the final landing announcements (turn off portable electronics, put your seat backs and tray tables up, make sure your seatbelts are fastened) and didn’t take her seat until we were almost touching down. Ergh. So I was mildly irritated by that, but having her stand there did put m in the unique position of seeing the absolute panic on her face when a large thump sounded on our side of the plane. And then hear her say “what was that?” before she hurried to the front to call the pilots. I know, reassuring, right?

Turns out we hit a bird. Thankfully, it didn’t get into one of the engines, but it still scared the hell out of the flight attendant and a few of the passengers.

So as I’m sitting on the plane, I’m just thankful my bad travel mojo hasn’t resulted in death for anything but the poor bird. And as we land, I’m glad for the end of my travel adventures. Ahahahaha…how wrong I was.

Since we landed so late (not quite midnight) I called a taxi to come and get me rather than having Josh drag Brianna out of bed. I called from the plane to expedite the process, and only had to wait a few minutes after I got my luggage for the taxi to arrive. Well, it turns out another man had also called a taxi, so the driver decided to take both of us. Fine with me. Of course, as we’re leaving the airport, we see another taxi–from another company–coming our way. Um, yeah, turns out that guy had gotten into my taxi. He’d called a different company. No big deal, the town isn’t that big, we’ll deliver him to his hotel, The Country Inn and Suites, and I’ll get home within minutes. Riiiight. The taxi driver starts telling us a story of one of the drivers being mugged just minutes earlier, and then was telling me another was shot at several nights before. We talk about the crime in town for about 15 minutes while driving to…The Comfort Inn. When we pull up, I mention that the gentleman is staying at the Country Inn and Suites and off we go again, the taxi driver saying “oh okay, of course, I know where that is…” as he takes us ten minutes later…to the Marriott Residence Inn. At this point, I’m pulling out my iPhone to get the address (because I really don’t remember ever seeing the Country Inn and Suites so I can’t recall where it’s at) and the driver calls the hotel. Turns out the hotel is actually pretty close to where we started at the airport. So our third stop is, thank God, the actual Country Inn and Suites. We took that poor man on a tour of the area that he didn’t need to see–and he had to be up for meetings in five hours.

By this time, I’ve been traveling around with the taxi driver for almost 45 minutes, and am just giggling to myself because 1) my husband is asleep and if that driver had decided to drive me to Baltimore, I’m not sure he’d have noticed until morning and 2) I think the driver (Tony) was kind of glad for the company because he talked my ear off. and 3) at one point he’d pulled out a taser stick and demo’d it for me and the other passenger, and then told us of the gun he carried under his seat (we were talking about how dangerous it was to be a taxi driver). Is it weird that I wasn’t nervous about this adventure at all? At the end of it all, he got me home, yes he did charge me full fare for a trip from the airport (there’s no meter, it’s a flat fee) and he gave me his card so I could ask for him by name next time I needed a taxi. And you know what? I probably will. Because I’m crazy like that.

So, who wants to travel with me?

So… let’s catch up.

I’m leaving town again. Yes, I did just get back from three weeks of traveling to North Dakota, Virginia and Florida. But I’m still leaving again. Thursday we’re off for a fun trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where Josh and I are meeting up with some of his longtime friends for a long weekend at a beach house there. We’re dropping Brianna off to spend some time with my in-laws while Josh and I have an “adults only” weekend. It should be fun. From there, I’m flying to NYC where I’m going to be giving a short presentation at Digital Book 2009 on the topic of digital publishing and the role of DRM (anyone want to wager a guess what my main message will be?)

I’ll be flying home on Wednesday, so my time away will be less than a week, but when you add in all my other recent traveling, it does seem like a lot, doesn’t it? That’s how conference season usually feels, though. Like you’re always heading to or catching up from traveling.

So next week I’ll be editing and packing. This past week I dedicated to clearing out my inbox, because it was getting out of control. I’ve also been reading submissions and will continue to do that through the weekend.

And unrelated to anything, yesteday afternoon I took the day off to have a date afternoon with Josh (it’s significantly cheaper for us to keep Brianna in daycare for an afternoon than it is to hire a babysitter to come in at night!). We went to lunch and did some shopping, but the main reason for our date was to go see Wolverine. Yes, I did enjoy my glimpses of Hugh Jackman unclothed, but I also enjoyed learning more about the story behind Wolverine. I’m told true fans of the comics aren’t that happy with the movie, because it’s not true to the comic story, but I liked it. It was exactly what I’d expected.

Travelogue. Stardate: 4-20-09

(That would be yesterday) I went to Epcot and had a great time. It’s interesting to do things on your own, because you have time to notice different things, things you wouldn’t otherwise notice because you’re too wrapped up in your companions or your schedules. But because I was flying solo, I was much more observant. And I also talked to a lot more people. Random strangers, from women and men to children, shop workers, cast and crew members, and others. It did help that it rained off and on all day, plus it was Monday, so it wasn’t overly crowded or busy. I think people had more time to talk.

I had a great time, it was nice to just go and wander. I spent most of my day in the World Showcase. And I Twittered some of my journey. Actually, Twittering it made me feel like I wasn’t there totally by myself, because I had “someone” to share what I saw/did with. It made my day even more enjoyable and entertaining.

Anyway, I’m not going to recap my day, but instead am going to post my Twitter account so you can read along and check out the pictures if you’re curious.

No big plans this morning/early afternoon. My conference duties start tomorrow late afternoon and then dinner plans!

Click through to read Epcot adventures and see pics

(more…)

For those playing along at home…

I’ve left the lovely WRW retreat (fabulous, fun, welcoming chapter) and am now in the BWI airport getting ready to fly off to Orlando for a week at RT. I’m looking forward to seeing all my authors and industry friends there and getting some good conversation done.

One thing about these conferences and retreats is that they always inspire me with ideas for great blog posts. Which I almost never end up writing because I forget by the time I have time and energy to write them. I should start jotting notes or something.

Also, just have to say that I did not totally suck at Romance Jeopardy, a yearly event at the retreat. Whew!

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