I feel teased. Teased, excited and hopeful, all elicited from spending a Sunday afternoon at the Long Beach Convention Center, attending the 2013 Travel and Adventure Show. The show is in its eighth year in Long Beach and will be traveling to Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area and Washington D.C. in the coming months.
It's a tease, because there is no way possible to immediately travel to all of the cool destinations features at the show. While it may be possible in a life time (and I'm game for the attempt) there is a point where reality gets in the way and I realized that in my life, vacation planning is more a a year or two out and this year is already booked. I am thrilled with my upcoming trip to England, but as always, I am looking towards the next adventure to plan, now that the current one is booked. It's a vicious cycle.
We arrived at the show late in the morning to find the official convention parking lot completely jammed with a long line of cars waiting to pull in. Here's a tip, park at the structure for the adjacent dining/theater complex, but only if you are planning to eat at one of the venues. We went to the show for a few hours and had lunch, getting our ticket validated at the restaurant and parking only cost us six dollars, instead of the ten at the convention center. Of course, if you don't get your ticket validated, this isn't a cost savings option. We primarily liked it, because it saved us time and stress with parking. It was only a two minute walk to the convention center and we skipped battling it out with the crowds.
The show covered one hall in the Long Beach Convention Center and was more or less organized by travel region. The first row was comprised of vendors from the Yosemite area. I've lived in California my entire life and have only been to the area once, when I was five, to see the sequoias with my grandparents. I remember nothing about the trip, other than I lost my first tooth and my grandparents gave me twenty-bucks. Mom was furious with my high expectations towards the tooth-fairy.
All of the vendors in this first row were great at talking to us and giving us tips. We are sold on taking a long weekend trip to the region, hopefully this year and hopefully to include White-Water Rafting! We learned that September is the ideal month, as the weather is still warm, but the crowds are low. May is also a nice time, but there is a risk for snow on the ground and the need for ice axes, if we opt to hike. Yikes.
As expected, the show had a glut of time share (vacation club) booths. Most of them were not too pushy, instead luring people over with the "Win a Prize" tactic. We managed to steer clear of all of them, I can spot them from a million mile away. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that they are necessarily a bad thing, just not something that we are interested in and we didn't want to be roped into a sales pitch.
Another thing to steer clear of, is the Starbucks in the center. The attendants were abnormally slow and surly and they grossly overcharged us. Two lattes, one bottle of water and one brownie came to seventeen dollars. I left without grabbing a receipt (my mistake) and couldn't contest it. Lesson learned.
What I loved about the show, was talking to the reps from the tourism boards. They were not selling a certain hotel or activity, just talking about their city. They had a passion for the place and this love spilled over and captivated us. These were the conversations that we really enjoyed, as their excitement was infectious.
Specifically, we learned all about Elko, Nevada. We had never heard of Elko and just walked up to the guy and asked him about it. Our Nevada experience begins and ends in Vegas, but Elko is just 472 miles from Vegas and it looks beautiful. Here is what had us sold on Elko, they have a ranch where you sleep in luxuriously outfitted tee-pees surrounded by wild mustangs. Cool, right? It's new and opens this spring.
Similarly, we spoke with a woman all about Prescott, Arizona and taking an old fashioned train ride with a BBQ at a dude ranch. Sold. What kills me a bit, is I've been to Vegas countless times, but have not ventured just a little bit beyond. It's time to see what's past Clark county. I discovered Zion and Bryce last year and now I want more!
There are some great deals to be had, if you are looking to book at the show or soon after. We spoke with a woman from the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean and found out for around eight hundred per person we could have seven nights hotel, car rental, breakfast and scuba lessons. Taxes included and the pictures looked gorgeous.The deal seemed a bit too good to be true, but we took the info anyway, as the woman gave a nice pitch. We left with tons of coupons for all sorts of vacation packages and activities from everywhere.
We caught one of the guest speakers, giving tips on travel centric smart phone apps. it was fairly informative and we wrote down the apps to try, which may appear in a future blog post, if I find that they are worthy of sharing.
Next year, I will make sure to plan ahead with the guest speakers. Sadly, Samantha Brown (how can I take over her job, if I don't meet her?) and Andrew Zimmern (love him), didn't come to the Long Beach show, but the roster had plenty of interesting speakers like Pauline Frommer and Jean-Michel Cousteau. The schedule is published in advance and it would be worth it to take the time to plan out the day. The convention is not overwhelmingly big, but it does have various things vying for your attention and can be distracting.
Besides enjoying the show and planning upcoming vacations, I was interested in finding fellow travel bloggers. I brought along my business cards on the off chance that I needed them, but I really didn't know what to expect. I struck gold, when I came across the booth for the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.
I spoke with two extremely helpful and supportive writers manning the booth. I am still trying to digest all of the great tips that they passed along to me. This blog is still relatively new, but it made me very excited for my future endeavors, including, but not limited to this blog. The entire show, but specifically this booth, refreshed my excitement towards travel writing. Please check out their blogs, as I very much enjoyed spending yesterday afternoon reading through them.
M'Liss and the Whiskeymeister pointed me to a table at the very front of the convention hall that was dedicated to authors. There, we met Sherrie Wilkolaski, author and professional blogger. She could not have been nicer and really spent a great deal of time chatting with me and giving me a wealth of knowledge and advice. I learned more about blogging, both from a technical and creative standpoint, from my conversation with her, than I have from months of shifting through advice on the internet. She left me feeling empowered to keep pursuing my dream of travel writing. Check out Sherrie's Goodreads author page.
Overall, I loved the Travel and Adventure Show. I wish that I had arrived more prepared to listen to the guest speakers, but my expectations were far exceeded. I felt like I really had some engaging conversations both with fellow writers and with travel professionals. We learned a lot and left with an itch to book a trip.