Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Traveling to Orlando and Packing Tips for GHC

This will be my fourth time attending the Grace Hopper Celebration and I get just as excited as the first time I attended.  There are so many things to see and do but to have the best experience possible, you need to prepare before you go.  Here is my essential list of tips on travel and what to bring.

What to Bring

Comfortable Shoes

Pack two pair of shoes – one casual pair and one professional pair.  DON’T PACK HEELS!  GHC is huge.  Do yourself a favor and pack the most comfortable shoes you have.  Your Fitbit will shower you with accolades halfway through each day because of the amount of walking you will do. 

A Portable Charger

Listen, there are 18,000 of us coming together for GHC.  EIGHTEEN THOUSAND.  And I would venture to say that we will all have at least two devices that will need charging sometime during the day.  There will be places to charge your devices but it will be easier to get to every activity on time if you bring a portable battery charger so you can charge on the go.


Plus, I always feel a little bit sad when I see a group of women huddled around an outlet, waiting to get enough charge on their devices so they can rejoin the celebration.  So let’s resolve that we will have no downtime at GHC due to drained devices, m'kay?

Business cards

I know I just mentioned it, but there will be EIGHTEEN THOUSAND people at GHC this year.  That is an incredible network of industry and academic professionals, executives, and students waiting to connect with you!  Make sure you have business cards (and a pen) on hand.  Exchange cards and jot down tidbits about the conversation you had on the person’s card so that you can easily follow up with them via email later (e.g. Hello Rosalind, it was wonderful speaking with you during the Women of Color luncheon about research opportunities at your AI lab).

Printed resume

Step 1 is to upload your resume and/or CV to the GHC17 Resume Database

Step 2 is to bring printed copies of your resume to the Career Fair, even if you have secured an interview with an organization prior to attending.  Did I mention that there will be EIGHTEEN THOUSAND people in attendance this year?  Recruiters will generally ask for your resume so they can jot down their impressions of you and notes about your conversation for later review.  Again, make sure to have a pen on hand to jot down the name of the person with whom you spoke and any pertinent information they may provide.  You can even ask a recruiter if she minds if you snap a picture of her and her badge.  It’s nice to be able to put a face with your notes later.  A career fair program will be one of the items provided in your GHC bag so you can make notes near the description of the organization.

Refillable Water Bottle

There will be plenty to eat and drink during GHC.  However, I always bring a refillable water bottle to make it easy to stay hydrated throughout the day.  This is especially important for those who are not acclimated to very warm and humid climates.

Indoor and Outdoor Weather-Appropriate Garments

I lived in Orlando several years ago, and I must say that October is usually the best month as far as weather is concerned.  It is less humid but still warm and sunny.  However, the daily afternoon rain showers may still occur (it’s a Florida thing), so you should be prepared with a pocket umbrella.  Also, the sessions can get a bit chilly, so pack a thin sweater or wrap.  I personally carry an infinity scarf; it can be worn around the neck or around the shoulders but it folds up into a small package.

NOTE:  Get up-to-date local weather information from one of the local station's weather app:

A Sturdy Bag

You’ll be provided with a bag at check-in, but they have varied in capacity and storage capabilities (i.e. number of compartments) over the years.  I would advise bringing a bag that you will feel comfortable carrying around all day, just in case.  Some people carry book bags; others carry a large purse.  Just make sure that it is something that allows you to be comfortable while keeping your hands free.

Me my first time at GHC

Leave Space!

This is one that I learned the hard way my first year at GHC.  The shear amount of swag that you will be offered at GHC is incredible.  Save room in your luggage for swag - especially if you are flying.  I generally use one of the canvas bags you will undoubtedly be given as swag to store my other swag in so I can carry it on the plane.  Just be mindful of FAA regulations regarding the types and sizes of items that can be brought onto domestic and international flights.  There is nothing worse than a TSA agent confiscating your really cool swag items.

How to Get Around

Ok, now that you know what to bring to GHC, let's focus on getting there and getting around.  Here are my best travel tips:


First, let’s clear up what is always a bit of confusion for newcomers to Orlando.  Don’t panic if your Uber driver asks if you’re going to OIA but your itinerary says MCO.  It’s the same place.  You will hear people call the Orlando International Airport by its abbreviation, OIA.  But you will see its callsign written as MCO.  It turns out that McCoy Air Base occupied that location before OIA was built, so the callsign MCO remains.  Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the airport most people use, but it is by no means the only one in the area.  There is also Orlando Sanford Airport (SFB) if you don’t mind a bit of a drive and Orlando Executive Airport (ORL) if you plan to take a private jet or a helicopter (I’d like to ride with you if you plan to take a private jet or a helicopter).    

How I imagine the shuttle to heaven looks
Once you are in town, you have several options for ground transportation.  Uber and Lyft were just recently given permission to pick up and drop off at OIA.  Check with others about arrival times and departure times so that you can share a ride.  Taxis and hotel shuttles are also available.  The MEARS shuttle service can bring you to International Drive (I-Drive to locals) where GHC17 will be held.  Once you’re on I-Drive, you can catch the I-Drive Trolley to the attractions.  And don’t forget that GHC is providing shuttles between the GHC hotels from the venue.

Toll Roads

Orlando has a system of toll roads that lead into and around the city.  If you’re a Floridian, you may have a SunPass (E-Pass in Orlando) that will allow you to zoom through the toll areas without slowing down.  If not, be prepared to throw change at a toll booth if you plan to drive.  Florida’s Turnpike is a toll road that connects to I-75 and leads into the city. There are also several toll roads around Orlando such as the East-West Expressway that can get you across town relatively quickly.  GHC is being held in venues on I-Drive and there are plenty of places to shop, restaurants, and attractions in that area, so you may decide not to venture out into the city.  But I hope you do because there are some fantastic local places like Lake Eola and Waterford Lakes Town Center that are great ways to spend an afternoon.  Just know that the traffic on city streets can get heavy during rush hour, which is why the toll roads are convenient.

sidenote: Yes, Rosalind Ave is named after me.  No, no it really isn’t but I like to pretend that it is.

One last note…

Orlando is a relatively safe and fun place, but the constant influx of tourists does make it a thieves' paradise.  Be sure to secure your belongings while out and about – don’t leave your purse/bag/shopping bags hanging on the back of your chair.  Some attractions have trained security who will actually take such items when you are not looking in order to highlight how easily things can go missing.

Ok, go get packed!  GHC is almost here! And don’t hesitate to say hi if you see me wandering around; we'll exchange business cards!

Rosalind loves her dog and the beach in that order.


  1. So helpful! Thanks Rosalind.

  2. hi Rosalind, your post is very crisp and gr8. I have a question: I am student and Would like to attend GHC17, however registration seems to be closed at the moment. Is there a different registration process for students ?

    1. Hi Priyaharshini,

      Yes, there are different registration types for GHC (e.g. Students, Researchers, General). Unfortunately, all of the registration types are sold out for GHC17. However, the registrations are transferable, so check with others who have registered but may not be able to attend.

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  4. Thanks Roasalind, that was a great article :) This is going to be my first time at GHC(speaker & attendee).
    Is it difficult to find a cab/uber to and from the conference venue to hotels?

    1. That's fantastic! You're going to have a blast! It should not be difficult to get to and from the hotels from the conference center. I-Drive is a tourist hotspot so there should be plenty of Uber/Lyft drivers in the area. Remember that there will also be shuttles running between GHC hotels and the convention center as well.

  5. vraiesecolesdelangues wow, awesome article.Really thank you! Really Great.


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