By Diana Maricruz Perez Santos
Whoever said “The important thing is the journey, not the destination” never attended the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo. It’s great to enjoy everything offered by this event: free food, attractive job opportunities, conferences, meet the writers of the journals, parties…. But if you attend from abroad like me you know that it’s not fun to plan the trip. Here are my tips that I hope it will facilitate your journey.
Enter into the USA (Legally)
Documents required to enter the U.S. are a visa (the most common is the tourist visa issued by the U.S. government) and passport (issued by the government of your country). However, when you enter into the U.S. you need a form to ask for permission. In this form you must declare how many days you will be in the country, the purpose of your trip and the address where you will be during this time (hotel address). Usually the airline staff will provide the form, if not you can find it in the airport checkpoint. At the checkpoint you should not have any problem if you show your permission form and the IFT’s event registration form with your round trip itinerary.
When approved, you have to go get your luggage to bring it to another check point, show your approved permit and continue. If you do not have a layover, congratulations you can go find the IFT staff (they are so helpful) who are at the airport to indicate where the shuttle is for the event.
If you a have a layover on your trip, you have to go with your luggage to access the airport and look for your other flight (I wear flip-flops to save time). Airlines usually leave a considerable time margin between flight connections on international trips because they take into account the time that one may take in the checkpoint. You can take this time to eat something … some international coffee companies worth abroad points in the U.S. and you could save a little bit changing your points for a drink.
There are many things that you cannot pay for with cash in the US such as hotels and wireless internet at the airport or airplane, so you should have a credit card. If you do not have one and you’re afraid to become a shopaholic you can request a restricted credit card similar to those offered for online purchases.
Business casual dress code
I’ve never understood the dress code and each year I have noted that I am not alone in this situation, the line between looking great or like a bum is very thin. I understood that we should wear business clothes but avoid looking stiff. It is suggested that you take something that expresses your personality as a cool accessory. Something to consider: the event takes place during the summer (very hot in the US) but the event location is always very cold (in the convention center).
A friend who works as a laboratory equipment exhibitor with a lot experience at this kind of event told me: 3 pairs of shoes (a formal pair, a comfortable pair and your flip flops), 5 clothing changes (and if you can wear the same pants or skirt more than once all the better), vanity kit and space for souvenirs is all you need.
The event’s website gives you the protocol to swap them during the event. While your basic information is enough, I have seen very nice business cards with scan code which link you to the CV of the person. The business cards trend for those who speak different languages is to write it in different languages.
IFT each year delivers a complete app with everything related to the event. This app helps you to organize your schedule daily. It is a little heavy but it will be updated every day during the event and is highly recommended to have it. Other useful apps are the English translators, apps for airlines and airports, GPS apps, apps that provide information about the city (safe taxi and people opinions).
Back to home
During the food expo you can obtain many gifts: small presentations of food and toys. If you want to take some food samples to home you can if they are labeled correctly, otherwise customs may confiscate them before entering your country. They must be declared as food samples.
The biggest mistake in my point of view is the belief that the journey to the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo is a holiday to experience the USA and not attend the event. The travel experience starts from the airport where you can distinctly recognize people who go around the world to the event (they are usually those who carry a document holder and laptop). Students and future professionals in the field must not lose the opportunity to meet people and expand our network.
I hope this lengthy post will be helpful and if you have any tips to share please feel free to comment in the comment section. Finally if you see me at this year’s IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo please say hello! I am happy to meet you.
Photo Credit: http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/airplanes.htm