2021 Trade Show Travel Cheat Sheet | A Guide to COVID-19 Travel
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2021 Trade Show Travel Cheat Sheet 

Beacon Building Products at IRE 2021 in Las Vegas

2021 Trade Show Travel Cheat Sheet 

Traveling Confidently During The COVID-19 Pandemic 

UPDATE: Vaccinated foreign travelers now permitted to fly into the U.S. (with restrictions)

As of November 8, 2021, fully vaccinated non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. immigrants may now fly into the United States. However, certain restrictions, including a recent negative COVID test, are required. Check the CDC site for the latest regulations. 

SAFE TRAVELS

If it’s your first time traveling to a trade show or conference since the beginning of the pandemic, then you may be pleasantly surprised with the changes that have—and have not—been put in place at every turn. After more than a year of shutdowns and shut-ins, even tradeshow veterans may feel a bit unsure of what to expect their first time out. 

But there is good news: According to the U.S. Travel Association, there is clear data showing that professional travel is safe. For instance, The Aerospace and International Airline Medical Associations found that the risk of contracting COVID-19 during air travel is lower than contracting the virus while in an office building, classroom, grocery story or commuter train

Bookmark this trade show travel checklist for your next trip to avoid surprises and give yourself peace of mind: 

  • EARLY PLANNING 

    • Supply chains are being challenged at every step.  U.S. exhibit houses (including Metro Exhibits), printers, promotional item vendors, etc. are all requesting clients to act as early as possible to ensure all requirements can be met. 
    • Here is a list of the airlines’ cancellation policies. Keep in mind that though flight insurance can be purchased up until the day before departure, independent “Cancel for Any Reason” flight insurance must be bought immediately after booking.  
    • Many hotels have relaxed their cancellation policies to allow for COVID-related changes. Here is a good reference and list of hotels’ cancellation policies.  
  • PLANNING 

    • Check out the CDC’s list of State and Territorial Health Department websites to learn the most updated, official information about the locations you’re headed to. Include any places you might be stopping at on your way. To find a vaccine provider near you, visit Vaccines.gov .

Here is a shortcut to the sites for the main convention destinations: 

  • PACKING 

Local and federal health regulations can change quickly; you never know what you will need. 2021’s must-pack additions to your travel go-bag:  

    • Face covering  

Depending on your location, certain trade show, convention and exposition venues may require a mask for admission.  

For air travel, that bandana you wore last April isn’t going to cut it, nor are those plastic shields (they’re okay to wear with a mask, but don’t replace a mask). Check out CDC guidelines to be sure you have the right type of mask before you leave for the airport.  

Vaccinated or not, if you plan to apply for a mask exemption because of a disability, make sure you arrive very early to the airport. Some airlines, like Delta, have a “Clearance-to-Fly” procedure that you will need to complete. There are no guarantees—and it can take more than an hour.  

And if ever there was a time for gum or mints (for your own comfort), it’s now.  

    • Vaccination Record Card or App (like ShoCard or Verifly)  

Currently, air travelers originating from within the U.S. do not need proof of vaccination or negative COVID test (however, it is required for travelers originating outside the U.S.). Some airlines provide access to in-home testing and testing facilities at the airport. 
 
There are other instances where proof of either vaccination and/or negative test may be required such as convention halls, and indoor dining and entertainment venues. That ranges from zero restrictions in some states, to New York City, where only vaccinated patrons may dine indoors or attend certain entertainment venues. 

Vaccination apps are available, but best to keep your hard copy with you, too.  The digital version may not be accepted, or a specific app may be required.  

    • Alcohol-based sanitizer (containing 60%-95% alcohol) or disinfecting wipes  

It’s not a bad idea to take a swipe at surfaces like armrests, tray tables, hotel doorknobs, remote controls…anything that you are likely to touch and then accidently touch your face.  

  • GETTING TO THE AIRPORT 

Federal CDC guidelines maintain that passengers using any form of public transportation, including taxis, buses, trains, subways, Uber and Lyft be masked at all points, including airports, waiting areas, and on platforms.  

  • AT THE AIRPORT 

Everyone is required to be masked at all times throughout the airport.  

  • TSA  

Masks are still on for everybody. Unless you have TSA PreCheck, you’ll also still be required to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, laptops, and 3-1-1 liquids.  

  • ON THE PLANE 

One of the silver linings of the pandemic—keeping middle seats open—is no longer common practice; flights are back to full capacity. Passengers and airline employees must be masked throughout the flight at least through January 2022 (possible silver lining: masks do hide Sleeping-Mouth-Breather-Face). 

Here are the major carriers and their online COVID information  

  • HOTEL 

Most business hotels have upgraded their facilities with policies that minimize virus spread, such as mobile check-in, keyless entry, enhanced social distancing in public spaces, hand sanitizers, and extra cleaning protocols.  

Hotel staff will typically be wearing masks, regardless of their vaccination status, depending on the location. 

Some hotels now also require guests to proactively request room cleaning during their stay.  

Check your hotel’s website for current information on restaurants, gyms, spas, pools, buffets and other amenities that may be temporarily unavailable. 

  • AT THE VENUE 

Tradeshow attendee requirements and behavior vary widely, depending on location and industry. 

    • Most venues do not require proof of vaccination or negative COVID test, but that can change quickly.  
    • Some require that attendees record their temperature before entering. 
    • There is a movement to replace paper badges with digital, which could stress your phone’s battery throughout the show, so don’t forget your charger. 
    • Some exhibitors and visitors wear masks, depending on location (some require them for everyone). 
    • Distancing signage is up, but not everyone is complying.  
    • Show floorplan layout and spacing is usually the same, including aisle widths.  
    • Some exhibitors have added acrylic dividers in their booths. 
    • Many booths offer masks and sanitizer samples. 
    • Open food samples are gone, but onsite cafes are open. 
    • Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the venues. 

If a venue or show requires vaccination or proof of negative COVID test, registrants are likely to be alerted beforehand. You can double check current conditions at the show’s website and/or the venue’s COVID information page. Here are some of the larger venues’ COVID links:  

California 
Anaheim Convention Center 
Los Angeles Convention Center 
San Diego Convention Center 

Florida 
Orange County Convention Center 

Illinois  
McCormick Place 

Nevada
Las Vegas venues 

New York 
Javits Center 

Texas  
Dallas venues 

 

Support from the Trade Show Experts 

Your full service trade show partner, Metro Exhibits, provides wrap-around support services to help exhibitors maximize their tradeshow investment safely and with confidence. For instance, we can store, ship and manage your event inventory for you (great for event planners now working from home), or provide exhibit personnel at your show to represent you. 

Metro is always available and eager to help exhibitors and visitors make the most of their tradeshow investment. Contact us with any questions you have any time.

NOTE: Certain medical conditions, and children under the age of 2, are typically excluded from mask regulations. Check in advance with your venue, carrier or other provider to confirm current practices and any steps needed to confirm exclusion. 

Jamie Wiltshire

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