In my previous 2013 MVP Global Summit Starter post I provided an intro announcing to publish a couple of posts that could be of help to first time MVP Global Summit attendees or maybe even for the other more MVPs. Even I am learning new things each time I fly in. I attended six Summits before this one, the 2013 MVP Global Summit, and I am sure there will again will be something that I didn’t know.
Today I’ll be focusing on the travel part of the Global Summit. Most MVP’s probably fly in from all over the world. Some fly in from within the US, others arrive from larger distances and are up to long flights, flying for over 24 hours.
If you are an ALF (alien life form, aka non US inhabitant) the US authorities want to know who you are before you hop aboard so they can check all about you and arrest you as soon as you touch ground in the US if there is a need to it. If you however, like me, are just the Average Joe there is nothing to fear but you are still required to fill out the form online as “International travelers who are seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are now subject to enhanced security requirements and will be required to pay an administrative fee”. Simple as that. This used to be the ‘green form’ you filled out on your way to the States and was attached to your passport going through security at the airport. To fill out the online ESTA form you go to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ to read all information on why the US Department of Homeland Security thinks this is a good idea and to help you with the form and read about what is expected from you. It really isn’t that complicated but you certainly should not forget to fill it out.
Another group of MVP’s will need VISA’s to get approval to get in to the US. To get a Visa is a bit more complicated if you compare it to filling out an easy ESTA form. And probably if you read this for the 2013 MVP Global Summit I think you may already be too late to apply for an Visa. At http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1265.html you can find more information related to temporary Visa’s.
The official 2013 MVP Global Summit site also added information on both the ESTA or VISA so if you need help with regards to either one I recommend going over to http://www.2013mvpsummit.com/VisasandESTA or contact the Summit Registration Team
Local travel options
Next thing you need, as you now arrived at the airport – most likely SEATAC airport – , is transportation from SEATAC to your hotel or other place to stay. Most of you selected an hotel venue either in Downtown Seattle, Bellevue or Redmond. One thing you should keep in mind and that is, although Microsoft is said to be located in Redmond most of the Summit events are located in around Bellevue. This of course except for the events on Microsoft Campus. Microsoft Campus is however a huge area just outside Bellevue and Redmond.
So, SEATAC to Bellevue would be the best option but you can swap out Bellevue and replace it with Downtown Seattle or Redmond if you like. Most options will be available for all of these but only differ in direction. I start with the most expensive options and from that go to the most affordable options.
The first option you have is easy and can be arranged when booking your ticket or go to sites like Expedia or just access the rental car divisions online such as Hertz, Alamo, Budget and whatnot. The rental car area is either just outside the airport in the parking area. You can simply follow the signs to the parking lot (often with the rental car logos next to it) or in case you selected a rental party not located in the parking lot, there is a shuttle service right outside the airport on the right (next to the public transportation bus transit area) to bring you to the rental car location of your choice. Rental cars are relatively expensive and for the MVP Global Summit there is no need to get a car as there is a shuttle service available to move all MVP’s from one place to the other during the week so it will probably be there in the parking lot next to your hotel of choice.
Well, taxis, there is not much to say about that. You can walk over to the taxi area and ask your taxi driver to bring you to your destination address with all your luggage in the back of the car. Going from SEATAC to Bellevue will be about $50 + tip so if you don’t mind paying the max this is your choice.
The next option will be the Shuttle Express. This is basically somewhat similar to a taxi with the difference that it is a ‘shared’ transportation. Chance is there are more MVP’s going in your direction and will join you on the same ride. Going from the airport to your hotel pre-booking is recommended but not required. On your way back, from hotel to the airport pre-booking -is- required. As the service is shared it may take a little longer to reach your destination as there is a slight possibility that you are last in the route and visiting the other hotels first. You can expect to pay about $20 for the Shuttle.
In the same category and pricing as the Shuttle Express there is the Downtown Airporter, but as the name implies this service is going to Downtown Seattle.
The last option I want to mention, and people who have been traveling with me know this is my personal favorite, is to go by bus. Yes… the plain old bus, public transportation. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond area there is the Metro Transit. As you are on your own you need to investigate to find your bus stop to hop off and maybe walk a little bit from the bus stop to your hotel but the nice thing is that you’ll be around ‘real American people', whatever that may be, and on the way from SEATAC to your hotel you can see some things from the neighborhood, drive by the Boeing plant and actually enjoy the ride. And most of all … IT IS CHEAP! Only 2 to 4 dollars going from the airport to almost next to your hotel!
First, if you are heading to Downtown Seattle, you will take the Central Link light rail … so no busses for you, you’ll go by train. And again, cheap, cheap, cheap! Only about 2 to 3 dollars to go Downtown Seattle! Here you can find the walking directions to the light rail station just outside the airport: http://www.soundtransit.org/Rider-Guide/Popular-destinations/Airport-service
Back to the ones to the other locations, like Bellevue … Sound Transit Bus Route 560. This bus leaves from bus stop ‘Sea-Tac Airport Bay 2’ and will drive all the way to Bellevue Bus Transit Center Bay 7. End stop for the bus and you can’t drive too far, can’t miss it. Bellevue Transit Center is about in the middle between hotels such as the Hyatt, Marriott and Red Lion. On my last trip (to the //Build 2012 conference) I found out that there is also a bus stop earlier, just before the Red Lion so if that is your hotel ask your driver to give you a sign when you need to jump off.
Other directions, if you are going to Redmond or some other area check the Sound Transit bus route schedules in all other directions here: http://www.soundtransit.org/Schedules/ST-Express-Bus. And now we are addressing directions also be aware that Sound Transit Bus route stops at SEATAC are often in the ‘middle’ of a route and you need to be sure that you select the bus in the right direction! If you don’t you may be heading in the wrong direction and may calculate some extra time to switch busses to go back in the right direction, the other way around. I did that once and it’s no shame, just an opportunity to see what is on the ‘other side’ of SEATAC.
How to pay your bus/light rail tickets? There are two options, you either pay cash (there is no money return so make sure you have a couple of $1 bills available) or you can get an Orca card. Even if this is your only trip it may be useful to get such a card as it gives you the opportunity if you arrived early to hop on the bus to Downtown Seattle without the need to use cash. The easiest way to get such a card is to go to one of the vendor machines. There is one at the light rail station but that is not in the direction of the SEATAC bus stop area so what I did was to buy a ticket cash to Bellevue and picked one up at the vendor machine at the Bellevue Transit Center to accommodate my trips later on.
The Sound Transit option may seem to you the most complicated route to take and you may be right going over there the first time. If you are somewhat adventurous you will discover that in fact it is a lot easier and cheaper than a taxi. Especially if you like to discover the area and take a couple of rides in the direction of Downtown Seattle. No taxi calling, just walk over to the Bellevue Transit Center, find the bus to Seattle and enjoy the rides.
Overlooking all what I wrote down it may scare you away but if you are a traveler you know you always have a lot of options wherever you are going. Just pick the one that suits you most. If you are more comfortable to select a cab do so and if you are up for the adventure do what I did, take the bus and learn that it is easier than you first though. If you have questions, or even better, tips to add to the already long list of options … let me know and share it to the world.
Next … what is next? Information on hotels? Shopping? Microsoft Campus, I don’t know yet, there is so much to tell you. I probably run out of time to put it all down before going over there. It is only 3 weeks away from now and I’m looking forward to it!