Travel Tips Discovered While Attending Genealogy Conferences

It’s Family History Month in the United States, and we are reflecting on our travels to genealogy conferences, to in particular – Southern California and Family Roots Conferences.

Let me share some of the highs and lows of traveling, so when you prepare for your next conference later this year or next, you’ll find ways to mitigate the issues, if necessary.

Flying for me is very difficult because of
my battle with motion sickness.

Tips for Flying If You Battle Motion Sickness:

I have battled motion sickness while flying for many years. I also have issues when I’m not the driver of a vehicle. Andy once treated me to a personal airplane flight. I lost my lunch on the landing, and there were no barf bags. It’s not pretty. Since that embarrassing trip and a follow-up when I traveled with my daughter to my cousin’s graduation, I’ve attempted to discover ways to combat motion sickness without taking a medicine that makes me loopy.  Here’s my unscientific discovery of triggers:

  • Don’t eat dairy before or during a flight.
  • Sometimes unhealthy, greasy foods (like hash browns or french fries from McDonald’s) settle my stomach.
  • Be sure to pack headache medicine.
  • Drink water as often as possible while flying.
  • Drink a something like Sprite or Ginger Ale when the flight attendants offer refreshments.
  • Don’t read while flying. Watch a movie, listen to an audiobook or podcast, or sleep.

To ensure that these tips were accurate, I applied them when we traveled to the Southern California Jamboree and the Family Roots Conference. The tips worked like a charm (except I forgot to pack the migraine meds, so we had to make a pit stop at a pharmacy in St. George).

So, if you’re planning to fly to NGS, FGS, BYU Family History Conference, Ohio Genealogy Conference, RootsTech, or more, then you might want to see if these tips help prevent your motion sickness in the air. If you have other suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Genealogy Podcasts that You Must Listen Too #genealogy #podcasts

Podcasts and Audiobooks Kill Time on the Plane

Andy and I attempt to fly as cheaply as possible so we can stretch our business dollars. As such, we often do not take direct flights with cool movie player son the backs of the seats in front of us. So, you’ll want to download audiobooks. If you’re not interested in Audio Books, here are a few podcasts you’ll want to download before you fly:

  • Generations Cafe hosted by Amy Johnson Crow (love her pace and her knowledge)
  • Genealogy Happy Hour hosted by Amy Crabill Lay and Penny Burke Bonawitz (two blondes and a bottle discussing genealogy)
  • Historical Controversies  hosted by Chris Calton (Debunks the history you may have learned in a government school)

There are plenty more podcasts to choose from, but these are the ones that are my favorite lists right now. Do you have other genealogy or history podcasts that are on your favorite list? Let me know. The drive to the Texas State Genealogical Society will be several hours.


For Andy and I, we’re pretty nimble and can get around if needed. So when we stay at a super conference, and the planners aren’t paying for our stay, we look for hotels that have breakfast in the morning and convenience to the conference site, even if there’s a jaunt to get there.

Free Trax Route to review when choosing hotels for Salt Lake Conferences

Salt Lake City, Utah
For instance, Salt Lake City, when a conference is at the Salt Palace or other downtown sites, we look for any hotel with a shuttle from the airport, that has a breakfast service in the morning, and is situated within easy walking distance to the Trax. Since the Trax is free, we can find cheaper hotels than the ones right across from the conference.

  • Tip: Make use of free public transportation and your feet to stay at a hotel that is cheaper but not as close to the conference center.
The Burbank Marriot had so many great windows (as you’ll notice by the glare) and causal meet up places!

Burbank, California
In Burbank, the Marriot for the Southern California Jamboree was GORGEOUS. The planning committee picked a location, that might be more expensive than our budget, but solved so many issues. First, we could walk right out of the Burbank airport, cross a few streets and we’re at the hotel. No need for a rental car! Next, the conference lobby had so many places to have meet-ups and workstations. How is that for convenience?

Lunch space at Genealogy Jamboree
Food Options Conveniently located at the Genealogy Jamboree Conference

Additionally, the Marriot was the location of the conference with a few extra steps. The added bonus for Andy and I involved lunch and dinner options. We could have paid to have food at the hotel or as part of the conference add-ons. Instead, we walked across the street, once again, and had numerous choices from Dennys to a Taco Place with authentic tortillas (man they are so good), a Japenese place, and McDonald’s.

  • Tip: If your conference hotel options are more pricey, pick a location that offsets the increase by reducing your need for a rental car and has easy access to off-site food options.
Hotels Can Be Gret Places to Network – Hampton Inn & Suites in St. George

St. George, Utah
In St. George, our hotel was 5 miles away from the conference center. Since we had a rental car to do site seeing in Southern Utah, this was not a problem.

  • Tip: If you are going to do some site seeing when you travel and make use of a rental car, stay further away from the conference to save some money (to be better spent in the vendor hall!).
I love when hotels add a few small details to make traveling fun.

Since we’re speakers, the Family Roots Conference booked our hotel room. The cool thing was that another attendee, Andy, and I had a networking session during breakfast thanks to being booked in the same hotel. When you’re at a conference, networking is such an overlooked purpose of live events.

  • Tip: Whenever possible, stay at a hotel where other conference attendees lodge so you can network for your profession or with other genealogy enthusiasts.
We forgot to take photos of the airport wheelchair service, so I found this fun photo.

Airline Wheelchair Courtesy Service:

When I flew to St. George, Utah, I took full advantage of the wheelchair courtesy service. I was recovering from a bone biopsy, and I couldn’t navigate the Houston – IAH airport, Phoenix, or Las Vegas without assistance. I also needed an extra set of hands/arms for our carry on suitcases.

I called ahead to notice United Airlines that I would need assistance. The Houston IAH airport had the longest wait time for a service agent, considering I called in advance. They are also the one airport where the TSA Pre-Check isn’t a time saver, except you get to keep your shoes on. However, my wheelchair pusher got folks to ‘get out of the way, wheelchair’ when we approached the x-ray machines.

In Phoenix, my attendant was on time, ready to roll and super chatty. We caught our connecting flight with plenty of time to spare. When we landed in Las Vegas, we had another attendant, but we were surprised how far away the rental car counter was from the airplane. Plan a significant amount of time to access your car if you fly to a conference in Vegas, or near Vegas.

For the most part, the flights out were a breeze, and the airports had their quirks, but we have no complaints.

On the return flight from Las Vegas, the wheelchair service was swift. We chuckled because Andy had to push me through the TSA Pre-Check line rather than the attendant because of some rule I don’t understand. Made me wonder if we just had the chair, would Andy have managed the wheels without the attendant? Probably not, but we got through.

We had no more issues for this journey.

  • Tip: Every airport handles wheelchair service different. Call ahead so you can have attendants waiting for you at the gates. Tips the pushers, because it’s America, and we tip.

In college economics, I learned about opportunity costs and intrinsic value other than price. So, while like to travel cheap and pinch my pennies like Hetty Green. There are more things to think about when selecting a hotel than price. (And that’s not even counting amenities if your mobility is hindered).

Trying alternative routes to get to LAX when the airline
canceled our flights out of Burbank

Handling the Unexpected Flight Cancellation

Our trip to Burbank earlier this year was uneventful, which is what you want. Just get me to where I’m going, right?

The return trip was not so great. American Airlines canceled all afternoon flights from Burbank the day we were supposed to leave. They called us during the middle of an interview (sorry Elizabeth) multiple times to alert us to the problems. We picked up, and they wanted us to leave immediately to fly home. That didn’t fit our schedule (we were at a conference!). The airline did not suggest providing a hotel so we could leave in the morning since they were inconveniencing us.

The only other option was to leave later that afternoon from LAX. That later flight meant we could enjoy the Jamboree conference longer, but it also caused some confusion. The airline representative ensured us there would be a complimentary shuttle at the Burbank Airport to take us to LAX. That sounded great. What she didn’t explain is that the shuttle service would not be available if we waited until a convenient time to catch the later flight.

We wasted a precious hour at Burbank trying to track down the American Airlines agent. A Shuttle Car company had pity on us and took us to the Subway. Sadly, the subway’s route would deliver us to the LAX airport an hour after our flight departed. We hoped off the next stop and called Uber. We paid a surcharge for the next available near our location, but the car was clean, the driver friendly, and dropped us off with minutes to spare.

  • Tip: When your airline cancels your flight and asks you to go to a different airport to fly home, then ask questions about when does their complimentary service end, what are the other alternatives if the service ends before you’re able to take advantage of it. Then, spend some time pretending your on Amazing Race or Relative Race (with maps and no car) and select your alternate route. It might be worth hiring an Uber Driver to solve your problems.

This post was a fun way to celebrate Family History Month but also help you plan ahead for the travel experiences you might encounter when you attend genealogical conferences.

What travel tips do have or mishaps you have encountered? Share them in the comments below.

When planning your trip to a genealogy conference, follow these tips gleamed from attending previous events #genealogy #traveltips #conferences
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Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


  • Devon Noel Lee

    I have learned the need to have a cardigan at conferences. I tend to forget to drink enough water, but thanks for the reminder to scope out the facility. Gotta know where the bathroom, food, and fastest way to classes will be!

  • Susan Schuler

    Great ideas! I also like to scope out the conference site the day or morning before to see where the break out rooms or bathrooms are. Also pack snacks and be prepared with a sweater for chilly conference rooms.

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