Going to the MVP Summit in Seattle? Here are a few travel tips and local suggestions

Microsoft will host the 2009 MVP Global Summit this week, March 1-4, 2009, at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, and at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond. Hosted by two of my associates, the irrepressible Rich Kaplan and the multi-talented Toby Richards (known in the past for a mean saxophone), I’m looking forward to meeting MVPs this week on main campus and at some of the events in Seattle.

My friend Lawrence Liu alerted me to the use of the #MVP09 on Twitter, so you can see all the Tweets WRT the Summit via this Twitter search.

My hat is off to the many folks visiting us this week. 

(BTW: Have your own addition or suggestion for this page? Send me a Tweet on Twiiter.)

I was asked today for a couple of restaurant recommendations, so here are a few tips for those brave and dedicated souls in Seattle this week for the event:

Flight and Hotel: If you don’t already have either of these, there’s always next year. If you didn’t make it to Seattle, follow the Tweets.

But if you must go, try booking online, going stand-by, or fly and drive from another major city.  As for hotels, call a well-connected travel agent or try to find a room in town. A quick scan of Expedia shows rooms available.

First time to Seattle? Check out the very well designed Seattle Visitor’s Guide courtesy of the City of Seattle.

Pack light.  Keep in mind that it is still quite cool in Seattle this time of year: we just had a couple inches of snow last week.  It will be cool at night and up in the low 50’s during the day this time of year (or about 10 degrees for my friends outside the States).  Check the weather report for Seattle here.  Standard dress is casual and business casual: I get along most days with includes khaki, nice jeans or dark pants, jumpers or pull-overs (dress in layers) and a light weatherproof rain jacket.  See also a few travel recommendations from Colin Cowie on packing.

For the evenings, just spruce up with a nice shirt – please, refrain from gratuitous logos.

Wear great, comfortable shoes.  As per past recommendations, don’t bring the stylish shoes, go for comfort.  Even though you’ll be sitting through sessions, there’s still plenty of walking around and standing.  Many smart folks are often seen roaming the floors walking to and from sessions in walking shoes or sneakers.  My pick: nice walking shoes from anything from Ecco, Rockport or New Balance, which all have nice shoes in black. You won’t need snow shoes or mukluks this time of year, but ensure that the shoes are generally water resistant or waterproof: chances are good you encounter a shower at some point, and puddles abound, even indoors at times.   

Bring your favourite snack food. Not.  See below on booking restaurants early (call before you fly) and be sure to enjoy your favourite portable snack foods at the event – there is sure to be plenty around. I expect that there will be plenty to eat and drink at the event starting with the events on Sunday nite. But for travel, I find that Odwalla bars travel well, particularly the C Monster and Berries GoMega.  

Getting from the airport to anywhere: Assuming that you are like much of the civilized world, you’ll be arriving by plane at SEATAC airport. Remember, if you need to get a taxi cab at SEATAC airport, you’ll find plenty on the main floor across the street from the arrivals and baggage claim.

If you arrive into Seattle with other folks on the same flight, consider getting a large van or a limo if you’re going to roughly the same hotel downtown: that way you’ll pay one fee.  Last, unless you plan on traveling off the beaten path, you don’t really need to rent a car (take a cab): there will be plenty of busses and taxis available. More info available at Sea-Tac Airport: Shuttle Bus, and this courtesy of the Seattle Visitor’s Guide site:

When I commuted to Redmond a few years ago, I found that public transit stopped less than a block from my hotel and whisked me right to the Overlake Transit Center, adjacent the main Microsoft campus. 

Travel to and from your hotel to the WSCTC.  Getting to the Washington State Convention & Trade Center is easy – many hotels are in walking distance or are a short cab ride away.  As always, I suggest comfortable walking shoes.  Get to your sessions early as many are filled to capacity, especially the keynotes.

As noted in the Visiting Seattle you find a great Seattle 101, A Guide for Travelers and Tourists online.

Say hello your new best friend: the hotel concierge.  Introduce yourself and hand them a business card.  That one move may come in hand later more than you know.  See ‘dinner’ and ‘getting to the airport’ for starters.  If you plan on doing a lot of schmoozing around town, call them and introduce yourself now to let them know you will be staying at the hotel. 

As Cowie notes, "ask your concierge to make some reservations for you now at top restaurants so you don’t find that you can’t get in when you arrive there in peak season. Tip the concierge the moment you arrive…"  See, you can learn helpful travel hints from a man that you thought only had great party design sense. 😉

There’s always something to eat in Seattle: This city has more restaurants than you’ll ever have time to visit. But there are a few duds amongst the diamonds, so be sure to check out the recommendations at and There you’ll find more info on local restaurants and bars, along with more suggestions in Seattle Magazine’s Best of 2008, which includes reviews and information on some of the best places around. Also see the suggestions on Seattle Metro’s eat-and-drink restaurant reviews. In addition, look to stand-bys such as and for more reviews and suggestions.

Some of my local favourites are…

Also of interest when you have free time: Pike Place Market: The Holy Grail of Cheap Eats, "your guide to the best, most affordable handheld (or close to it) meals at the holy grail of cheap eats." A full list of cheap eats from the December issue is available here.

A note on booking tables… Consider booking your table online or through your hotel concierge as noted above: if you haven’t called them in advance, ask for their help in booking a table (tip, please) and get their business card with their phone number after you check in… and give them a tip if they offer a direct dial number.  A good concierge may be able to score a reservation to a hard-to-book place: I have found that your best bet is a well-connected hotel concierge if a direct call to the restaurant doesn’t pan out.  In some dire situations, your credit card company may offer a concierge service to help you book tables or flights.

My favourite: book a table at Many of the restaurants still show availability on as of today, so book early.

Of course, my favourite local chain sandwiches are found via the many local locations of Quiznos and Subway. But again, you’ll be eating well enough that I doubt you’ll need to visit these during the day.

Getting to the airport.  The smart MVP books a car or cab in advance of their departure. So until our new train is up an running to SEATAC, arrange a car in advance through your concierge for more than one traveler.  Or that concierge you tipped earlier just may have arranged a shuttle for a small group that has an opening. 

Additional links from the Port of Seattle: Sea-Tac Airport where you can find more information on flights, transportation and more.

Tags: Microsoft, MVP, travel tips.

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