“Would you like to hike around downtown San Francisco for 4 days toting a 5lb shoulder bag the entire time?”
Okay, so maybe that’s not really how my new boss invited me to Dreamforce only moments after sending in my signed offer letter, but that’s exactly what I was thinking when considering the offer. If you’re reading this you’re likely a Salesforce fanatic like myself, and the draw of the Salesforce mecca that is Dreamforce is too strong to say ‘no’, even in the most complicated circumstances. After all, now that I’d be working remote for a team that to this point was entirely west coast, this would be my only chance to meet them face to face for the next few months. Suffice it to say, that I said “yes”, and that’s when all the big planning began.
You may be wondering why I was so apprehensive, but when I tell you that I have an 8 month old son that’s still nursing, it’ll start to become a little clearer. These are the decisions that we moms that want a career, and all of the excitement of travel that comes with it, have to make. To begin my planning process, I did what we all do when we have a question (Salesforce or otherwise) that needs answering, I googled it. Let me tell you that I found very little in the way of tips and tricks for not only traveling and pumping, but doing so while tackling the 4 day awesomeness of Dreamforce.
Tip #1 – Bring a Cooler
No, not an insulated lunch bag, a legit cooler. I chose a Coleman Oscar, due to the size and waterproof nature. I estimated how much space I’d need at the end of four days plus a little extra for ice packs. In the cooler, I packed:
- Packaging tape – to tape the cooler shut after getting through security at the airport, ensuring most of the “cool” stayed in and the lid wouldn’t come off.
- Several gallon size ziploc bags – You need only one bag to have ever leaked to know this is a good idea.
- Ice packs – I chose to bring all the ice packs that we owned that freeze solid. Bringing anything through security at an airport that has even slightly a gel consistency is a bad idea.
Tip #2 – Your pumping bag and cooler don’t count as “carry ons”.
Because both items are “medically necessary”, you can carry them on without it counting toward your ‘one carry on and one personal item’ limit. Be careful with this one. I chose not to check my clothes and I looked a bit like a pack mule.
Tip #3 – Sneak on the plane early
I’m going to let you in on a little secret (though you may have picked up on this if you’ve been nursing for more than 2 months): If you say the word “breastmilk” to a stranger, they’ll say ok to anything. Seriously, you could be asking them to get in the cockpit and fly the plane and so long as you work in the word “breastmilk”, they’ll not hear a single other word and just say “yes”.
Here’s how you can use this to your advantage. When all the super platinum, ruby, elite card holders are getting on the plane, get in line with them. When you get to the front of the line with your pumping bag, your cooler, your backpack, and your afternoon snack of mini-hotdogs from the nearby Auntie Annie’s, they’ll wave you by.
You may think I’m just taking advantage of my situation, but I’m really not.
See, there’s no way I could check the pump or the cooler. I needed to use them both during my layover. I found the only place the flight attendants are interested in both of these items residing while in flight is the overhead compartment. If you’ve flown anytime in the last 5 years, you’ll know that the overhead bin space is a hot commodity. Get on that plane early, just trust me.
Tip #4 – Nursing/Family Rooms
Though there are few airports with nursing rooms, it seems as if some of the major airports are starting to pick up on the need. (momaboard.com if you need to check out other aiports)
RDU – No nursing rooms, but a plethora of family restrooms. One bonus, they had a stool near the outlet. Thank you @RDUAirport!
DFW – Though I didn’t know it at the time, DFW has an amazing nursing room. It’s only in one terminal, and without moving walkways, I almost missed my flight home trying to get to it. Free diapers of any size, toys for your older tots and a super comfy nusring/pumping chair, the DFW Nursing room is a must see if you can make it there.
SFO – San Francisco really knows that they’re doing. Their nursing rooms don’t offer a lot, but they do offer a ton of them. With a room available in every terminal, SFO tops the list of best airports to travel through as a nursing mom.
So what happens while you’re at Dreamforce? Well, you have your hotel, if you’re reasonably close to the action. If not though, the conference provides 5 locations to use while checking out the sessions or expos. Most of my sessions were in the Marriot Marquis, and one of the rooms was right in the hotel.
Pros – The room had a restroom right in it, great for washing up before and after. The room was in a quiet area where you could get away from the action for a few.
Cons – It was a hike, I barely made it to and from before my next session started. There were no outlets near the table, so you’re forced to either wheel two chairs next to the wall or sit on the floor.
I also made it to one of the rooms in the Moscone West expo hall. There were two private nursing rooms side by side. Though you could hear the noise and excitement of the expo hall, it was a private room with an outlet right next to the table. Double bonus – The mom in the room next to me was singing her kid the ABCs and Itsy Bitsy. So sweet!
*Pro tip – You can use the nursing room even if the expo isn’t actually open. Just find your nearest ambassador (and there are dozens) and they’ll escort you past security.
Tip #5 – Stay in touch
One of the hardest things for me about the whole trip was feeling exhausted from the travel and the sessions and the walking and the pumping (you get the picture, right?). Don’t forget to check in with your little ones now and then. It’ll put things back into perspective for why you’re going through all the work. Don’t forget Skype video messaging if the time difference interferes with live chatting.
Sarah is a triple certified Salesforce enthusiast and mom of 2 who loves cooking and being crafty. She spends her days working for North Peak Solutions, a Salesforce consulting group that works exclusively with nonprofits. If you are interested in contacting/following Sarah, you can reach her on any of the social links below.