Survive re:Invent with AWS Staff Tips & Picks
It's that time of year again, with daily service launches, the scramble to book hotel rooms, and that hint of pumpkin spice in the air. It's time to gear up for re:Invent!
Published Nov 6, 2023
It's that time of year again, with daily service launches, the scramble to book hotel rooms, and that hint of pumpkin spice in the air. That's right: it's time to gear up for re:Invent! Before we head to Las Vegas, I want to share some favorite tips for surviving re:Invent -- and fun activities from my colleagues in AWS Developer Relations. This crew has done this before, and they are ready to help you make the most of your re:Invent experience, have some fun, and even get a little peek into who we are.
Straight off a week of cozy family gatherings, re:Invent can be a bit of an adjustment: thousands of people descending upon Las Vegas, the city is hopping! But don’t worry! Here are some tips to navigate the dry air, the people, and the noise.
My number one tip is to leave room in your suitcase to bring home all your SWAG. Or just bring an extra suitcase! The Expo Hall will be filled with vendors who are eager for you to wear their threads, drink from their water bottles, and plaster their stickers everywhere.
And if you're not into all the SWAG but find yourself with extras, there are plenty of drop bins across the conference campus where you can donate what you won't use.
Jen Looper, Head of Academic Advocacy, recommends packing your favorite chapstick because Las Vegas is hot and dry:
Bring moisturizer, comfy shoes, and throat lozenges but most of all chapstick. It's expensive in Vegas and you may not find the brand you like. Self care is important!
Las Vegas is part of the Mojave Desert and is one of the sunniest, driest, and least humid locations in North America. Add in smoke and air conditioning from the casinos and you might start feeling a bit prune-like.
Kris Howard, Head of Developer Relations in APJ, shares her secret for helping with the dry desert air, especially when you're sleeping:
When you check into your hotel, ask if they have a humidifier you can borrow! These will go quickly, so it depends on how many other people staying in your hotel know the trick.
Genius! The first year I went to re:Invent, I brought a small travel humidifier, but it ended up being too small to be effective. Definitely going to try this trick this time around.
And if the hotel doesn’t have extra humidifiers to loan out, consider Content Producer and Storyteller, David Priest’s, advice:
I fill up the bathtub in the room each evening and leave it full through to the morning to slightly improve the humidity in the room. Helps with dry eyes when you wake up!
Rohini Gaonkar, Senior Developer Advocate confirms it: Las Vegas is expensive! She recommends yet another way to combat the dry air:
Water is expensive in Vegas hotels. Find a CVS, Walgreens, or other convenience store near your hotel and buy in bulk. You can also find water stations across the re:Invent campus.
Don't forget to bring your refillable water bottle and stay hydrated!
You can read more about Rohini's tips for re:Invent here.
You could ask your taxi driver for the best local burger joints, but Stephen Preston, Senior Manager of Data Specialists, instead suggests asking them for drop-off location advice:
If you're taking a taxi to the Venetian, there can be a long drop-off queue. Its often quicker during peak times to ask for a drop-off at the Mirage across the street and then walk across. Ask your taxi driver — they'll be getting updates from the other drivers.
Remember you can also take advantage of the free campus re:Invent shuttles.
The days are long and quality rest is important to your learning. Stephen Preston recommends earplugs and installing a white noise app on your phone:
There a good chance in Vegas that one of your neighbors will be making noise late at night. White noise raises the threshold at which your neighbor's party or TV wakes you up.
Ear plugs can also help you drown out the noise. Which leads us to...
If you are neurodiverse and/or not good with loud or overwhelming noises, Brooke Jamieson, Senior Developer Advocate also recommends bringing some nice earplugs!
I wear loop earplugs all the time in my 'real life' (even at bars, concerts that are too loud) but I was really happy I packed them for re:Invent last year as they helped me a lot, even on the show floor. I am neurodiverse and hate loud noises, but love my Loop earplugs. There are cheaper options, but these look nicer (which makes me more likely to wear them).
You can pick up Brooke's recommended ear plugs here.
Every time I walk into a conference talk, people are heads down, finding their seats, looking at their phone, checking work email, or committing that quick fix to git. Not talking to anyone. Brooke Jamieson has noticed this as well and says this pre-game time is very under-used:
Chat with the other attendees when you're waiting for a session to start! You're all there to hear about the same topic, so you already have something in common. This is a very underrated way to find your community. Last year at my session about MLOps, the audience was waiting in the room super early and they weren't talking to each other before the session, but they ended up chatting after.
Don't forget that your peers are an excellent resource to learn from.
After a long day or networking and learning, you might want to get out of the conference venues to see Las Vegas, eat, relax, or even network some more. There's a little something for everyone here — from where find the afterparties to exploring Las Vegas to unwind after after a long day of walking from session to session.
If you want to get off the Strip and geek out in a different way, Kris Howard recommends the Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame:
They've lovingly restored hundreds of vintage pinball and video game machines that you can actually play! $20 will easily buy you an hour's worth of mindless fun.
And don't sleep on the Atomic Testing Museum:
You can learn how they set off nuclear bombs in the desert and play with Geiger counters to learn about radioactivity.
And for a taste of old Las Vegas, be sure to check out the Neon Boneyard with unrestored neon signs chronicling trends in design and technology ranging from the 1930s to today:
Advance tickets are recommended! They turn on these neon lights at sunset and it's a great place for photos. They've even got the sign from the Stardust, which was the hotel I stayed in when I got married in Vegas!
And while you're checking out the Neon Boneyard, Cher Richardson, Senior Advocacy Program Manager recommends making a stop at the Mob Museum to learn about organized crime's history and impact on society.
Before heading out to the after parties and networking mixers, you'll want to refuel. If you're a meat eater and looking for a good steak, I can personally recommend Bavette's Steakhouse and Bar. This was my first $90 steak (who spends that kind of money on one part of one meal?!?) and it was well worth it! (At least as a one-time experience.)
If you haven't drained your social battery by the end of the day, Senior Developer Advocates Banjo Obayomi and Rohini Gaonkar suggest checking out the afterparties, happy hours, and mixers sponsored by various companies. Rohini says:
This is a little unconventional, especially for an Official AWS re:Invent session, but if you're looking for permanent body art, Cher Richardson, Senior Advocacy Program Manager has you covered:
There will be a Tattoo and Piercing Zone this year! Do you know how many regrets will happen here? I can't wait. I might even get one.
If you're ready to get inked or jabbed, you can find the Tattoo and Piercing Zone at the Venetian on November 28th from 12-6pm. And don't forget to spellcheck your tattoo first. No regrats!
Maybe tattoos and piercing aren't your thing and all you're looking to do is take it easy. Cher Richardson recommends relaxing at the end of the week by taking a walk through the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. She has one word to describe it:
I can confirm. It's breathtaking. The Conservatory team transforms 14,000-square-feet with living plant material, incorporating in sight, sound, scent, and color each season.
I hope these staff tips and picks help you make the most of your re:Invent experience while you're in Las Vegas. I'll be hanging out at the AWS Community Developer Lounge most days. Come say hi 👋🏻. And if you're looking for more re:Invent goodness, sessions to check out, tips on how to connect with your community or where to find a GameDay, check out the re:Invent Builder Hub.