ORLANDO, FLA. (Jan. 27, 12:35 p.m. ET) — Those NPE travel plans set in stone from years past are in desperate need of a refresher.
After 14 consecutive shows in Chicago's McCormick Place, NPE 2012 will be held for the first time in Orlando, Fla. at the Orange County Convention Center, from Sunday, April 1 through Thursday, April 5.
Located in the West and North/South halls of OCCC, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.-sponsored trade show is expected to attract 55,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors. With discounts available on NPE-related flights, hotels and car rentals, it pays to weigh travel options in advance.
If procrastination reigns supreme and you have yet to register for NPE, there's still time to get in at the advanced, discounted rate. For an NPE 2012 Expo pass, which includes admission to exhibit halls, MoldMaking Pavilion, specialty pavilions, exhibit floor theaters and shuttle service from your hotel to the OCCC, advance registration for SPI members is $60 and for non-members is $80. After Feb. 29, prices climb to $75 and $120. Free shuttle services do not include the ride from the airport to your hotel.
SPI's Business of Plastics pass includes the Expo pass and for SPI members is $75 and non-members $100 before Feb. 29. After that date, SPI members are $100 and non-members are $150. Attendees can register on-site as well.
Admission for students is free upon presentation of student ID.
Antec at NPE includes the Expo pass and early bird registration for the full conference is $675 for SPE/SPI members and $825 after February 29. Non-members can register for $875 or $1,025 after Feb. 29.
NPE Expo pass fees are non-refundable.
If saving a few bucks on registration doesn't get you in gear, avoiding the rowdy college student rush might be incentive to get your itinerary in order.
“NPE is taking place during the spring break season, a very popular time to travel to Orlando, and discount seats will sell out quickly,” Lance Laursen, travel and logistics consultant at MacNair Travel, said. “The sooner the traveler books the better as all fares are subject to availability.”
MacNair Travel is NPE's official travel agency, offering $100,000 flight insurance on all tickets as well as discounts with specific airlines. Delta Airlines extends a discount of up to 7 percent on fares to NPE 2012 while United Airlines offers up to 10 percent. Attendees can book directly with either airline and still receive the discounted prices. For Delta, the meeting code is NMX7G and for United, it is 584ZM.
The meeting discounts will be available as long as the travel is booked and ticketed for the dates of the meeting, but they only apply to those traveling directly to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is just 15 minutes from the OCCC.
Other nearby airports include Orlando Executive Airport, 18 minutes from the OCCC, and Orlando Sanford International Airport, which is 45 minutes from the OCCC.
Driving and Riding
Flights of any length can be exhausting, but once you land in Orlando, you're only minutes away from your final destination.
From the airport, you can take a shuttle to your hotel with a $4 discount through Mears Transportation Group before and during NPE 2012. After the discount, an adult one-way pass is $19. Attendees can reserve a shared-ride shuttle that departs from the airport about every 30 minutes, a taxi or luxury vehicle through Mears. The hourly rate for Sedans is $45 and $80 for SUVs and luxury vans with a 3-hour minimum for all vehicles.
Reservations with Mears can be made through their online ticketing site. (https://www.hello-usa.com/tickets/spi11/).
To get directly to the OCCC from Orlando International, take SR 528 to exit 1, International Drive, and head north for about one mile. To reach the West Building parking lot, turn left at Convention Way for the south entrance, Exhibit Drive for the north entrance or follow Westwood Boulevard/West Entrance Drive to the west entrance. If you're willing to put your fate in the hands of a GPS, the West Building's address is 9800 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819.
With registration for the event comes free shuttle service from your hotel to the OCCC. But, if you'd like to explore International Drive beyond your hotel and the OCCC, the quickest and cheapest way to get around is to hop on the I-Ride Trolley, which goes directly to the OCCC with 78 stops on a loop of every 20 minutes. The trolley operates from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and costs $1.25 for a single fare or you can opt for a 1-day pass for $4, a 3-day pass for $6 or a 5-day pass for $8. Day passes are not sold on the trolleys, but they can be purchased online in advance at (http://www.iridetrolley.com/store/index.asp).
Catching a Lynx bus is also an option for those relying on public transportation. A 7-day unlimited pass is $8 and can be ordered online at (http://www.golynx.com/fares-passes/). A single ride pass is $2 and an all-day pass is $4.50.
If you would prefer to drive around Orlando in a car rental — current prices on Expedia range from $57 a day to $279 — parking at the OCCC runs $13 for a car and $25 for oversized vehicles, with the prices jumping to $8 and $16 after 5 p.m. Or, you can opt for the Destination Parkway Parking Garage just two blocks from International Drive and catch the free shuttle to and from the garage.
Becoming a pedestrian is always an option as well and with the notoriously mild Florida weather, no one would blame you for strolling rather than driving. Temperatures in Florida in April can range from 59-83° F.
After a long day of plastic-centric demonstrations, exhibits and conferences, you might be tempted to explore the Floridian nightlife. Since the OCCC is located on International Drive, the heart of the tourism district, finding a way to blow off steam through entertainment, shopping and good food will not be a challenge and you won't need to go far. A variety of food options are available within the OCCC as well.
For attendees who wish to see more of Florida during their time in Orlando, sojourns to Disney World, Universal Studios Resort or SeaWorld Orlando can be made via taxi, Lynx bus, I-Ride or a car rental. Mears also offers discounts on tickets for various attractions, which can be found on their website.
Your day has been lengthy — traveling, networking, sightseeing — and a comfortable bed is calling your name.
Expovision is NPE's official housing contractor and a list of room rates can be found and booked at: (http://event.expobook.com/Index.aspx?eventid=188). Prices range from $99 a night at the Ramada Convention Center I-Drive to $219 a night at the Hilton Orlando, with plenty of options in between. Reservations for room blocks of 15 or more and suites can be made through the hotel reservation form online or by calling 866-523-0876.
Booking and travel plans endorsed by NPE can be made through NPE's website, (http://www.npe.org). Of course, NPE attendees are not required to book through MacNair or Expovision. Websites like Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and Kayak scour the internet for cut-rate deals on hotels, flights and car rentals.
Whichever route you take or hotel you choose, now is the time to put your plans into motion — not only to snag the lowest prices, but to beat spring breakers to the punch.