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Attending the RSNA for the first time? Here is a low-budget advice

Please note that I wanted to write this article as soon as I came back from , but due to my wrist fracture, it took longer. I tried my best to get the right information to the first-time visitors to , and how to make a low-budget planning for upcoming , however, if you notice any information that is not correct or needs improvement, please leave a comment at the end of the article.

RSNA 2010

RSNA

The next RSNA annual meeting is few months away and this is the time to plan it well if you really want to make it an economical trip this year. or what’s more famous as RSNA meeting takes place every year at McCormick Place in Chicago, headquarter of Oprah Show and the city of President Obama. The RSNA meeting takes place in freezing weather during the last week of November every year, that means carrying a plenty of warm cloths.

I like budget travel (like most of us do) and before I attended my first ever RSNA meeting last year (2010), I tried to make it as comfortable and as cost-effective as possible. However, I was in for a surprise as I planned it quite late. As a first time visitor, I had the opportunity to explore RSNA my own way and had a close look at how it can be better managed next year before it’s too late. Here are few tips on how to attend RSNA on a low budget based on my personal experience.

  1. Long Hallway Connecting North South Wings

    Long Hallway Connecting North South Wings

    Hotels for RSNA/Plan it well ahead of time: Usually hotels in downtown are booked for RSNA visitors, months before the actual meeting. If you are certain about your travel to RSNA, it’s better that you act as soon as you are sure of it. You can enjoy early bird deals and can get good discount on pre-booking. Don’t forget to reserve your flight as early as possible as well to get a better deal and to avoid disappointment due to unavailability of seats at eleventh hour booking.

  2. RSNA Registration & RSNA Badge: Depending on the purpose of visit and number of days you are going to attend at RSNA, you will have to pay registration fee, that can vary from 300$ – 600$. If you are in medical imaging industry and your company or some of your partner companies are showcasing their products and have a booth, then they can help you getting a “free badge”. Free is always good, but you need to do your proper search and make sure you get yourself registered through your partner company before hand. You can just go to information desk, tell them about your RSNA registration and get your badge printed for you for “free”. Depending on the size of an exhibitor’s booth, they are entitled for different badges, it can be one day badge or a full show badge. Eventually, you can get it from different sources for each day, that’s your search to do.
  3. Metra Station Inside RSNA

    Metra Station Inside RSNA

    Understand Chicago: If you are not familiar with Chicago, then it’s better to understand the routes, the trains, subways, buses etc before you travel. It’s not only that I am against a cab because its expensive, but also it gets too slow and stuck in the rush that you would prefer to use underground most of the time. You can get a detailed map from RTA (Regional Transportation Authority), available on any underground station. The map is called “Visitor Transit Map”. You can even Google it or can get information by calling -836-7000 from any local area code from anywhere in downtown Chicago or the six-country region. If you don’t understand Chicago well, you can end up breaking a bone (like I fractured my wrist).

  4. Millenium & Metra Stations

    Millenium & Metra Stations

    Transportation: There is normal transportation and there is special and seasonal routes that Chicago offers during the RSNA to help move those extra 60,000 people every day. What I believe is that things look deceiving on maps (at least to me). So for example I thought the whole LOOP thing where most of the trains cross each other was a really big square, but in reality, you can walk around it easily and manage your way to any direction you want to move. So actually if you don’t get good bargain in downtown, there are still good options for you. Go for any of those so many hotels near the airport. At this time of the year, most of the hotels near the airport have vacancies and they are selling cheap. Also, most of the hotels provide airport to-and-from pick round the clock. You need to have that, because you will need to ride CTA from the airport that takes you to the downtown or LOOP, from where you get Metra to the RSNA. The whole trip costs under 5$ and takes approximately an hour to reach from your hotel to the RSNA, which is excellent giving the fact that you are paying only under 100$ per night. Get yourself familiarized with CTA & METRA. There are many color lines in CTA.

  5. Metra Free Pass

    Metra Free Pass

    What if you are already late? I still have lot of good news for lategoers (as opposed to latecomers). Here is a plan-B to attend RSNA on a low-budget if you are already late.

    • Search best deals on using any of online booking portals like Expedia. Try to change timing or a day before or after and you might find amazing results. are always costly on weekends so avoid weekends if you can.
    • I use normally hotel-rates.com to find good deals. There are many other good hotel booking portals as well, use what you like most. Try to search in O’hare area or the airport area. Anywhere between 3-10 kilometers from O’hare there are a lot of options for a comfortable low-budget stay. Make sure they offer free service to and from the airport all the daylong (most of them do every 30 minutes or an hour trips). Also, while you are booking, make sure you read the cancellation policy. Some can give you real cheap rates but what you paid is nonrefundable, so choose according to your preference. For example, you can cancel on hotel-rates.com until 24 hours before the booking date which is excellent if your plans just changed. Make sure you read some of reviews of the hotel and its pictures on their site. Booking for a week or so already entitles you to a further discount in most of these hotels.
    • Meditation Prayers Room in RSNA

      Meditation Prayers Room in RSNA

      While you are there, on the first day of RSNA, try to leave your hotel around 7 am, go to the airport and take CTA Blue. Get off at Millennium Park station downtown and ask for Metra station, it’s just around the corner, you even can make it from inside Macy’s if it’s raining or too cold. It is very close to Borders.

    • Take the METRA to and get off at McCormick Place, RSNA Station, take few steps up and you are inside the main RSNA hall.
  6. First Appearance at RSNA: Remember RSNA is really big with many halls, a long hallway that combines North
    The Author in Promotional Sports Car at MERGE Healthcare

    The Author in Promotional Sports Car at MERGE Healthcare

    and South wings, coffee shops, sitting areas, receptions etc. Here is what you need to do on the first day if you are new to the RSNA:

    • If you are coming through Metra, the McCormick Place station exit staircase is just after the main RSNA entrance, so go back and find your way to the main entrance, where you can drop off your overcoat or other heavy cloths and take the receipt, it’s a free service.
    • Go to any of the information desks to find your badge. There are self-service desks as well where you can print your badge using your first name, last name and the company name for pre-registered members. It must all be spelled right otherwise you will need to go to help desk.
    • RSNA Badges are different for exhibitors, daily visitors and press/media, each with its own color. Each of the badge has certain access. For example with an exhibitor’s brown badge, you can go to McCormick Place 24 hours a day. For a visitor badge (Blue), its normally limited to the official hours. With a press/media badge (Pink), you can attend the inauguration and other combined meetings.
    • Staircase to Groundfloor Meeting Rooms & Meditation Area

      RSNA has two sides for information/technology exposure. One is the vendor side and the other is scientific side. There are different halls for vendors to showcase their products and for scientific presentations. You can find RSNA introduction brochure at the help desk to find out each company’s exact location alphabetically. It’s called Technical Exhibition Guide that includes exhibitor list and floor maps.

    • Don’t forget to claim your free 7-day Metra pass at the time of registration. You can use this card to and from McCormick Place & downtown Chicago.
    • If you are coming from outside US, telephone and international roaming can be very costly. The best option is to buy a pre-paid telephone set with a line which gives you plenty of free minutes to get in touch with your local connections. A 20 dollar purchase including the cell phone can give you up to 500 free minutes. Most of the providers offer such packages, like AT&T, Verizon, Virgin etc.
  7. Vegetarian Food at RSNA

    Some precautions and Misc. tips during your stay at RSNA:

    • Weather changes are abrupt during this time of the year, make sure you have gloves, full head cap, scarf, a rain coat, an umbrella and snow boots as snowfall is not uncommon in Nov/Dec.
    • While you are going out of RSNA from McCormick Place, make sure you ride the North bound Metra. In my case, I just thought McCormick Place is the last station, so I didn’t care of finding the direction as I believed it’s going to downtown anyway partially because I was new and partially because my friend Herman didn’t mention it. Guess what? I ended up somewhere where I couldn’t see except darkness and couldn’t hear except some dogs barking. I had to wait at least 45 minutes to get train back to downtown.
    • Snowfall in Chicago during RSNA 2010

      Go to RSNA an hour earlier on the first day to avoid long lines and to find your way to different halls easily and get introductory information.

    • Vegetarian food is available at most of the coffee shops/restaurants in RSNA.
    • On the ground level there are business meeting rooms and this area also contains prayer rooms for Muslims and meditation rooms for other religions, just ask for that.
Metra Details

Metra Details & Nearby Hotels

I hope you enjoyed this article, and I wish all of you a pleasant trip for the upcoming RSNA 2011. Please don’t hesitate to contact me back for any suggestions or feedback at: zaheer@ictforhealth.com

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