Surviving SEMA

Posted on October 8, 2019 by Chris Duke


If you’re wondering what to bring to SEMA, or what to pack for SEMA, let me help you out. I’ve been going to the SEMA Show for almost two decades, so I’ve got quite a list! I guarantee you that there’s something here that you haven’t seen yet, or didn’t even think of. Please share it with a friend!

What To Expect

This guide is for travelers who are there for the long haul… whether that’s the full 7+ days because you’re an exhibitor, you’ve got a featured vehicle in the show like I do, or you’re just there for the 4 days of the show.

The first important thing to remember about The SEMA Show is that since it’s in Las Vegas, it’s very dry. Think about what dries up on you when you’re in a desert.

Second, you are going to be doing a lot of walking and standing. Miles per day of walking. Hours per day of standing. Not just at the LVCC (Las Vegas Convention Center), but elsewhere. You will be joined by approximately 161,000 others from around the world. This means getting around takes time, and lines are long.

What can you do to ensure you have the best time ever?

Weather

The weather in Las Vegas for SEMA can range from the usual dry and sunny to the complete opposite… wet and windy.

To see what it was like last year in 2018, check this out. It was quite nice, actually. At times extremely windy. If you don’t like your hair being blown to smithereens, rock a cap.

I remember the rain storm a few years ago at the 2015 show. It was crazy. It’s rare, but it happens.

What To Wear

  1. Comfortable shoes. Don’t even think about bringing dress shoes, unless you plan to wear them only at night for a few hours when you go out for those important business meetings. Wear broken-in shoes you know your feet will be happy in, walking for miles and standing for hours.
  2. Comfortable clothing. Personally, I wear jeans but if it’s hot, I wear shorts. Top-side, I either wear my Motorz t-shirt, or a shop shirt of some kind. Of course, your dress code may be completely decided by someone you work for and you may have no choice.
  3. Sunscreen. There’s a lot to see outside and you don’t want to burn. On the other hand, if you know you’re going to be stuck inside being your company’s designated booth babe, then you can go without.
  4. Sunglasses. Maybe a hat, too… if you plan on being outside for any length of time.
  5. Lanyard. If you’ve got a favorite lanyard, pack it. The ones you get for free aren’t the best. Yes, a lot of exhibitors give them away too, but they may not be as great as your favorite one back home.

What To Drink & Eat

  1. Starbucks VIA Instant Caramel Iced Coffee. I’ve lived on these at SEMA for years now. Why? They’re easy to use and lightweight to carry around. All you need is a bottle of water. Take the cap off your bottle, drink a few gulps to make room for the powder, pour it in, shake it like you’re mad at it, and then drink up. I always get caramel. Get enough to share. Quick caffeine boost in the morning, and look–no lines, Russ.
  2. Liquid I.V. Hydration Powder Packets. This is a recent discovery of mine (pic above), thanks to my producer, Brian (thanks, bro). Similar to the coffee powder packets I just spoke of, you pour the powder into a bottle of water and it’s the equivalent of drinking 3 bottles of water instead of one. It’s a hydration multiplier. You need to stay hydrated and this is a great way to do it. Note that they aren’t cheap, and they contain a decent amount of sugar, but I can personally vouch that they do work. Read the comments on Amazon. What’s more, is that they’re perfect for hangovers. Chug one before you go to bed, then another in the morning. No need to get IV hydration therapy.
  3. Snack Bars. Lines can be long for food, or food can just be too far away. I usually pack a few of these and I live by them. They’re so good and people don’t like seeing me hangry.

How To Stay Healthy (or look healthy)

  1. Vitamin C. There are so many sick people you’ll be shaking hands with. Do whatever you can to prevent yourself from getting sick. Speaking of which…
  2. Hand Sanitizer. Sin City is an extremely dirty place, with travelers around the world constantly coming in and out. You have no idea what you’re touching, when you’re touching. Be safe out there, kids.
  3. Headache Medicine. Bring your headache medicine of choice. You’ll get a few, especially after sticking your head in the back end of a featured vehicle with twelve 12″ subwoofer speakers to take that fun “look my hair is moving” pic for your Instagrizzle.
  4. Saline Nasal Mist. Every time I go to Vegas I get bloody, crusty nostrils after a day or two. Have some handy to keep moisture up in those holes of yours. Keep a small pack of tissues with you, too.
  5. Lubricant Eye Drops. I swear by the “Refresh Optive” brand (pic above). They’re small, disposable, and help when your eyes are drying out. The dryness of Vegas combined with casino cigarette smoke does them in. They’re also great if you get something in your eye to help loosen it out. Or, if you need to fake a cry to get what you want from someone.
  6. Clear Eyes. If you can’t sleep, you’re up late, or more realistically you’re out late drinking… you’ll need this in the morning. Visine works to get the red out too, but I’ve personally had better luck with Clear Eyes. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?
  7. Lip Balm. Chapstick, Blistex, Burt’s Bees, etc. I cannot go to Vegas without one. My lips dry out (like my eyes and my nose) after a day or two.
  8. Breath Mints. Tic Tacs, Altoids, Life Savers, Mentos, Ice Breakers. Whatever you prefer, bring some. Nobody likes close talking to you at SEMA when your mouth smells like what you just ate. You say “helloooooo, Chris!” I say “later, Stinky!”
  9. Humidifier. This is especially critical if you’re staying in Vegas for the full week. The problem is if you’re flying in, they’re kinda bulky. I always try to bring one. They’re truly a lifesaver. I leave it on full speed all night long. In the morning, I refill it using the bathtub spout and then leave it running all day in my room on low. This helps extend the time it takes for your body to be affected by the dry weather, and keeps it at bay. Just don’t let me catch you scooting down the hotel hallway in your underwear with it (yeah, I saw you bro).

Which Gadgets To Bring

  1. Portable Power. Bring a portable battery charger (power bank) or if you’ve got a battery phone case, bring that. In fact, bring both. You’ll blow through your phone’s battery a few times a day between taking photos, making calls, posting to social media, text fighting with your spouse back home because you haven’t checked in, etc.
  2. Charger Cable. I highly recommend a 3-in-1 charger cable to charge all your devices (or a friend in need). They typically accommodate Micro USB, USB Type-C, and Lightning. I swear by mine. It’s the trident of cables.
  3. Extra Memory Cards & Batteries. If you’re bringing a camera, bring extra memory cards and batteries. You will fill them up, and empty them out, respectively.

How To Get Around

  1. Hotel Shuttles. SEMA provides free buses to get you from the LVCC to your hotel. Just keep in mind it’s not the fastest way to get around, especially if you’re going to/from the convention center when everyone else is.
  2. Monorail. My personal transportation choice for the SEMA Show. That, and staying at a hotel that’s one of the stops on the Monorail line. Through SEMA, the Las Vegas Monorail offers discounted tickets (which I get every year). A 7 day pass is discounted to $49 from the normal $56. Single ride, 24 hour, 2, 3, 4, and 5 day passes are also available.
  3. Ride Share. Not only are ride shares cheaper than taxis, they can be faster in my experiences too. Las Vegas offers the typical Lyft and Uber services, plus many others. It’s also beta testing grounds for driver-less services, so if you feel like taking a gamble there–you have something else to post to your Griz.

How To Not Get Ripped Off

  1. Pickpocketers. Vegas is a crazy busy place. Lots of crowds. Lots of drunk people. Lots of scam artists. And, lots of pickpocketers. Guys, put your wallet in your front pocket. Gals, keep those purses wrapped around you like a straightjacket.
  2. Local Help. Your local hotel concierge can be helpful in a pinch, but they might also be getting a buck by directing you to a destination that might not be the cheapest, or even the closest. Ask the locals for help. The best ones are your ride share drivers. I’ve received the best advice and tips from them because there’s no skin in the game for them. They just want a bigger tip from you.

Which Apps To Use

  1. The SEMA Show App. It’s free (iOS and Android) and it’s a lifesaver. Not only can you find a manufacturer quickly, but you can see what else is going on all week long. Go get it now and start favoriting the booths you want to visit. Once you get to the show, you can use this to route yourself through the massive convention center halls and save time. There’s a lot to the app, so get it now and explore what it offers before you get to Vegas.
  2. Notes App. Use your notes app to jot down notes after meeting with someone. Getting a business card is great, but you’ll forget everything else they said a week later when you’re staring at it. Or just jot down some notes on the back of their card with one of those pen things (I haven’t used one in a while but I think that’s what they’re called). Don’t forget to make a list of crazy things that happen–I have lists from previous SEMA trips and it’s always good for a few laughs to reminisce.
  3. Step Tracker App. How many steps did you take? Miles walked? This is fun to keep track of every day you’re there.
  4. Run Tracker App. Those fitness/run tracking apps are great for Vegas, too. Track where you walked. Not just at the SEMA Show, but all those late nights bar hopping. “Where was I last night?” Ok, maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all. Choose wisely!

What’d I Miss?

I want this to be the ultimate guide for anyone attending the SEMA Show, so if you have any tips you’d like me to add, please comment down below, contact me, or DM me on my Instagrizzle. I’d love to have your input and hear your thoughts!

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