I was invited to the HP #MyPrintlyMoms Print and Pamper retreat and received a discounted vacation package for my conference fee. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Well, I think that’s a first time in a long time that I’ve let a whole week go by between posts! In my defense, I had an extraordinarily full weekend and I’ve only just now gotten all of the details together to report back.
Short Story: I went to San Diego to be part of a blogger retreat put on by the team at HP (Hewlett-Packard). It was lovely. I had fun.
I flew into San Diego early on Thursday morning and immediately wondered why we don’t live in California, just like I do the minute I arrive in California no matter which city I’m in. My retreat didn’t begin until the afternoon, but I have a friend in San Diego (who I had never met) so she picked me up at the airport. I know people might have a hard time wrapping their brain around Internet friends, but I swear some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met are people I knew for yeeeears before actually meeting. Eve is an excellent example of this, since we “met” when she started reading my blog in 2008 and this was the first time we’ve had a chance to actually catch up in person. She took me to her beautiful home and made me lunch (how spoiled am I?) before driving me up to the resort that served as our home base for this retreat.
My room wasn’t ready when I arrived, but I was able to check in for the retreat and there were displaced bloggers all over who were also waiting for their rooms. We hung out and ate some of our swag and eventually we had a little pampering time when a team came in to do nails, hair, and makeup. I chatted for a while since there were a good handful of people that I’ve met at other conferences, but eventually my cookies and I snuck off to a quiet corner so I could tackle my inbox and some random coding I’ve been doing for my Disney wedding blog.
The retreat started with a nice relaxed reception that moved into a sort of idea carnival hosted by HP. They had different stations with different things that they’re working on and we chatted and mingled and ate desserts and gave them some feedback about what we would want to see in future HP products. I didn’t take any pictures because some of the stuff is still too “behind-the-scenes” but I do have a shot of the nice gift that they sent to my hotel room as a good night surprise after the party.
The next morning started early with breakfast and a bus ride over to HP’s headquarters. By this point, I feel like I had touched base with most of the other bloggers on the trip, since it was a relatively small group, and it was fun to hear all of the networking and storytelling going on on the bus. I should mention that this whole trip was put together by Maria Bailey and her team, who I’ve worked with before on various sponsored posts and who is also the mastermind behind the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. Maria has been key in pushing the idea that mom influencers are smart, creative, and powerful and I feel like she’s personally done a lot to make what I do for a living more tangible for brands. She also just had another book come out (Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need To Know To Build Brands and Drive Sales) and it’s the first time I’ve been quoted by her!
We didn’t take pictures inside the building at HP, but it was more idea trading, brain storming, and a tour of the different departments. I so wish I could have shared some of the exciting things that I saw, but I’ll just have to tell you that I was impressed by how much thought goes into every decision they make. We also had a presentation from Disney Interactive related to some new media they’re working on (always a fan, of course) and they occasionally threw food and goodies at us so we filed out at the end of the day full of churros and swag.
The schedule included time for relaxation following our day at HP and we had the option to take advantage of the resort spa, participate in a few classes, stretch our legs with some athletic opportunities, or enjoy “me” time. I was all about heading back to my hotel room for some uninterrupted work time (which turned into watching The Walking Dead reruns in my yoga pants because that’s what I do when I’m left to my own devices) and I may or may not have ordered a little room service and done a little lip syncing to Taylor Swift. I love my kids, but man alive does it feel good to be on my own sometimes!
We had another event that night, but it was a combination dinner and craft party and we were all old friends by that point so I wore my yoga pants and laughed/drank/mod podged the night away. HP has a creative team of mom influencers called My Printlys who each hosted a table featuring a craft project. I didn’t get to hit them all, but I made some photo tiles for my mom (which I apparently forgot to take a photo of???) and some other little things for the kids. Mostly there was chatting and the eating of gourmet tater tots because they kept bringing them out.
The following morning had a schedule that went breakfast -> speaker presentations -> bus to Disneyland so I have to admit that the speaker presentations were not really something I was looking forward to. I go to a fair number of conferences and it’s easy to get burnt out on people talking at you instead of with you (when you’d rather be networking or learning one-on-one). Plus, these had the unhappy reality of being the things that were in the way of me getting to Disneyland…and nobody wants to get in between Carly and Disneyland. So imagine my surprise when the speakers ended up being the highlight of the whole retreat for me!
The first speaker was Arlene Pellicane, who recently co-authored the book Growing Up Social with Gary Chapman. The general idea was that kids need less screen time and even though I bristled at the thought of taking away the iPad when she first started talking, she had me totally convinced by the end of the presentation. She was funny, smart, and really got me thinking about some of the parenting decisions we’ve been making. Of course, Kyle’s perfectly-timed text didn’t help…
Next up was Maria Bailey, who I’ve heard speak briefly in-between other speakers at other events, but who has never given a full presentation at anything I’ve ever attended. It was so interesting to hear more of her story and “pick her brain” for tips on the business of being a working mom. She also moderated a panel of five bloggers who were attending the retreat, all selected because they’re doing one thing particularly well, which was incredibly valuable and started some good conversations on the bus up to Disneyland. In fact, some people were so inspired that they ended up skipping Disneyland to stay behind for more brainstorming/networking/planning and I have to admit I was a little tempted to stay myself.
Of course, you know I can’t pass up Disneyland…
In all fairness, I have to tell you first and foremost that it was hot and crowded. I was thrilled to be there and so excited to see the Halloween decorations out, etc., but man alive was it hot and crowded. For some reason, Saturday was just packed even though it was October and the temperature was above one hundred degrees when we arrived at the park. That didn’t interfere with my game plan, though, which was to wander around and just enjoy the park atmosphere.
I love the attractions, but knowing that I was showing up late in the afternoon on a Saturday without Fastpasses (or Kyle) made me reluctant to stand in lines…especially since I’ve already taken two Disney trips this year. So, I took my time and went in and out of the shops, looked at all the decorations, did some people-watching, and grabbed a mint julep and some pumpkin beignets. (And maybe a corn dog with fries. And perhaps a rice krispy treat. And a lemonade…)
I did tell myself that I could pick one ride and that would satisfy my attractions itch. I sort of thought about doing Haunted Mansion, since it’s all done up for Halloween and I haven’t seen that version since Kyle and I went in 2009, but ultimately I just had to go with It’s a Small World because I can happily float through that thing with a grin on my face the whole time.
And I did. Three times in a row and one more time again later. Don’t judge.
Once it got dark, we had a private viewing area set up to watch the parade and fireworks. I skipped the fireworks, even though I’ve heard they’re wonderful, because something about watching the new fireworks show without Kyle was just a little too sad to be fun. I’ll have to drag him back at some point, I suppose, especially now that I’ve seen the new parade! It was absolutely wonderful and if you don’t think you’ll see it this year, I taped almost the whole thing (battery died right at the end) but even though you can see it this way I assure you it’s 500% better in person.
After the parade, I slowly made my way out of the park and over to Disney’s California Adventure to meet up with fellow blogger and Disneyland local Mindy and a friend of hers. We chatted as the park closed down and then it was time to get on the bus and head back down to San Diego, thoroughly wiped out from a very full weekend.
Overall, it was a lovely time and I felt like it was a particularly good mix of people attending. I had so many great conversations and laughed so hard (all the way to the airport, in fact!), but most of all it was just nice to be a in a space that made me feel creative and inspired to keep doing what I’m doing. I really like that HP is taking the approach of using mom influencers for the skills we have to offer instead of the common approach brands take, which is to use the blogger as a handy tool through which lots of readers can be reached. The women that joined me on this trip have their own businesses, lead creative teams, speak internationally, independently bring new products to the market, and (definitely not least of all) are working hard to raise happy kids. How smart is HP to tap that resource??
(And I don’t know if you saw my tweets, but that Instant Ink program is really such a time and money saver, especially if you’re a homeschooling family like ours. Look into it!)