I’ve gone to Toy Fair three times. As a blogger, I’m invited to events all the time. I go to press conferences. I’ve been a guest at the HQs of a couple of brands. I’ve attended restaurant openings. I even got the “golden ticket’ to Disney Social Media Moms last year. I feel blessed to have these opportunities. The life of a blogger is never dull, that is for sure.
One of my favorite “events” is the New York Toy Fair. Held in New York City at the Javits Center, the New York Toy Fair is a massive showcase of over 1,000 toy manufacturers and distributors. Toy Fair is held the second weekend of February every year. Before going to Toy Fair for the first time in 2010, I knew that Toy Fair was big, but it wasn’t until I walked and walked and walked the floors at Javits that I realized just how vast Toy Fair really is.
I “did” Toy Fair three years in a row — 2010, 2011, and 2012. I traveled by train from my home outside Baltimore to New York just for the day. Yes, doing Toy Fair in a day is possible. You’ll be exhausted for a day or two after Toy Fair, but the exhaustion is so worth it. Those days were grueling, but also exciting and very productive. I made business connections…met reps for many, many well-known brands…learned about the hottest toys…and networked with other bloggers. I missed the last two Toy Fairs due to family scheduling issues, and I will miss 2015 Toy Fair, but I hope to be back in 2016!
- Register for Toy Fair early. Don’t delay. Even if you are not 100% certain that you can go, register anyway. Register as Press. Once you are registered, you will receive emails from Toy Fair vendors.
- Book your travel early. Amtrak fares go up the closer you get to your travel date, so book train tickets early to save money. Amtrak trains depart BWI Amtrak just outside Baltimore for Penn Station in New York City on the hour, starting at 5:52 a.m. and arriving in NYC around 8:45 a.m. I have looked in to the discount buses — Bolt, MegaBus — but the buses don’t depart Baltimore early enough for me to maximize my ONE day at Toy Fair.
- Arrive early. New for 2015, Toy Fair is now open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Once you arrive in NYC, catch a cab or walk to the Javits Center located on 11th Avenue between 34th and 40th Streets (655 West 34th Street). The cab ride is short and cabs are plentiful outside Penn Station, but allow for traffic. I’ve walked to Javits, but only on a mild day. the walk is about 17 minutes.
- Check in. Pick up your badge inside the Javits Center. Check your coat. I’ve never checked a coat. I usually wear a lightweight winter coat, which I stow in my shoulder bag. It is very hot inside the Javits.
- Dress for comfort. Wear comfy shoes. I wear dark sneakers or sturdy walking shoes. No heels for me. I wear dress pants with a dressy blouse to offset the sneakers. This is a me thing…but I have found it helps to wear pants with deep pockets. I put my phone in one pocket and my business cards and a pen in the other pocket. Leave the laptop at home. Instead carry a shoulder bag.
- Map your day. If you plan to do Toy Fair in a day, you need a game plan. First, book off site interviews with reps or tours of showrooms (Hasbro), early in the morning. Do your tours and interviews, then go to Javits, rather than leaving Javits midday and trying to find a cab. Visit the Toy Fair site for a list of exhibitors.
- Who do you want to see? There are over 1,000 exhibitors. Believe me when I say that even if you go all 4 days, you will not be able to visit all 1,000 booths. It’s simply not possible. I was at Toy Fair for a day and visited about 50-75 booths. Some booths I popped in to a for a few minutes, others five minutes, and others I had pre-scheduled appointments with reps. Check out vendors on the Toy Fair site. Keep in mind…there are 2 floors of exhibitors, as well as showrooms and private rooms.
- Schedule appointments ahead of time. In my first year, I registered for Toy Fair very late, and only had five scheduled appointments and two off-site tours. I was caught off guard that a few exhibitors have closed booths on the Javits floor (MegaBrands and Lego) that you can tour by appointment-only, while brands like Hasbro have off-site showrooms with appointment-only tours. Mattel has a massive invitation-only showroom within the Javits. On my next two visits, I pre-scheduled 10-15 appointments. I scheduled my appointments at exhibitors located close together to minimize walking. Remember what I said about comfy shoes? You will need them!
- Pitch PR. Check the Toy Fair site. If you see a brand and you have a relationship with the PR person, reach out for appointments, tours, or special events.
- Be prepared. Toy Fair is primarily for vendors and store owners, not bloggers. Booth reps are looking to make sales. Without an appointment, you may encounter booth reps who are not interested in talking to you. If you are given the cold shoulder, take a deep breath and move on to the next booth. With over 1,000 exhibitors you are sure to find another booth to explore!