Auto Show Survival Guide


2013 Bentley GT, 2012 Los Angeles International Auto Show. Photo courtesy of

How to walk  an auto show and take in all the sights without bursting into tears-or flames.

Auto show season is in full swing, starting with the Los Angeles International Auto Show in November. The Detroit show is still going strong and is open to the public until Jan. 24.

The New York show launches March 25 and runs til April 3, 2016.

For those who are not broke girls or guys, there is the Geneva International Motor Show for a whole new level of auto show pageantry and Press Days debauchery.

Big-city auto shows offer a chance to get away and to escape into a world like no other. They’re also huge.

There’s an art to getting through an auto show with your sanity and endurance intact:

1. Strategize: Write out cars on your “must see” list and check those out first. If your endurance flags midway through your auto show mission, you will have at least seen the cars dearest to you.

Some of the larger shows are spread out among several halls. Make plans to hit one hall at a time so you’re not trekking back and forth.

2.  Wear comfortable shoes. I cannot emphasize this enough. Forget about looking cute and dress for comfort instead. My favorite go-to for the L.A. show one year was a pair of Dansko clog knock-offs. Best $40.00 I ever spent.

3. Hydrate. Most show halls are set up only days in advance, so the air is dry and dusty. Show Hall Throat is an occupational hazard for both journalists and public show-goers alike.  Bring some water from home or buy some at the show and drink. Often. Your throat will thank you.

4. Look for discounts: Some shows will offer discounted tickets through local promotions, radio spots, or online coupons. You can sometimes snag a group discount if your group meets the minimum requirement for group size.

5. Think twice about little ones: Car shows are loud, bright, crowded and noisy. If you have little one at home that melts down easily at the mall or supermarket, they will go nuclear at a car show. Have them sit this one out for their comfort.

6. Take frequent breaks to re-charge: Grab a snack, look through the freebies you’ve accumulated so far, and formulate your next plan of attack. Rest tired feet and legs. Take a meal break.

7. Look and touch: You can get up close and personal at most shows, so go ahead: sit in the driver’s seat. Check out the headroom. Pop the trunk. Adjust the mirrors. Check out the technology suite that’s available in new cars. Yes, “technology suite.”

Car shows, for the most part, are delightful  hands-on experiences. Nowhere else can you sit in a spanking-new car without being stalked by sales personnel. Nowhere else can you sit in a car that you just cannot afford.

8. …but be nice: If a car is off-limits, respect that. Don’t blame the product reps. If there is a line of people behind you waiting to get into the driver seat, make your time in the car brief or come back when crowds die down.

Clean your hands before checking out cars; while there are porters there to keep the cars clean, they’re not your maid. Chow down on greasy treats after checking out cars. Same rules apply to any kiddos walking the show with you.

9. Take it all in: Auto shows are wonderful escapism.  Bills, work, and other obligations will still be there once you get home, so leave them at the door and truly enjoy the auto show experience.

10. Ditch the cynicism. Yes, auto shows are a consumerist orgy. Yes, cars can be tough on the environment. Lighten up and take in the magic. Absorb the sights and sounds. Breathe in New Car Smell. Be a kid again and say “DUDE!” at every cool car you’ll see.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a new product debut, enjoy every second and don’t be afraid to cheer when the car makes its appearance. Be a car geek and snap tons of cell pictures.

Big-city auto shows are pure magic. They’re also an endurance event, so plan ahead, dress comfortably, and prepare to have fun.




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