How I re:Invent

Mark Ross
9 min readDec 8, 2022


Werner keynote, entrance matrix style!

Well, that’s a wrap on another re:Invent, back with a bang to being a ‘full sized’ event. This is as it was the only previous time I’ve attended, in 2019, after an online edition in 2020 due to the pandemic, and a slimmed down version in 2021.

I know there will be lots of ‘how to re:Invent’ blogs appearing next summer (maybe I’ll Ctl+C, CTL+V this one!), but I wanted to write up my thoughts now whilst they’re still reasonably fresh in my mind.

Justifying your trip

Personally I’m yet to meet someone who’s made it to re:Invent using the AWS ‘Justify My Trip’ boilerplate! However there are definitely ways you can boost your odds of attending if you’re not in the fortunate position of the organisation you work for expecting you to be there. I’ve listed below the ones I’m aware of that were available for 2022 in descending order of how much of your trip they’d cover: -

The AWS Deep Racer League provided opportunity to get to re:Invent, providing Conference Pass, Flights, Hotels, transport to/from airport, and $350 spending money. To win a place you needed to place high in the virtual online monthly events, win a summit race or similar.

The AWS All Builders Welcome program provided opportunities for people from under represented backgrounds the opportunity to attend re:Invent, providing a grant for the Conference Pass, Flights and Hotels. It also includes priority access and reserved seating for keynotes.

The AWS Ambassador program is open to employees of AWS Partners and recognises people active in the AWS community through arranging meet-ups, speaking, podcasts appearances, contributions to open source code, blog posts and many more. One of the perks of membership of this program is it provided a free conference pass. It also includes priority access and reserved seating for keynotes, along with a private evening meet-up and SWAG!

The AWS Community Builders program is open to all and recognises people for contributions to the community in a similar way to AWS Ambassadors, but without the limitation of only being for partner organisations. Perks of membership of this program is it provided a half price conference pass, along with a private evening meet-up and SWAG!


If you want to get the maximum return on investment out of re:Invent it’s best to plan early.

You’ll maximise your chances of getting direct flights if you book early, meaning you’ll be in better shape when you arrive. You’re also likely to save significant money, with flights being at least double their normal levels only a few weeks out from the event, or you’ll be forced into longer routes with changes.

You’ll also maximise your chances of getting a central hotel. The Las Vegas strip and the conference hotels are huge, and re:Invent is spread across many of them. In 2022 it made it as far South as Mandalay Bay and as far North as Encore, which is a distance of roughly 3 miles. Whilst there are shuttles travelling between them they are time consuming and result in reduced efficiency. I did discover the Las Vegas Monorail is free for use for conference delegates during hours, and there’s a helpful person at the gates to let you through. If you happen to stay behind for a networking event etc. you’ll find the need to purchase a ticket if you’re returning late.

Make sure you understand the entry criteria and the logistics of your travel plans. To get into the US you’ll likely need either an ESTA or a full VISA application. I heard reports of the wait on VISA applications in some countries (e.g. India) being so long (I heard rumours of up to a year!) as people return to travelling that many people couldn’t travel unless they already had a VISA. Also it’s important to check other entry criteria, as whilst the US has done away with the need to present a negative COVID test to gain entry there is still a requirement to present proof of vaccination (which at the time of re:Invent 2022 was classed as having completed the two original courses of the vaccine, i.e. there was no requirement to have been ‘boosted’).

Ideally you’ll be organised and get a direct flight, but if not you need to think carefully about your transiting plans. If you transit in the US it’s not uncommon for the websites to recommend a short transit time, after all it makes the end to end journey time look great! However you need to be aware that you must clear US passport control and customs and collect and recheck your bag at the first airport you land at in the US, so ask yourself is that 45 minute — 1 hour transit time really achievable? I’d sooner leave a bigger gap and not miss the connecting flight, as you could find yourself stranded for a few hours otherwise. I’ve heard some airports have electronic gates so you can clear things quickly, so I’d just suggest you really do your research. An alternative option is to transit via Canada, where you can enjoy a more typical transiting experience of not having to see your checked in luggage until you reach your final destination. You will require an ETA, but it does mean you can risk a shorter connection time. You’re able to pre-clear passport control and customs in Canada before you arrive in the US, so that’s a time saver overall. In 2019 I went via this route from the UK and it took around 15 hours, whereas my 10 hour 45 minute direct flight in 2022 had a nasty sting in the tail of over 90 minutes to clear passport control at the airport in Las Vegas, so the difference might not be as large as you think.

Session Planning

AWS release the schedule for re:Invent sessions well in advance of the event. When they do I strongly recommend you go through the catalogue and mark sessions you’re interested in as favourites. Nearer the time of the event the sessions will be opened up for pre-booking, as AWS allow a percentage to be used to pre-allocate to bookings, and a percentage are kept back for walk ups on the day. I would strongly suggest you are on the system and go through using the favourites you created earlier to book the sessions you want when the booking system goes live. I would compare it to trying to get tickets to a popular concert or sporting event, the really popular ones ‘sell out’ in minutes.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get all the sessions you want, it’s entirely possible to get into sessions as a walk up, although you have to be prepared to queue for 30–45 minutes beforehand. Sessions are regularly added to the agenda, and if you have sessions in your favourites you get notified if repeats are put on. I’m sure some people must change their mind, jump across to new sessions added to the catalogue etc. as in the run up to the event, and during the week itself, previously ‘sold out’ sessions can become available. Don’t forget AWS aren’t going to accidentally pre announce all the cool new features and services before the keynotes by advertising them in the session catalogue weeks in advance, so if you want to learn about something really new get on the catalogue after a new service has been announced and you’ll likely find a session to go to.

In terms of which sessions to go to I think this really depends on what interests you and whether you’ve been to re:Invent before or not. There’s definitely something to be said for the hype and excitement of being in the hall for the keynotes speeches, particularly if you’ve not experience a rock band at 07:30 in the morning! However it’s worth remembering that the keynotes and many of the other larger presentation styled sessions can be watched later, so it’s worth asking yourself is it worth spending all the time queuing to get in when you could be doing something else and then watch them later? My advice — if it’s your first time I’d definitely go to at least one keynote for the experience, after that maybe look what else is on.

AWS Gamedays — great way to get hands on and meet new people

Personally I like to do things that I can’t watch later online. Chalk talks where you can ask questions or listen to questions other delegates have are great. Activities like the Jams and Gamedays where you can get hands on with AWS services you might not typically have used, all in AWS Accounts provided to you so you don’t have to pick up the bill, are also at the top of my list. Don’t foget to make time to visit the expo hall, there’s lots of cool things to see and do.

Lots of people competing in the Gamedays — these were walk up only, no pre-booking

If you’ve not experienced Deep Racer before there are also numerous sessions available to learn how to do it, along with a physical track you can try out your models on.

One of our ‘golden boys’ Sammy Cheung trying out his Deep Racer model in the Expo hall

I’d also strongly encourage you to not base your session booking on what sounds like the most exciting session to go to, this will invariably lead to you losing hours chasing your tail up and down the strip. Once you’ve favourited some sessions go through and group things together that are based on you spending at least half a day in one hotel. That way you’re not losing significant time on shuttle buses or the monorail. If you’re moving between hotels more than once in a day you’re wasting time, and remember even if you have a reserved seat they are given away to walk ups if you don’t arrive at least 10 minutes before the start of the session.

All work and no re:Play makes for a long week

This year I flew in on the Saturday. Having realised that I could get a direct flight from the UK for £1000 less than on the Sunday my expenses would still be £800 less having stayed an extra night with hotel costs, so this seemed a no brainer. This meant I had Sunday to myself prior to the event kicking off to do something non work related.

282 feet below sea level, a lot warmer than when we were 5000+ feet above!

A small group of us decided to go to Death Valley, hiring a car to make a day trip of it. I’d not been to Death Valley before, and like the Grand Canyon it’s one of those places that you have to see to believe the scale of the place. It was nice to spend a bit of time with small group of colleagues outside of a working environment and talk about other things. I also found that with the combination of arriving a day earlier and spending the majority of Sunday outside I was able to avoid the worst effects of Jetlag as we headed into the week. I’m not going to suggest I got as much sleep as I’d like, but i wasn’t falling asleep too early and staying awake most of the hours I should have been asleep.

Through the week I went to a number of evening events, from our private AWS Ambassador meet-up to a number of networking sessions. It’s great to get out and meet people you’ve worked with before, currently work with or get introduced to new people. It can also help you keep the costs down with freebies, although most of these events will be drinks and nibbles. If you’re looking for something to do it’s worth checking out some unofficial lists —

For many people the week culminated with re:Play on Thursday evening. Personally I’m not a huge fan of dance music, but it was an experience and again it was nice to spend time with colleagues outside of talking shop.

re:Play — Martin Garrix headlined

One big benefit of re:Play is it made the Friday AM sessions (what do you mean you didn’t realise re:Invent continues until lunchtime on Friday?) much quieter and you could easily get into walk up sessions!

Friday Morning — much quieter than the rest of the week!

Until next time…

It’s never too early to start planning for re:Invent, I’m sure AWS have already started. I hope this proves useful to a few people and it helps you maximise your future trips.

Save the date, see you there!