My Life as a Self-Proclaimed Conference Junkie (Part 3)
After deciding on a conference that I would like to attend, I use a spreadsheet to start figuring out how much it will cost. I typically start this process 3-6 months in advance by figuring out an estimated cost for all my known expenses. This also allows me to make decisions on whether or not I want to drive or fly to the conference depending on the location and estimated price. By figuring out all of this information in advance, I am able to save the appropriate amount of money specifically for this conference. The spreadsheet below is an example of something that I would fill as I started planning.
When looking for a place to stay during the conference, I always start with the conference hotels. These hotels usually have an agreement with the hosts of the conference and offer attendees a discounted rate. However, I have booked hotels through sites like Expedia.com because they offered lower rates at hotels nearby. Another site worth looking into is Airbnb.com. This site is an online marketplace where homeowners can rent out extra spaces in the houses for short-term lodging. Some Airbnb rentals have access to a kitchen space, which is great for cooking some of your own meals while on the road.
One of my favorite tricks for finding inexpensive flights is to use the app Hopper. This app allows you to input your desired departure and return dates to and from specific airports. The app will then “watch” this flight information on many different airlines and alert you when the price to book is the lowest! Booking with Hopper can help to make sure you know you are getting a good deal.
Many conferences have exhibit halls that are open for business during specific hours during the show. These exhibit halls are full of vendors that have conference specials where they sell certain items at a discount or give you things for free when making a purchase. However, the best part of buying things at conferences is definitely avoiding shipping costs! At conferences, I always make sure to bring some extra spending money so that I can stock up on clarinet essentials like reeds, mouthpiece patches, and sheet music. Sometimes, I even splurge on a new mouthpiece or ligature if I find something that I really like! Typically, before heading to the conference I take inventory of the essentials that I have on hand and write down what I need to get through the next few months. I also write down anything else that I want to purchase, like any new repertoire I want to add to my library and estimate how much extra spending money I should bring to the exhibit hall. Doing this allows me to bring a specific amount of money for the exhibit halls so that I don’t spend more than necessary.
Taking the time to think about all the potential costs of attending a conference in advance is a great way to start preparing. I find that looking over everything well before I need to book a hotel or flight allows me to feel more comfortable about the financial commitment that goes along with attending a conference. However, with plenty of preparation and financial planning attending conferences can be a part of anyone’s future plans!
Stay tuned for my next post about dealing with Music Performance Anxiety!