by Kara Whatley, firstname.lastname@example.org
NMRT Orientation Committee Chair
Conference going is always hard on the budget, even if you are lucky enough to get funds from your library to help defray the cost. But a lot of us are involved in ALA and NMRT, or would like to be, so how do we manage two conference trips a year without breaking the bank? Well, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. Here are five of those tricks that you will be able use when planning your Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio this January.
- Take the bus. One of the biggest budget busters when you are traveling to a conference can be getting to and from the airport. When faced with the ground transportation options in a new city, most of us will head straight to the taxi line—and straight into spending big bucks on getting to our hotels. But most cities, including San Antonio, have several other ground transportation options. If you like mass transit options, look into San Antonio’s Via Metropolitan Transit, http://www.viainfo.net/Ride/Default.aspx, which operates bus service from the airport to downtown. Rides start at $0.75, and you will get acquainted with San Antonio’s bus service, which you can then use to get around town. If you do plan on traveling on VIA, be sure to use the online trip planner to get information on bus routes, schedules, and transfers. If buses are not for you, try the SATRANS shared ride shuttle offered at San Antonio’s International Airport, http://www.saairportshuttle.com/. It will cost you $12 each way or $16 roundtrip, but that should still keep you on budget for the conference. For those of you who simply must take a taxi, try finding another conference goer to share a ride with. Just ask the lucky librarian sitting next to you on the plane or standing next to you in the taxi line which hotel they are staying at and if they would like to share a taxi with you. Who knows? You might make a new conference buddy as well as save yourself some money! It’s $18 - $20 for a taxi ride to downtown San Antonio from the airport, and up to four people may share one taxi.
- Do not eat at the convention center. Sure, it is convenient to grab a sandwich on the go between meetings at the convention center, but you are going to pay mightily for that convenience—both in price and taste. The last time I fell into this trap I paid $9 for a dry turkey sandwich with wilted lettuce. A better bet is to pack some snacks in your conference bag to tide you over between meetings and then go out for a meal when you have more time. One of the nice things about Texas is that there is no tax on grocery items, so you do not even have to pack your snacks in your suitcase where they might get squished to save money. No, you can run out to the local grocery to buy your granola bars and other goodies without paying sales tax!
- Get tips from the locals when choosing restaurants. How do you choose a restaurant that fits your budget when you do get away from the convention center? Get tips from the locals. A kind group of NMRTers, the Local Arrangements Committee, puts together a list of recommendations of things to do and see as well as places to eat in their city. Just stop by the NMRT Orientation Program on Saturday morning and pick up a copy!
- You don’t have to stay at a conference hotel. You can actually save yourself quite a bit of money by not staying in one of the conference hotels. Now, you are probably thinking, “But how will I get around without using the conference shuttles that stop only at the conference hotels? I’ll be paying lots of money on transportation!” Not exactly. The trick here is to stay at a hotel near one of the conference hotels. Just take the addresses of the conference hotels on over to sites like Hotels.com, http://www.hotels.com. They have a feature that allows you to search for hotels near an address. That way you can take advantage of their good deals on room rates, and you can just walk across the street to the conference hotel to catch your shuttle!
- Always register early to get the best rates. ALA always offers three levels of early registration, early-bird, advanced, and on-site. While advanced registration will save you some money over the on-site fees, early-bird is the best deal. You save about $35 off of the advanced registration with this rate, but it really is for the “early” birds because you needed to have registered by the beginning of October to get this rate. However, you can still save $15 on your registration if you submit your registration by December 9, 2005. Although it is too late to take advantage of early-bird registration for San Antonio, it should help you with your planning for Annual Conference in New Orleans. Early-bird registration begins December 1, 2005, and ends January 3, 2006. Mark your calendars!