legs-1120197_1280Have you decided to attend a regional or national conference this year? Is your office paying for it or are you
paying some, most, or all of it? Attending conferences (especially national ones) can be extremely expensive (regardless of who is paying). Below, we have listed five ways to attend a conference (regional or national) without depleting your funds…completely.

  1. Purchase your conference registration well in advance in order to be eligible for the early bird registration fee!

We all have busy schedules! Sometimes that early bird registration deadline comes a lot faster than expected! Regardless of the person or office paying for your registration, be mindful of the cost of the conference and how much it will increase in price if you wait to register.

Tip: Some of the national conferences have financial assistance programs that you might be able to look into before paying full price (especially if you are a graduate student). Many of these programs require you to submit an application or materials and they may want you to do something in return (such as introduce a speaker, volunteer at the registration desk, etc). We should be pressuring our national organizations to provide more opportunities for either financial assistance or sliding scale registration prices.

2. Timing is everything when planning your travels

How do you plan on getting to the conference? If it is a regional conference the mode of transportation might not make a huge impact on the budget. However, if it is a national conference then transportation may be a big chunk of your budget. Flying is going to be the most expensive mountain-road-1556177_1280option to travel. Be sure to check well in advance for flights if this is your only option. In addition, looking at one-way flights (for both directions –there and back) may be more beneficial than looking at round-trip flights. Furthermore, to ensure you get the best price when you are searching for flights, turn your browser into stealth mode (i.e., private mode/turn off cookies). This will ensure that the search engine is not increasing the price of tickets every time you browse.

If flying is out of the question because of cost, accessibility, safety, or another reason, then your next option may be driving to the conference. This may mean you are renting a car or using your own vehicle (or even taking a bus). In any case, connecting with other professionals from your institution or neighboring institutions may allow you to save significantly on travel! Utilizing social media outlets and/or reaching out to your counterparts at other institutions may aid in the process of finding folks to carpool with during your travels!

3. Save Money by NOT Staying at the Conference Hotel

The conference hotel will be one of the most expensive place to stay (even with the conference discount code)! To save money during your travels look to stay in alternative hotels or housing arrangements.

First, phone a friend! Do you have any folks in the immediate area of the conference? Is the location hiking-1312226_1920of their home/apartment/room accessible to the conference space? Are they willing to invite you into their home? Spending your nights with a friend or family member is one of the best ways to save significantly!

No friends or family in the area? What research have you done with regards to other housing options? Are there hostels in the conference city? Is there an Airbnb you could utilize? Are there motels? All of these options (if safe, accessible, and comfortable) can aid in your travel cost. In addition, if you need a hotel due to safety and/or just priority, looking at hotels that are farther away (a few blocks/few miles) from the conference center/hotel may be more beneficial. You may be able to find a great deal (or at least a reasonable one)!  Furthermore, if you are willing to room with others, this will always be a sure way to save money during your conference experience! If you are making the hotel arrangements, please be mindful of accessibility needs of the folx you may be staying with during your time at the conference.

4. Prepare your Own Meals and/or Snacks

One of the most significant ways to save money when attending a national or regional conference is to restrict the amount of times you go “out” to eat! It is always tempting to connect with colleagues that you have not seen by going to dinner or lunch. And, this may be inevitable during your time at the conference but restricting the amount of times you go out for big meals will allow you to save your budget. In addition, during national conferences, look out for receptions that may provide meals or snacks. These are great opportunities to network with other folks (while grabbing some volkswagen-569315_1920grub)! Lastly, plan to bring food (if you are driving) or visit a grocery store when you get to the hosting city. Buying food for your meals and snacks will help aid in saving money (even if it is only snacks and breakfast food it will help)!

Call-to-Action: Be sure to hold our conference host organizations accountable with the areas they choose to hold the conferences. Some areas are more accessible than others. And, some areas are less expensive than others. We should be holding our national and regional organizations accountable for the places they choose to have their conferences. 

5. Support Professional Development Opportunities that Support You!

How can a conference, company, or organization support you throughout your journey developing as a professional? How are you able to express these needs? Are organizations providing sliding scale registration options to ensure folx of various socioeconomic statuses can participate? Are conferences ensuring that there is free or low cost housing options available for participants?

The final point we have on this list includes a call-to-action: Support organizations, conferences, and companies that support you in all of your identities. There are amazing conferences out there that take the steps to ensure folx can access the knowledge and community created. Seek out these conferences and support their mission. The most accessible conferences will be built around the voices and experiences of those who are most marginalized. Support these efforts and hold other organizations to a higher standard.

*This is not an exhaustive list. What are some other ways you have saved money while attending a conference? Share this post and tweet us at @JPHigherEd!*

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