If you are in a line of work that requires periodic attendance of tradeshows and conventions, or you just like attending hobby based events, you know that the experience can be prohibitively expensive. Add up the cost of a room, food, purchases, travel, and more and you will start to see just how profoundly you attendance will affect your bottom line.
Barring the option of skipping all such gatherings, there are several things you can do to cut your costs and still enjoy the experience. Keep in mind that some of these ideas work better when you are at hobby conventions than at business trade shows and visa versa.
Choose Alternate Accommodations
When a group sets up a convention or trade show, they usually arrange for a group rate at the hosting hotel. This pays off for the hotel because they know that they will book a large number of rooms, and it pays off for some attendees because they get a cheaper room in a convenient spot. That doesn’t mean this is your only option though.
It is not at all uncommon to find several hotels and motels clustered in a relatively small area in most cities. That means that if you plug in the address of the convention site, you are likely to find a number of other accommodations nearby. Let’s face it; Motel 6 is bound to be cheaper than the Marriott, even if the latter is offering a good discount.
Share a Room
If you know someone else who is going to the same trade show, call them and ask if they want to share a room. Almost every hotel room comes with two queen-sized beds, so you won’t be sharing the bed, and with a little respect and courtesy you can share a room for a few days and save 50% on accommodations.
Pack a Cooler
Food is likely to be your next largest expense. There is no reason you have to eat every meal out of a restaurant, snack bar, or fast food joint. Pack snacks. If you don’t want to pack a cooler, protein bars, fruit, and nuts are perfect for snacking at any time. Quick oatmeal pouches are an ideal breakfast since most hotels now offer a small coffee pot in which to heat the water.
Once you get a cooler into the act, you have many more options. When my children and I go to the board gaming convention every year, I pack a couple of bags full of snacks that require no preparation and then I pack drinks, cold cuts, condiments, veggies, and more in the cooler. They can all pick a few items, even indulgent ones, and we save a ton of money.
Join the Club
If you attend a trade show or convention regularly and it is held in the same location year after year, join the hotel’s club. Members get free breakfasts, deals on rooms, and other perks. As these clubs are usually free, you can only win, even if you stockpile your points and use them to take a cheaper family vacation later on, and you have gotten something for nothing.
Take Free Stuff
When I attend trade shows, I always bring an extra folding bag and a couple of shopping bags. I wander the aisles of the vendor area and pick up any freebie I think might use. I’ve acquired everything from highlighters to flashlights, mouse pads to hand sanitizer, and all have been put to use at some point or another. While this might not have a direct impact on what you spend on this trip, it all adds up somewhere.
Trade shows and conventions, whether for business or pleasure, are great fun. They don’t, however, have to cost a great deal.