Attending Trade Shows and Conventions on a Livable Budget

by Guest Contributor · 1 comment

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.

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  • TheInfamousJ says:

    My two major expenses with trade shows/conventions are: transit costs and lodging.

    I’m still working on transit costs and lodging. I’ve eliminated food as a line item by bringing a cooking set-up (if not staying somewhere with cooking facilities), and bringing (or buying) food when there to cook.

    Quinoia, rice, black beans, peanuts (if you can eat them), trail mix, eggs, and pasta can go very far and fresh veggies are rather inexpensive if you purchase at the farmer’s market.

    For lodging, one thing to look in to is a quick house sitting trip in the area. There are a bunch of house sitting websites around. Just make sure that you can either use public transit or carpool with someone else headed in your direction. I use zimride (dot com) for carpooling.

    House sitting is awesome because you get all the comforts of home, including but not limited to free wifi, a place to cook, and a place to do laundry. You just need to keep the house in order and take excellent care of the pets. Oh, and not abuse the homeowner’s trust by bringing over folks.

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