This is a component about conference that is important to me… but I have to admit that now that I’m pregnant it’s THE most important thing I think about….
And when it comes to traveling and food… you are going to be asked to pay more than you want. It’s just a fact of travel life.
Here are some quick tips on finding and saving on food. I’ll leave the eating part up to you.
- Consider food costs when making hotel reservations – A factor that will ALWAYS decrease your food costs is the network of where you are staying. That is the location of your hotel (is it within walking distance of amenities that you need, like food?) and perks that your hotel offers (does it have food that you like/need or a continental breakfast?). You will find that when you put all of those factors together, instead of just thinking “What’s the cheapest hotel I can find?”, you’ll actually be saving some $$ and TIME!
- Budget for Food - Consider food costs when you are doing your annual conference planning. We’ve talked on the Music Therapy Round Table about setting aside money every month into a conference fund. That way when conference time comes around you’re not feeling the pinch. Add those food costs to your big conference budget.
- Discover where you can cut corners - Keep in mind that some meals are more expensive than others. I always plan on eating lunch and dinner publicly… I mean, with some other conference attendee and usually for networking purposes. The reality is that dinner will most likely be the most expensive, hopefully lunch will be mid-priced and ideally breakfast will be free to <$7 (In my book, at least). This is where the location network is SO IMPORTANT when it comes to being a conference attendee. The thing that was WONDERFUL about last year’s national conference in Atlanta was that we were connected with the food court of a variety of lunch foods of various tastes and prices. But, please don’t be afraid to go outside! The BEST food (in price and taste) is always down the street in a local restaurant.
- Don’t drink so much - What?!?! I know, sad but true, cocktails are expensive. If you substituted a soda or water for just one night you could save some serious scratch.
- Get a fridge/microwave in your hotel room - Some rooms come with them, some don’t. But, if they don’t you can request them from the front desk. Some hotels have a surcharge for this. But, keep in mind that a fridge can hold all your leftovers and other foods I mention in the next bullet point… that could save you some dough.
- Bring food - The conference center has a shuttle van that will take you to downtown St. Charles (based on availability, check with the hotel when you’re ready)… take advantage of this ride and visit the local grocery store. Stock up on bread, peanut butter, jelly, trail mix, nutella, Luna bars (or any other kind of bar that you like), fresh fruit, bagels, cream cheese, cereal, milk, small microwavable meals, coffee creamer, etc, etc. If you have a fridge/microwave in your room you really have a lot of shopping options. You could even bring homemade guacamole! Special thanks to Meryl Brown, Allison O’Mara and Nat Mullis for the food suggestions.
- Groupon / Living Social / Google Searching - Look up different dinner discounts at local restaurants. Last year at the Atlanta conference my husband and I were able to eat an insane dinner at Pitty Pat’s Porch for 50% off thanks to a simple Google search. This place was awesome and we never would have found it on our own. Then, thanks to Twitter, we were able to share that info with some other MT friends who were also looking for a deal.
- Dine with a partner - I don’t mean just going to dinner with friends, I mean share the plate. We are near Chicago, where a slice of deep dish pizza will feed one person. So, share a whole $25, 8 slice deep dish from Gino’s and feed the whole table for roughly $4 per person. I think you can definitely afford a beer with these prices! Also, usually in resort settings their dinner entrees are over sized. So, 2 people may be able to comfortably split an appetizer and dinner entree with satisfaction. Keep in mind that some restaurants charge a plate fee for doing this so ask before you order.
- You CAN have coffee! - I’m not asking you to skimp on this! And I’m not going to suggest that you drink the free coffee from that coffee pot in the hotel room. I think that stuff tastes horrible but choke it down every year anyway because I’m cheap! But you can have great tasting coffee for much cheaper than Starbucks. Get yourself a Bodum 16-Ounce Travel Coffee Press. It’s basically a french press in a travel coffee cup. All you do is add your coffee (which you can easily bring in your suitcase) and hot water (which you can get through either your hotel room coffee pot or hotel room microwave), press and enjoy!