I’ve let many opportunities in life pass me by because I felt like I couldn’t afford to do something. I’ve seen many people do the same thing, most recently about SXSW. This compels me to offer unsolicited advice: Don’t make the same mistake. While this post deals specifically with SXSW, many of these concepts could apply to any of the countless conferences and workshops that happen all over the world, or even just a pleasure trip. Take a look, and let me know what you think. What did I leave out? Hope to see you at SXSWi 2010!
Biggest tip #1: Start early!
Biggest tip #2: Be creative!
Where to lay your head:
- Stay with someone who lives in Austin.
- Find a rental on Craigslist, consider splitting a house with a group of friends.
- Stay in a hostel. Hostelling International Austin seems to have good reviews and is a 5 minute drive to the Convention Center. Beds from: $19.00 a night.
- Check out Couch Surfing or a similar service. A quick search shows about 350 definitely available couches in Austin.
- If you decide on a hotel, get a cheap one and split it if possible. If you going to SXSW hinges on being willing to sleep on a couch or in a double bed for a couple days, definitely choose the double bed. Using SXSW’s tool, you can qualify for some discounts.
- Rent an RV?
- Some suggest staying a little farther away will save big. Since Austin has a good bus system, shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.
How to fund your badge:
- Since SXSW gives no refunds, sometimes people are looking to transfer their badge to others. A quick Twitter and Craislist search pulled results of people wanting to do just that, some even at a discount. I’ve also seen posts on the Facebook SXSW-related fan pages and groups.
- There are many contents and drawings. From Nokia, from Filter Magazine, from Adobe and more.
- Current high school and college students can e-mail SXSW for information on discount rates.
- Some people have tweeted and blogged for help paying for their trip.
- Convince your company to pay for your trip. Check out this How-to.
- Volunteering with SXSW is a great way to get a badge.
- Consider whether taking a train, bus or other form of transportation might work for you. Transporter?
- If you’re not too far and/or have the time, driving might be a good option. Don’t forget to look at carpooling. Try searching Twitter, Google, etc for carpool OR rideshare + SXSW and a major city near you. (Don’t forget to post so others can find you, too.)
- Search for the cheapest airline tickets on comparison sites like Kayak.com. Once you have the flight you want, it’s worth double-checking the airline’s website. Some offer discounts for buying directly through them.
- Keep in mind basic budget-flying rules: go coach, don’t fear connecting flights, book the Red-Eye, and be flexible with dates.
- Watch out for sneaky fees! It seems Southwest and Jet Blue are the only airlines left that don’t charge a ~ $50 per roundtrip checked bag fee.
- Don’t forget to check for discounts based on memberships you have, being in the military, your age, traveling in a group, applying frequent flier miles, or anything else you can think of.
- Taking the shuttle from the Austin Airport to Downtown Austin is only $0.75!
- Airport nourishment is expensive! Bring snacks and a water bottle from home.
- Bring travel-friendly snacks from home like breakfast or protein bars.
- Many parties, lounges, and events will provide free food and drinks.
- If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, a refrigerator or that allows hotplates, use them.
- If you are staying somewhere that provides breakfast or afternoon snacks, use them.
- If it is worth the trouble, Austin restaurants have coupons like everywhere else. You might even want to search out some restaurants near the Convention center and print some out ahead of time or find some while you’re there.
- Most free food is offered at night and dinner is always more expensive than lunch, so eat more earlier in the day.
- Cozying up to people with expense accounts could easily score you a free meal.
- Cheap restaurants that fit the bill found here:
From what I’ve gathered, if you can possibly swing a badge, it’s definitely worth it. However, you’re better off going with no badge than not going at all. Remember, many parties (which are usually corporate sponsored) require a badge, as do all official aspects, like lounges, panels, and sessions. Also, badges have your picture on them, so swapping won’t work (unless you and your identical twin want to split one, but you didn’t hear it from me).
As for music… For about $150, Austin locals (and those with Austin-based friends) can get a Wristband granting them entry into official Music venues with no charge, and with priority over those with no badge or wristband. The Austin Chronicle (free local paper) prints the entire SXSW Music schedule in a really convenient fashion.
Sites I gleaned ideas from: