— Samantha Sunne (@SamanthaSunne) June 20, 2012
By Samantha Sunne
Attending six conferences in three years - mostly as a student - I’ve made something of a tradition of going to IRE conferences on the cheap. There are four components to the cost of a conference, and each can be stripped down as far as you and your comfort level are willing to go. My personal record is $28 for all four components (Boston, IRE, 2012).
1. Travel: Philadelphia makes an easy trip for those of us on the East Coast: Megabus, BoltBus, Peter Pan, Greyhound and YO Bus (the infamous "Chinatown bus") all offer service from New York, Boston and DC for under $10. Some even offer $1 bus rides, which is how I booked my IRE15 travel for six bucks roundtrip. Amtrak offers more comfort and reliability, but why pay $100 for Wifi that works when you could just listen to the entire backlog of IRE podcasts? If you're stuck flying in, I’d recommend search engines like STA Travel, StudentUniverse, Spirit Airlines and Kayak.
— Samantha Sunne (@SamanthaSunne) April 8, 2015
2. Housing: Here's where I start to betray my own stingy principles, because staying in the conference Marriott may actually be worth the cringe-inducing cost. You’re never far from the action and you can go pass out whenever you need, which will probably be more often than you expect. You can double-, triple- or quadruple-up on roommates. Searching "hotel" on Google maps or using sites like Hotels.com will give you cheaper alternatives within a few city blocks. An even better option is hostels. For those who never backpacked in their college days, a hostel is basically a hotel with zero frills, such as free towels or shampoo. I once split a perfectly nice hostel room with another attendee for about $20/night.
3. Registration: This one is surprisingly negotiable, if you’re willing to hustle. Ask your school or internship or job if they’ll foot the bill - surprisingly often, they will. The deadline for this year has already passed, but IRE and other orgs offer scholarships for every conference. Professional members can still shave $30 off their registration by signing up by May 8. Recent college grads can also keep their student membership - and sign up at the discounted student rate - for up to three years. I’m pretty sure IRE has funded, waived or subsidized every conference I’ve been to. They’re pretty incredible like that.
4. Food and drinks: Here, you're going to have a seesaw between saving money and networking. Almost everyone will be going out for lunch, dinner or drinks, and you've just got to decide which ones you're willing to pay for. Go to ALL the conference’s free food things, especially the mentorship breakfast, and sneak away with danishes for the afternoon. If you bring your own food, you can eat in the lobby and still hang out with people. Another pro tip: when you end up at the hotel bar, strike up a conversation before heading to the bar - if you're young or a student, they'll often offer to buy you a drink. Feel free to repeat this technique as needed.
And one more idea: if you’re not attending but are in town, please follow the hashtag and come hang out at the bar. It’ll be fun, I swear.
Samantha Sunne is a reporter on the data team at Reuters.