At breakfast this morning I read Conference Travel Tips on ShoeMoney. It inspired me to make my own tips (I’ve visited way less conferences than the author of that pots, but quite a few over the last two years in student terms).
So here go some general tips followed by Tech-Ed tips for student delegates.
1. Make the conference fee as cheap as possible.
Try getting academic pricing, try getting some of the fee paid by your University or if you are working – by your employee. Offer in return to present them a summary of the results of the conference. Some conferences may even offer to give even cheaper tickets if you are willing to work a little during the conference. This can range from simple tasks right up to providing your knowledge (if that’s applicable to the conference) at an info booth for example.
2. Book flights early
As soon as you have confirmed the conference fee and you’ve decided to go, book the flight immediately (but read nr. 3 first). The cheapest flights you can get are the earliest and since a lot of people will most probably be visiting that conference with you, the cheap flights will be gone fast. Don’t waste time, book early. I sometimes even book before I have absolute confirmation that I can participate in the conference, if the probability is high. Also try not to fly to the main airports if possible, look for alternatives such as flying to London Stansted rather than Heathrow and then continuing on per train if it’s cheaper.
3. Plan extra time to visit the town/city if you want to
Usually you will not have time to visit the town/city the conference is held in during the conference itself. At the maximum you can visit some things in the evening, but if you really want to experience the surroundings plan in an extra day or two, but remember you will have to add additional costs for food and accommodation.
4. Food and Drinks
Some conferences provide food and beverages. You can take some extra drinks from the conference to the place your staying which saves money. If you want to save even more, try to fill you stomach with the last set of snacks available before the conference day ends. If you and your stomach can live with that, you won’t have to spend any money on evening food. (Some conferences also have evening events, so beware not to fill-up with snacks on these days, because the food at the events is usually better.)
If they don’t provide any food at all, then you are best off doing it like the locals and going to the supermarket first thing when you arrive and fill up with stuff there. If you take it to the maximum, you could even make yourself some sandwiches and eat them hidden away in the closet. No be proud that you are a money saving student and it’s certainly a great way to start networking.
Go cheap as you have to, but not any further. I’ve had shady hotels at conferences and especially if you are traveling with expensive stuff like a notebook you want to be sure that it’s safe in your room. For students hostels are the cheapest way and if you find one that provides an in-room lockable locker (or at least a safe at the reception) then that should be fine. You’ll certainly make new (good and bad) friends in a 4 bed shared room.
If you are lucky to have friends or relatives nearby you can always ask them for a room to stay. I personally haven’t tried the new hype of couch surfing, so I can’t say much about it, but I may try it one day.
As to where in the city you should book, I can only say that the further away you are from the main venue the cheaper it gets. Check the public transport lines and choose a hotel near to the metro or bus line that you need and you will be ok.
One important word of warning, always check that the reception is open 24h a day. At conferences (especially those with evening events) you just don’t know when you will be back home. You could always take the key if that’s possible, but a rather more important reason for 24h reception is your flight back. You will soon find out that the cheapest flights are those early in the morning. They leave at 06:00 for example, meaning you need to be at the airport at 05:00 and if you need to travel to the airport you will need to add extra time between 1 and 3 hours. Sum it up and you may be leaving the hotel at around 03:00 in the night. But to check-out you will need the reception… Get it?
6. Getting around
Check what the cheapest recommended form of transport is in the city that you will be staying in. Some conference provide travel passes for the duration, but you will still need some extra travel, so find out about that before hand. You don’t want to explain to the foreign guy at the ticket counter what you need.
If you are leaving at night (see 5) then remember to check the availability of public transport to the airport at night. It may cost extra, it may take longer than daytime travel,…
Tech-Ed Tips for Barcelona
Students going to Tech-Ed can usually get academic tickets. They are cheaper. If you are a Microsoft Student Partner ask your ADE if there are even cheaper tickets and ask what you have to do to get one.
When flying to Barcelona the main airport is probably the destination you want to go to. I haven’t experienced that much price difference between the one in the south (the main one) and the northern one. Austria students can buy the Austria Airlines red-ticket in advance and the return flight will cost them a total of about 150 Euros.
Food in Barcelona is expensive. Of course the international brands (M..D….s, B….K…g and S..rB….s) are there as well and cost about the same, but here are two recommendations:
Restaurante 101, Nou de la Rambla, 101: A good three dish menu costs 7,50 EUR. It’s small and cosy. One of the waitresses speaks at least 5 languages!
Les Quinze Nits, Placa Reial, 6: A little more expensive than the above (but not much). Great view over Placa Reial where with a little fountain in the middle. Great eating when the sun is shining.
I have tried three hotels in Barcelona and if you speak at least a bit of Spanish (I don’t but still managed to get my way through) I would suggest Hotel Lyon, near metro station Barcelonetta. Friendly atmosphere, fairly cheap but clean rooms. A bit loud currently due to the building site at Franco station, but the perfect distance to the city center. (For Tech-Ed the metro line that passed through Barcelonetta is the same as for Tech-Ed so that’s great.)