As students and new professionals, we are among the hardest hit by the expenses associated with attending the SAA Annual Meeting in Washington DC. Some of us are lucky enough to get some organizational support while others of us are left to fend completely for ourselves. The question dealing with why it is so expensive and how we might be able to change that is the topic of a great discussion at Beaver Archivist and two posts at ArchivesNext (here and here). I am working on a post on this topic as well, but for now I thought I would share some tips that may help participants afford the conference. I know this is kind of late but hopefully it can help those that are still finalizing their plans.
The Hotel is the biggest expense of the conference. While the rate of $185 for participants at the conference hotel is a substantial discount from their normal rate of well over $300, in my book it still qualifies as friggin’ expensive and out of the question for many of us. Using Crash Space for Archivists or finding someone to share hotel space with is a great option (sorry for the shameless plug). For others finding much cheaper lodging is both the obvious choice and the clear challenge.
Using sites like Hotwire and Priceline provides a chance to save some serious dough. I used Hotwire for the Midwest Archives Conference and stayed at a hotel for under $90 that was much nicer than the conference hotel, which had a similar rate to SAA’s. If you have never used these sites before, the drawback is that you have to pay your non-refundable rate before you know what hotel you are booking. You choose your hotels using areas of the city and level of hotel (two star, three star, etc.). For Chicago the areas are pretty compact but for DC they are pretty big and odd shaped, especially for the one the conference is located.
There are sites that use the information about each hotel to help you guess which one it might be. For my Chicago trip I used BetterBidding.com and it was right on. Also, if you do end up away from the conference hotel DC does have a great subway system.
Airfare is another expensive piece of the puzzle. Luckily DC has some airport choices. Generally speaking it is cheaper to fly into Baltimore (BWI) than DC. For my flight (from Detroit) a ticket to Baltimore is about 1/3 cheaper than one to either DC airport. BWI also has some good (and cheap) transportation options to DC. I know I plan on taking advantage of this, as well as use it as an opportunity to get some soft-shell crab. Mmmmmm, friend whole crustaceans…
The League of Broke Archivists I have already mentioned that I will have a post later dealing with how SAA may make the conference more affordable. If you have thoughts on that I highly encourage you to go to the links provided in the first paragraph. However, while reading Kate’s first post on this topic and the comments I thought that it might be a good idea to organize a group of people that can band together independent of SAA and create a pool of rooms at a more affordable hotel. I know this idea is too late for this year but I think it might work for the years to come. Do you think people would be interested in partaking in something like this? As you can see, I already have a sweet name for it.
Please leave any other tips you may have for ways to make the conference more affordable, especially if you are from the DC area and have any ideas on where a person may get some affordable eats and drinks. Hopefully in the future we will have more legitimate options allowing more and more of us to attend the conference, and posts like this will not be needed.