#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Sensual Bachata DC Fest / Classé Dance Company 3rd Anniversary

[Disclosure: At the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Classé Dance Company aside from being a sometime student of their classes and Linda being a friend of mine and one of my favorite dance instructors. I have not been hired to promote this event at the time of this writing nor have I been hired by or am affiliated with any of the other businesses whose services I describe, and everything I am writing is my objective opinion and advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

[UPDATE 8/31/19 – Sensual Bachata DC Fest is reportedly being moved to a new venue.  We will update as soon as announced]

If the legendary Ferocity Dance Company is considered by many to be the Harvard of sensual bachata in the mid-Atlantic region, upstart newcomer Classé Dance Company is poised to quickly become the Yale of sensual bachata in the mid-Atlantic if it has not already.

Classé Dance Company was started by salsa/bachata instructor Linda Saenz in the fall of 2016. The new company quickly gained a good reputation for its fast-paced but comprehensive weekly bachata and salsa classes and outstanding performance teams. Highlights over the next few years include Linda winning best female dance instructor at the DCBX Excellence Awards in 2017 and becoming a Korke & Judith-certified sensual bachata instructor in 2018 after extensive training in Spain with the aforementioned creators of sensual bachata. In addition to teaching regular group classes in both Virginia and Maryland, Linda still directs several bachata performance teams, including the DC chapter of the Korke & Judith World Team Project.

Classé Dance Company celebrates its third anniversary from September 6th to September 8th, 2019. Unlike Classé’s previous two anniversary celebrations, which took place over one day, Classé’s 3rd anniversary has been extended to a full weekend event, officially re-christened Sensual Bachata DC Fest. At Sensual Bachata DC Fest, Classé Dance Company’s third anniversary will be celebrated in style with three nights of socials and workshops from not only Linda Saenz herself, but international bachata couples Kiko and Christina, Marco & Sara, Truji and Gloria, as well as worldwide sensual bachata ambassadors Kike and Nahir and sensual bachata creator Korke.

It all goes down at the Washington Dulles Airport Marriott (45020 Aviation Dr, Dulles, VA 20166) right next to Dulles Airport about an hour northwest of Washington DC. You may recognize the Dulles Marriott as the 2019 location of the Zouk Heat Festival. Zouk Heat has since moved to the BWI Airport Marriott, and I have written a whole new guide for that festival’s new location, but I was happy to pull my old Zouk Heat guide out of the archives and repurpose it for Sensual Bachata DC Fest.

PASS:

For those who didn’t get the $99 early bird pass last year, which I will assume is most of you, a full pass is still relatively inexpensive for an event of this caliber now, going for about $130. Performer’s passes go for $99 and one-night social-only passes are $40 per night.

LODGING:

There currently is a room block available until August 17th at a cost of $109 per night. A four-person room-share will cost the budget-minded about $30-35 per night with taxes included. For those who miss the room block, rooms at the Dulles Marriott can still be had for a relatively low price, especially for members of Marriott’s all-new Bonvoy rewards program, a merger of the old Marriott Rewards program, Starwood Preferred Group, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. Bonvoy members whose names are on the room folio can also get 500 extra points per night on top of the points already awarded for the stay for refusing room service for up to 3 nights for a maximum of 1500 extra points; inquire about this program at the front desk. Additionally, roll-away beds are available at an extra cost of $25 per room – no one sleeps on the floor at the Dulles Marriott!

If you do the offsite congress grind regularly, take a break from it at this festival and get yourself an affordable room right in the center of the action at the event hotel.

The Dulles Marriot’s array of luxurious amenities include an airport shuttle with an up-to-the-minute tracker, a fitness center, a pool, complimentary standard WiFi or two different tiers of high-speed WiFi for $12.95 and $15.95 per day (obligatory PSA: always use a VPN on hotel WiFi or any other public WiFi to protect your personal data from hackers), breakfast buffets ($15-20 on average), tennis courts, and on-site coin-op laundry room, valet dry cleaning, bottled water, and individual climate control, among others.

Fair warning: the Dulles Marriott’s onsite laundry room consists of exactly one washer and one dryer for the entire hotel that are both in constant use throughout the day and night. I would highly recommend not counting on the onsite laundry being available. If needed, the Sterling Herndon Laundromat is located about 9 minutes away from the Dulles Marriott at 23070 Oakgrove Rd, Sterling, VA 20166, and has a star rating of 4.3 on Google as well as positive reviews.

As per usual, I won’t be discussing any other lodging options unless the Dulles Marriott fully sells out. You’re on your own if it’s offsite options you seek.

TRAVEL:

The entire DC/Baltimore area, including the areas around BWI and Dulles Airport, are all supported by Citymapper by way of their DC/Baltimore package at the time of this writing.

UberPool and Shared Lyft are both supported in the entire DC area including the area around Dulles Airport, but are not supported in the Baltimore area including the area around BWI Airport.

At the time of this writing, Via is supported within the DC city limits, Arlington, and Alexandria, but is not currently supported in the area around Dulles Airport or anywhere in the state of Maryland including the Baltimore area and the BWI area.

DC/BALTIMORE TRAIN AND METRO INFO:

Since the DC Metro system did away with paper farecards a while back, a SmarTrip card will be essential for paying the fares on the Metro system. A SmarTrip card costs $10 for the initial purchase but can be refilled as many times as you want at designated SmarTrip kiosks located at any Metro station, but prepare for this initial expense. Try and keep your SmarTrip card if you plan on visiting DC again in the future.

Information on the MARC trains from the Baltimore area can be found here.

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here.

A map of the DC Metro system can be found here.

DRIVING:

Driving or ride-sharing is the preferred option if possible for this hotel as there is abundant free parking around the hotel. Be advised that the fastest road to Dulles from DC and points east is a toll road, charging anywhere from $2.50 for a 2-axel vehicle up to $8.75 for a 6+-axel vehicle in tolls to go from the DC area to Dulles, but if you have some extra time to spare and set your GPS to avoid toll roads, you can get around the toll road by using parallel local roads instead. Prepare to add an extra 30-65 minutes on average to your trip if you go this route.

FLYING:

This goes without saying, but try to fly into Dulles International Airport (IAD) if you can. The hotel is located right next to Dulles Airport and has a free shuttle going there, and the other two airports are too far away from this particular venue to be practical.

IAD is also at the time of this writing the only airport to not be served directly by a DC Metro station.

Any money you may save by taking Spirit or any other airline to BWI or DCA will be offset at least somewhat by the cost of transporting yourself there, particularly from BWI.

Once you land at IAD, the Dulles Marriott has a free shuttle that will transport you from the airport to the hotel.

FROM DCA:

From DCA, take the DC Metro blue line (make sure you are on a blue line train as the yellow line will add extra time and transfers) toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, then transfer to the Silver line toward Wiehle-Reston East and take an UBER to the Dulles Marriott from there.

FROM BWI:

If you must come from BWI, try to get there during the day so you can take the MARC train to Union Station. Once at Union Station, take the Metro red line toward Shady Grove to Metro Center, then transfer to the Silver line toward Wiehle-Reston East and take an UBER to the Dulles Marriott from there.

BUS/TRAIN:

Take any bus or train line to Union Station in DC and follow the above Metro directions for BWI from there.

FOOD:

There are some food options close by and others within a reasonable driving distance.

For your frugal grocery shopping, Walmart Supercenter is located about 15 minutes up route 28, at 45415 Dulles Crossing Plaza. A Giant (1228 Elden Street, Herndon, VA), Harris Teeter (12960 Highland Crossing Dr, Herndon), and Safeway (413 Elden St, Herndon) are all located within a 15 minute drive of the hotel.

Whole Foods is located about 20 minutes east (no tolls but the toll road is faster) at 11660 Plaza America Dr, Reston, VA.

Most of your immediate food options for your daily meal out are located in the airport, and include a Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Smashburger, District Chophouse, Wendy’s, Au Bon Pain, Bar Symon, Pei Wei (Chinese), Chef Geoff’s, and two different Subways.

A 15 minute or so drive into the nearby town of Reston, VA yields several other options, including Pollo Peru, a casual Peruvian-style chicken place (1675 Reston Parkway), Hibiscus Thai Cuisine, a Thai eatery (11790 Baron Cameron Avenue), and a Silver Diner (11951 Killingsworth Avenue). Also to be found in Reston is Midtown Kabob (11990 Explorer Street), Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive), Big Bowl (11915 Democracy Drive), and sweetgreen (11935 Democracy Drive), among others.

Parking is a little tighter at Reston Town Center, but there are several parking garages located directly nearby that are all free after 5pm on Friday and all weekend. Info here: https://restontowncenter.com/parking/parking-rates/

That’s all for this entry. Hit the comments if you got anything to add and I’ll see you all at the Dulles Marriott in September!

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#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Send In The Quest Bar Clones

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For my very first #FrugalCongressFood profile, I covered Quest bars, those portable, shelf-stable, and ever-reliable flavored chunks of protein, soluble fiber, and sugar-free sweeteners that have been the food source powering many dance congresses as well as, frequently, day-to-day life in general for me. Quest bars accomplish this while being free of the carbs, sugar, and low-grade soy protein present in many of the candy bars masquerading as protein bars that defined the protein bar landscape before Quest Nutrition came on the scene in 2010.

Indeed, Quest bars remain to this day the gold standard for low-carb low-sugar high-protein bars, with delicious new flavors such as birthday cake, chocolate hazelnut, mint chocolate chunk, and chocolate sprinkled donut (my new favorite Quest bar flavor btw) being introduced in just the short period of time since I wrote the above linked article and the time I wrote the first draft of this one in May of 2019. Undoubtedly at least one or two new flavors will have come out between then and press time. Quest Nutrition has also expanded their food offerings into low-carb high-protein chips, cookies and even pizza, which are all also quite good.

However, a bevy of clones are now vying for a place in the low-carb high-protein portable food arena alongside Quest’s offerings, and that is what we are covering in today’s article.

We will start with the budget alternative: Wal-Mart’s Equate brand. The Equate line covers a wide variety of adult nutrition products including protein bars, protein powder, and protein cookies. The bars are slightly less expensive at Wal-Mart than Quest’s offerings ($5 for a 4-pack vs. $7 for a 4-pack of Quest bars).

Equate’s protein bars are a functional alternative to Quest bars with much the same consistency and the same protein content. Taste wise, they are much blander and less flavorful than Quest’s offerings, but they use a blend of whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, pea protein, and rice protein as a contrast to Quest’s use of only whey protein isolate. Equate’s cookies, by contrast, are sweet and flavorful, but only pack 10 grams of protein to the bars’ 20, and the cookies have higher net carbs so be mindful of this when using them to hit any daily protein numbers you may have.

Switching to the higher end of the Quest clones, ONE is a new direct Quest competitor who has come onto the scene in recent years. ONE’s bars are available at Wal-Mart, Target, 7-Eleven, CVS, Safeway, Harris Teeter, and GNC for roughly the equivalent cost to Quest bars at each location. Unlike the chewy consistency of Quest and Equate bars, ONE’s bars are glazed and have a very different taste and feel from Quest bars. Still, they have roughly the same calories, protein, sugar, net carbs, and fiber as their Quest counterparts.

ONE bars come in several delicious flavors, including birthday cake, peanut butter cup, dark chocolate sea salt, maple glazed doughnut, cookie dough, blueberry cobbler, and, my personal favorite, almond bliss (which is basically a low-carb low-sugar high-protein Almond Joy bar for those who are fans of that).

Protein powder mega-players Optimum Nutrition have also thrown their hats in the low-carb low-sugar high-protein snack food ring in recent years with a diverse array of products including cake bites, protein almonds, and crispy treats, all packing the same nutritionally sound numbers as the other brands and Optimum Nutrition’s tried-and-true whey protein as their basis.

The crispy treats, available in salted toffee pretzel, vanilla marshmallow, and peanut butter crunch, are basically nutritious Rice Krispie Treats packing 20 grams of protein and only 3 grams of sugar per bar. They do contain 22-24 grams of carbs per bar, which is a bit on the high side for those on low-carb diets.

ON’s cake bites are pleasantly flavored, but the downside with them is that the different flavors of their cake bite offerings kind of taste the same to me. I’m not sure how it’s possible for birthday cake, chocolate cherry, and red velvet to taste the same, but they do. Still, the flavor is pleasant and satisfying, and ON’s cake bites are about as nutritionally sound as cake bites can be.

The almonds are delicious, and the extra fat from the almonds is beneficial in filling you up, but they only pack 10 grams of protein per bag, so be mindful of that as well.

Optimum Nutrition also offers high protein chips, wafers, energy chews, and even protein water via their website.

As I stated in my previous Quest bar profile, what essentially amounts to healthy high-protein candy should NOT form the entire basis of your diet, at dance congresses or anywhere else. But these Quest clones, alongside Quest bars in order to add some new flavors and textures, and alongside other portable shelf-stable nutritional staples such as almonds, jerky, and fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches, could be a part of the reasonably balanced dance congress diet needed to power you through your weekend! I hope this helped somebody and as always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions.

#FrugalCongressFood Profile: Rapidfire Ketogenic Coffee

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For this, the first #FrugalCongressFood profile in quite some time, we will return to the well of ketogenic coffee to cover a new emerging alternative to Bulletproof Coffee – Rapidfire Ketogenic Coffee!

Unlike Bulletproof Coffee, which is available either as coffee grounds and other standalone ingredients, or pre-made cold brew Tetrapaks, Rapidfire is sold in convenient instant powder form in a small low-profile bag that can easily be tucked into a backpack, suitcase, or even your pocket.

Rapidfire is available on Amazon for $15 or in person at most GNC or Harris Teeter locations for $20 per bag and certain Walmart locations for $14 per bag or canister (although the canisters do not have the advantage of a low profile that the bags do). Each bag makes approximately 10-15 servings depending on how much you use, effectively making each serving of Rapidfire about $1-1.25 per serving. Depending on what you mix the powder with, you’ll effectively pay about $2-4 per cup or bottle – not bad!

The powder is a shelf-stable mix of instant coffee, grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and Himalayan salt that can be mixed into any hot or cold beverage, including hot coffee, hot water, iced or cold brew coffee, protein shakes, or even fruit smoothies (if you don’t mind adding coffee flavor to your fruit smoothie of course).

My personal preferred use of Rapidfire at work, where I use it almost daily, has been to mix a measured amount of the powder into the hot coffee offered at my job along with a scoop of collagen powder, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and some stevia and consume one cup of this mixture. On the go, I mix a measured amount of the powder into a bottled cold brew coffee beverage such as any offering from Starbucks or Dunkin’ once in the morning. I notice heightened levels of focus, alertness, energy, and attention on par with what I experience after drinking Bulletproof Coffee for several hours following consumption.

I first tried Rapidfire at the Sensual City Bootcamp in Philadelphia last February when I couldn’t get to Whole Foods for my customary Bulletproof coffee due to my schedule, and bought instead a bag of Rapidfire to try out at the 30th Street Station GNC. I found it more than capable of powering me through an intense weekend of continuous dance training, and I have also used it to help with alertness and focus in workshops at a few different congress since then with much success.

Here’s one caveat: even if you have used Bulletproof or other types of ketogenic coffee before, plan to be near a bathroom the first time you consume Rapidfire, as it takes the digestive system some getting used to, and causes minor gastrointestinal distress until then (which is common with MCT oil-based products). Sorry – that is really the classiest way I can convey this idea. Thankfully my first consumption of this product was in the morning in my hotel room well before leaving for the day. Once you have consumed it once and your body is used to it, it should not cause any further gastrointestinal distress. Don’t let this discourage you – MCT oil based products such as ketogenic coffee have multiple other health benefits and are otherwise safe to consume.

Overall, I find Rapidfire to be a very satisfactory alternative to Bulletproof that has the benefit of being less expensive, more convenient, and more portable. As always, hit the comments if you have any suggestions and I hope this helped someone.

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Interfusion Festival

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Interfusion Festival other than being a loyal attendee and Christian being a personal friend of mine. I have not been hired by Interfusion Festival to promote that organization in any way, and everything you read is my objective advice. As of the time of this writing, I am not affiliated with nor have been hired by any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For this #FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide, it is my pleasure to cover the one and only Interfusion Festival, a unique, enigmatic, and surely soon to be legendary (if it is not already) dance and healing movement festival that is like no other in the US.

Interfusion Festival offers an unparalleled mix of African and Latin dance workshops (including bachata, zouk, tango, and kizomba), pole dance workshops, and a wide variety of spiritual and healing workshops including such topics as meditation, essential oils, daily self-care, Thai massage, intimacy and sexuality, tantra, yoga, and acroyoga, as well as daytime acroyoga jams and nighttime dance socials for bachata, zouk, ecstatic dance, kizomba, and EDM.

Festival creators Christian Rodriguez and Umka Pele started Interfusion Festival as a small two-day local studio festival with the purpose of bringing together dance, spiritual, and healing movement topics that were of interest to them in early 2016, and the very first Interfusion Festival was held over two days at the Dance Loft On 14 Studio in Washington, DC on August 6th and August 7th, 2016.

Interest in the festival grew rapidly from there and Interfusion Festival quickly expanded into a full weekend festival and moved in the winter of 2017 to the legendary event-tested Westin Alexandria hotel, also the site at the time of DC’s long-running Capital Congress. This new incarnation of the Interfusion Festival, called Interfusion Festival: Unleash Your Dreams, was a full three-day festival at the hotel that happened on February 10th-12th, 2017, and offered the eclectic mix of dance and spiritual workshops and night parties for which Interfusion is now well known. A second fall edition of the festival, dubbed Interfusion Festival: Awakening, happened at the Westin utilizing the same format as the previous winter’s festival on Labor Day weekend in the fall of 2017.

After Interfusion Festival: Awakening, Umka Pele amicably stepped down from the festival’s operations and the festival went on hiatus for over a full year before returning successfully to the Westin Alexandria on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in January 2019 for Interfusion Festival: Rebirth.

Interfusion Festival will return once again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in 2020 for Interfusion Festival: Evolution.

Part of Interfusion’s evolution in 2020 is a new, bigger, more accessible hotel. While we here at #FrugalCongressLife are sad to see the festival leave its longtime location at the Westin Alexandria, as the Westin’s wellness theme and spiritually inspired design elements complemented the spirit of the festival perfectly, I remember commenting to my roommates at the 2019 festival how quickly the festival was growing and that it would soon outgrow the Westin. This move to a bigger and more convenient and central location is ultimately best for the festival’s continued growth and development.

Starting in 2020, Interfusion Festival will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, located at 1700 Richmond Highway (formerly Jefferson Davis Highway) in downtown Crystal City, VA, hereafter referred to as the CGM. Billed as an urban oasis getaway near the city, this hotel is simultaneously visually stunning, enormous in size, packed with luxurious amenities, and conveniently located near Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), as well as the Washington DC Metro system and the hustle and bustle of downtown Crystal City, soon to be the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. The Crystal Gateway Marriott, a newcomer to the Afro-Latin scene as well as the healing movement sphere, but already event-tested by large-scale dance events in the Lindy Hop world, is well equipped and ready to handle Interfusion Festival as it continues to grow.

As our above linked multi-congress hotel guide for the Westin Alexandria now no longer applies to Interfusion Festival, this inimitable dance and healing arts festival gets its own survival guide today!

PASS:

Tier 1 full passes to Interfusion Festival: Evolution are available now for $150 at InterfusionFestival.com. A group rate of four full passes for $140 per pass is also available. Prices for a full pass will go up to as high as $350 for one pass in the weeks before the festival… buy today!

TRAVEL:

The entire DC area, including Crystal City and all major DC-area airports including BWI, is supported by Citymapper at the time of this writing.

The DC area is supported by all of UBER and Lyft’s shared/pool options, but the BWI/Baltimore area is not, so keep that in mind if coming from BWI. Via is available in the DC city limits, Arlington (including Crystal City) and, as of June 2019, Alexandria. Via is not available anywhere in Maryland, including the BWI area.

BUS/TRAIN:

Take any bus/train line into Union Station in Washington, DC. From there, get on the DC Metro red line toward Shady Grove, and transfer at Gallery Place-Chinatown to the yellow line toward Huntington. Take the yellow line to Crystal City, and there will be an underground tunnel connecting the Crystal City metro station directly to the CGM. Expect the Metro ride to cost about $4 one way.

UBER or Lyft will be about a 20-30 minute ride from Union Station to the CGM at a cost of about $15-20 one way for those who will have too much luggage for the metro or prefer the convenience.

DC TRAIN AND METRO INFO:

Since the DC Metro system did away with paper farecards a while back, a SmarTrip card will be essential for paying the fares on the Metro system and parking at Metro lots (see below). A SmarTrip card costs $10 for the initial purchase but can be refilled as many times as you want at designated SmarTrip kiosks located at any Metro station, but prepare for this initial expense. Try and keep your SmarTrip card if you plan on visiting DC again in the future.

Information on the MARC trains can be found here.

Information on the DC Metro system can be found here.

A map of the DC Metro system can be found here.

FLYING:

Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) is the recommended airport for anyone flying to the new Interfusion location. The CGM is located minutes from DCA and a complimentary shuttle for the hotel goes back and forth from the hotel to DCA on call day and night.

If you are flying Spirit or need to fly into BWI for any other reason, try to arrive early in the day while the MARC train is running. Take the MARC to Union Station and follow the bus/train directions from there.

If you are coming from IAD, take an UBER or Lyft to the Wiehle-Reston East metro stop and from there, take the silver line toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, transfer to the blue line toward Franconia-Springfield, and take the blue line to Crystal City, where an underground tunnel at the station directly serves the CGM.

CAR:

One thing to keep in mind if driving to this festival is to account for the DC area’s infamous rush-hour traffic in your travel times. The DC area ties with the Los Angeles area for the worst rush-hour traffic in the US in various surveys, and can add as much as an extra two hours to your travel time on the DC area’s major highways from 6am-11am, 12pm-1pm, and 2pm-9pm on weekdays. I wish I was kidding but this is the DC area’s actual average rush hour timeframe on any given weekday.

Nonetheless, using the major highways to get to Crystal City (located in Virginia about 10 minutes south of DC) is recommended for those coming from out of town, as the streets within Washington, DC’s city proper, designed by Pierre L’Enfant in the 1700s to confuse and deter invading armies, are very confusing and difficult to navigate for anyone unfamiliar with the area, even with today’s GPS apps (although those apps certainly help).

Parking is available at the hotel for $39 per day, but our recommended frugal overnight parking option is to park in DCA’s economy lot for $17 per day and take an UBER or the free airport shuttle to the CGM.

There is an uncovered 24/7 surface lot run by Colonial Parking at 2000 S Eads Street about a 10 minute walk from the CGM that is a good option for locals commuting to and from the festival and may work for overnight parking with some due diligence (and sacrificing some sleep). This lot costs $12 per day on weekdays ($8 after 5pm) and a flat rate of $8 on weekends. Payment for this lot is handled by purchasing a ticket at an automated pay station which you display on your dashboard. If you use this option for overnight parking, you must be diligent about going back to the pay station to re-up as required (every 8 hours if I recall) or risk being ticketed or towed. Mobile parking apps such as MobileNow and ParkMobile are not supported by this lot at press time, but this may change. All the inherent risks of parking in an uncovered, unsecured public lot apply to this lot as well. Still, it is the cheapest parking option nearby. Be warned that some Google reviewers complain of being ticketed at this lot despite paying the fees, but I have used this lot a couple times myself with no issue.

The absolute cheapest overnight parking option, if you can find parking there and have a small enough amount of luggage to make this work, is to park at one of the Metro lots with overnight parking and take Metro to the CGM. Overnight parking is available at four area Metro stations: Greenbelt (green line), Wiehle-Reston East (silver line), Huntington (yellow line), and Franconia-Springfield (blue line). Each of these stations have 15-17 parking spaces allotted for overnight parking for up to 10 days available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Parking is $4.75 per day on weekdays and free on weekends and is charged to your SmarTrip card on exit.

Expect this option to add considerable travel time. Huntington and Franconia-Springfield are the closest Metro stations to this lot with overnight parking; Greenbelt and Wiehle-Reston are located on opposite ends of the Metro and will add about 30 minutes of travel time to your trip if you park there.

DIRECTIONS TO THE HOTEL FROM METRO LOTS:

From Franconia-Springfield/Huntington: blue/yellow line toward Largo/Fort Totten to Crystal City

From Greenbelt: green line to Branch Avenue, transfer to yellow line toward Huntington at L’Enfant Plaza and take yellow line to Crystal City

From Wiehle-Reston East: silver line toward Largo Town Center to Rosslyn, transfer to the blue line toward Franconia-Springfield, and take the blue line to Crystal City

LODGING:

You already know, the event hotel is where it’s at.

Interfusion’s organizers have a large room block reserved at the CGM starting at $117/night for a standard room, a jaw-droppingly incredible deal for a hotel of this caliber in a location like this. With taxes you’ll pay about $35 per night for a four-person roomshare in a standard room. No word on whether suites and M-Club Lounge rooms (see below) are part of the room block at this time.

Book your room here or call the CGM directly at (703) 920-3230 and mention the Interfusion group rate.

The CGM’s amenities include, but are not limited to, modern rooms featuring modular furniture and abundant natural light, a fitness center with on-demand digital classes, PURE allergy-friendly rooms, and spectacular views of the city.

Rooms offering access to the exclusive M-Club Lounge are available for an extra fee, or free for Platinum-level Marriott Bonvoy members. The M-Club Lounge offers a breakfast buffet, 24 hour access to snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, free premium Wi-Fi, a hydration station offering flavored water, a single-brew coffee machine, evening hors d’oeuvres dinner service, and a concierge on duty.

There are several other hotels around the area, but most of them are much more expensive than the group rate at the CGM, and you already know, I don’t talk about alternate lodging publicly unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I will detail alternate lodging options in a separate temporary post if the hotel completely sells out and no overflow block is available.

FOOD:

The M-Club Lounge access, detailed above, may be worth purchasing for the breakfast buffet (especially for the early risers and party-to-breakfast crowd), the snacks, and the hor d’oeuvres service.

The in-hotel restaurant, 15th & Eads, offers farm-to-table cuisine in a modern space.

For your grocery shopping needs, the nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter is located about a 23 minute drive from the CGM at 6303 Richmond Highway in Alexandria. Target is considerably closer, located right in Crystal City about an 8 minute drive away at 3101 Richmond Highway. Both Wal-Mart and Target have abundant lot parking nearby. In the case of this festival, whatever you save going to Wal-Mart may be spent on the extra cost of transporting yourself there. A Whole Foods is also located about a 15 minute walk from the CGM at 520 12th St S, suite 100.

The same Metro tunnel connecting the Crystal City Metro station to the CGM also connects the Metro station directly to the Crystal City Shops mall, which features Dunkin’ Donuts, Perfect Pita, Sushi Garden, Lily Bubble Tea and Smoothie, Subway, San Antonio Bar & Grill, Schakolad Chocolate Factory, and Atia Kabob Place. The CC Shops also features a Dollar Plus, where some additional frugal shopping may be done.

Jumping on the Metro and going one stop over to the Pentagon City stop will take you to Fashion Center at Pentagon City, where you can find Extreme Pizza, California Pizza, Shake Shack, Panera Bread, Matchbox Pizza, Sine Irish Pub, Lebanese Taverna, and Bonefish Grill.

Rite Aid can also be found at both the CC Shops and Fashion Center at Pentagon City.

Located about an 8 minute walk south of the CGM behind Crystal Plaza apartments is another mall featuring McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks, Cosi, Chick-Fil-A, Plaza Gourmet, Sweetgreen, Deli Works, Kora, Jaleo, Chipotle, and Starbucks among others. Right next to that mall is Bar Louie, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, Jimmy John’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruth’s Chris, Legal Sea Foods, Pizza Autentica, and Cafe 59.

One other noteworthy dining establishment located about a 9 minute walk or 2 minute drive south of the CGM at 539 23rd St. S is Bob & Edith’s Diner, the Crystal City location of a well-known and highly respected regional chain of diners in Northern Virginia. The food here is excellent and reasonably priced and they are open 24 hours a day.

One notable restaurant at Reagan National Airport, for those who are flying, is a franchise chain outpost of famed DC institution Ben’s Chili Bowl, although I’m sure as a DC-area native that this airport chain is at most a respectable imitation of the U Street original. Still, even a respectable imitation of this legendary restaurant is well worth checking out.

CONCLUSION

The Interfusion Festival is truly a unique and magical experience. The festival’s calming, spiritual atmosphere is good for the soul of any dancer, yogi, acroyogi, or anyone else interested in healing movement. I look forward to witnessing its growth in its new location. For anyone going in 2020, I will see you there!

#FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide: Future Zouk Chicago Congress

[DISCLOSURE: As of the time of this writing, I have no direct affiliation with Future Zouk Chicago Congress other than being an attendee and have not been hired to promote Future Zouk Chicago Congress in any way. As of the time of this writing, I am not affiliated with nor have been hired by any other companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding both the festival and the above companies is my objective advice and is presented as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

For today’s #FrugalCongressLife Survival Guide, we’re going back to Chicago to cover the Future Zouk Chicago Congress, a brand new Brazilian Zouk festival happening the third weekend of July at Dance Center Chicago, hereafter referred to as DCC. Those who attended the Chicago edition of this past year’s DCBX Ultimate Tropical New Year’s Eve will recognize DCC as the host venue for that event. Along the same lines, anyone who read my DCBX Tropical New Year’s Eve guide will notice large sections lifted from the Chicago section of that guide. Although the venue is the same, the circumstances of this congress (not on New Years Eve) warrant a new updated guide rather than me just pointing attendees to the NYE guide, and hey, any opportunity to repurpose old content into something new is fine by me.

Future Zouk features a comprehensive educational program for both zouk and sensual bachata with beginner tracks for both dances, classes for DJing and production, and multiple master classes and choreo challenges for advanced dancers. Parties happen each night in a zouk ballroom, a bachata ballroom, and a turn-up/chillout ballroom.

Confirmed artists for zouk include Paulo Victor and Luisa Teston, Clinton and Cristi, Sydney Charisse and Carvalho Gabriel, Brad Meccia, and Crystal Bedford.

Confirmed artists for sensual bachata include Jose Serrano and Mayah Sandock, John Manego and Shiloh Cardenas, Angel Cruz and Megan Hutsell, and Dore Kalmar. Confirmed DJs include Alex Bousgas, Jessica Jamilla, DJ Web, and Just Jacob.

Without further ado, here is the 411 on how to navigate this congress with ease.

TRAVEL:

FLYING:

You can either go to O’Hare or Midway for this congress. If you are taking Spirit, you will fly into O’Hare.

DIRECTIONS FROM O’HARE:

Take the blue line towards Forest Park to the Montrose stop. From there take the 80 bus toward Broadway to Irving Park and Damen/Lincoln and DCC is a three minute walk south on N Lincoln Avenue from there.

DIRECTIONS FROM MIDWAY:

Take the orange line north to the Harold Washington Library-State stop and transfer to the brown line north. Take the brown line to the Addison stop. From there, DCC is approximately a six minute walk north on N Lincoln Avenue.

TRAIN:

DCC is about a 40 minute trip from Chicago Union Station on the brown line. Head east on W Adams Street toward S Wells Street, make a right on S Wells Street and get on the brown line toward Kimball at the Quincy stop. Take the brown line to Addison and DCC is a 7 minute walk northwest on N Lincoln Avenue up.

BUS:

Take Megabus to W Polk Street between S Clinton Street and S Canal Street. Walk west on W Polk Street toward S Clinton Street and make a right on S Clinton Street. Take the Blue line to O’Hare from the Clinton Stop to Clark/Lake and get on the brown line toward Kimball and follow the train directions from there.

Information on all train lines and the 80 bus here: http://www.transitchicago.com/

Chicago is supported by Citymapper and Via at the time of writing.

LODGING

Lodging here is readily available, but lodging downtown sadly remains as pricey as it was on New Years Eve, especially in the summer at the height of tourist season when this congress happens. Of course, roomsharing can ease the pain, but you have to show more discretion about having more than 1-2 people in a room at a non-event hotel (meaning don’t flaunt it directly to hotel staff), and be mindful that different hotels have different policies regarding multiple room keys etc.

Since this congress is located at a dance studio rather than a hotel, I will freely discuss a multitude of lodging options.

The Hotel Versey, located about 15 minutes from DCC at 644 W Diversey Pkwy, is the option recommended by Future Zouk management, but at $267 per night, it is one of the pricier options. Regardless, it has 4.2 stars on Google and 880 mostly positive reviews. Pictures on Google show clean, modern, Wrigley Field-themed rooms.

There are two reasonably priced hostels nearby. The Wrigley Hostel, located at 3514 N Sheffield Avenue, goes for $138 per night the weekend of the congress and has mostly good reviews.

The Chicago Getaway Hostel, located 16 minutes away at 616 W Arlington Place, goes for $72 per night that weekend and has mostly good reviews as well.

The closest chain hotel is the Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace, located at 3434 N Broadway and going for $196 per night the weekend of the congress.

The historic Inn At Lincoln Park, located 16 minutes away, goes for $149/night and also has good reviews.

There are two Rodeway Inns located about 16 minutes away that could be good budget options as well. The Rodeway Inn, located 16 minutes from DCC and priced at $82 per night the weekend of the congress, has the outward appearance of a roadside motel, but the rooms appear to be pretty clean and modern from the pictures. Reviews are mixed, with some praising the clean rooms and excellent service and others complaining of glaring cleanliness issues in some rooms. Rodeway is a Choice Hotels hotel and is worth checking out as a budget option, but caveat emptor and bring antibacterial wipes and a light sleeping bag as a precautionary measure.

The Rodeway Inn Chicago-Evanston, located another four minutes up the road from the other Rodeway and priced starting at $89/night, is the same deal – an unfussy budget hotel with the outward appearance of a roadside dump but updated modern rooms on the inside that people seem to either love or hate judging by the reviews. Reviews also complain of a standoffish front desk staff and overbearing security so keep this in mind as well. This could also be a good option if caveat emptors similar to the other Rodeway are applied.

Expect a commute of at least 10-15 minutes one way to and from DCC for all of these options, but since we’re pretty sure sleeping at DCC is frowned upon, commuting will be a part of this congress for as long as it is at this venue. You can help this congress grow to the point of moving to its own hotel in the near future!

A quick search of AirBNBs around the area shows a good selection priced anywhere from $42-$180 per night. They will undoubtedly go quickly, especially the less expensive ones, so book soon!

FOOD

For your grocery shopping needs, Trader Joe’s is located a block down at 3745 N Lincoln Avenue. A Walmart Supercenter is located about 21 minutes away at 4626 W Diversey Ave, but whatever you save going there you may spend getting there if you are from out of town. A Walmart Neighborhood Market is located a little closer to DCC, 15 minutes away at 2844 N Broadway.

You have several meal out options directly nearby. Wasabi Cafe, C’est Bien Thai, Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro, Xurro – Churro factory, and Spicy Mexican Grill are all located on the block of Lincoln Ave directly north of DCC, and it’s pretty self explanatory by their names what types of restaurants these are. Bricks Pizza and Barbecue is located a block south.

Portillo’s, Lou Malnati’s, and the infamous Weiner’s Circle, three notable Chicago restaurant landmarks detailed in our CSBF guide, are all 18 minutes or less away from DCC by Uber/Lyft/Via.

CONCLUSION

Chicagoans who are fans of Brazilian Zouk finally have a congress to call their own! Come out and make the 2019 edition of the Future Zouk Chicago Congress one for the books and help it grow!

#FrugalCongressLife Resource Spotlight: Fox Outfitters Airlite Sleeping Mattress

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with nor have been sponsored or hired by any of the companies or organizations whose services I mention in this article – everything you read from me regarding these companies is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]

We are well into dance congress season in the US at this point with about three months passed and about five more to go, and as we all know and I have pointed out many times, roomsharing is the cheapest, most convenient, and most supportive way to save money on lodging at a dance congress.

One of the many areas where roomsharing can get tricky is when there are more people in a hotel room than there are beds. One solution to this is for two or more people to share beds, but not everyone is comfortable with that and that isn’t always feasible.

Whenever I can, I use the BetterHabitat Sleep Ready Memory Foam adult twin floor mattress as my portable bed for congress hotel roomshares. It is extremely comfortable, with 3 inches of memory foam and a feel much like a real mattress, but it is also very bulky. Even rolled up and in its bag, it has the footprint one would expect from a rolled up twin-size mattress, about as tall as me at 6 feet and about 18 pounds. It works well for driving distance congresses where I can just throw it into the trunk of my car and only have to carry it from the car to my hotel room, but forget about taking it on a bus, train, or plane.

Although I am happy with the BetterHabitat mattress, a situation where I would be roomsharing at a congress not within driving distance will call for a solution that is smaller and more portable. I went on the Googles this past March to look for the best small air mattress that would also deliver the comfort and usability needed to not be #TeamNoSleep at the congress, and my search brought me to the Airlite 100.

Made by stalwart camping gear company Fox Outfitters, the Airlite 100, available from Amazon.com for $49.99 with a $17 off coupon, is a sleeping pad made of Diamond Ripstop fabric specifically designed to resist being torn on rough terrain. Originally designed with outdoor camping, backpacking, and hiking in mind, this durable pad can surely withstand the rigors of an indoor hotel room at a dance congress.

The mattress rolls up to a mere 4” x 13”, a tiny footprint that can fit in the tightest of Spirit bags. A foam footpump is integrated into the mattress itself, allowing you to easily pump up the mattress to full size using no electricity and only your feet or hands in about a minute and a half. A double-brass air valve release system allows the mattress to deflate just as quickly.

Despite the low footprint, a tubular design system allows the mattress to be comfortable enough to provide support to your entire body and allow you get to sleep comfortably and stay asleep through the night.

I gave the Airlite a battle-testing this past April at one of my favorite dance congresses, the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress. I was the roomshare admin of a four-person roomshare in a two-double room at the event hotel with myself, one other guy, and two ladies. The two ladies shared one hotel bed, the guy got the other hotel bed to himself, and as a good roomshare president does, I made the sacrifice any responsible leader of a hotel roomshare is bound by duty to make and set up camp in the corner of the room with my newly-purchased Airlite.

This congress was a particularly good testing ground for the Airlite. Due to the spotty availability of parking in downtown Baltimore and the high cost of parking at the hotel, my frugal transport method was to drive to BWI Airport, park in their long-term lot, and take an UBER with other congress attendees from BWI to the hotel. I had no trouble getting the mattress into my backpack, but I realized I would have to do some Tetrising and probably make a few other sacrifices as far as other stuff I could bring to be able to fit it into a Spirit bag, but not many. Deflated and rolled up, the mattress’ total footprint is that of about 2-3 rolled-up t-shirts.

Inflating the mattress is easy and straightforward.  You unroll and unfold the mattress, tighten the two brass valves at the end (righty tighty, lefty loosey), remove the cap on the integrated pump, then make an airtight seal over the hole with your hands and pump as if you were doing CPR on the mattress.  Alternately, you can create the airtight seal with your foot and use your foot to pump up the mattress instead.  The mattress inflated as quickly as advertised every time. I deflated the mattress and left it unrolled on the floor of my room (as recommended by the instructions) every morning before leaving for workshops.

While not quite as comfortable as my Better Habitat mattress, the Airlite was definitely comfortable enough, especially with the fitted sheet and coverlet set I bought with me to the congress (although the coverlet left a hell of a footprint in my bag — in the future I think I’m just going to leave the coverlet at home and ask for extra sheets from the hotel). By the end of a long night of burning up the floor at the Baltimore Congress’ parties, preceded by a long day of workshops, I could probably have slept in the chair if I really wanted to, so the Airlite was more than comfortable enough to drop off to sleep quickly on.

The mattress’ small footprint meant I was easily able to fit into the space between the bed and the wall (which was admittedly relatively expansive at the Hilton Baltimore), but it really is a narrow mattress; it is barely wide enough for most people to lay on their backs on, and if you move around in your sleep you’re likely to find yourself off of the mattress in the morning when you wake up. At 82 inches, the mattress was long enough even for a tall dude like me. For what it’s worth, you get more or less the same sleeping real estate you would get on a shared bed or a couch.

I found the Airlite to be as durably constructed as advertised, and it held onto air like a champ throughout the night – I got 5-6 hours of sleep a night on average at BSBC despite dancing until 5am, having 3 roommates, and sleeping on an air mattress. I haven’t been able to find a maximum weight rating for the Airlite online, but speaking from personal experience, I was about 225 pounds at the time of the test and the mattress was able to support me with no issues. Still, I have to assume individuals heavier than 250 pounds may have issues with this mattress.

Despite being an air mattress, the Airlite makes almost no noise when you move around on it. I was very impressed at how quiet it was – quite optimal for not disturbing your roommates with typical air mattress noise.

Deflating and rolling up the mattress is fairly straightforward as well.  Open the valves and the pump and roll your arm along the mattress until all the air is out.  Once it’s all out, fold the mattress back up and roll it toward the valves.  Make sure you roll it towards the valves because if you roll it toward the pump, a pocket of air forms near the pump and the mattress can’t roll up all the way.

My ultimate verdict is that while the Airlite is definitely a compromise between ultimate comfort and a low footprint, it is an acceptable and usable sleep solution when space is tight both in your bag and in your hotel room. I would definitely use it at a congress again when the situation calls for it. I hope this article and this mattress helps you find comfort and better sleep in your hotel roomshares!