Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses #4: Food

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with any of the businesses whose services I describe in this post nor have I been hired to advertise for any of them. Anything written in this post 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.]

Food is a congress expense that a lot of people underestimate and it can really add up, especially if you are trying to eat healthy and have dietary requirements such as eating a certain amount of protein per day lest you lose your hard-won gym gainz, as I do. Hotel convenience stores are overpriced on a ghastly level, and even convenience stores outside the hotel are very expensive. Stocking up on non-perishable food staples at a lower-priced grocery store will help mitigate your food costs tremendously while still keeping yourself well-nourished enough to get through the weekend. Obviously you can’t bring a lot of food on a plane or bus with you, so this is not much of an option for congresses you have to fly or take the bus to, but if you are local or you’re driving, taking the train, or ride-sharing to the congress, this is a very good option indeed. For events you fly or take the bus to, it may be worth going to a grocery store nearby and stocking up after you land.

PSA: EAT HEALTHY – FOR THE MOST PART.

A few unhealthy meals are ok but don’t eat only junk. Eating nothing but junk will make you tired and sick and drastically affect your ability to learn in the workshops and dance the night away at the socials, and will overall hamper your congress experience. Now that I’m done being your dad for a minute…

Non-perishable staples that I stock up on before a local or driving congress:

Protein bars (Quest is my favorite, they are the realest protein bars on the market, I will profile Quest bars in a future post), nonperishable non-refrigerated protein shakes (such as offerings from EAS or Premier Protein), jerky (beef, turkey, bacon), tuna/salmon packets, peanut butter, dried fruit (yeah I know dried fruit isn’t the best nutritionally, but real fruit is generally very perishable), maybe some easy to transport and reasonably nonperishable real fruit such as oranges and bananas, almonds, 5-Hour Energy 4-packs (late-night dance social fuel), Bulletproof Ghee, Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil, Onnit Alpha Brain packets, and Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate (collagen offers joint support benefits that are very good for aching knees, shoulders, etc).

Everyone who talks to me knows I love me some Bulletproof Coffee in order to have the mental focus and clarity for difficult workshops and keep the caffeine buzz going longer (coffee with fat in it has a slower and more drawn out caffeine buzz rather than a “spike and crash”). As a reminder, I am not affiliated with or sponsored by BulletProof or Onnit at the time of this writing, but I am a regular user of their products. I will also profile Bulletproof Coffee in more detail in a future post.

To maximize savings, I get only the Bulletproof and Onnit ingredients from my local Whole Foods or from Amazon and the rest from a discount grocery store such as Wal-mart, Aldi, or Dollar General.

Hotel breakfasts:

This almost goes without saying, but many hotels, including most congress event hotels, provide free breakfast for guests between 6:30am and 9:30am or some similar block of time, so for those who are somehow able to get up early or stay up late enough to catch the hotel’s free breakfast (unlikely in my case and probably for many other people too), this is a no-brainer frugal congress option for getting some of those calories and macronutrients in.

Additional reader suggestions:

Reader and dance enthusiast Karen Swavely Clark, of State College, PA, chimed in with a few other suggestions on food. Her first suggestion was using your hotel room’s coffee maker to make hot water for instant oatmeal, and to buy or bring frozen microwavable meals if you have a microwave in your hotel room. I would add to this, be sure to clean the coffee maker and microwave with antibacterial wipes before using them if you go this route, as you can not necessarily count on the hotel cleaning staff to have done so, even in otherwise clean and reputable hotels – hotel cleaning staff generally gets a very limited window of time to clean and turn over rooms and are likely to pass over things like the coffee maker, the microwave, and the TV remote to save time. Karen also suggests tuna kits with crackers as a food option, which is also very good.

A note about tuna, onions, garlic, or any other stinky food:

I would generally advise against eating stinky food in your hotel room. If you’re in a room-share your roommates will probably hate you for stinking up the room. If you’re by yourself, you may hate yourself later for stinking up the room. Just eat it outside.

There Can Be Only One:

For my sanity, unless my budget is really that tight, I will allow myself one meal out per day even at the frugalest of frugal congresses, preferably as a social occasion with friends and preferably at a restaurant I really want to eat at. This can either be the hotel restaurant (throwing the hotel establishments some extra business is never a bad thing) or a restaurant in town that you like or have heard good things about. I generally avoid chain restaurants for the most part as I can eat at chain restaurants anywhere else and at any other time, and try to find a cool local spot that I won’t always get to eat at.

That’s all I got for food, sound off in the comments if you have other suggestions or insights!

– Owen

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Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses #3: Lodging

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with any of the businesses whose services I describe in this post nor have I been hired to advertise for any of them. Anything written in this post 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.]

Now for the big king daddy of the Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses. Lodging. Hotel… Motel… Holiday Inn. While attending a dance congress, you will need a place to sleep (for a few hours most likely), shower (you had better be showering regularly at a dance congress!), and keep your stuff after all, especially if you are out of town, but even if you are local. Dance congresses are basically weekend-long dance camps for adults and having a place to lay your head and keep your stuff will make or break the experience. However, lodging will probably be your single biggest expense while attending a dance congress. Fear not, however, for I, your #FrugalCongressLife practitioner, am here to help you mitigate this gargantuan expense as much as legitimately possible and have a frugal dance congress that is still a good experience. This is going to be a long post with considerable meat on it, so be ready.

But first…

PSA that shouldn’t be necessary:

Don’t sleep or nap in the common areas of the hotel — this means the lobby, hallways, or any other public area that is not a paid-for hotel room. It’s seriously a bad look and could actually hurt the event. People sleeping in hotel common areas has caused at least one local salsa/bachata festival here in DC to lose its original hotel. In addition to being a bad look and hurting the event, it is extremely dangerous to sleep in public, as you could be robbed, kidnapped, or worse (do I even have to say what “worse” is?) while taking leave of all of your senses in public. Safety first!

A word about commuting, whether from home or an offsite hotel/motel:

Commuting to dance congresses, whether from home or from an offsite hotel/motel, is certainly the most frugal option, but it honestly is not the best or most optimal one. Commuting can cause you to miss workshops you wanted to take, be inconvenient on many other levels (you’ll have to go home or travel to and from your offsite location to shower between workshops and night activities), seriously take you out of the immersive dance congress experience, and may even be dangerous if you’re driving home or back to your offsite location tired after a long night of social dancing.

Any offsite options, including commuting from home, will ideally be a maximum of 15 minutes driving one way from the event hotel or less – the less the better, preferably walking distance. A commute any longer than a 15 minute drive one way will throw a serious logistical monkey wrench into your operations, spoil the congress experience at an unacceptable level, and add extra expense that will offset your savings on the room. This is a theme I will repeat when describing offsite options.

Also a philosophical/ethical point to consider – staying offsite (whether at home or another hotel/motel or AirBNB) is withdrawing financial support from the event on some level, as you are not staying at the event hotel, and sometimes the event organizers promise (explicitly or implied) the event hotel management a large amount of people staying in rooms at the event hotel. Additionally, much of the time, the event organizers reserve a block of rooms in the event hotel at a lower cost just for congress attendees. For these ethical reasons alone, staying offsite is not the best option. Event organizers, let me know in the comments how people staying offsite impacts your event if it does at all.

With that said, some people’s specific circumstances, which I will get into later in this post, call specifically for offsite lodging, and this IS the #FrugalCongressLife blog after all, so it makes sense to take an honest look at ALL major dance congress lodging options. Much like buying a party pass to the event, as I discussed in a previous post, I’m sure any event organizer would rather you commute to the event from an offsite location than not attend the event at all if you are really that up against it. With that said, in the rare occasions that I do stay offsite at a dance congress, I do not advertise this publicly or advise others to do so out of respect to the event organizer and the event hotel, unless the event hotel is completely sold out. Staying offsite should really be considered a last resort for those with a specific set of circumstances. Supporting the event as much as possible by staying at the event hotel, whether by yourself or in a room share, should always be your first resort.

With that PSA that really REALLY should go without saying and that important note about commuting from offsite locations out of the way, I’m going to discuss the various congress lodging options in order from generally most desirable to generally least desirable (#2 and #3 may be switched around based on individual space/privacy preferences) with a $ rating of 1-4 indicating its level of frugality (1 most, 4 least):

Solo room at the event hotel: ($$$$)

This is the platinum option, and the one that will likely be quickly discounted out of hand by #FrugalCongressLife practitioners. It is exactly as it sounds, a room to yourself at the event hotel, and will easily be the most expensive option, often well into the hundreds of dollars per night. If you are really particular about your living conditions (even your temporary ones for a weekend) and/or you want the maximum level of privacy and (at least a feeling of) security, are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a room with your fellow dancers for any reason (people have different comfort levels, don’t judge), or are likely to clash with roommates for any reason, but you also want the immersive dance festival experience, a “home base” to shower, sleep, and keep your stuff, and for your “commute” to and from the festival to be a simple elevator ride or walk up the stairs to your room, then this is your option. Sometimes I have done this option, particularly when times are good and rooms at the event hotel are $80 or less per night, but it makes the least financial sense from a cold economic standpoint for anyone who wants to be frugal.

Room-share with roommates at the event hotel: ($)

This is the most popular option with the majority of dance congress attendees and can be a very effective frugal option. Many dance events even have dedicated pages and group chats for helping prospective congress roommates find each other. You get all the advantages of having a “home base” to shower, sleep, and keep your stuff a short elevator ride away from the congress proper, while spending as little as $20-40 per night for your room. However, obviously you will be sharing a small space and a single bathroom with 1-4 other people you may or may not know all that well and may even be sharing a bed with someone you don’t know well depending on how many people you are in a room with. Not everyone is comfortable with this for a litany of reasons (again, don’t judge, different comfort levels for different people). Some people like privacy and a feeling of security too much to share a small space with casual acquaintances, some people are very particular about room conditions, and some people aren’t good at sharing space with others. If this is you, consider other options. Also, not everyone wants their hotel room for the same purpose – some people want a party room, some people want a quiet sanctuary to retreat to after going TO the party, and it is best to room with people who want the same things out of a congress hotel room. If you can navigate the challenges and pitfalls of a congress room-share, you can save a lot of money while still having the best logistics possible and possibly make some new friends as well. To read about how to navigate the particulars of congress room-shares in more detail, see Laura Riva’s post on how to Be A Better Congress Roommate here.

Solo room at a nearby budget hotel or motel: ($$/$$$ – varies)

This is the primary budget option for those who are particular about privacy/security, are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing a hotel room with fellow dancers for any reason, or are likely to clash with roommates for any reason. How much money you save depends on how much cheaper a room at the hotel or motel you choose is than an equivalent room at the event hotel would be. This option will provide you with the “home base” for showering, sleeping, and keeping your stuff as described above, albeit a bit farther from the event hotel for a reduced price, but will introduce a litany of other logistical issues, not the least of which is an extended commute between your “home base” and the event, as well as some removal from the immersion of the dance event and some social isolation from your fellow dancers (not a good thing), as well as the philosophical/ethical issues I described earlier. If you are out of town or not driving for any other reason, the obvious extra expense of public transport or UBER will offset your savings to some degree. To have this option hamper your festival experience as little as possible, look for budget options that are no further than a 15 minute drive one way from the event hotel and preferably as close to the event hotel as possible. Needless to say, check online reviews thoroughly for your chosen budget location before booking, as many budget motels in particular are dirty and sketchy places where you could be robbed or assaulted, get very sick, or other possible negative outcomes.

Room-share with roommates at an offsite hotel or motel: ($)

This is kind of a “worst of both worlds” option, but it is potentially one of the most frugal options on this list if you can find an offsite location that is significantly cheaper than the event hotel and close enough to not have too much of a commute (15 minutes away one way or less), as well as roommates willing to also deal with offsite location issues. You get all the upsides and downsides of living with roommates alongside the logistical/ethical downsides of staying offsite, although having a roommate can offset the social isolation aspect of staying offsite somewhat. Also, honestly, good luck finding someone to do this with you as it’s not a popular lodging option for dance congresses.

[NOTE: per my personal code of ethics, when profiling specific dance events in future posts, I will provide no information on offsite lodging until the main event hotel fully sells out, if that happens at all. You’re basically on your own if looking for offsite budget lodging.]

AirBNB: ($/$$ – varies)

This could be a good last resort option depending on the circumstances – particularly for smaller dance festivals and weekenders happening in non-hotel locations such as dance studios. It is easy and convenient to book – all booking is done through a smartphone app – and unlike hotels or motels, you can pre-pay in advance for an AirBNB which is honestly very good peace of mind to have. I still would only recommend AirBNB as a extreme last resort, and with much caution. I have done AirBNB for dance congresses a few times, mostly early on in my congress life, and most of my experiences were either pretty good or passable, and one of them was very bad. For those curious about the very bad incident, I stayed with an individual whose landlord did not know they were hosting AirBNB guests in their apartment, he found out during my stay and kicked me out, and I had to leave the congress early. The host apologized profusely and refunded my money in full, but the incident ruined that congress for me and greatly eroded my trust in AirBNB as a platform.

Even if your host is fully on the up and up, there are issues with any AirBNB you will stay at. All the logistical and philosophical/ethical issues related to staying at an offsite hotel or motel apply to AirBNB as well. Keep in mind also that an AirBNB is somebody’s home and your ability to continue using AirBNB is directly tied to how well your hosts rate you based on a number of factors including cleanliness and quiet, so unlike a hotel or motel, you have to clean up after yourself and you can’t be as fast and loose with throwing parties, leaving towels on the bathroom floor etc. Make sure your AirBNB is no more than a 15 minute drive one way from the event hotel as you would with any other offsite option. Be aware that AirBNB’s vetting system is very easy to get around with fake information, and make sure you only book with Superhosts (a status designation assigned by AirBNB denoting an experienced and established host) or hosts with a large number of positive reviews… some unscrupulous AirBNB hosts have their friends write them fake positive reviews, but positive reviews in the hundreds or more and/or an official Superhost designation from AirBNB are very hard to fake.

Commuting from home: ($)

Honestly this is a last resort for those who are really up against it preceding a local congress and can not justify even a room share due to budget, or those with ideal logistics for commuting to a dance congress from home and wanting to save the most money. Obviously this is the most frugal option if you live nearby, but it is also the worst option logistically and obviously not even an option at all for out-of-town congresses. Ideally your conditions for commuting from home would be as follows: you live 15 minutes or less one way from the congress location, you don’t plan to take many workshops and/or are willing to sacrifice some morning workshops or social dancing time, you are ok with being somewhat removed from the immersion of a dance congress, and you can realistically walk or take public transportation or UBER to and from the event (not having to drive yourself after social dancing all night).

Best practices for booking hotels frugally, if you are booking a room yourself:

– Most dance congresses have their own reserved room block at the event hotel with a heavily discounted rate that is booked through their website or Facebook event page. This is generally your least expensive and best option at the event hotel, but you generally have a limited time to do it and once the block is sold out you’re out of luck.

– If booking outside of the congress room block or offsite, call the hotel or motel directly to get the best possible rate. If you are a member of AAA, ask for the AAA rate, it is generally the best room rate outside of the congress block or at an offsite hotel/motel, and you have the best chance of getting the best rooms and perks such as early check-in and late check-out.

– Become a member of as many hotel rewards programs as you can… most of them are free to join and it is absolutely worth it given how often you will be staying in hotels as a regular attendee of dance congresses. You can earn free hotel stays as you accumulate membership “points” and as you elevate to higher levels of membership by staying at participating hotels frequently, you begin to get the perks of such higher levels of reward membership, which can include but are not limited to food and beverage amenities, free WiFi, guaranteed late checkout, and even experiential rewards such as free private tours of a local landmark.

– Using a third party booking site such as Trivago or Booking.com is not recommended. Hotel staff know when you are using such sites to book and the treatment you receive, while not outwardly terrible, will be quietly less than preferential… you will get the worst rooms and getting perks such as early check in or late check out will be an uphill battle.

Conclusion:

That’s all I got for lodging. You know what to do by now, if you got anything else to add, sound off in the comments! Next up… FOOD!

– Owen

Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses #2: Travel

[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with any of the businesses whose services I describe in this post nor have I been hired to advertise for any of them. Anything written in this post 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.]

Once you have your pass, travel to the congress is the next major expense you must consider. Obviously, if you are going to a local congress your only cost will be the cost of gas or transit, but as you get more into the dance congress scene, you will also want to go to out of town congresses that you will have to drive, take the train/bus, or fly to.

Driving:

Gas and tolls can cost more than you think. For me here on the Maryland side of DC, just getting out of the state of Maryland to points north is about $15 in tolls by itself. The best frugal practice for any congress in driving distance, particularly on the higher end of driving distance, is to ride-share with as many people as possible and split the cost of gas and tolls. If you’re willing to add an extra hour or two to your drive, any GPS app such as Waze also has an option for avoiding toll roads and tollbooths.

http://www.tollguru.com is a good resource for calculating the cost of gas and tolls for a car trip that I use frequently.

Train/bus:

If the congress is on a train or bus route, this is a good option to consider. If your congress is in flying distance, taking the train is less expensive, but will take much longer (north of 10 hours). A bus such as Greyhound, Bolt Bus, or MegaBus is way less than the train (as little as $15-20 one way depending on your destination and travel time), but comfort and legroom are sacrificed for this lower cost, particularly on a crowded bus (MegaBus in particular has very small seats). Compression socks are a good clothing accessory to look into for comfort and healthy circulation when traveling in cramped conditions such as a bus or plane for an extended period of time.

Flying:

Everything I’ve said so far has been pretty obvious and self-evident: ride-share to save money on gas and tolls, the bus is cheaper than the train, simple enough right? Flying is a little more involved and there’s more to it than what is obvious. Flying is the most expensive form of travel, but it is necessary when driving or taking the train/bus just isn’t a realistic option.

The most frugal way to fly is to use a budget airline such as Spirit Airlines or Frontier. To supplement my own personal experience, I will be borrowing a good amount of information from Keven Alvarado’s guide to flying Spirit Airlines for this section, which helped me a lot when I booked my first Spirit flight. I will link this guide in a future update to this article if I can find it anywhere online outside of FB or Messenger.

The most crucial thing one must understand about the new wave of budget airlines like Spirit is that the flight you get with your ticket is “un-bundled”… for the relatively low ticket price, you get the seat you sit in, transportation to your destination, and that is it. You get no food or in-flight entertainment with your ticket; all of that is charged separately. Make sure you have movies, games that you can play offline, music, and whatever else downloaded to your phone or tablet along with a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, because whatever is on your phone or tablet WILL be your in-flight entertainment. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it at an airport water fountain after you get through TSA.

Any checked bags are charged separately.

You get ONE “personal item” for free on a Spirit flight – your personal item is a small bag that you can carry on for free and that carry on item has to fit all the way inside of a bin at the gate that looks like this:

Yes, it has to fit in that little bin, so you have to have a bag that will fit in that bin to begin with and you can’t overstuff it to the point where it won’t fit. If it doesn’t fit, you have to check it, period, and that’s extra $$$. Any other checked bags are also extra $$$.

Here is the bag I use for Spirit flights. It conforms to Spirit and Frontier’s size requirements for personal items as long as you don’t overstuff it. A search for “Spirit bag” on Amazon will reveal abundant others that also meet Spirit and Frontier’s requirements.

If you have a lot of bags that you’ll need to check for any reason Spirit won’t be for you as with the checked bag fees it will work out to the cost of one of the major non-budget airlines anyway.

Check out Laura Riva’s post on how to pack efficiently for travel to a congress here. I would add to her post that compression cubes are a very effective way to pack down your rolled up clothes and other such items even further and fill the space even more efficiently – buy some here.

Flying Spirit is overall best for weekend or 4-5 day trips where you can fit everything you need into a Spirit bag without overstuffing it excessively. Keep in mind that Spirit does not go to every airport either, this is also something that must be researched.

Spirit also has a “big front seat” that you can purchase for an extra $35 each way that is their equivalent of “first class”. Since I’m a pretty big dude, I’ll likely be doing this when I go to Dallas Bachata Festival in November, as cramming into their small seats for 8+ hours is not very comfortable for a big dude, even with compression socks.

The best time to buy plane tickets at their cheapest is 1-2 months out from your flight date. Flying out on a weekday is optimal if you can swing it as flying out on Friday and back on Sunday adds $50-90 to your ticket price on average. Research prices for your desired flight on spirit.com in an incognito or private window (very important that the window you do your research in be incognito or private because otherwise it will be tracked with cookies and the price will go up) until you are happy with the price. Then, go directly to the airport and buy your ticket there to save the $15-30 you would be charged for online processing fees if you bought online. Ticket prices literally change day to day – if the price seems too high, try another day. I got a Friday AM flight from Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) out to this year’s Chicago Salsa Bachata Festival (near O’hare International Airport [ORD]) and return flight the following Sunday evening late last March for $250 total by purchasing my tickets directly at the airport in early February, and I’m sure it would have been even less if I had flown on weekdays, but the missed work would have offset any savings too much. Anything under $200 round trip is a good deal, but some people have been able to go as low as $40-50 round trip (I may have to have those people teach me their ways before I go to Dallas).

Here’s another thing you should know about Spirit that isn’t in most guides to Spirit. They’re late. Frequently. Delays and cancellations are even more of a fact of life on Spirit than they are on any other airline. The money you save can make dealing with this fact worth it, but make sure you schedule your flights well in advance of any workshops or bootcamps you want to take or parties you want to attend. If flying out Friday, an early AM departure is very advisable. Of course, always assume your flight is going to be on time and arrive with enough time to get through TSA and be at your gate a minimum of 2-3 hours before your flight.

If you’re taking a non-budget major airline that isn’t Spirit or Frontier, a lot of the non-Spirit-specific info for packing efficiently etc. applies also. For these airlines, Google Flights or Cheapflights.com are good resources for finding the cheapest flights possible. Scheduling your flights on a weekday, if at all possible, will get you the cheapest flights on any airline.

That’s all I got for travel. I know most of this was pretty obvious stuff outside of the specifics of flying, but it’s relevant to lay everything out there when planning for a frugal congress is concerned. My next post on the big daddy of the Quadforce of Congress Expenses, lodging, will have considerably more meat to it (I can make this promise with confidence because I actually wrote this post last after completing the other three Quadforce of Dance Congress Expense posts). If you have other suggestions or insights regarding congress travel, post it in the comments.

– Owen

Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses #1: The Pass

[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.]

When planning to attend a dance congress, it is self-evident that the first thing one will spend money on is the ticket to the congress itself, commonly known as the pass.

Because, again, I like to ELI5 things, there are several levels of dance congress passes, listed here from most expensive to least expensive:

VIP full pass: all the access of a full pass (see below) plus some extra perks that vary depending on the individual event but may include front row seats at the performances, a t-shirt, an exclusive VIP dance area or party, etc.  Extra perks included with a VIP pass will be specified by the event organizer.

Full pass: gives the pass holder access to all scheduled congress activities… workshops, day parties, performances, night parties, you name it, you have access to everything, with the possible exception of separate bootcamps not included in the pass that may be an extra cost, usually clearly specified by the event’s organizers.  Obviously, VIP perks are not included with a full pass, but you have access to everything else.

Performer’s pass: Similar to a full pass, but offered exclusively to individuals performing at the event

Party pass: access to only the event’s performances, night parties and any night workshops that may be happening (which is rare)

Full individual day pass: access to all non-VIP scheduled congress activities on that particular day, minus any bootcamps or other activities not included in the price of the full pass (see above)

Individual night pass: access to only the event’s performances, night parties, and other activities on that particular night

So now that you know the different levels of congress passes, I’ll get into all the #FrugalCongressLife strategies I know of to get your passes for as little money as possible shortly, but first, this PSA, which I feel should not even need to be said but sadly is still necessary for some people.

PSA: DO NOT SNEAK IN TO ANY DANCE CONGRESS, FESTIVAL, WEEKENDER, OR WEEKLY DANCE SOCIAL OR CLASS FOR THAT MATTER WITHOUT PAYING.  SNEAKING INTO DANCE EVENTS WITHOUT PAYING IS AN UNFATHOMABLY SHITTY THING TO DO AND CONTRIBUTES TO THE DEMISE OF DANCE EVENTS AND SCENES.

I think I can confidently make this statement and most people will agree.  Dance festivals cost a lot of money to put on, between artists/instructors, hotel expenses, travel, rented dance floors, DJs, lighting, and everything else in between, and they are usually put on by an individual who is doing so as a labor of love and making little if any money, and are lucky not to lose money.  You are not acting on any kind of moral imperative or fighting a big greedy corporation or any of that kind of nonsense by sneaking in to a dance festival, you are simply screwing over an individual who is organizing the event as a labor of love for the dance community, and are helping contribute to the demise of dance events in that particular community.  Many dance events have also ramped up security in response to people sneaking in and you will likely be caught and thrown out anyway.  So just don’t do it.

Ok, now with that PSA that really shouldn’t have been necessary out of the way, on to the LEGIT #FrugalCongressLife strategies for getting your pass for as little as possible.

Full Passes vs. Party Passes:

I generally recommend buying the full pass for as many congresses as possible, because there may be workshops that you want to take and financially supporting the event as much as you possibly can is best practice for helping to ensure the prosperity and continued success of that particular congress.  There are ways to buy a full pass as frugally as possible that I will cover next.  However, I understand that this is not an option for everyone, and this is the #FrugalCongressLife blog after all.  If it is really between buying a party pass or not going for you, I’m sure any event organizer would rather you buy a party pass or day pass than no pass at all at the end of the day.

Early Bird Gets The Frugal Worm:

BUY.  YOUR.  PASS.  EARLY.  As early as possible.  For the vast majority of dance congresses and festivals, early bird full and/or VIP passes and even super early bird full and/or VIP passes are generally offered at a very low cost immediately following the events announcement (usually a year out or more from the time of the event) and passes then ramp up in price leading up to the day of the event.  It literally pays to get your pass early.  I make it my personal practice to have 90% of the full passes for congresses I plan to attend at the full pass level in any given year by the end of January that year.  It has saved me hundreds of dollars on congress passes over time, and it does serve a good purpose as event organizers frequently have to pay advance deposits on the hotel, etc.

Dance organizations and promo codes:

If you can get into a dance organization, many of them offer discount codes for as much as 25% off any level of congress pass.  I will cover a few such organizations in future posts.  Sometimes, promo codes are also offered to the general public outside of dance organizations – keep an eye out on Facebook, Meetup, or local dance events for these.

Volunteering: 

For most dance congresses, volunteering to work a certain number of hours at the festival during certain shifts performing tasks such as processing registrations, moving equipment, or driving artists to and from the airport will get you a full pass to the festival in exchange for this work.  These volunteers are essential personnel, and a festival would not run nearly as smoothly without them, so they are always in demand, but volunteering obviously has its upsides and downsides.  I personally have no experience with volunteering at a congress or festival, as this is not a preferred option for me and not one I have yet had to take.  See this post on Laura Riva’s excellent dance blog “The Dancing Grapevine” to determine if volunteering at a congress is right for you.  I will be soliciting guest posts detailing people’s personal experiences with volunteering at dance congresses after I have completed the entire Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses.

That is all I can think of as far as the pass goes.  If you have any other LEGIT #FrugalCongressLife strategies for getting the pass for as cheap as possible, sound off in the comments.  Next up… travel!

– Owen

The Quadforce Of Dance Congress Expenses

I know there are some low-key video game nerds in the dance scene (shoutouts to y’all) who have played The Legend Of Zelda and know what the Triforce is, but for those who don’t, the Triforce is a mythical object in the LOZ universe made up of three triangles, representing Power, Wisdom, and Courage.

I wanted to use the idea of a Triforce to describe the major expenses of attending a dance congress, but there are four major expenses related to dance congresses, not three.  Therefore, Quadforce of Dance Congress Expenses.

The four major dance congress expenses are:

1.  Pass

2.  Travel

3.  Lodging

4.  Food

My next four posts will cover each of these four dance congress expenses and various ideas for minimizing these expenses as much as possible while still having a good congress experience and supporting the event properly.

– Owen