Registration is open for RWA’s® 2011 National Conference to be held in New York City, June 28-July 2nd. For romance writers, this is a wonderful opportunity to attend workshops, pitch to editors and agents, and meet their fellow authors. Yet, this year more than ever, all my writer friends seem to be shaking their heads. “Nope. Not going. Too expensive.”
So how much will it really cost to go to RWA Nationals this year?
Ask five people, and you will get five different answers. That’s because there are so many different ways to approach the conference. Will you go with the bare-bones-business-only minimum or do you want to add on extra days and make the most of every single sightseeing opportunity while you’re in New York?
In reality, there is really only one fixed cost, and that’s the conference fee. For members, it’s $525 if you register by May 13th, $575 if you register before June 10th, and $675 if you register on-site. Non-member fees are $75 higher.
Once you’re registered, anything goes. For the sake of this sample budget, I’m going to try to estimate ‘normal’ expenses. I’ll assume that you’re traveling some distance, staying at the conference hotel only for the days of the actual conference, and eating the meals included in the conference fee. This is just my best guess based on information culled from the websites of the RWA and the Marriot Marquis Hotel. Your actual costs will vary depending on your personal choices and circumstances.
Conference fee (early registration-RWA member) $525
Air Fare (round trip from Boise) $500
Airport Shuttle (From La Guardia roundtrip) $50
Hotel (4 nights double occupancy w/tax) $500
Meals not provided by RWA $150
Basic Total $1725
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL COSTS
Chapter events (receptions, field trips, etc) $100
Sightseeing (estimate based on tour rates) $200
Estimate of total cost: $2025
So, $2000 is probably a reasonable estimate of the actual cost of going to conference.
Is it possible to go for less? Writers have told me they plan to pack Pop Tarts and protein bars in order to save money. But the big savings will come from travel and hotel expenses. This is the perfect time to cash in those frequent flyer miles or take advantage of credit card reward programs. Sharing four to a room will cut the above hotel costs in half. Whether it’s sharing cab fare or a pizza, sticking with friends can be a fun way to cut expenses.
Beware of hidden costs. Probably the biggest hidden cost of going to conference is the lost income from days not worked, or vacation days spent. But there are plenty of other extra charges you might not expect.
Flying? Be sure to check for extra airline fees before you book your flight. That special fare may seem quite ordinary once you add in $50 to get your suitcase there and back, and $30 for in-flight meals.
Parking: If you decide to drive, be aware that it will cost you $55 a day to park a standard size car at the Marriot. A SUV or minivan will run you $10 more per day, or $325 for 5 days.
Shipping: Chances are you will get too many free books to carry back in your suitcase. Be prepared to pay around $30 in shipping and handling fees or bring pre-paid flat rate boxes to save time and money. And bring a roll of tape if you don’t want to spend hours standing in line.
Clothing: If you have a day job, you probably already have appropriate clothing for pitching and receptions. But if you’re a member of the stay-at-home-and-write-in-pajamas crew, you may need to budget for conference wear. Comfortable shoes are a necessity.
Golden Heart® Finalists: If you’re a Golden Heart finalist, your costs will be significantly higher. In addition to the award ceremony dress, you may want to visit the hotel salon. Finalists are often invited to participate in additional events which have their own costs. And most finalists will pay to have a professional photo made for publicity purposes.
So there you have my best guess on what it really costs to go to RWA Nationals, along with a few tips on how to cut that price tag. The good news is that you don’t have to pay all this money up front. It’s possible to pay for registration and air fare in advance, thereby spreading the expenses out over a period of four months.
What do you think? Are my numbers off? Have I left anything out? I would love to hear your tips and experiences on what to expect, and how to make Nationals affordable.