Hey everyone, I’m back this week and I’m going to be talking about how you can keep your costs down when traveling to a YCS and still have a good time while you are there. We’ve all had that one YCS where we pack five people into a car and road trip it down to wherever the YCS may be, only to arrive at midnight and stay 5 miles away from the event in a budget inn. Well, there are much more enjoyable ways of getting to a YCS for not much more money.
What Days to Leave and Come Back
Going to a YCS is a big commitment. Generally, you’re going to have to miss at least Friday and Monday from whatever job or schooling you may have. Flying can really wear you out, which is why I like leaving Thursday night. Leaving Thursday night still allows me to go to whatever commitments I had Thursday. It lets me show up and go to sleep to be refreshed for Friday, when the trip really starts. The only downside to leaving Thursday is the extra night in hotel, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Friday is my favorite day at a YCS. It’s the day that you get to catch up with everybody. It’s sort of like a once a month family reunion. Usually the day is filled with hanging out and going to eat and the night is filled with theory-oh and play testing.
While I don’t hate having to leave Friday morning as opposed to Thursday night, I strongly recommend avoiding leaving Sunday night to come home. Having to leave Sunday is the worst. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but when you can, leave Monday. You’re going to be exhausted leaving Sunday and it is almost impossible to get home at any sort of decent hour.
There are a few tricks you can use to get good deals on flights. That being said, flying is still expensive and it’s pretty much impossible to get extremely cheap tickets. The only way to get super cheap tickets is to be friends with someone who works at an airline and talk to them about Buddy Passes. These give you the opportunity to fly standby for a small fee. Airtran had a standby program that was open to the public called Airtran U, where you could fly 1 way for $50-100 if you were between the ages of 18-22. Unfortunately, they stopped this program this year and now it is pretty much impossible to fly standby without knowing someone at the airline.
If you are like me and don’t have the luxury of knowing someone who works at the airline, listen up. First of all, you’re going to want to book your flight a long time in advance. The airlines know that if you’re booking a flight two days before the departure time, that you are desperate and going to be willing to a pay a lot more. I’ve seen three hour flights go for upwards of $1000 for people trying to get them two days in advance. Flights go up at the one month mark, the two week mark, and the one week mark. This means that it is best to get your flight over a month in advance.
If you live anywhere remotely close to an airport, pay someone to drop you off and pick you up. Remember, if you bring your car to the airport you’re going to have to pay to park. Even the cheapest lots are about $9 a day. You can probably get someone to drop you off and pick you up for less than that.
The next thing we’re going to look at, is how to get the cheapest airline tickets possible. My personal favorite is Priceline. They have a name your own price feature where you can bid on airline tickets. There will be an added fee by Priceline on top of your bid of about 20%. This sounds like a lot, but Priceline can get you deals of about 40% off an average airline ticket, so you’re still saving 20%.
Sometimes Priceline will give you a counter offer. For instance, let’s say you bid $200, but Priceline declines the price. They might give you a counter offer of $214. You decide that if you hold off you think you can get it for less, so you come back tomorrow and bid $207. Now Priceline declines this offer as well and gives you a counter offer of $230. A secret to this is that you can go back to the email of the first counter offer of $214 and they will still honor it, so save these emails!
Another Airline you may want to look into is Spirit Airlines. Honestly, they are very bad. They are rude, notorious for delayed flights, have uncomfortable seats, you cannot check luggage, you can only bring 1 bag and it has to go under your seat, and if you put it in the overhead bin they will charge you $40 each way, there is no free refreshments, and no entertainment system. That being said, they are cheap. Very cheap. Right now I can book my ticket for YCS Philly leaving from Atlanta for only $97. This might be something you want to look into if you do not mind the pain of Spirit Airlines.
The last trick I’m going to give you in terms of flights is dealing with luggage. Most Airlines allow you to have 1 carry on and 1 personal item such as a backpack or purse and charge you about $25 each way if you want to check a bag. Carry ons are supposed to be small, but I would advise you to take whatever bag you have for your clothes as a carry on regardless of its size. One of two things will happen. They will either allow you to take it as a carry on and you avoid the $25 each way, or they will have the bag checked at the gate because it is too big, which they will do free of charge. Either way, you don’t have to pay the $25 each way.
My advice on hotels is to stay very close to the event. It enhances the experience. Also keep in mind that if you flew to a YCS, you probably don’t have a car waiting for you. This means that if you’e staying 5 miles away, you’re going to be paying about $20 each time you want to go to the convention center and $20 each time you need to go back to the hotel room. That’s about $40 a day that could go towards a hotel closer to the event. Being close to the event often presents a conflict of interest as there are very few “budget” hotels near most convention centers. Most hotels in that area want anywhere from $150-200 for a 1 night stay. For a four night trip this would be between $600-800. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have money like that.
The first thing you should do, is get people to stay with you. This should be common sense. They help split the costs and will increase the amount of fun you have while you’re there. Four people in a room is pretty much ideal. Usually, there are two beds and if you put four people in one room, no one has to sleep on the floor. So now instead of paying $600-800 for the weekend in hotels, you can pay $150-200 in hotels.
Then again, why pay that much? Priceline doesn’t only do flights, they also do hotels. Once again you can name your own price for a hotel. Priceline won’t give you specific hotels, instead they will give you an area in which the hotel will be and ask you for the number of stars you want. Last weekend in Chicago I needed a hotel for Thursday night so I did name your own price and got a $150, 3 and a half star hotel for $72 the same day I needed to check in. I was only about a half a mile from the convention center and the hotel was pretty nice. If I did this all weekend, I would only have to pay $288 total. If I split that among 4 people, my individual costs would only be $72 for Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night.
Getting Around the City
Another cost you have to consider is how you’re going to get from the airport to the hotel. Let me tell you, taking a Taxi is almost never the answer. The first thing you should do is call your hotel and ask if they have a shuttle from the airport. Some hotels do, others don’t. If they do, it’s usually a free one and it will save you a lot of money. The hotel is more likely to have a shuttle if they are close to the hotel. Hotels some 15 miles away probably don’t have shuttles. So how do you get to the hotels that are 15 miles from the airport? Those taxi rides would be upwards of $40 each way. Instead, use Super Shuttle. This is a cheap alternative offered at most large airports. You book your shuttle online and tell them when your flight arrives and when your flight leaves and they will take you from the airport to the hotel and back to the airport from your hotel at a specified time. This service is $36 round trip, much better than a $40 cab ride each way. Unfortunately those headed to Philly will need to find an alternative as Super Shuttle does not have any vans at this airport.
Once you are in the city, you should look into the city’s public transportation system. Most cities have great public transportation systems and for only a couple dollars you can get in walking distance of just about anywhere in the city. This is great for when you and some friends want to go out to dinner Friday night.
I hope everyone enjoyed my tips on how to save a few dollars when traveling to a YCS. This is all from personal experience and if you’ve got your own ways I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment down below and until next time, play hard or go home!