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Annual Meetings Can Be Affordable

Clarence H. Gifford


Budget: Plan an Expense Allowance

The single most important key to making the meeting affordable is planning ahead. If you begin now, you can secure travel and lodging arrangements at significant discounts--or skip lodging expenses altogether by staying with friends or colleagues in the Chicago area. Planning ahead also means setting aside funds now to ensure the fulfillment of your budgetary goals.

Here's an example of a budget, based on a student traveling from the East Coast to Chicago:

Drive with friends, share gas and toll expenses $ 40

Split $85/night hotel room among 4 people for 4 nights $ 85

Food allowance $25 per day $100

Total: $225

This budget is certainly ideal, but not impossible. Incidental expenses can be avoided if you can create a similar budget for yourself with greater or lesser amounts that are more realistic for your own situation.

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Travel: Drive if You Can, Fly if You Must

The cost of traveling obviously depends on the distance traveled. As the site of the meeting moves from year to year, students within range have found that driving to the meeting is the most economical means of getting there. This is especially true when several people agree to share the driving responsibilities and the cost of gas. Compare the cost of bus or rail travel, and be sure to contact American Airlines, SAA's official airline to the Annual Meeting, which is offering special discounted fares plus a bonus discount of 5 percent when purchasing a ticket 60 days in advance.

Are you presenting a paper at the meeting? Many colleges and universities offer student travel grants for conference participants. You may have to provide some evidence of participation, such as a photocopy of your SAA notification indicating session acceptance. While these grants typically cover travel expenses, they also might allow for lodging, dining, and even a stipend. Check with your department administrators and ask other students who have presented papers for tips about locating small travel grants.

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Lodging: Bunking Together

SAA always arranges special student-rate rooms near the official Annual Meeting hotel. In 1999, it is Motel 6, 162 East Ontario St., Chicago, IL 60611, (312) 787-3580. A student ID is required to reserve a room at the student rate of $85 for single to quad. These rooms are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so call immediately or download the reservations form for student accommodations from the SAA web site (

Organize friends or colleagues and arrange to share a room. When contacting the hotel, be sure to request two double beds and then make an agreement with your friends to split room charges fairly.

If your budget is especially tight, stay with friends or consult with universities in the host city which may have lists of locals willing to host students from out of town. Contact department administrators by phone or email to learn about these opportunities.

Dining: There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Of all the expenses typically incurred at the Annual Meeting, dining out is the most unavoidable and most potentially expensive.

Set some daily limits for your food budget and bring some snacks from home for those between-meal munchie attacks. Breakfasts at a local diner or similar establishment can fill you up without emptying your wallet. But because it's no fun to be a monastic meeting attendee, be prepared for that spontaneous night out with an armada of archaeologists by keeping some emergency food money tucked away.

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Shopping: A Major Temptation

Remember that this is a work trip, not a vacation, so don't feel compelled to buy trinkets and gifts for everyone back home.

A major temptation are the wealth of books and other materials displayed by the Annual Meeting exhibitors. Most exhibitors offer discounts for meeting attendees that often extend a few weeks after the meeting, in case you missed that essential purchase when browsing in the exhibit area. Be sure to pick up their catalogues or promotional flyers and review them carefully for special offers. The exhibitors also may permit you to buy their display copies at a deep discount. Frequently, you can write your name in a display copy to reserve its sale, then pick it up on the last day of the meeting.

These tips are only a starting point to make your Annual Meeting attendance affordable. With some forethought, you can fully enjoy the meeting without going broke from the experience. See you in Chicago!

Chad Gifford, a member of the Student Affairs Committee, is a graduate student at Columbia University.

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