Dance events are the highlights of my year. I would pick a Dance-cation over almost any other kind of vacation, and I love every aspect of it from the crazy schedule to competitions, performances to social dancing. However, attending dance events tends to be expensive – which limits the amount of times I can do them in a year.
There are, however, some strategies that I use to save my moolah and get the most out of my event dance-dollars. Below are the main areas, and how I choose to save money or not. I do not offer an opinion on discretionary spending (shoes, shirts, privates, etc.) as these are always gravy!
Food: Cut a Lot
Find a grocery store. If there’s a mini-fridge, use it. If there’s not, try to rent one from the hotel, or just buy non-perishable foods. With local events, I do my shopping before I leave. If travelling somewhere, I try to find the closest grocery store in advance. This is easily going to save you $100 throughout the weekend. My go-to list if I do not have a fridge or plug-in cooler is as follows:
– Bananas, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, etc. (All shelf-stable for a weekend)
– Bread + Nutella (or peanut butter)
– Instant Oatmeal
– Cereal and Powdered Milk
– Bread + Instant Hummus (just mix with water!),
– Canned tuna/fish or spreads with Crackers
– Instant Noodles
– Any “Just Add Hot Water” items (powdered soup, etc.)*
– Protein Drinks, etc.
* It is possible to use a coffee maker to heat things up.
Dinner is the hardest without a fridge, and I will sometimes eat out once or twice.
– Granola Bars
– Canned Fruit
Alcohol: Cut a Lot
If you must drink, a) drink in moderation for the sake of your dance partners, b) drink after your main dancing, and c) bring your own and keep it in your room. Buying from a bar (if there is one) is expensive! Buy a bottle of Vodka and some mixer, and you’re set. However much you drink, buying it in advance (or from the duty free if you’re flying) is cheaper than buying it at the venue.
Transportation: Cut As Much As I Can
If I’m driving, I carpool and split parking (or, better yet, try to find somewhere to stow the car for free). This is self-explanatory.
If I’m busing, training, or flying, I start my search far in advance and familiarize myself with the going rates. I sign up for every mailing list for every airline. I scour deal sites. With MegaBus, I check that stuff every day. If travelling with a group, I check into group rates.
Also: sign up for your favourite airline’s rewards program – and use it. That free flight will be worth it whether it comes in 1 year or 10 years.
If you’re diligent with your transportation search, you should be able to shave $50-$500 off your flight cost (depending on where you are going). Being flexible on your dates/times also helps, with mid-week and late at night being the cheapest time to fly.
Hotels: Cut a Lot
I try to always stay in the event hotel, if the event is happening *in* a hotel. It’s just well worth the convenience, and staying in the hotel may help get the organizer a break on their rental costs. The only exception is if I have rewards that will allow me to get free stays somewhere nearby, or if there is a local dancer willing to host me.
Barring a local host or a free stay, the easiest way to shave costs is to split the room with at least 3 other people. This turns a hotel from, for example, $140 a night to $35 a night. over the course of a weekend, that saves at least $300. If people don’t mind the floor, throw some extra people in for more savings (but keep in mind that the hotel may not allow such things in their official rules.)
Some congresses even have tools that allow you to find roomies. Canada Zouk Congress in May (our event!) is trying out a new tool from Danceplace that allows you to book privates, share rooms, and share rides in one easy place. If a congress doesn’t have a tool, just use Facebook – it works wonders!
Congress Tickets: Cut a Little, or Not At All.
Dance events rarely make money. Many of them actually lose money. My partner and I were lucky to raise money for charity on our first event, but we also managed to get a lot of reduced costs as a result of the event being for-charity. It’s never a sure thing, and dance organizers are always at risk of being ‘in the hole’ after months of intensely hard work.
As a dancer, I would be heartbroken if events stopped happening. Therefore, the last place that I try to save money is on the dance congress ticket itself. If I love or want to support an event, I will *always* buy the full pass – never the night pass – for the sole reason that I want these events to keep happening. This is double if it is a driving-distance event and my other costs are low.
My thinking is this. Even if I only learn one small thing from a workshop, I’ve still learned it. Even if I don’t go to the workshops, in the evenings I’m still getting the opportunity to dance with a world-class artist. If dancers like me didn’t buy passes, the organizers wouldn’t be able to afford to bring these artists to town. To me, paying anywhere between 100-200 for a full weekend of my favourite activity is well worth it. People spend that in one night to go to a 2-hour live concert.
If I really can’t afford a full congress pass, I prefer to look into volunteering. Most events are in desperate need of volunteers to help with an event. You can usually get either a huge discount or a free pass through volunteer work, while still contributing to the success of the local event. It takes a community to make a congress work!
If I’m flying to get somewhere, I feel less bad about seeking out discount tickets – especially if I’m performing. However, generally I still prefer to get a full pass if I’m taking the time to go fly out there. The savings is so minimal, it still helps out the event organizers, and I feel more free to get the full experience of the event!
Many of events have group-organizer rates. If you are good at rallying people, you have additional opportunities to really save by bringing in lots of other people with you. This both helps the event, and helps your bottom line.
Q: “Why is it so expensive to run an event? If there’s 150 people each paying $150, that’s a lot of money!”
A: Well, that would be $22,500… which is usually less than a congress’ operating budget. Just as a baseline, an event in a major city is likely spending at least 5-10k (and easily more) on a venue for the weekend. If they have to rent floors, it’s likely another 3k. Each major artist couple brought in requires flights, food, accommodation, and an artist fee (I personally would give a general estimate of at least $5000 per couple). A sound system will likely cost 300-1,000 for the weekend. Wristbands, banners, and miscellaneous probably will cost around $1000. So, if you have an event which only brings 2 main couples, has a cheap venue, and keeps costs low you will have about $18,000 in cost just for the baseline. If they are also hiring a videographer, photographer, DJ’s, and a bar you’ve hit $22,500 easy. Plus, most events hire more than 2 couples for the weekend.
If you play your cards right, you can save anywhere from $200-$1,000+ on your dance event trip by playing your money cards smart. This could be enough to even finance an entire second event!
Generally, if I’m travelling to Europe for dance, I’m looking at a total cost of $1,500 for the weekend ($1,000 airfare, $150 congress, $150 hotel, $200 food). It’s usually easy to turn that into a week-long trip for very little extra money by staying with a European dancer-friend after the event.
For a close-ish but still flying North American event, I tend to spend around $800 ($400 airfare, $150 pass, $150 hotel, $100 food).
For a driving-distance event, I tend to spend around $450 ($50 driving money, $150 pass, $150 hotel, 100 food). All of the above are cheaper if I can stay with a dance-friend, work an event, or get a major seat-sale!
For a local event, I tend to spend only money on the pass! ($150).
As recently as this week, people from New York were able to arrange to come to our congress in Toronto for as little as $390 (Airfare sale of $160, pass of about $130 in USD, stay with locals, and food est. of $100 or lower).
- Mind the exchange rate. It can kill you or help you (For example, AUS=CAD < USD < Euros <Pounds). So, a European or Brit travelling to America, Canada or Australia will save the most. An American will lose money going to Europe, but will save money in Australia or Canada. Canada and Australia will lose money when going to the USA or Europe.
- Choose your events based on your income. You should never go into debt for dance. Please cover your rent first.
- Make friends. Friends in other communities save you lots of money!
- If financing your dance is hard, find ways to get involved to reduce costs. Do you have photography, videography, tech, DJ’ing, MC’ing, or other organizational skills? Are you a graphic or web designer? These are all paths to possibly getting freebies at congresses – or even getting hired. If all else fails, volunteer. Organizers want you to be able to come.
- Look for close proximity events which are a week apart if travelling a long distance. For example, the Helsinki and Dutch Zouk Congresses are less than a week apart. By taking a few extra days vacation, you can drastically drop your per-congress cost. That’s what Canada is planning to do, anyways.
So, go forth, and enjoy your dance event choices! There’s lots of choices out there, and knowing how to spend your money wisely can help you get more bang for your buck. Of course, we’d love you to come to one of ours too:
Canada Zouk Congress (May)