Thrifty MLA

With a family of 5 I am always looking for ways to save on the overall bill of things.  I found my frugal mentality extends outside of the home to work.  While I have been lucky to get institutional support to attend the meeting, I am aware this is never guaranteed.  I approach each meeting as if I am footing the bill myself because there might come a time when I might be doing that.  Over the years I have come up with ways to attend MLA for a little bit less.

Here are some of tips that I have learned:

Hotel: If you have points that you can use, use them. 

  • Find a Roomie! The last five years hotel rooms at MLA have stayed around the $200-$270 price range. You can cut that price in half with a roommate.  Even though you will be charged extra for a 3rd and 4th person, adding those people to the room drops the price below $100/person/night.  Simply post on Medlib-l you are looking for a roommate.

Transportation: Do NOT take a taxi if you want to save money.

  • Airline discounts. Check out to look for good deal on flights. Consider moving your dates around a day or two.  Travel on the weekends is usually the most expensive.  MLA has arranged for discounted airline travel (see page 24 of the preliminary program for the codes). American Airlines MLA discount is 5% and works online.  The United/Continental discount is not mentioned and doesn’t work online, you must call to get it.
  • Public transportation.  When I go to MLA I usually just need to get to/from the airport and the hotel.  The Central Link light rail can take you from the airport to the Westlake station which is next to Nordstroms and is 2 blocks up and 2 blocks over from Sheraton.  Light rail is only $2.75 each way. 
  • Share a shuttle. If your bags are too heavy or you’re worried it will rain and you don’t want to walk you might want to consider the Downtown Airporter shuttle service. It offers round trip shuttle service from the airport to the Sheraton for $12.50/person/way.  You can book online or at the ticket booth located on Level 3, Island 2 of the Parking Garage at the airport.

Food: Go to everything that has a meal associated with it.

While the Inclusive Package registration costs more, it does include food and the opportunity for you to network.  I know you could probably get the Conference Only package and eat for cheap but you will miss the networking opportunities.  If you are student, looking for a new job, or a solo that needs to connect, you probably should go pay for the Inclusive package.  However, if push comes to shove and you are living on ramen noodles just to afford to go to MLA then get the Conference Only package. We would rather see you at the conference than not at all. 

  • Hit every vendor party you can attend.  There is free food and drinks. Plus you usually end up having fun while being thrifty.  Watch your emails and snail mail and RSVP to these parties.
  • Chat with colleagues and find out which Sunrise Seminars you are interested in serve breakfast. 
  • Attend your Section’s Business meeting.  Many of the Sections (not all) will provide food as way to lure you to the business meeting.  By the way, the Section Business meeting is NOT just for the Section officers, it is for every member of the Section.  So go to your Section meeting and if they have food, EAT.
  • Use FourSquare to check for deals at restaurants.  Pita Express and Pabla Punjabi Cuisine both 11 min walk from Sheraton have deals for people who checkin through FourSquare.
  • Browse the airport and concierge areas where they have free Seattle tour pamphlets. Coupons for restaurants are often in those things. 
  • Plan in advance and get a coupon on This might be hard to do if you are waiting to see what vendor parties hit on what evenings but if you know you are going to be free one night or lunch you might browse the site for a restaurant near the hotel.  There are 22 restaurants on the site within 1 mile of the 98101 Sheraton zip code. There are always coupon codes for that you can use. Using the code SWEETIE (don’t know if it will be good by the time you read this) I could get a $25 Place Pigalle certificate for $3! (Make sure you stick by and the restaurant’s rules for the certificate.)

Institutional Funding, Grants, Travel Scholarships: Try to even get partial funding, it will take a bit of the bite out of the total bill if you have to come up with the rest of the funds.

  • Go to the Get Your Meeting Funded wiki and check out how some librarians were able to get some money to attend a meeting. Use some of their tips, perhaps that might help you secure your registration money.
  • Check out your Section and see if they offer any travel money to Section Members going to the meeting.  I know the MIS section has a travel award available to MIS members. If your Section does this find out the details and apply.

Consider e-Conference: Virtual participation is better than no participation.

  • While we would love to see you there, if you can’t swing it, you can’t swing it.  However, an e-Conference registration is only $100 (if you register before May 23rd).  That is a very good deal for all the online stuff you get.  Plus you don’t have to worry about transportation, hotel, and food costs.  You can still network and participate by using Twitter and following the conference hashtag #mlanet12.

Hopefully some of this information will help you save a bit of money and tip the scales toward going.  We would love to see you in Seattle.

This entry was posted in Conference Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Thrifty MLA

  1. Kate says:

    Great tips!

    I usually can’t get to the Sunrise Seminars and often have meetings in the early am, so I usually go a nearby convenience store and stock up on granola bars, juice and yogurt (if my room has a fridge).

  2. Valerie says:

    Great tips, Michelle and Kate!

    The Restaurant Guide will also spotlight several eateries (as many as we can find!) close to the Convention Center that can be classed as “quick grab-and-go” and that are also less expensive. No, we’re not talking McDonald’s – just good places to grab quick, inexpensive take-out food on the go.

  3. Sarah says:

    Depending on the city, age, and tolerance for distance from the conference center, youth hostels may offer a much cheaper housing alternative to hotels. I’ve had good luck with Hosteling International hostels in Portland OR and San Francisco, but they have them all over:

    Packing snacks is key to saving money at a conference – roasted nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, crackers, etc.

  4. Keydi Boss O'Hagan says:

    Don’t forget to check AAA rates. We got some great deals with AAA especially for the room!

  5. Pingback: Beta Automatic Roommate Match Service Now Available! | MLA 2012 Annual Meeting Blog