My Secret to Affording SXSW

SXSW 2011 Interactive Badge

Many of us never heard of SXSW until this year, whether it was from my tweets or other people’s tweets, but one thing you might know is that it sounds hella fun and you would like to attend next year. This was my same reaction a year ago, I saw a couple of bloggers tweeting about it and I did my research and was beyond excited when I was given the opportunity to attend. I am a firm believer of the law of attraction, what you truly want, you get.  Well I wanted to attend SXSW 2011, and here I am sharing my tips/secret to attend and afford SXSW.

To be honest, there is no secret. SXSW could be a pretty expensive trip, the badge alone for the interactive festival ranges from $450 – $750 (depending when you purchase it). Then on top of that you’ll need a hotel room, and of course round-trip flight. All this can cost you almost $2,000.  No lie, and that is obviously not cheap.
Luckily, I didn’t pay $2,000, I was blessed with an opportunity to be a SXSW Interactive Panel Liasion volunteer and I took it. I figured I had nothing to lose and besides someone I knew was also doing it, so we decided to split a hotel room.

SXSW IPLs are in charged of communicating and being key contacts with a few panel speakers assigned to them. Volunteering is required for a few months prior to the conference. Where many emails and sometimes phone calls need to take place. The volunteer job sounds simple, but it does require some of your time and attention. You must certainly need to be email savvy and able to respond to emails in a timely and professional manner.
At the end of the required volunteer time, IPLs are rewarded with a SXSW Interactive badge (value: $750). Right away you’re eliminating $750 from your almost $2,000 trip.
Not only do you get a free badge but you also get access to discounted hotel deals. These will save you a lot of money, especially if booked early. I split a hotel room with Krista Flock a fellow blogger, and we each spent about $360 for 5 nights at the Wyndham Garden Hotel.

What’s left?! Yes, The Flight.

I paid a good $299 roundtrip nonstop flight via American Airlines, from JFK to AUS.
American Airlines SXSW priceCompared to other flights, this was a bargain. Jetblue’s non-stop roundtrip flight was about $600 bucks or more I can’t remember but I know it was insane.

My tip/secret for getting a good deal is to use Fare Finder. It’s pretty smart and usually accurate. It tells you to wait or buy that plane ticket you are searching for.

Another expense was the R&R shuttle buses that pick you up from your hotel (if you’re hotel is away from the Downtown Austin area). These shuttle buses will pick you up, and drop you off at the convention center as well as other hotels that have panel sessions going on, and are a bit out of the way, walking distance. You can purchase a wristband that lasts throughout the entire interactive session, valued at $40 if purchased early. Totally worth it, and you’ll definitively need it.

Last but not least, you won’t be spending much money on food and definitively drinks. I literally spent less than $100 bucks on food the whole time I was there. First of, the food prices were inexpensive, so even if you had to buy food, you wouldn’t spend much. Second of all, there were an array of corporate sponsor parties/events with free food and drinks. Usually appetizers, but good enough to fill you up. There were also free breakfast sponsored by Mashery (Circus Mashimus), free brunch sponsored by Groupon, House party with free beer and Mexican food hosted by Klout, free Texas BBQ sponsored by Mapquest, tons of beer, soda, alcohol, etc… sponsored by several different liquor and beverage companies, such as Pepsi, McCallan, SoBe, etc…
You were pretty much covered left and right.

SXSW Interactive was a wonderful experience that I’m willing to do it again next year. Not only did I eat and had a great time, but I met some really wonderful people that I probably wouldn’t have met before or got to talk to as much and in a such informal setting. To me the best part of SXSW was that being able to chat with a CEO or a Director of Marketing while you both listen to music and drink beer.

Have you been to SXSW?
Are you planning to attend next year?
What would be your main reason for wanting to go?

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6 thoughts on “My Secret to Affording SXSW

  1. Austin VIP Limo

    Good to hear that you have all the money you can afford, I agree to Christen SXSW is worth it, Enjoy and have lots of fun!

  2. Christen

    OMG! This is a great breakdown on how to afford sxsw! (and not a procrastinator like me) ….But SXSW is totally worth it!

  3. @womanzworld

    Great work on maximizing the opportunities to attend SXSW for less – I definitely can't wait to make it there. Hope you had a blast!

  4. @KristaFlock

    Participating in the liaison program saved my budget for SXSW! I couldn't have done it without volunteering, and thank goodness for all the free food at the conference! Affording SXSW is definitely doable, but you have to be strategic about it.

    1. kmp22 Post author

      Totally agree! For next year I will definitively plan ahead, especially booking the hotel and the flight.