Writing conference season has already started, and the big conferences are coming up this spring and into the summer months. If you look around, you will probably find one near you if not in your home town. However, often some of the best conferences are just within driving distance, and place where it really is not practical to fly into.
If you are not going to fly, and you don’t want to drive by yourself, what are some alternate ways to get to a writer’s conference? Here are some real-life subbestions for you.
Take the Bus
The bus? No this is not a flashback to 1995 and that nightmare trip you took across the country. No, this is about the experience of the conference, and often taking a bus will give you more material for your stories.
While traveling by bus is not expensive, doing so may take some additional planning on your part. It takes longer to get somewhere on a bus, and you will need to account for that time on both ends of the trip. If you still work a day job, you will need to take the appropriate time off.
If you have ever watched movies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you will understand the value of bus travel as story fodder. You may meet interesting people, and learn some new things.
Also, don’t just stick to your traditional Greyhound bus. There are also tour destination buses, and these can be even more fun, and affordable. Headed to a conference in Vegas? Take one of the gamblers’ tours and hand out with some cool people on the way there and the way home.
Take the Train
Yes, Amtrak still exists, and depending on where you live, you can take the train to a writer’s conference. Much more relaxing than taking the bus, the train will also allow you time to meet interesting people and gather story ideas. However, seats are usually much roomier than those on buses, and you can use dining cars and other common areas as places to get some writing done during your travel.
Like buses, trains usually take more time than driving, but especially if you are going to a conference a long way away, you can save a great deal of money and add some relaxation time to your trip to a conference.
The way home can be a great time to reflect on the things you have learned at the conference and make notes about what you want to do with that information.
Make it a Group Activity
If you have a local writers’ group or critique group, why not take the whole gang? You can split not only transportation, but the cost of hotels, perhaps even meals, and if you are attending the right conference you might even get a discount on your attendance fees.
There are a number of ways you can all ride together, including renting a passenger van. These vans often have seating room for up to 12 passengers along with room for all of your gear. This makes the rental affordable, the gas cheap, and you get the bonus of riding and attending the conference with your friends and fellow writers.
This method does require some planning though. You will need to reserve the van ahead of time and be sure you collect the money or at least a deposit from all of the participants so you are sure that no one backs out of the deal or cancels on you, making it more expensive for everyone else.
Also, you will need to plan lodging accordingly. You will all need to stay the same place or at least close by, so you don’t have to also use the van to go collect everyone. You can, however, use the van as a shuttle to and from the conference and your hotel. This can be very handy as long as you all go and return at the same time each day.
Does someone you know own a motorhome, or can you rent one of those? This can be a great way to get to the conference and to save on lodging. While gas will be more expensive in a motorhome if you have the right sleeping arrangements you can literally save hundreds over the conference hotel costs.
Many times. even if there is no campground nearby, you can camp in parking lots or near the hotel somewhere anyway. Many megastores like Walmart are quite open to this idea, and there are often a number of motorhomes in the parking area.
Of course, if you are going to stay with those you are traveling with in a small space for a few days, it is a good idea to screen them and make sure they are people you will get along with for that amount of time. Set some group rules and be considerate.
Another simple alternative is to carpool—simply split gas and travel costs with another person or two depending on the capacity of your vehicle, and ride together to the conference. This does have the advantage that you do not have to coordinate a larger group, and there is less chance that someone will cancel and you will get stuck with the whole cost of the trip solo.
Depending on the car you drive, this can be a money saver for sure. Also having another driver or just someone to talk to along the way can be a great help, keep you awake, and increase the speed with which you can get to where you are going.
No matter how you choose to get to a writers’ conference, go to at least one this year, more if you can. No matter what your level of experience, you will learn and grow for the experience. To save money and effort or even just to enhance your experience, choose an alternative way to travel and have some fun with it along the way.