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On booking travel to music conferences

This post is primarily for my students, the ones in Music Entrepreneurship who do a similar project.

This evening, I finally booked my travel to SEAMUS 2020 at the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. In all honesty, I was procrastinating putting together this week’s Comp II masterclass, but regardless it needed to get done.

SEAMUS is an electronic music conference, where they’re doing the US premiere of The Earth Shall Soon Dissolve Like Snow. I’d already paid the registration fee earlier this week, so the logical next steps were to handle the travel arrangements. This was complicated by two things, the first being that the schedule isn’t out yet (the conference is the 12-14 of March, but without knowing which day I’m on I’ll just have to stay the whole time), and the second being that Charlottesville isn’t particularly close to large airports.

Why not wait to book? I usually try to book no fewer than six weeks in advance, and we were coming up on that time. I don’t know that this is the best time to book, but I think I read that somewhere once and it’s stuck in my brain.

I have a Chase United MileagePlus card, so I usually try to book through them if possible (read: cheap). The first thing I do in this case is pull up ITA Matrix and look for Fargo (and close airports) to Charlottesville (and close airports). Matrix allows you to do trips to FAR-IAD with a return DCA-GFK or things like that–some of which I’ve done before. For this flight, I looked at flying to Richmond (RIC), Washington Dulles (IAD), Washington Ronald Reagan (DCA), Baltimore (BWI), and Charlottesville (CHO). Dulles on Delta turned out to be the cheapest option, so I picked that.

I could have gone cheaper if I’d done basic economy–I’ve done it before, and the Chase card makes it a decent option–but I like the control of picking my own seats. Aisle, left side of the plane, as far back as possible.

I also could have gone cheaper if I’d flown out of Minneapolis instead of Fargo, but once you add in four hours of driving each way, and parking (I’ve also done this before, it’s a decent option).

Personal preference: I don’t fly American. They stranded me in Dallas once, and I rented the last rental car at DFW at 2 am–but that’s a story for another time. Others have had great luck with them, but that’s not me.

So, flight booked, now to tackle the hotel. The conference has a hotel with a conference rate, and after some looking around it seemed like a good deal. I used to use Hipmunk to search for hotels, but they’ve gone away unfortunately. I usually use my AAA membership to bring hotel rates down further, but in this case the conference hotel won out. The hotel will be close enough to walk to the venues, so that’s good. However, getting from Dulles to Charlottesville will still require a car.

Extra charge: Hotel parking: $7/night.

Next, over to Hertz to get a car. I usually pick one of the SUV options if it’s not much more expensive than the basic rental (though the last time I did this I ended up with a full-size truck. At a new music conference.), I usually pay up front, and the Chase card substitutes as their damage waiver/insurance. Being a AAA member brings down the cost quite a bit.

A few words about AAA: We got a membership a few years ago less for the auto repair options (which I think we’ve used once) and more for the travel discount options. What we found was that with our travel, at worst we break even and at best we save a great deal of money. The only other better deal that we’ve encountered is the ND Government State Rates on ND Hotels or through Hertz.

So I get to Virginia the day before the conference at 1, which gives me the rest of the day to get to Charlottesville. The drive puts me pretty close to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, so why not? Two fun travel things this summer were driving from Park City, UT down to the Great Salt Lake, and driving from Denver to Parachute, CO for the Aspen Composers Conference.

I get an inbox full of confirmations, all of which I forward to Tripit for keeping track of my travel plans.