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The discounted registration deadline for #NFCB16 has come and gone. You may be thinking travel is too much of a pain, so you skipped out. ‘Maybe next year,’ you think.

The fact is travel to the middle of the country is easier, cheaper and more accessible than you may know. Want to get to the National Federation of Community Broadcasters’ June conference on a budget? There’s no need to throw in the towel. Let me show you.

For a lot of community radio stations with tight budgets and few resources, covering costs for a conference feels out of reach. As someone in the same boat, I feel you. With a little bit of ingenuity, however, you can make your trip to Denver something that works for you.

First, it’s important to understand what you have and what you can get. If you’re starting at zero, it takes a bit of fundraising moxie. Approach your networks, your audience, and your donors and ask for help. Like a pledge drive, it’s important to have your message and be upfront about what you need and why. People like giving money to tangible things. A lot of your friends, colleagues and audience will give $10, $20 and more if it means a station’s people (you) get skills and contacts to make their stations even better. Having notes, knowledge and handouts to bring home and become part of new training for volunteers is gold to people who want to see stations succeed. A lot of organizations just don’t have big staff development line items, so conferences are a low-cost way of continuing education. Don’t by shy to ask, as an individual as well as an organization. It may turn out better than you think.

Other ideas you may want to consider: crowdfunding (e.g. GoFundMe, Indiegogo), a musical fundraiser or even a yard sale. Be creative if you need to, and have some fun. Funding something like this has tremendous potential to bring everyone together.

You might also ask friends, co-workers and your audience about donating flight points to help you cover expenses. Various airlines allow people to transfer or donate points for little to no cost. If your organization is a non-profit, these programs have long-term benefits, Because so many different airlines have partnerships with other airlines, points can be pooled to one account for use on a carrier of choice.

Next, it’s considering all your costs, primarily flight, lodging and food.

Flight fares can be a big chunk for many people, depending on where you’re coming from. There are a range of great discount travel websites, including Kayak, Priceline, and Expedia, where you can sign up for alerts on discounted fares. In addition, several discount airlines, including Spirit, Frontier and Southwest, offer specials if you sign up for their email newsletters. Finally, it’s smart to keep an eye out on websites specializing in tracking flight discounts, including Hipmunk, Google Flights, and others. Broaden your search. At times, a nearby city may save you a few hundred dollars in travel, for a quick hour or so in driving. It’s important if you’re looking for a deal, to start searching now. Various deals have blackout dates of which you want to be aware. You will also want to be patient because this part can take some time.

There’s some debate on when to purchase the most affordable flight. There’s little debate that airlines which use cities as hubs tend to have cheaper flights there. For Denver, United, Frontier and the commuter airline Great Lakes Airlines all consider Denver a hub, while Southwest lists Denver as a focus airport, with many nonstops there.

Discount car rental, if you decide to drive to Denver, is available at a lot of the same websites you might check for flights.

There’s already a lower rate for the rooms at the Embassy Suites in downtown Denver, but you may wish to inquire about other discounts. AAA and AARP are among the groups that help you save more on all kinds of purchases, including hotels. Both have partnerships with Embassy Suites.  The discount on rooms is only available until May 17th, so please REGISTER NOW for your room. While you can choose a different hotel, speaking from experience, I can tell you it’s much easier and more in the middle of the action to be on premises. You can save more by doing a room share. No one guarantees a room share is for everyone, of course, but it’s another way of handling costs.

You’ll save money on food as breakfast and lunch are already built into your conference registration cost. Denver has many affordable places for dinner.

If you’re not renting a car, Denver’s public transit is relatively inexpensive. It’s $9 coming or going via light rail to Denver International Airport. Local fares are $2.60 each or a day pass for $5.60. In addition, you can buy a 10-ride booklet for $23.50. Mallride, Denver’s bus going up and down 16th Street Mall, is free.

Conferences on a budget can be a wonderful and fun experience. In the case of #NFCB16, the best part for you and your organization is being there. Make plans, ask around and come to Denver!

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