I have to admit that before I attended my first conference, I wasn’t sure why everyone was so excited about it. My colleagues thought it was one of the most important Suzuki events for a teacher to attend, saying you get to refresh and deepen your understanding of Suzuki ideas, see people who are leaders in different parts of the country, listen to inspiring speakers, and just get excited about teaching. So I left my children, ages three to thirteen at the time, with some serous “Daddy time” and drove to Cincinnati. I went on trust, and hoped for the best.

I had to do everything for that trip in the same way that I always do: making it the most fun without spending too much. Here are some tips for attending conferences on a budget. These ideas are for implementing now or in the fall.

  1. Save on transportation any way you can. If you are driving, let teachers in your area know you are going and offer to share expenses. If you are flying, find a ride to the airport.

  2. Save on hotel costs. Find a roommate—it’s a lot of fun getting to know another teacher. If you are really diligent, you can even bring an air mattress and sheets and share a room three or four ways. Air beds are relatively small, and come with a pump.

  3. Save on food costs. Depending on what you like, this can be fun, too. Every hotel room comes with a coffee maker, so you can have tea, oatmeal, instant soup, or anything that can be made with hot water. You don’t need to pay three dollars for coffee unless you want to; save that money and use it for socializing at lunch or dinner. Restaurant options range from upscale places to places like Panera and Chipotle, and there are grocery stores nearby for breakfast and lunch supplies.

  4. Pay the early conference registration. It saves money, helps the conference team with planning, and gets you excited that you are really going.

  5. Start a vacation envelope in a secret spot. It’s good Feng Shui to put money away in a red envelope for a special time that you look forward to all year. The red color is for good luck!

I have found that the forward thinking at conferences is amazing. I see what the other instruments are investigating, how groups are being presented, talking with colleagues, awesome performances and sharing ideas. Helping others by sharing some of my own ideas is also a great way to learn and organize my own way of thinking. I will be starting my own red envelope this fall, and I hope to see you at the conference in 2012!