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Beyond the Planner: Saving Money while Attending Conventions

The past few days I’ve been watching some discussions around Facebook. People are commenting on how gas prices will affect the cost of attending homeschool conventions this year. Some are looking for ideas for travel-friendly food so they can cut down on eating expenses. This made me think…Hmmm…My readers are great at coming up with ideas, and I bet the vendors who have convention experience might share some ideas, too!

So, here we go. Kim Kautzer, of Write Shop, has this for you to consider:

When driving to a convention, should you use your personal vehicle or rent a car? Believe it or not, at times a rental car can be less costly. If you don’t travel with your family or haul a trailer, you can often save hundreds of dollars by renting a car.

A full-size model has enough room (trunk + back seat) to accomodate me, my assistant, products/display items, and our luggage, so when a convention is over 150 miles away, it’s usually more cost-effective for me to rent a car. Here’s why:

Suppose I plan to travel over 4 days to make a 900-mile round trip. The IRS allows a deduction of $0.555 per mile for business use of my family vehicle. To keep business and personal expenses separated, WriteShop cuts me a check for $499.50 (900 miles x $0.555) for the use of my car. But if I rent a car instead, WriteShop pays, say, $160 to rent a full-size vehicle plus $162 for gas (at $4.50/gal.), for a total of $322.00. That’s a savings of $177.50 over using my own car!

Additional advantages to renting: I’m driving a new car instead of adding wear and tear to my own aging vehicle (especially nice when driving across hot, empty deserts in July), and my credit card has free rental car insurance.

I know this won’t work for families or vendors who drive from conference to conference to conference, but for those who go home between conventions, and who travel small and light, renting a car can be a great cost-cutter.

Kim has also become an expert at finding airline tickets and hotel rooms through Priceline. She shares her secret: is a great site to visit to learn how to get the best deals on hotels through Hotwire. You can also learn tips and tricks to bid for rock-bottom prices on Priceline’s Name Your Own Price. I use Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” for many of my convention hotels, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years. You’ll need to understand and learn the rebid system, but it’s worth the time and effort. Most recently, I won the Sheraton-Arlington (TX) for $45 a night, even though their website best rate is $179. Not that I’d pay $179/night, but the savings is $402!

Melanie Young of Raising Real Men has a great travel-friendly recipe that can store in a cooler while you’re driving.

The Best Cooler Food Ever: Homemade Pimento Cheese

Today I heard it called “Carolina Caviar” and that about sums it up. Forget that nasty stuff that comes in the tub next to the pretend butter at the grocery store. Real Southern Pimento Cheese is ambrosial comfort food that’s as good scooped out of the cooler onto crackers as it is on toast points at the country club. There are as many recipes as Southern mamas, but here’s the way we make it:

2lb shredded cheese, sharp cheddar is classic, but we’ve come to love Great Value Finely Shredded Fiesta Blend Cheese

1 1/2 cups, at least, salad-dressing type mayonnaise (like Miracle Whip)

4oz jar chopped pimientos, juice and all, pimiento lovers might want two jars

2 teaspoons or so pickle juice

salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything. Feel free to adjust to taste. Keep cold.

For traveling to conferences, we like to pack it in cleaned out mayonnaise jars. They are indestructible and don’t leak in the cooler.

Serve on saltines or Ritz crackers, white bread or homemade wholewheat, cold or toasted, celery or bell pepper slices, tortilla chips or toast points, especially yummy on cheeseburgers, or even just a spoon. It lasts for ages as long as it’s kept cold. Enjoy!

See you on the road!

Make sure you stop by these ladies at the conventions and tell them thanks for their tips!

Here’s a favorite at our house that you can freeze individual servings in wax paper ahead of time and take on the road for breakfast, lunch, or snack time! My home is gluten/casein free, so we use Enjoy Life Foods’ Crunchy Flax Cereal or Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice, but you could use Rice Krispies, or I’m thinking Cheerios would work, too.

Cereal Bars

1 c. honey

1 c. peanut butter

4 c. cereal

1 c. oats

1 c. dried cranberries, chocolate chips, extra nuts, etc. as desired

Melt peanut butter and honey and stir until combined well. Dump in rest of ingredients and mix well. Chill in 13×9 pan for half hour or more. Cut and serve or freeze. Enjoy!

Hope these tips help you save money as you prepare for convention traveling season! Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite way to save money while traveling, or what is your favorite food to prepare and take on the road? We’d love to see this become a sharing smorgasbord!


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Home Educating Family knows the worth of inviting guests to write for our blog. Each guest brings experience, knowledge, and insight to help our readers along the journey known as life. Some are homeschool veterans, and others do not have children. Many are experts in their field or have valuable life experience that can help others, and we appreciate our guests’ willingness to share with our readers. We also realize our guests may not agree with us on everything. If something they wrote makes you curious about what we believe, you can visit our mission statement and statement of faith.


  1. Having homeschooled for over 23 years now and being a vendor in three states for a few years I have come up with some ways to save money…especially on food. We pack up most of our food and try to eat out only one meal a day if that. We do the same on vacations. Some foods we pack include: breakfast-muffins, dry cereal, fruit, boiled eggs;lunches and snacks-sandwich items, bread, sandwich meat, mayo and mustard, cubed cheese, salads including green, pasta and potato, chips, crackers, summer sausages. Dinner is usually more expensive in a restaurant, so many time we eat out for lunch and save the above mentioned items for dinner….or we take a crockpot or two and leave it in the hotel room full of potatoes that will be perfectly baked upon our return or are filled with a hot soup, chili or main dish that we put in frozen that came from our freezer at home. We also try to stay in hotels that offer a continental breakfast thus eliminating the need to take breakfast foods. We are a big family and packing foods like this has enabled us to attend conferences that we would not have been able to afford otherwise.

  2. I think replacing the pimento with diced Jalapeños would be more up our alley!

    Breakfast wraps (sausage, egg n cheese) that can be grabbed quickly on your way out the door… Or quesadillas…oh with a crock pot the possibilities are endless!!!

    When eating out at the convention, be sure to pack your own drink and fruit or veggie to avoid buying that costly soda and fries, not to mention being healthier!

    Like sweet tea? What good southern doesn’t? Don’t want to pay to buy it out? Make it at home and before you add the extra water after brewing (and sugar of course!) pour a small portion of the brew into a water bottle then freeze prior to leaving for the conference. While at the conference, that brew will be mostly defrosted and you can fill up the bottle at a water fountain for a nice refreshing sweet tea on the go at a fraction of the cost if buying it while out!

  3. Something not too many people in America do is contact homeschoolers in the area where they’ll be attending the Convention and find out if anyone would put them up in their home home. I’d happily pay upwards of $30-$50 for the weekend, even if it’s just the floor or couch. That’s a lot better than the $200 for a hotel, and we won’t even be at the host’s home most of the time. It’s also an opportunity to exercise hospitality while (in my case) getting paid for it! Anyone in the Cincinnati area up to putting up my son and me for the Cincy Convention? ;-)

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