Flying to conferences on grad student budget

Conferences are fun and useful, but they are also expensive, especially if you have to cover all expenses from your own pocket. Story one: I got a cheap ticket!

These pictures describe my experience of traveling to and from conferences this semester in ways that words can’t.


I went online 5 months before the flying date and got the best price guaranteed. It came with an overnight flight, a 20 minute connection to the second flight at 6am, non-refundable, non-insured option, no checked-in baggage and no food included. It didn’t seem like a big deal until:

  • I couldn’t sleep on the first flight,
  • the plane was late and I almost missed connecting flight fearing that I might have to buy a whole new ticket,
  • I had to drag my bags and a falling laptop everywhere while trying to balance a water bottle, a scorching hot coffee and a take away container with sauce dripping from it, and
  • I had to spent four hours nibbling on my trail-mix, praying to god for a free soda can during on-flight service.

tumblr_noxbcooJis1qz6f9yo3_500 Speaking of…  As I look back at what I have eaten during the past 11 hours, I want to weep. Trying to maintain a healthy protein/fiber balance while on a flight is barely possible. Left at the mercy of airport overpriced cafes and fast food joints, you eat what you can (or could bring on board, and god knows that there is a special place in hell for people who eat “fragrant” burned grease burgers, while seated in the middle row).

And then there are all other fellow passengers, who share your frugal nature. Once you hear “This flight is full” you instantly realize that you wish you could pay a bit extra to be able to board in Zone 1. tumblr_noxbcooJis1qz6f9yo1_500 But no, you are in Zone 5, sitting in front of that bright orange dot. Stay strong, dear parents of infants on long-distance flights. Happy travels, everyone else.

In all seriousness, graduate students will always go for the best deal and all you can do is mentally prepare and practice finding zen in the worst situations. It will help when the PowerPoint suddenly stops working in the middle of your presentation.

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