Having attended three previous New Media Expos (formerly Blogworld) and planning another trip to Las Vegas for 2014, I am always trying to find ways to get the most out of the conference, but on a smaller budget each time. I have discovered some simple ways to save money at the conference while maximizing the opportunities.
Before The Conference
Pricing for New Media Expo (NMX) is tiered with several different price points broken down into Super Early Bird, Early Bird, and Regular registration tiers. Inside of these tiers are also different levels including All Access, Content Creator, Exhibit Hall Only and a Speed Networking only pass. The intricacies and features of the different pass levels won’t be covered in this post, but information on them can be found at the NMX Registration Page.
Register for the event as soon as you decide to attend. Many regulars will pay for their pass the day registration opens, which saves hundreds of dollars. For example, someone reserving a Content Creator Pass on the day registration opens will pay $197, while it would cost someone $547 in late October.
The basic room rates booked through NMX are fairly reasonable at $99/night and are at the venue itself. There are other options around, which I have chosen in the past. Prices both at The Rio and across the strip go up tremendously as NMX and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) get closer.
I highly recommend staying at the host hotel for the conference, as it provides the best networking (and time management) opportunities.
Staying On The Strip
The current home of NMX is The Rio. If you have never been to Las Vegas, The Rio is located off the Strip, and is not usually suitable for walking between the Strip and the hotel. Depending on construction and other promotions, you may be able to find cheaper rates at other hotels such as the MGM Grand or Luxor.
While you may get cheaper rates, these present some challenges. First, the free shuttle between Ballys and The Rio does not start running until 10 AM, which means you will more than likely have to pay for a taxi in the morning to get to the daily opening keynotes. On the return trip, you will be able to take a shuttle from The Rio to Ballys, at which point I would recommend a 3-day monorail pass to take you from Ballys to a stop near your hotel.
Again, the cost of the monorail and morning taxis may make staying on the Strip even more expensive than at The Rio itself unless you can find someone to share a taxi with in the morning.
Cheaper Rates at The Rio
Every hotel has different specials, and the best time to find them are during the summer months. Before the official NMX room rates had been announced, I checked The Rio’s website in August and found an incredible rate. By making my reservation before the NMX rooms were announced, I was able to get 3 nights for only $253.34 which is $84/night after all the additional fees they tack on. The first night was only $41.40! I booked this rate a full month before the NMX room block became available.
NMX Room Blocks at The Rio
At $99/night excluding resort fees of about $18/night, is the regular room fee for rooms booked through NMX and its partner booking agency. The NMX rates are a real value if you book closer to the conference, as many of the special deals have expired, and the hotel’s normal rates are starting to go up. It is still important to book early, however, as in recent years CES starts very close to NMX, and rates get higher and availability gets lower.
Plus, it’s always great to book the NMX rate, as it helps support the conference.
I’ll be honest, I am not good at booking flights. Many people like Tim Ferris will tell you to wait until the last minute for the best deal, but I want to be sure I am on a plane rather than hoping there is a spot available. I always book early. I have used cheaptickets.com, priceline.com, as well as the individual airlines to book directly. Shop around for the best rates. Tickets for getaways to Las Vegas come up every so often, so subscribe to an airline’s email newsletter six months before the event and be on the look-out for deals.
At The Conference
In general, the best networking opportunities come from meeting people actually at the event. If you are extremely budget-conscious, you can find a Rite Aid or other convenience store on The Strip, and bring back some items to fix quick meals at your hotel. I usually pick up a box of granola bars, some soda and maybe a couple packs of M&Ms or unhealthy snacks… just in case of emergency.
If you are looking to get The Vegas experience, the Carnival World Buffet is always available, but be prepared to drop at least $35/meal unless you find discount tickets at some of the stands on the Strip. Here are some cheaper alternatives.
At The Rio, there are two main locations for a quick breakfast just up the hallway from the conference. These are the Sao Paulo Cafe and Starbucks. Both are very budget friendly and within seconds of the conference itself, so they make for a great fast and cheap stop before heading down to the event.
Tip: Sit along the outside of the cafe, so you can catch friends or a “guru” as they walk by, and invite them in for a quick coffee.
In previous conferences, you were able to tack on a “meal ticket” to your registration, but that is currently only available on the All Access pass, and even then your meal may be only slightly filling. Because The Rio is far away from the Strip, you are pretty much restricted to the hotel.
Many of the big restaurants are open only in the evening, including the Village Seafood Buffet and the Voodoo Steakhouse. Good medium-price meals can be found at the KJ Dim Sum & Seafood restaurant, the Royal India Bistro and the All American Bar and Grille. The Carnival World Buffet is open at lunch as well. The Sao Paulo Cafe is also a great choice for lunch.
The fastest, cheapest place for a lunch friendly to your stomach and your wallet is the BK Whopper Bar. Located at the furthest possible point away from the conference center in the Masquerade Village, it is quite a walk, but worth it. Go up the escalators, avoiding the salespeople at the skin care shop at the top ($200/bottle for exfoliating creme, if you are interested) and then turn to the left. The BK Whopper Bar is the last shop down the hall on the right. For about $8 you can get a normal, fast meal. This isn’t the best place for networking, but you can get in and out quickly and return to the conference center to meet up with your other appointments.
The world is wide-open for dinner, either for meetings or exploring the Strip. Take the shuttle from The Rio to Ballys and you have an overwhelming choice of where to go. My favorite places traditionally have been the buffets at either Treasure Island, Luxor or MGM Grand. This past trip I really wanted to go to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, so I headed over to Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris. I had already exceeded my budget for the trip, so the prices there scared me off. Instead, I went to Burgr at Planet Hollywood. The meal was reasonably priced (the fries are excellent too) and you get to take the menu home with you as a souvenir.
If there is a place you “always wanted to go to in Vegas” – this is your chance. Have fun, ask someone you met if they want to grab something to eat and connect. The shuttle from Ballys to The Rio stops at 1 AM, though, so plan for a taxi back if you are out late!
NMX Parties and Events
The folks at New Media Expo and their sponsors host some great parties during the event. The two main ones are usually the opening night party, and a wrap party the final night. Oftentimes a sponsor will hold parties on the in-between day, and several exhibiting companies may hold networking parties throughout every evening. These are fantastic opportunities to meet new people away from the setting of NMX, as well as pick up a free beverage or two.
There was one party at The Luxor I attended where I spent about 20 minutes chatting with Jim Kukral, which turned into me buying one of his websites, which I then developed and resold. The smaller networking parties are great to pop into, meet people, and then make your way to one of the larger NMX sponsored events.
The NMX sponsored parties have tended to be at venues on the Strip, so the shuttle to Ballys is once again a great opportunity. A taxi will be more than welcome if you are on a strict time schedule.
Hey, you’re in Vegas! There is always something to do, whether it is just walking down the Strip or taking in a show, you can find many free shows along the way. The water fountains outside the Bellagio are a big attraction, as is the free outdoor show at Treasure Island. Another favorite is taking a cab a short ways down the Strip to The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, home of Pawn Stars. Warning though, some things on TV are larger than they appear!
NMX is an Investment
No matter your budget, New Media Expo is an investment. The panels and presentations are only a small part of the value of this conference. Take the time to get to know people and network, and you will come out ahead.
Want more tips? Check out a blog post on the NMX website on How To Do NMX on a Tight Budget.
Have a tip of your own? Please leave a tip in the comments below to help out other attendees! See you at NMX!