So last year I did a recap of our FinCon experience and talked about how much it cost us. I thought that it would be a good idea to do that again to help other people looking to go in the future. So here are my thoughts on the conference, our budget, the hotel- our whole experience. Of course, FinCon is in different locations every year, so every year is a new adventure.
Last year was our first FinCon. We didn’t know to expect, and we didn’t know anyone. It was a great experience, though a bit overwhelming for us introverts. This year we knew exactly what we were getting into. So for those of you that are wondering, “What in the world is FinCon? That’s not even a word.” It is an annual conference for people who create content (in all different forms) about finances, a financial conference.
However, FinCon is not like other conferences. It’s more like a community than a conference, a community of money nerds. There are speakers and sessions, but the secret of FinCon is in the relationships. I always meet so many interesting people who are putting out great content about finances. The environment is so collaborative. We realize that though the world may see us as each other’s competition, we really aren’t, because there is enough room for all of us. We all have different stories and our stories will resonate with different people. Our basic message may be the same, but it reaches people differently.
Going to a conference like this can be a bit like drinking water from a fire hose. It is easy to feel like you have to implement all the things. There are so many people doing so much cool stuff, and it can feel like you are failing if you aren’t doing all of it. I have learned that I just need to have a goal to find one or two things to implement. Otherwise, I will try to do everything and accomplish nothing very well. Many of the Big Idea and the Main Stage talks seemed to be about that this year. Your race is your race; don’t compare yourself with other people. Be kind to yourself. I think that it was a very timely theme that resonated with so many people.
Our Actual Budget
We came in one Wednesday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon. We stayed four nights. These are just the numbers for Keith and me. I separated our expenses from the kids’ expenses. There may be another upcoming post on their Disney trip and budget.
FinCon tickets $557
Parking/Resort fee $291
Tips $ 30
Starbucks $ 14
Lunches $ 41
Dinners $ 105
Krispy Kreme $ 7
Meetup $ 10
Things We Could Have Done Cheaper
I am the type of person that can be super frugal – eating every meal out of my suitcase. Keith is not like that at all, so I feel like we found a good compromise. I mostly grabbed a sandwich, snacks and drinks from our room at lunch and Keith ate at the food trucks. We also had three of the kids with us so we went somewhere to eat with them every night. It was nice to be able to enjoy ourselves, loosen up a little, and know that it is in the budget.
We weren’t sure if we could go to FinCon this year with the kids’ schedule, so we didn’t get the early bird tickets.
I used Chase Sapphire points to pay for the hotel. We ended up switching the reservation after we booked it because we decided to bring three of the kids with us. There weren’t too many rooms available for five people. I had to cancel and rebook immediately to make sure I got one. The points don’t immediately credit so I ended up paying a little. But we did end up saving over $1100 by using points. After the fact, I discovered that Keith had beaucoup Marriott points in his account from work trips that I could have used. Oh well, it was nice to tap into his Gold status to get a late checkout, free internet, and avoid the check in lines.
World Center Marriott
This year’s FinCon was held at the World Center Marriott in Orlando. This is a massive hotel-the largest Marriott in the world! It is on two hundred acres with an awesome swimming pool and a water park.Having the conference at such a large hotel had some definite advantages and disadvantages.
Things We Liked
We could have just stayed there the entire time without leaving, a definite plus for those who flew in for the conference. There were quite a few restaurants, a spa, a fitness center and a golf course. Keith was happy to have a Starbucks right in the lobby. One of the kids went to the fitness center several times, and he kept talking about how nice it was.
The hotel was only a mile and a half from Disney. There was a shuttle that ran back and forth to all the Disney parks every few hours. This was a definite plus because the kids just hopped on the bus out front and we didn’t have to worry about them driving in an unfamiliar city and we didn’t have to pay for Disney parking.
Things We Didn’t Like
We had to take the shuttle to get the car out of self-parking. After paying $25 a day to self-park, it was a hassle to get your car to go anywhere.
Because the hotel was so large, there was lots of walking. I didn’t mind it too much except for the times when I had to run back to my room to get something that I had forgotten or to grab food. I was glad that I had brought my favorite tennis shoes.
The staff were all very friendly and nice, but they struggled with getting things right. They kept charging us for internet. We had to go to the front repeatedly to get it taken off the bill.
Both the pool and waterpark had strange hours so the kids didn’t use the pool as much as I thought they would. Even the staff had trouble knowing when they were open. We asked once at the desk and it took five minutes for the clerk to figure it out. I think the waterpark closed at 6:00 PM and the pool was not open past 8:00PM most days. By the time the kids got back every night, there was not enough time. The lazy river was open every night though and we did spend a fair amount of time there. The last day the kids and I just hung out at the pool and the waterpark. We got a late checkout so we got some good time playing together. I even went down two of the water slides!
We spent twice what we did last year, but I still feel like we did pretty good. We stayed one more night than we did last year and drove the van down so we had added gas expenses. The resort and parking fees also added extra expenses that we didn’t have last year. Could we have done it cheaper? Yeah, we could have tightened it up more, but we weren’t seeking to be super frugal, just trying to have fun and not go overboard. Overall, we all had a great time, got to see some old friends, made some new friends and got to hang out with our kids.