Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Conference values



So, DH and I went to a conference this past week (hence the 'radio silence')   The main focus of the conference was practice, with nuero-scientists, artists,actors, magicians, musicians and more as the key note speakers.  DH was in heaven as the main magician is someone he idolizes (DH was an amateur magician when he worked for an entertainment company in his 20's) and I was intrigued with the research and ideas I culled to apply to my own teaching and people skills.

It was limited to 100 participants (at first) and for $1700 EACH we stayed Fri/Sat/Sun at a historic inn that is in horse country.  (I don't want to disclose to much as I don't want to dis the inn or the event, as that's not the point of this post)   It included all meals, and of course the event itself, which included two film screenings and 12 presentations.    We found that after the all inclusive event sold out, they offered the conference (minus the meals/lodging) for $1000.00, so I am basing this value for the food/lodging on the $1400 additional monies that my DH and I paid for these extras.

Not worth it.  Bottom line. $1400.00 was way too much.

The room itself was lovely, large, in a historic carriage house on the property of a mansion.  HUGE oversized sleigh bed, large bathroom with the best shower pressure either of us has ever experienced in a hotel.  Free wifi, sherry in the room (my DH enjoyed this extra touch of finery). High quality products for our use in the bathroom, and I loved the added touch of a black 'makeup' washcloth (though I don't wear makeup).   I did have issue that our room smelled of past animals (as in horses, very deep past) and my clothes that I brought back that hung in the closet brought back the odor.  I did get used to it however.

 I loved that it was on the 2nd floor of the carriage house, and that all events were in walking distance.  I still didn't do my usual 10k steps (way too much sitting for me, I got antsy and sleepy ALOT) but we hit 8k most days. We did 12 flights of stairs each day.   We were booked solid, and only one day did we get a two hour free time (and we went on an adventure, more on this in a different post).  Most events didn't start until 1030 -11 a.m. (artists after all) but we were up and out by 8 a.m. looking for things to do.  Most business didn't open until those hours, so  no luck.  Also, we were busy until the same hours in the p.m., so no night activities either.  But the classes again were AWESOME.

So, let's talk about the meals.  Standard continental breakfast offered.  I thought, ok, I can eat yogurt.  No such luck.  Small boxes of cereal, english muffins, bagels, toast.  Though DH will eat those things, I will not.  We walked two mornings to a local breakfast joint.  Did I get yogurt?  Not for $4.00.  I was shocked at that price.  I chose to get an omelet with rye toast and hashbrowns (I ate one slice and a few bites of the potatoes) each morning.  DH got eggs and bacon the first morning with toast and potatoes and a breakfast sandwich with a side of potatoes the second day.  We paid with tip for these two days a total of $47 spent on the breakfast that we thought would be included.

We also spent $14.00 at CVS for more water (I drank all the bottles we brought with us, and I found I didn't like the taste of the tap water/ice cubes that we could use in the room.  as well as a few snacky things for him and starbucks k cups that I should have brought from home)  $14.00.

Lunch two days.  This we were happy with the quality, but when you think about the money we spent on lodging/meals, still not balancing out.  The first lunch choice (buffet) was at the inn, and though the choices were more my style, still not worth the overall cost if we had done it at home.  Field greens (yes! for me) and lots of fresh fruit choices (yes! for DH).  Veggie Quesadilla (me, i took one quarter of a whole one) Chicken Quesadilla (DH took two quarters) tortilla chips (DH took some I think) salsa/sour cream/ quacamole.  I took probably the equivalent of 3 tablespoons.  I 95% of the time just drink water or black coffee, which I did both at this meal.  DH had a coke.  We also each had a chocolate chip cookie (homemade)  There was also rice and some other chicken dish, niether of us had this.

The second lunch choice, again a buffet at the inn.  Field greens and fresh fruit again (eaten as before).  Tuna salad (I had one small scoop) Turkey sandwiches on grinder rolls cut into quarters (DH took a quarter) Turkey tomato, lettuce.  Same thing on a wrap (I took a wrap but only ate the contents)  Potato chips (neither of us had) Coke (DH had two) and I again had water and coffee (this time I was smart and got it in a to go cup so I could take it with me).

Dinner.  First night (after a pay for your own drinks cocktail hour that was part of the event, we were surprised that some sort of app or beverage wasn't included as it was a required attendance).  One pinot noir and a vodka pineapple juice $20.00.  Ouch.  

Buffet at the inn again.  I was disappointed.  Field greens or Caesar salad (I chose this).  Quinoa with veggies (I chose) mushroom bolognese (won't eat pasta and DH won't eat mushrooms) chicken breast (tasteless) salmon (ok, finally something) lasagna (neither ate) and chocolate flourless cake (we shared a piece)  water and coffee.  When I list it here it looks like a good assortment, but I base it on our eating styles.  So I guess it was ok to the general public.

Second night.  Dinner at a local restaurant.  This one was the best.  A special menu offering for our event (we apparently took over the entire place)  Choice of field greens with goat cheese brushetta or melon gazpacho.  I had salad, DH had soup.  Both lovely.    Choice of roasted bone in chicken with potatoes (DH) salmon with wheat berry vegetable pilaf (I had) or vegetable lasagna (could have had this, as the 'pasta' was zucchini) cheesecake (we both had).  A nice menu card naming the event which I asked to keep as DH likes me to make collections of our adventures.   Everything was delightful.

Third night.  Dinner at a different restaurant.  Larger, so we didn't take it over.  Very disorganized.  I have to say the staff was working hard, and I appreciated that.  DH got a beer (3 dollars, reasonable) I had water as always.  Choices were not good.  Menu written on a wipe off board. Best part was the crunchy romaine heart salad.    Chicken Parm (which i ordered since I'd eaten nothing but fish and couldn't eat, it was like a pre-made heavily breaded and deep fried cutlet with pasta) Filet of sole with mashed potatoes (probably should have ordered this) and Ziti with Marinara (DH ordered took one bite and pushed away as it was overcooked)  We visited for a few more minutes with our table mates and then I whispered to DH, we have 45 minutes, do you want to see if the burger stand up the road we saw yesterday on our adventure is still open.  He couldn't stand up fast enough.  We ran to our car, drove up the road about 10 minutes and he ordered a double burger with mustard and onion (and it was freshly made) onion rings (freshly cut and battered in front of us) and french fries (peeled and cut in front of us) A Dr Pepper.  $14.00.  I took three bites of his burger, I ate half the onion rings and took 3 sips of the soda.  Great value, great food, we both felt satisfied.

The third morning though we could have had the continental breakfast we checked out and went to the next town over to visit a highly recommended restaurant (that we will go to again when we are in this area of our country, it was AMAZING)  We both got the same breakfast, locally raised eggs scrambled with smoked salmon on a locally baked bialy roll.  I asked for a side of grits (enough for four people, we shared it and could not finish it) When husband found out they would make things on the lunch menu he ordered a duck cubano sandwich to go.  Juice for DH, coffee water for me.  Total for breakfast AND lunch plus tip (we shared the sandwich on the road, amazing) with tip $45.00.

So the math.  We paid $1400 combined for room and board.  Room was 200 a night.  $1400-600 leaves $800 for meals (plus $143 we spent on our own) .  OMG.  I don't pay that in a month anymore.

Would we do it again?  Definitely.  The educational part (and purpose) of the trip was amazing.  No regrets.
As a business owner who went to a work based event that I know I can put on my taxes, I'm ok with the monies spent.  Still shocked at the dollar sign for the food portion of the event, but we all need to make a living.

Would love to hear other comments on 'all inclusive' events/vacations and if you think they are worth the money versus the effort to do things separately.

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