Monday, February 6, 2012

Food at a convention: trying to eat well and on a budget on a hotel convention floor

For work, I go on major, out-of-state business trips twice a year. Once, to the industry's major conference and once to an important recruiting event. Smaller trips may or may not occur throughout the year, depending on timing and the budget. My first conference trip, the hotel and flights and such were booked before I was actually hired, so I had little control over anything, and was a bit overwhelmed by everything. Since then, I've learned a thing or two about my business trips that work for me. One this is about convention food - conference/convention food is...well...enough to throw your stomach off-balance. There are usually enough events with free food that you could likely get away with only having to pay for one meal a day. This assumes that you are willing to eat nothing but hors d'oeuvres, cookies, and stale pastries for several days. Plus, that first year - I totally didn't order enough food for our reception, and we ran out within the first half hour. So, free food is certainly there, but the quantity, quality, and origin are all unreliable. If you are working the convention, and you're an introvert (like me), you find yourself exhausted after manning the booth, shaking hands, and generally schmoozing. After you finally make it up to your room, the last thing you want to do is face the restaurant downstairs. Yes, I usually eat room service at least once during these conventions. At the most recent convention, I managed to escape the re-circulated air of the convention hotel multiple times, and went out to local restaurants with colleagues and friends. This was by far a cheaper and tastier method of eating. As my hotel room had a fridge, I easily could have taken leftovers with me. But the best thing to do for these things? Go to a grocery store. My first full day in town (I actually arrived early to do some extra recruiting), I was able to go to a Whole Foods. I bought things like almonds, Luna bars, apples, and lime-flavored sparkling water (what, I love it, but don't get it all that often). Basically, healthier snack and breakfast-y food ($6-10 for oatmeal from room service or the restaurant is where I draw the line, even on a business trip with a per diem). I had more than enough food to keep me noshing for the duration of the convention (and even took some home). Instead of starving between meal times, which could be unpredictable, I was able to stay feed. And eat food that I at least had an idea about from whence it came. And sure, I may have dropped three quarters of one day's per diem* at the store, but you know what I didn't do, spend that much any other day. Plus, it feels satisfying to be able to nip behind our booth to snack on almonds or an apple when feeling a bit peckish, and not pay the outrageous hotel prices. *since we don't have Whole Foods where I live or work, I also bought things like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and tea tree oil. Experimenting with a few brands I can't buy regularly, and well, was low on tea tree oil anyway. Discovered that I prefer Thursday's Plantation tea tree oil, which local stores do carry. Weird, huh, to have a brand preference of a plant oil.

1 comment:

cam.robbins said...

Good suggestion. I'm heading to a convention soon. Unfortunately, I won't be in the day before, but I can bring snacks on the plane.