How to attend Craftcation on a Budget and Still Have The Best Time

We (Nicole & KatieMac) teamed up for this post to share our favorite tips to help you attend Craftcation on a budget. We even got some Craftcation alums to chime in!

from katie mac:

The word budget used to make me cringe! I thought being on a budget meant limiting my ability to have fun. And who wants that? But what I’ve learned as the CEO of my household of four humans and a fur baby that by creating a budget – and actually sticking to it – we actually give ourselves the right amount of money to do the things we really want to do!

If we just willy nilly swipe our debit cards without intention, all of a sudden the money’s gone and we haven’t a clue where it went. Budgeting however allows us to categorize our spending and even include little buckets for the rad stuff like going out to eat, going to the movies, traveling and pretty much whatever else we want!

The same rule holds true for planning for a business conference. Start early, plan ahead and use these simple tips to maximize your fun while minimizing your spending at Craftcation. 

from nicole:

It was SUPER hard for me to spend hundreds of dollars on travel, registration and other expenses when I attended my first conference. However the benefits I got from that experience were SO worth it! I made connections with businesses and learned new skills that helped me grow my business, forged friendships and created a support system, got out of my routine and was able to look at the big picture and refine my business goals and so much more. That first experience made me realize that planning and budgeting for a conference was a business expense that was must. 

ready for our tips?


It’s much easier to set aside a little bit of money weekly or monthly than to come up with a few hundred dollars all at once. You can use an app or just set aside some funds in an envelope or jar. I use Acorns and when I started, I was shocked at how easy it was to save a few hundred dollars in two months when I was adding $5 or $10 at a time.  -Nicole

2. Don’t sleep on early bird pricing

We always have special early bird ticket pricing that’s less expensive than other options. But, once these tickets are gone, they’re gone so get them while you can. -Nicole

3. Take Advantage of the payment plan

We offer a payment plan where you choose the amount and timing of your payments. All you need to do is pay off your balance by the deadline which is about two months before Craftcation. You’ll even be able to let family, friends or your community contribute to your ticket through your own link (perfect for holidays or birthdays!). -Nicole

4. Be strategic about your travel expenses

  • Air travel can sometimes cost you a pretty hefty sack of cash. But you do have some options! Do you have a birthday, anniversary or milestone event coming up? Ask for airline miles for your gift! Those bad boys add up quickly – and with any luck, you can purchase a miles ticket with little or no out of pocket costs. You can even ask for gift cards to your favorite airline or travel site. 
  • Use services like to alert you when airfares are low.  They’ll send you email alerts when fares change and even when NOT to buy them.

  • Pack lightly and carry on your bag. Most airlines charge extra to check your bags. Those costs can add up! But by carrying on your bag you’ll save yourself money each way!

  • Bring your own snacks onto the airplane. Make yourself a bunch of snacks in advance and stow them in your personal bag or carry-on. This way you won’t need to purchase those pricey cheese plates on the plane. As good as they are, the money you’ll save is even better.

  • Stow an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag. You can fill it up after you go through the security checkpoint saving you tons on bottled water or other drinks while you’re waiting for your flight.


  • Our private online community for Craftcation alumni and ambassadors is a great place to find carpool buddies! Once you register for Craftcation, we’ll send you a link to the group so you join. People are traveling from all over the country and use the group to coordinate rides together to the conference. Be sure to request to join the group once you’ve registered (or if you’re already an alum).

  • Take the train! AmTrak is a great way to travel from LA to Ventura. And I know this is a budgeting blog – but I highly recommend you treat yo’ self and pay the extra $12 for business class. Get your free wine and snacks! Also, if you coordinate with a group from the alumni community or friends you’re bringing with you, you can snag a table with four seats together!  The view on the train is beautiful. Waves on one side, mountains on the other. I even wound up bumping into friends on one of our stops last year and we shared a table set-up. It made the trip that much better! -KatieMac

TIP FROM A CRAFTCATION ALUM:  “If possible, find out who else from your local area is attending, and carpool or share hotel rooms with them. Nothing gives you the chance to really get to know someone quite like sharing a car or a room.” – Lauren Venell

5. Be thoughtful about where you stay

The Ventura Marriott is a beautiful property and was recently renovated. The rooms are a nice size and can easily hold up to four people. This is another reason to join the alumni community. If you’re open to meeting new people and possibly rooming with strangers, you can easily find yourself a roommate (or three)! 

My first year at Craftcation, this is how I saved a bundle of money. I was sooo nervous to come alone but I wound up staying with a few alumni I found in the online community and they made my stay so comfortable. Bonus: Now I have new friends! -KatieMac

Don’t wait to book your room! Our discounted room block fills up quickly. If you choose not to stay at the hotel or the rooms are sold out, consider sharing a vacation rental with other attendees or even renting a room. VRBO & AirBnB both have lots of options in the area. We also have a list of alternative hotels on our attendee news page which you’ll get a link to when you register. 

I’ve stayed on-site and off-site both at another hotel and a vacation rental as a conference attendee and I really love staying at the hotel where the conference is being held because it gives me easy access to the hotel restaurant/bar where I can hang out with fellow attendees and presenters, I don’t have to worry about travel time/costs getting to the conference daily and if I need a midday break I can sneak up to my room to decompress for 15 minutes without missing much. However you can have an awesome experience staying “off-campus’ ‘ as well, especially if you rent a house with friends or fellow conference attendees. -Nicole

TIP FROM AN ALUMNI: “I would suggest sharing a room and the train is the BEST way to travel. The ride is stunning and it delivers you just a few blocks from the hotel. Also, there is no need for cabs or cars. You can walk or even rent a bike from the hotel to get around town.” –Kelly Affleck

6. Plan your food & drink

The Ventura Marriott  is located in the heart of downtown Ventura, CA. The bar and restaurant in the lobby take very good care of us during our conference. However, to cut back on food and drink costs, you’ll find various markets, grocery stores and even a Trader Joe’s super close to the hotel! Stock up on your favorite items and keep them stowed in your room. There are even local liquor stores nearby to stock up on your own cocktail makings!

Use the mini fridge, microwave and coffee pot in your room for an inexpensive breakfast. Your schedule could be pretty busy – so it’s a good idea to keep non-perishable snacks like nuts, granola bars, crackers, etc. in your bag as you make your way to your classes throughout the day.-KatieMac

I always request a mini-fridge if they don’t come standard in my hotel room. Sometimes that isn’t an option so I’ll buy a cheap cooler and fill it up daily with ice. 

Not everyone wants to eat every meal in their room so go out and splurge at least once but plan for it and try to hit up a happy hour. -Nicole


“Use coupons and look for discounts. I always bring an electric tea kettle so I can have tea, coffee, oatmeal & ramen. This saves me time and money.” –Vennice James

“I do save money by packing drinks and snacks so I won’t be spending extra dollars in stores. Also, I park my car on a side street away from the conference and walk a few extra minutes. It saves parking fees and the walking gets me energized.” –Keri Cleverly

“If the conference is more than a one day event, I research the local area for budget friendly restaurants or coffee houses. It may be less expensive to share a room or stay at a local hotel, not the one the conference is held in. Take your own snacks or drinks and keep them in your room.” –Natalie Cuen

7. Carefully consider what you’re packing

You may be tempted to splurge on some new clothes. I get it! You’ll be meeting new people and want to make a good impression but new clothes are NOT a must. Go through your closet and pick out the things that you like the best and you feel the most comfortable in.

Maybe your friends have seen you in something dozens of times but you’ll be around a whole new group of people. Also, it’s not a fashion show. People are there to learn and build community, not criticize your wardrobe choices. Plan out your outfits before you go to save time not having to pick out an outfit daily and save space in your luggage (no extra baggage fee)!

Create a packing list so you don’t forget anything. It’s a bummer to have to buy a toothbrush when you have one at home.  -Nicole 

8. Bring only the money that you need

If you bring several credit cards along, chances are you’ll be tempted to overspend. I like to bring my conference budget in cash. It’s harder to spend cash than to hand over a credit card. However I always bring one credit card just in case of emergencies. Having the credit card as a cushion makes me feel more at ease. -Nicole 

9. Trade work for a ticket

We have a Craftcation program that allows you to get a complimentary ticket in exchange for working a few days either before or at the conference. Aside from saving money, this is a great opportunity to meet people as you’re working together. For more information, email Katie Mac. -Nicole 

Business conferences can be overwhelming and expensive. But don’t forget – this is an investment in yourself and in your business. The opportunity to rub elbows with experts in the small business and creative field, grow your community of fellow makers and possibly learn a new craft is invaluable. AND YOU DESERVE IT!

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