Guest Post: How to Attend IFT15 on a Budget

By: Suzy Hammons

IFT15 is sure to be fun, educational, a great networking opportunity,….and a great opportunity to blow a lot of money. Attending a conference is not cheap, particularly on a student’s wage. Therefore, as an experienced OFG’er –seven IFT’s later—I feel it is my duty to share some tricks of the trade for attending the meeting on a budget. These tricks basically fall into two categories: either enlist someone else’s help to fund your travel (items 1-4) or make savvy spending choices (items 5- 11).

Find Funding Outside of Your Own Pocket

  1. Enter a Student Competition (deadlines vary, but are coming up soon!)

For my first ever IFT annual event, our college bowl team made finals. We received a travel grant from IFTSA for the team and our department head (when we asked for it) supplemented the rest of our travel since we were representing the university. Start work soon, as many deadlines occur between now and early March (

  1. Serve as a Session Monitor (application due February 9)

Session monitors are meeting room hosts during sessions and presentations (translation: they scan badges and make sure the session room is ready). As the first person attendees see when attending sessions, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet many new people, have direct contact with food science experts who are presenting. Plus, monitors receive: 1) FREE registration to IFT15; 2) FREE lodging (one of the most expensive line-items at a conference!), and 3) the experience of being at the event for only the cost of travel and food. Apply by February 9 via this survey. Questions? Email Anita Daniel at

  1. Apply for a Division or Feeding Tomorrow Travel Grant (application due March 25)

Feeding Tomorrow, IFT’s foundation, has multiple travel grants, from $500-$1,000 for student members ( Requirements may include membership in a specific division, but several only require students to attend division socials or help with an event at IFT15. IFT divisions are free to members, so you can join as many as you like. Also, even if you aren’t a travel grant recipient, division activities are a great way to meet people with similar interests, plus most have snacks!

  1. Ask for Travel Support through Your University (deadlines vary)

Most universities offer travel grants for students to attend scientific conferences. Grants may be sponsored by the college in which your department resides (e.g. College of Agriculture), graduate school, (graduate) student government, university (scholarship) foundation, or international affairs. Search for keywords like “travel grant,” “scholarship,” or “conference support”. You should also ask around your department. Other graduate students, the graduate student coordinator (or chair), and your adviser are all a good resource. Who knows, maybe one of them can give you money! J

Be Cheap in Your Choices

  1. Be a Member

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are already a student member of IFT. But on the off-chance some readers aren’t, here is my obligatory (but true!) membership-value spiel. Student members are:

  • Eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships from Feeding Tomorrow ( (Pssst! Scholarships are another way to use someone else’s money to support yourself on a tight budget; deadlines approaching soon!)
  • Discounted registration for IFT15 ($85 off).
  • One year FREE IFT membership after graduation ($190 value).

Becoming a member is easy ( and costs only $50/year (net $35 savings on meeting registration alone).

  1. Register Early (deadline May 29th)

IFT offers an early registration discount. For student members, early registration is $50 cheaper than late registration (only $75 instead of $125). Registration opens March 2, 2015 (

  1. Book Flights 42 Days in Advance

So somebody somewhere did statistics on the best time to buy airline flights and then somebody else made it into an info graphic ( ). Although their materials and methods section is a little vague, it seems to be cheaper when I follow these rules. Also, remember to clear your computer cookies when you return to travel websites. It’s rumored that some sites track the number of visits you make (via cookies) and list higher prices the more often you visit.

  1. OR Be Even Cheaper and Take a Road Trip with Friends

Three friends and I drove 12 hours from West Lafayette, IN, to New Orleans, LA, for IFT last year. Using a personal vehicle, it cost the 4 of us less than $220 roundtrip when plane tickets would have cost >$250 each. If you don’t know anyone else traveling from near you, try reaching others using your area representative, or the “IFT15 Student Room Share Opportunities” group of IFT Connect (

  1. Share Hotel Rooms with Other Students and Take Advantage of IFT Discounts

Sharing rooms with others can save a lot of money! On most of my IFT annual event trips, I have been fortunate to room with students from my university. But whenever we had an odd number (empty space to fill), I found roommates by reaching out to other schools through friends from IFTSA, posting in “IFT15 Student Room Share Opportunities” group of IFT Connect (, and IFTSA’s Facebook page ( Rooming together is a great way to get to know someone better and develop lasting friendships. Be sure to check out IFT’s partner hotels which offer a free shuttle service to the convention center (a big money saver) and rooms at discounted rates ( IFT hotel registration opens March 2, 2015.

  1. Use Travel Discount Apps

So I am not the most tech savvy person (Twittering is @confusing. Wait…#?), but technology which saves money is worth a little bit of time investment. A few apps I’ve used before include:

  • Happy Hours: find happy hour discounts for food and drink. On my last trip to Chicago our group of 8 people enjoyed 10 appetizers and 3 rounds at a nice restaurant for $20 each.
  • Yelp: locate food and drink based on location, price, and style. Besides the user ratings and map, my favorite feature is the lottery-wheel feature. I can set a limit on location and or price, and then Yelp suggests a restaurant at random.
  • Uber or Lyft: transportation in a car, or van at rates cheaper than taxis. Set your preferences carefully as the rates vary based on the vehicle size and additional features (luxury sedans cost more). Also, check out the “recommend a friend” option. If a friend signs up for the app using a code you supply, both of you get a free ride.
  • SpotHero: discount parking. If driving, you can reserve a spot in advance at parking garages and lots throughout the city. Some parking garages cost $40/day, my last garage only charged $19/day via SpotHero. 
  1. Eat Breakfast In

Bagels and cream cheese or cereal and milk from the grocery store are cheaper than visiting a coffee shop or buying a hotel breakfast every day. In New Orleans, my friends and I found a grocery store the first day, then kept food and drinks in our hotel room rather than eating out. We also would snack before going to dinner and then just eat small plates or appetizers to save major dough.

Lastly, have fun. It is good to be a savvy consumer and budget-conscious, but keep in mind Chicago is a big city where things are more expensive than most college towns. You will likely spend more money than a typical week at home. Spend the money, live the experience, make a memory. College kids are supposed to be broke, right? :-p

Alright, I’ve rambled long enough. What tips do you have for attending IFT15 on a budget? Have you been to Chicago before? Do you know any great restaurants or things to do without going (more) into debt?

Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).


  1. Great tips, especially the $ ones that are also FS-related- thanks for the article! Maybe I’m old-school, but…safety first, too, so make sure to trust the people and the situation in all steps of planning the trip! I lived in Chicago for a bit, and a lot of the museums have “free admission” days/nights, so those might be worth checking out. Summer feels so far away, but I remember there were always free summer events (music, films, dancing, etc.) at the park, too; the city might be doing that still ( Also, the city’s a really walkable one and the light rail is great for getting around. You can get awesome views of the city on some of them, too. If I remember correctly, it’s possible to get a 3-day pass and there are trains into the city from both airports.

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