Attending PASS – what it cost me last year

I was lucky enough to attend the PASS conference in Seattle, November 2009. As a contractor/consultant though based in the UK, I had to pay my own way.. not just conference fees but flights, hotels, expenses etc – I thought it might be useful to share my experiences from last year..

Firstly, if you are going all the way from the UK, you really should attend a pre and post conference session – they are one of the conference highlights in my opinion.  This means the conference for you will start on Monday morning.  Last year I managed to get a flight with BA direct from Heathrow to Seattle airport –I booked very early so this cost £450 – it was alot cheaper for a Saturday flight out than a Sunday flight out. ( if I recall correctly I still saved money travelling early even though I paid for an extra night in the hotel).

I had a quick look today on travelocity for costs this year– flying out on Saturday November 6th and returning on Friday the cheapest flight available now is over £600. But flying out on Sunday 7th  cheapest flight now is £1384 ! Clearly the advice here must be to book your flight as early as possible.. I only looked at direct flights so there may be cheaper\slower options available still.

So I flew out on Saturday, arrived Saturday evening and had a day exploring Seattle on Sunday – refreshed for the conference to start on Monday. Despite not sleeping on the flight over - jetlag meant  that every morning I was wide-awake at 4am until at least Wednesday ! Several other Brits I met had a similar experience..

There are various transit options to reach downtown Seattle from the airport – for me however after a long flight, I just wanted to get to my hotel as quickly as possible – so taxi from the airport taxi rank direct to my hotel - $50. Took about half an hour on a Saturday early evening.

Hotels – I stayed at the Sheraton which is right next door to the convention centre. I checked in on Saturday evening and checked out on Friday – a room with the PASS discount for 6 nights cost me £890. The hotel is extremely convenient for the conference – and will be full of PASS attendees so is very good for meeting fellow conference attendees – you will find yourself sharing a ‘elevator’ with an MVP at some point during the week :)    I ate breakfast one morning in my hotel room – cost $30 – decent breakfast but quite a small amount of food for what you pay ! There are lots of other breakfast options near to the hotel – I’ve never seen so many branches of Starbucks….  and I did the tourist-thing and went to the first-ever Starbucks which is about 5-10 minutes walk from the conference centre down by the fish market..

There are other slightly cheaper hotels near to the conference centre. I find it confusing in the US when distances are described in blocks. You could easily book into a cheaper hotel several blocks from the conference, which sounds like a long way away, but find yourself actually having a  short and pleasant walk in the morning. The proximity of the Sheraton means it is very easy to pop back to your hotel room during lunch if you really need to..

One essential for the conference – you absolutely must get yourself a twitter account and follow #sqlpass tweets. It was a real eye-opener to me how useful twitter can be at a conference – people were arranging evenings out, sharing airport transportation, and posting comments\questions during sessions..  I’d actually argue that if you don’t use twitter – you are missing out on a major part of the conference – interacting with fellow SQL professionals.

Once the conference began I was surprised how little money I spent - you get breakfast, coffee breaks,  and a very reasonable  lunch at the exhibition centre – and most evenings there are parties\events that also provide food. (tip – befriend staff in the vendor’s exhibition area). One evening I spent at a fish-restaurant down by the seafront – something else I’d highly recommend.

I don’t want to write too much about the actual conference – I think that’s been done in many blogs already. Just a couple of comments – if you are a DBA and Bob Ward is presenting, then you MUST attend his sessions.  I also highly recommend any sessions involving Don Gabor – he is not a technical SQL presenter but last year did a session on social\interaction skills which was very challenging and interesting for me.

I flew back to London on Friday evening after leaving a post-conference session about an hour before it finished. I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare – but I may have been lucky  as traffic to the airport wasn’t too heavy despite it being Friday rush-hour. I did feel however that I had really missed an opportunity by leaving the post-con early - In future, I’d definately consider flying back on Saturday. 

Unfortunately, I can’t justify going to PASS every year – so I’m missing it this year. I will however be jealously following all the tweets and wishing I was there ! 

A couple of photos of Seattle downtown waterfront area – I wasn’t expecting such nice weather in November ! Also never made it up the space needle – maybe next time…


Published Saturday, July 17, 2010 5:30 PM by steveh99999
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# re: Attending PASS – what it cost me last year

hi Steve,

I am from Mumbai, India. how can I get info on PASS /TechEd / sql conferences in Mumbai ?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 7:00 AM by Gaju13

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Attending PASS – what it cost me last year - Steve Hindmarsh's SQL Blog

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