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5 Ways to Save Money on CME Trips

Continuing medical education is incredibly important in our ever changing field of medicine.  Most employers will provide a CME reimbursement benefit to those in the healthcare field. But, we all know that stipend money goes fast at some of these conferences.  Most of the conferences are at 4 or 5 star hotels in prime vacation spots. First world problems, I know, but this is what makes them so expensive! Expensive hotels generally charge extra for breakfast, parking, and even WiFi.  It’s hard to be a frugal physician at these things. 

This year, my hubby and I had a specific week we had in mind and Maui worked out the best.  So, we ended up at the Hyatt which was AMAZING. But, it’s very easy to blow the budget l there ($50 for an entrée… seriously people?).  But, fear not, we stayed in our budget and I’ll tell you how.

5 Ways To Save Money On CME Trips

1. Location

Try to book a trip within driving distance so you don’t blow all your money on the plane ticket.  We didn’t do that this year. But, we did find sale fares through Scott’s Cheap Flights and booked our flights to Hawaii when they were on sale.  Another good service that’ll notify you of flight sales is Next Vacay.  We needed to get out of the Tundra and into some sunshine, so we splurged here.

2. Lodging

Rooming with a roommate will cut your costs.  But, if you’re travelling with your family, consider that you don’t have to stay on site at the conference hotel.  Usually, the conference will have negotiated room rates that are lower than the hotel’s usual prices, so that’s a plus. But since these places tend to charge for every single thing and food is expensive, it may be much more economical to stay off site at an Air BnB (especially if travelling with kids).  

We ended up staying on site. I realized belatedly that if we had booked through Chase’s Luxury Resort Collection, we could have gotten free breakfast. Also, if we had booked through Chase, we could have upgraded out stay to the Regency club using points. So, shop around to see if you can find a better deal.  We ended up getting the club anyway, and that saved us a lot of money on food.  Which brings us to the next point…

3. Food and Drinks

Most conferences will give the attendee’s breakfast. But, the spouse/family will still have to fend for themselves. If you do end up staying on site at the hotel, consider taking a walk to a grocery store and stocking up on breakfast foods, snacks, and drinks, including alcohol. This will save you major bucks. $12 bloody mary’s add up! When you save money on breakfast and lunch, you can splurge on a nice dinner out guilt free. Getting off site for dinner will get you more value for your buck. An off site Air BnB with a full kitchen would give you the opportunity to cook and save that way.

4. Activities

Look for conferences that have a half day schedule.  That way, once the conference is over for the day, you’ll have time to have some fun.  Look around on groupon or living social for deals on activities. You probably won’t find any groupon’s in the touristy areas.  Having a rental car will give you the opportunity to get off the tourist track and save some money.

5. Rental Car

This is a plus or minus, depending on the location and how walkable it is.  We rented a car for one day in Maui using credit card points.  That worked out well, but I wish we had rented one for the rest of the time because we could have gotten off the pricey tourist strip more.  Do consider that you’ll have to park the rental car and some hotels charge for that. The conference I attended did negotiate free parking for the attendees, so look out for that when you’re choosing conferences.  

So, those are the lessons I learned from this trip.  Do you know of other ways to save? 

Share in the comments below!

Mahalo, friends!  Stay Frugal.

– Dr. D


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