The 2015 Free Methodist General Conference is now a year away, and if you’re planning to attend it’s time to be a good steward of your money and start budgeting for this trip. Believe me, this is not going to be an inexpensive General Conference. I’ve been conflicted about the location of the event for almost a year now and that hasn’t changed.
However, the truth is some of us are going to have to attend because we work for the denomination or were elected delegates. I will be attending as a delegate because I was elected and believe change only occurs if you are willing to engage in dialogue and promote change from within.
I’m honored to have been elected and my frustration over the location of General Conference does not mean I don’t want to serve my denomination. It just means I will be boycotting the resort and not rooming there. I can’t sacrifice my principles to stay in a place that I feel violates the Christian values of sacrificial living that I practice daily. An example of this (and I say this not to be seen as a saint; so please don’t portray me that way,)my husband and I live in the city of Toledo, in a neighborhood that is combination working class, poor and has systemic social issues. I love my neighborhood and my people. I love my house; but we intentionally chose not to live a suburban life because we felt as Christians we were not called to separate ourselves from those who are in need. The example of B.T. and Ellen Roberts living in Rochester and opening up their home to share with other families was inspiring to my husband and I and while we have only shared our home with one roommate to date; we try to reach out to our neighbors ways that show God’s love but also preserve their sense of self-worth. I recognize where we live is a personal conviction and choosing not to stay at the resort is also a personal conviction. I’m not saying it’s for everyone. However, I’ve researched creative ways to personally finance General Conference 2015 and not stay on site I want to share them with you. I’m sure there are some people who might find some of this information useful. Oh, and if you want to stay off site (even though you are allowed to) you have to register as a local resident. The denomination’s registration form doesn’t give you that option. They want everyone on site because they need to fill a certain number of rooms in the resort.
Room Costs (cheapest cost of trip):
Standard Rooms (aka “suites” by the resort) at Caribe Royal with no kitchen or cooking facilities are $112 (no villas which include kitchenettes are available anymore)
Nearby hotels with similar rates:
**Cheapest option- KOA Orlando has cabins that are air conditioned, full kitchen and sleep 6-8 for $110-$120. They are a 10 minute drive from the resort. There is also another KOA 20 minutes away. Both also have campsite which are even cheaper and RV hookups.**
Meals are going to be insanely expensive if you choose to buy your meals at the resort. I’m including the menus for the restaurants at the resort at the bottom of this post. There is a carryout style restaurant, Café Largo, on site, but as someone who attends several academic conferences a year at places like this resort that carryout restaurant is going to overcharge for everything. Lines are also going to be very long for all the grab and go items at peak times, like lunch or anytime we have a break. The “casual” restaurant at the resort, The Tropicale, charges $8 for a bowl of soup for lunch and $16 for one of their hamburgers. Other sandwiches are around $12-14. I’m a poor college professor, and I know I can’t afford that cost; let alone take a family out for lunch multiple times for that price. The other restaurant, The Venetian Room, only millionaires can afford.
The bottom line: if you don’t want to spend a fortune on food you will need a rental car. I know there will be shuttle service from the airport, but if you don’t have a car you will be trapped in a very expensive food prison. I have heard rumors that there will be a couple shuttles to the local grocery store (provided by the denomination) for individuals to pick up food. However, since there are no rooms left with cooking facilities that is really going to limit what you can do. Also, if EVERYONE wants to use the shuttles to pick up food and save money, is the denomination providing enough shuttles to accommodate that many people and will it be organized in a way that you can sign up for a shuttle time and know you can get on at that time to get the food you need or do you have to cross your fingers and hope you can get a spot?
Another reason, I am highly recommending camping is the food savings. The extra cost of packing a tent, some sheets and a light cooking pan or two and paying for another checked bag will save money else where. They make camping equipment to pack up into incredibly small spaces now. It can fit into luggage. You can always make a thrift store run for a few other things and then re-donate them before you leave Orlando.
Overall Costs for Trip:
I based cost for the trip on what it would cost a family of four to come the day General Conference starts and leave the day it ends. If you’re like me and need to travel a longer distance you will probably need to arrive a day early and/or leave a day late just to make the schedule work. So, you will need to add that time to these costs. The room rates are based on the basic room at the resort, which I’m not using. It will be helpful for others, which is why I’m posting it. I also did not include any excursions to Disney World or Universal Studios. I went into sticker shock when I saw it was about $100 a day for an adult pass to Universal Studios and I didn’t even want to check Disney after that.
Average Cost for GC15
July 13-16 2015
Standard Resort Room: $112 a night for 3 nights = $336
Cost for Lunch for Adults: Number of adults 2X $ 12= 24
Avg lunch will cost about $12 for adult
Cost of Lunch for Children: Number children 2 X $ 9= 18
Avg lunch will cost about $9 for children
Cost of Dinner for Adults: Number adults 2 X $ 17= 34
Avg. daily Dinners will cost about $17 per adult
Cost of Dinner for Children: Number children 2 X $ 14= 24
Avg. daily Dinners will cost about $14 per child
Total cost for meals per day = 100 a day or $300 total
Transportation to Orlando and in Orlando
(Estimates are from my location in the Ohio/Michigan area and on 2014 prices)
Delta: $315 per person
American: $398 per person
Southwest: Wanna Get Away Rate $334; Anytime Rate $445 per person
*Spirit does not fly into Orlando
Total Flight for a Family of Four Based on AirTran’s Rates: $836
*Numerous Options Click This Link to go to rental website (http://www.orlandoairports.net/transport/rental_cars.htm)
Budget: $33 dollars per day (not including comprehensive insurance coverage or gas)
Insurance Coverage: 41.42 per day (liability and loss coverage)
Cost Calculations for Trip to Orlando taken from: $1695.26
*This is a shoestring budget. Actual costs once you factor in doing anything are going to easily run to over $2,000 per family.*
Help with calculating costs of a trip to Orlando from:
Menus for the Tropicale Restaurant at Caribe Royal
Room Service Menu