A spend-savvy guide to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, by Elsa Von Schmaltz, Flirty Sanchez, Iva Handfull and Randi Rascal…
Sparkle-people, let’s be real. While we carry within us the glamour of a thousand dripping Swarovski necklaces, the reality of burlesque is more often about hoping your landlord doesn’t cash the rent cheque before you get paid from that gig on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the annual pilgrimage to the stripper Mecca in Las Vegas. The Burlesque Hall of Fame experience is worthy of your scarce resources, even if that means saving for months ahead of time. There is simply nothing like it and, while it will never be cheap, there are things you can do to mitigate the damage to your pocketbook while still supporting the museum, the hotel, and the marvellous vendors that help make the event what it is.
GETTING TO LAS VEGAS
To a certain extent, you’re at the mercy of the market, but here’s how to get the most bang for your buck!
– Book early. Flights generally get more expensive the closer you get to the date. The BHOF weekender dates are posted months in advance; keep checking the website and book flights ASAP.
– Multi-Airline-Checking-Magical-Websites. (That’s the technical name.) You may have already uncovered one of these gems while booking your last festival flight – or maybe not, because you spent so much money on that uh-mazing hand-beaded merkin that you had to Greyhound it – but grandmaster websites like www.mobissimo.com and www.kayak.com are super handy in quickly finding the cheapest flights available for the destinations and departure dates you enter. If you have a little bit of flexibility, these websites will search for even more cost-friendly alternative itineraries. Experts (or maybe just people we know) say that ticket prices are typically cheaper when you search on a Tuesday or Wednesday and also when you fly on non-weekend dates. Well, now isn’t it just convenient that BHOF really starts on a Wednesday and ends on a Monday? Looks like you’ll have to stay the whole time after all. Shoot.
– Southwest Airlines. Not always the cheapest option, but the best value. They are friendly, safe (all airlines are pretty darn safe, but Randi is terrified of flying so these sorts of things matter to her), and let you check 2 bags (up to 50 lbs. each) for free! An overpacking showgirl’s dream. Other airlines may have cheaper ticket prices but they get you on the back end, and not in the fun way.
Yep. Check around with your community and see if anyone is driving. With the price of gas these days, surely that driver wouldn’t mind someone throwing down some extra cash at the various Pump ‘N’ Snack stops. Unless your community is Helsinki, this can be a cheaper, if longer and sweatier, alternative to flying. Is there a vendor in your town lugging a bunch of heavy merchandise to the Burlesque Bazaar? Maybe their sparkle van has room for one more! Or two! Or three! Road trip!
The key to saving money at BHOF is resource sharing among friends, and that starts with the hotel room. It also has the lovely side effect of strengthening the bonds in our community!
– Room with 3 friends. Four roomies is the magic number! Any less and it gets pricey, any more and you will hate each other by the end of the weekend. Split between four people; rooms cost about $100 each for the weekend. Pick your roommates carefully and be patient with their personal habits, and you’ll leave BHOF closer than ever.
– Internet. The hotel charges $5/day for in-room internet, but it’s free downstairs at the Java Cafe.
A trip to BHOF is not just a challenge to your purse, it’s also a challenge to stay healthy. Vegas is not known for its nutritious food. Fortunately, eating well is also eating cheap!
– Get a mini-fridge in the room. It costs $15 a day but can save you hundreds in eating out. Freezer bags filled with ice in the sink or a styrofoam cooler also works. If you suspect your fridge is not keeping the cool, get that thing switched right away. You paid for a working fridge and nothing is sadder than sitting in your room surrounded by food sickness when you could be surrounded by boobies.
– Go to Trader Joe’s. They have everything you need and are way cheaper than Whole Paycheck (formally known as Whole Foods). Look for foods that can work for several different meals, i.e. fruit that goes well with nuts or on a salad. Here’s a suggested shopping list:
Dipping veggies like carrots and peppers
Those yummy seed chips they sell
Salty chips (for better water absorption)
Bananas, Apples, other fruit that keeps well at room temp (you can also set it on the A/C unit to keep it slightly cooler)
Dried fruits & nuts
Peanut butter for protein loving vegetarians
Green pills & Omega-3s
Electrolyte tablets (The desert can be very dehydrating, so grab some electrolyte tablets so all
that water you’re drinking actually hydrates you!)
Yogurt (but not granola–Java Cafe sells it for 15 cents!)
Juices (make them double as mixers!)
WATER. We cannot stress this enough. Vegas tap water is dis. gust. ing. You will need to buy at least 3 large jugs or a jug and a case of bottles. If you need to refill there is free filtered water in the gym–but limit your usage of that and keep it discrete!
– BYO Appliances and Utensils. Indigo Blue brings a food steamer and a small smoothie maker. She says: “We steamed broccoli, yams, and other healthy food and made morning smoothies with fruit from the store.” Scotty the Blue Bunny pretends he’s camping indoors and brings a can opener and simple utensils.
– Hot, hot water. Andi Stardust says: “Keep in mind that you have a coffee maker in the room which is also a hot water maker! I made oatmeal in the morning and brought dried fruit that I rehydrated and hot tea in the morning and evenings. You can also use the coffee maker to rehydrate soup mixes and other dried backpacker foods. Find a friend with a dehydrator before the trip and dehydrate away; food is small and light, easy to pack, non-perishable (you can keep what you don’t eat) and turns into real food with water.” Be warned, however – Randi tried this and the water came out gross. Not all the coffee makers are in great shape.
– If you must eat in the hotel… Some of the food court options aren’t too pricey and can last two meals. Fuddruckers or Subway are good bets. And for a real sit-down meal, T.G.I. Fridays is the best in-hotel value.
To stay sane and preserve your lungs, you are going to need to leave the hotel. Again, resource sharing is key. Cabs are the worst option, but split between several people, even they can be feasible. But here are some other ideas:
– Rent a car. Iva Handfull rents a mystery car from Hotwire. $150 for a 6-day rental, or $25/day. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a Grand Marquis or new minivan to drive a group of performers to Trader Joes, the Swap Meet, and the airport. Everyone pitches in $5 each trip, and the rental basically pays for itself.
– Ridesharing. An idea in its infancy, Mig suggests setting up a rideshare system to get around town. All this needs is someone willing to make it happen! Is it you?
– Shuttles. Honestly, they sound like a great idea in theory but in practice they cost almost as much as renting a car but are less convenient. Unless you only want to leave the hotel once or twice, they aren’t really the cheapest option.
International performers making their way to BHOF may not have many opportunities to save money on flights, but could save money in exchange rates and affiliate banking. Avoid using an ATM in Vegas: you’ll pay the ATM fee, foreign bank charges, and then conversion fees.
Scotty the Blue Bunny suggests checking if your home country bank has an affiliate bank in the US to avoid fees when withdrawing cash. Then, you only deal with the exchange rate. Otherwise, figure out some kind of budget and buy American dollars before you leave for BHOF. “I used to do that in the states – again, to avoid fees. I would purchase euros from my bank and chuck them in my German account. Euros to dollars is a winning game anyway!”
Discretionary items like hair flowers, alcohol and vintage robes may seem like the low hanging fruit for spending cuts, but they are an integral part of your experience, so be gentle on yourself and realistic. While you may declare, in all earnestness and pre-event clarity, that you will not spend more than $50 on entertainment and vending, getting swept up in the rare and wonderful opportunities that BHOF offers is not only easy but part of the whole reason you’re there. Can you match hair falls to your colour perfectly in your home town? Find gorgeous cheap bling? Try on pasties from vendors around the world? Your experience will be better and less stressful if you allow yourself enough spending cash to indulge comfortably without guilt. But there are some tricks to getting the most out of your cash, such as:
– Buy a bottle (or five). When you make that TJ’s run, make sure you pick up some booze in volume. Vodka and whiskey are highly quaffable and work with most mixers. If you’re into quenching your thirst on the go, bring a flask that’s small enough to fit in your fancy lady purse. That is, if both your cleavages are already preoccupied. Or, ahem, if you are a super classy broad, you may wish to buy a 3-litre box of Trader Joe’s red wine for a mere $9.99. No refrigeration, ice, or mixers necessary! And its handy dandy spout makes it extremely easy to funnel the wine into the empty plastic water bottle from which you will drink later. Because when you’re parading around a hotel dressed like an opulent peacock, no one is going to ask why your Evian is bleeding.
While technically these ideas take away from the money that you would have otherwise given to the hotel, it is a pretty small drop in the bucket of cash they make from liquor sales. As a broke-ass stripper, you may be forgiven this small offense. Another trick is to make a huge batch of pre-mixed bloody mary or vodka lemonade and get a bucket of ice from the pool bar. You can pour yourself delicious drinks all day as you lounge in the sun. Of course, this is completely against the rules so no one here is encouraging you to do this. We would never do such a thing, personally. *wink*
– Get a cash budget for vending. And leave the credit cards at home. Be as generous as you can manage, though, because there is some seriously kick-ass stuff for sale and the vendors are trying to make ends meet, too!
– Think it over. This tip comes from June St. Croix: “If you want to buy stuff from the vendors (and you should because where else are you going to get to browse Amber Ray flowers, HUTC neckwear, and second-hand costumes in one place), spend ZERO dollars the first time you visit the vendor area. Take a day. Think about what you really want to purchase now, and what can wait until after BHOF. Many vendors exist online so you can satiate your sparkle-lust by taking a card and writing down what you loved so you can find it later.” Great advice! And this may sound weird, but make sure you are taking care of your health. You’re more likely to impulse-buy if you’re not eating well or getting enough sleep.
– Figure out (and budget for) your outings in advance. There are some damn fine activities in and around Vegas, including but not limited to the BHOF museum itself (duh), Fantastiks Swap Meet, the Neon Museum, the strip, a big fancy dinner, etc. Prioritise and budget for these before you go!
– Bring cash or locate your nearest bank ahead of time. In 2013, the ATM fee in the casino was $12. TWELVE DOLLARS!
Here’s an example of a general budget for BHOF. Adjust for your personal travel preferences.
|Food (4 days)||$80|
In sum, while it might be tempting – and easy – to blow your whole wad (of cash monies, y’all. Sheesh. You people. Always in the gutter…) on THE BEST WEEKEND OF YOUR LIFE, you don’t have to; there are ways to minimise costs while maximising all that BHOF has to offer. And, if after considering all the hot tips above you’re still not sure whether it’s too much of a financial risk to go, you need only reflect on the immortal final words of the late Mother Teresa: “YOLO, motherfuckers!”
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.