This article is chock-full of tips and tricks to fund your conference travel and let you focus on making the most out of your conference experience!

By Kaitlyn Ugoretz, Funding Peer
Friday, January 31st, 2020 - 9:30am

Attending and participating in academic conferences is a great way to share your exciting research with colleagues in your field, receive valuable feedback on your project, and network with scholars and publishers for future opportunities! But once you start planning your trip -- including airfare and ground transportation, lodging, and meals -- funding your conference travel can quickly go from seeming imperative to impossible. Here are some resources and recommendations for making your conference dreams a reality.

Internal Funds

Ask Your Department

Repeat after me: it never hurts to ask for funding! Talk to your advisor, Graduate Program Advisor (GPA), or department chair to see if there are any hidden funding resources available.

Reach Out to On-campus Research Centers and Institutes

Similar to departments, centers and institutes often have their own non-obvious funding streams available. When requesting funding, explain how your presentation of original research at a prestigious conference relates to the center's areas of interest and furthers their goals.

University Funding

GSA Conference Travel Grant

The GSA offers a Conference Travel Grant of $200 awarded each quarter by lottery, which all graduate students may receive once per year. In order to qualify, an applicant must be accepted to present original research data and have expenses not covered by other funding sources. Applications are accepted for review at the beginning of the quarter in which the student will attend the conference.

Academic Senate Travel Grants

The UCSB Academic Senate awards Doctoral Student Travel Grants of up to $1,400 on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applicants must be doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy, or Master of Fine Arts students who are in their second year of study and in candidacy prior to travel. Students are eligible to receive one Doctoral Student Travel Grant during their graduate career at UCSB. Deadline is at least 21 days in advance of travel.

External Funds

Academic Associations

Most academic associations that organize major conferences have some travel funding available for participants who are registered members. Check the conference website as early as possible after being invited to participate so that you can be aware of any deadlines or restrictions for travel grants.

Check Pivot

UCSB's funding database Pivot contains many different types of funding, including travel grants! Run an "advanced search" and check the "Travel" box under the "Funding Type" category.

Personal Funds

Pay Yourself First and Set Goals

If you decide that attending a conference is a short-term financial goal, 'pay yourself first' by calculating the estimated cost of the trip and setting aside some money each month to create a travel fund. Intentionally reserving funds, especially if the funds are in a separate account from your primary checking account, goes a long way to help you resist the temptation to dip into those savings and reach your goal.

Plan for Future (Closer) Conferences

Major national and regional conferences often rotate venues annually and announce their locations a few years in advance. It is likely that if your desired conference is far away this year, it will be closer (and cheaper to attend) in the near future. Or it may be hosted in a city where you have friends or family you could stay with and save on costly hotel reservations. Make a plan to find funding for that year and make it happen!

Team Up with a Friend

Another way to save on conference costs is to share them with a friend. If you can carpool, split cabs, or share a hotel room, you (and your friend) can practically cut your conference costs in half!

BYO and Go to Evening Receptions

Conferences are often held in the downtown areas of major cities, making shopping and dining in the local area cost prohibitive for graduate students who are not compensated for meals. Bring your own stash of nutritious snacks for when you get hungry between panels. Conference venues often have hydration stations, so remember to bring along a reusable water bottle so you can stay refreshed and not shell out $2-3 for a bottle of water. Bring instant coffee or tea to save even more instead of hitting up pricey coffee shops nearby.

Bonus tip: evening receptions typically provide hors d'oeuvres and sometimes full meals. Swing by a few with some friends to eat, greet, and meet!

Consider a Credit Card with Travel Rewards

Odds are that the majority of travel funding you receive will be as a reimbursement, meaning that you will have to pay upfront for transportation, lodging, and meals. In these cases, having a credit card that grants travel rewards can come in really handy. Not only can you spread out or avoid the burden of paying your way, but you can earn travel miles which you can cash in the next time you attend a conference.

**Note: this is a personal finance strategy, not an official UCSB recommendation or promotion.

You have the knowledge. You have the tools.
Now get out there and crush those conferences!