Blind Bargains

The Blind Bargains Guide to Attending #csun11 on a Budget

Many readers have expressed an interested in attending CSUN, the largest assistive technology conference for the blind. But with room rates nearing $200, a $500 registration fee, plane tickets, meals, and other expenses, the cost may seem prohibitive. With this in mind, we've compiled some tips for enjoying the conference on a budget.

Getting There

San Diego is one of California's major airports, and does offer relatively inexpensive flights from many destinations. If you're looking to save some money, however, try looking for tickets to Los Angeles. This strategy may work best for international travelers. Once in LA, use the FlyAway for a $7 trip from the airport to Union Station. The shuttle runs every half hour throughout the day. Then, frequent Amtrak service connects Los Angeles and downtown San Diego. You can buy tickets in advance for around $30 each way, but reservations are not required. There are other nearby airports, but be careful to select one with a good public transportation connection to San Diego. To learn more about possible transportation options, try this page which discusses options for California airports.

Airport Shuttles

The cost of a cab or airport shuttle to most hotels near the convention center is between $10 and $15, a rather reasonable price compared with some cities. You can save even more, however, by using public transportation. Route 992 serves the airport every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends. You can take this bus to get near the convention center, or transfer to the trolley system to reach most parts of town. Here's a blog post which explains your options in more detail.

Where to Stay

The Manchester Grand Hyatt is where the vast majority of all of the action is taking place. Room rates are also near $200 plus tax which will add another $25 or so to your cost each night. That's nearly $900 for 4 nights without roommates. Naturally, if you can find someone to share a room with, it'll cut your costs in half. Alternatively, there are several hotels within a mile of the Manchester for $100 a night or less. Many of these are on the bus or trolley system which connects with the main convention hotel while others offer a free hotel shuttle. Downtown San Diego is also quite walkable, a viable option considering the city's warm climate. Failing this, the cost for a cab to and from the Manchester each way is still far less than the money you've saved by staying somewhere else.

Convention Registration

There are many interesting sessions planned for CSUN, but it's also quite expensive to pay for a full conference registration. While limited scholarships can be obtained and student and military rates are available, many are still stuck paying for a full registration. If you still want to attend, consider attending just the exhibit hall. An exhibit hall pass is available for free and will let you see many of the latest and greatest assistive technologies in one place. Trust us when we say you could spend your entire trip here. Some of the evening events are also available for general admission. Keep an eye on Twitter and ask around to find out what's going on.


When attending practically any large convention, it's often a good idea to do some grocery shopping once you get there. San Diego has plenty of supermarkets in the downtown area, and this coupled with a hotel which gives a free refrigerator and microwave could save you quite a bit of money. Some hotels also offer free hot breakfast or an evening reception. Plan ahead to avoid buying every meal at the main hotel, as these costs will add up quickly.


With some creativity, it's quite possible to attend and enjoy the CSUN conference without spending thousands. Last year, Blind Bargains stayed at a hostel for $24 a night. And while not every suggestion above will appeal to all who read this, we hope you'll find an idea or two which could help you keep a few extra dollars in your wallet.

What ideas do you have for attending conferences on a budget? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Category: Articles
Displaying 3 comments.
MGD4Ever Tuesday, 08-Feb-2011 2:25 PM ET:

Lots of great tips here. As a San Diego resident for 14 years, I can definitely vouch for flying into Los Angeles and taking the train down. for as large a city as San Diego is, our airport is relatively small. Far more flights go in and out of Los Angeles so you're far more likely to get a cheaper flight with less need for connecting flights if you fly into LAX airport. San Diego is about 120 miles south of LA, so the train ride isn't bad at all. As for the weather, it should be fine. it almost always is. Daytime highs should be in the mid 60s to mid 70s. At night, it'll get down into the low to mid 50s, so you may need a light jacket if you're out really late. the Manchester Grand Hyatt is a beautiful hotel with lots of ammenities, but it is also pretty expensive as has already been pointed out. The nearby hotels that are much cheaper are still nice. As for things to do outside of the convention, downtown San Diego has anything you could possibly want to do. Just remember though, that this is a tourist town. this means that the bars and restaurants geared toward tourists are unnecessarily expensive. if you're just looking for a place to have a drink, and maybe some good bar food to go with it, avoid the tourist traps and pop into the Tivoli Bar and Grill. it's on 6th avenue between island Avenue and Market Street. No, i don't work there. It's just a place I like to hang out at that's old school San Diego and not all touristy. If you're looking for a restaurant that has really good food at a reasonable price, I recommend Caparell's on 1st Avenue between Ash and Beech Street. I think they recently shortened the name to Cap's. Anyway, it's good Italian food, especially the stuffed bread sticks which are more like small calzones. Yum yum yummy! Okay, i've rambled on enough about my town. if you do come to the convention, take some time to get out of the hotel and check out San Diego. It really is a great city with lots to do.

clane123 Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 12:22 AM ET:

Here's a secret: log onto to find the history of previous successful bids before linking onto I found that travelers got as low as $70-80 dollars into the conference hotel instead of the full price $199. If not, you probably can get as nice hotel at the 3* or 4* and be within comfortable distance from the conference at $70-90 range. Hope this helps :-)

DebeeArmstrong Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 10:53 AM ET:

The sessions use assistive listening devices connected to the multimedia systems in the conference rooms. Bring your scanner with an extra-powerful antenna, google for the relevant frequencies or ask a sighted friend to read them; they are usually posted on the doors for each room.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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