ICNA & ISNA Convention Tips to Save Time & Money!
We highly recommend families take advantage of the yearly conventions to spend quality time with each other and the greater Muslim community. For those planning to attend the next ICNA or ISNA convention (see dates and links to registration pages below), we would like to share a few tips for saving time and money. *None of the links below have been sponsored, and Ad-Duha does not receive any financial benefit from these companies/organizations.
ISNA 55th Annual Convention: 8/30 – 9/2/2019 in Houston, Texas, Insha-Allah
ICNA 45th Annual Convention: 4/10-12/2020 in Washington, D.C., Insha-Allah
1. Save on Parking: Parking can cost as much as $50+ per day in most major cities and often is many blocks from the convention centers. But if you download the Spot Hero app or go to their website, you can get great deals on parking close to the convention center. For example, at this year's ICNA convention in Washington, D.C., Spot Hero had parking just a block from the convention center for as low as $14 USD (total cost for the three days of the convention). Although there are many parking apps/services out there, we found that this one offered the best prices and offered locations that other services could not. They also have excellent customer service and a cancellation policy that allows you to change your plans if needed up to the day of the convention.
2. In and Out Privileges: Make sure you know if the parking you have chosen has in and out privileges (the ability to take your car in and out of the garage/lot during the time of your stay). Some people may not need to move their car, while others may prefer the flexibility of being able to do so. Knowing the policy of the garage/parking lot you are using ahead of time can prevent major hassles later on.
3. Protect Your Car from Damage: Try to avoid lots that do not have a valet or attendant. These may be cheaper and closer, but your car could be damaged or blocked in by other drivers, so a small savings on parking in the short term could result in higher costs/inconveniences down the road. You can look the garage up on Google Maps (street view) or on the Spot Hero app in order to see a picture of it and the surrounding area before making a reservation.
4. Avoid the Stress and Chaos: The closest parking directly across from the convention center is often overcrowded and hectic due to the number of cars the garage is trying to manage. Sometimes dropping the family at the convention center and then parking a block away will save you a lot of headaches and make the process of arriving and leaving the convention much less stressful (especially for the elderly, those with special needs, pregnant mothers, or families with young children), Insha-Allah.
1. Free Hotel Nights: For families that travel often during the year, you can earn free hotel nights through Hotels.com that can be used for the convention. Simply sign up for an account on their website or app and start booking your hotels rooms for upcoming trips through your account. For every ten nights you book during the year, you will earn one free hotel night. You can then use these free nights for the convention to make the cost of attending a little more affordable. The nights add up quicker than you might expect. For example, if you have a family of 6-8 and normally book two rooms for a trip, just a couple of 2-day trips will earn you eight nights toward the total of ten you need to earn a free night.
2. Book Early or Check Prices Later: When it comes to booking hotels for the convention people usually fall into two groups, those that book far in advance to make sure they have rooms available, and those that wait till the last minute to see if they can get a good deal. There are pros and cons to both options. Booking your hotel early through sites like Priceline.com, Booking.com, or Hotels.com will get you the best price and most room choices while allowing you free cancellations up to the day before or day of the convention (in case you find a better deal that you would like to take advantage of). This is the best option for those families where flexibility is most important. For those who like adventure, you can wait till a day or two before the convention when the prices of most hotel rooms will drop drastically because the hotel wants to have as many rooms booked as possible. This option can be very cost effective, but you will not have as many options to choose from and may have to take a room that is not your first choice (i.e., location, number of beds, distance from the convention center, etc.).
Kids Play Area & Safety Tips:
1. Come Prepared: Kids will definitely need things during the long convention days and packing them each their own backpack can make everyone's experience much more enjoyable. We recommend packing a few snacks, a water bottle, and a few toys or a coloring book. This will keep you from spending extra money on food, will keep the kids calmer (knowing they have things to eat and play with packed with them), and will let them stay occupied while you are listening to a lecture or shopping in the bazaar. Choosing a colorful or playful backpack can make them even more excited about going to the convention and being prepared.
2. Plan to Play More: The kids play area is very crowded by the second and third days of the convention, so it may be more cost/time effective to purchase a one day pass for the first day of the convention and allow your child/ren to ride as much as they can the first day when there is not much of a crowd. By the second and third days, the wait times can be as much as 45 minutes for the popular attractions. This means you and your child will spend most of the time just standing in line which is no fun at all.
3. Pregnant Moms and the Elderly: If you plan to stay at the play area with your child/ren and wait, bring a folding chair to sit on as there may not be a place to sit near to the play area.
4. Getting Lost (and Found): For younger children, write your child's name, your name, and your cell phone number on the back of your child's convention tag, so if they get separated from you, they can show their tag to convention volunteers or a police officer and get in contact with you as quickly as possible.
We hope that these tips are helpful, Insha-Allah. We hope you enjoy the next convention, maybe we will see you there, Insha-Allah!