by Norma Crosby
From the Editor: This is the second article from our Texas affiliate president talking about the wonderful things we will find in Houston. Reacting to what folks asked about her last article, she addresses the issue of how to cut costs and gives us information about tempting tours:
Since my last article, I have gotten several calls from people who want to attend the convention but have concerns about cost. I won’t sugarcoat it. Travel to conventions can cost a chunk of change. So I wanted to use my time with you this month to talk about some ways of saving money. These suggestions won’t make the convention experience free, but I hope they will help as you try to find ways of attending on a budget.
Accessing reasonably priced food is one of the best ways to save money when traveling, and you are lucky this year because our downtown area boasts a number of nearby restaurants. Our affiliate is developing a free restaurant guide that will give you some options for inexpensive food. It will also offer options that cost a little more if you want to go out for a special meal or get tired of cheap eats and have a little extra cash in your pocket. You’ll find copies of our guide at the Texas information table that will be open during the early days of the convention. Come by and grab a copy.
Of course, restaurants outside our hotels aren’t the only option for saving money. Many seasoned convention goers do some grocery shopping to save dollars during their stay. Randalls is a local grocery chain, and one of its stores is less than a mile and a half from the Hilton and a similar distance from the Marriott. The address is 2225 Louisiana Street. The chain does offer delivery. So, you might be able to save a rideshare fare or a walk in the Texas sun by using that option. I haven’t found an app for this store, but you can order at randalls.com.
Every red-blooded Texan will tell you that the best grocery store in the world is H-E-B. Featuring all national brands and some of the best store-brand products anywhere, H-E-B is the go-to place for groceries, bakery and deli items, fresh tortillas, and lots of other stuff. There isn’t a store downtown, but one is a little more than three miles away. The address is 3663 Washington Avenue. H-E-B offers delivery service and curbside pickup through their iOS and Android apps. Having said that, I recommend you consider making an in-person trip. I promise you’ll find some things you didn’t know you needed.
With the development of delivery apps, shopping for convention snacks or all the items you forgot to bring is easier than ever. You likely already know about DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats, but I’ll add one more to your list. Favor is owned by H-E-B, but they deliver from restaurants and pharmacies just like some of the other apps do. You can find the app in both app stores by searching for Favor.
Another way to save money when ordering through delivery apps is to get together with friends to do one order instead of two or three. Delivery apps are convenient, and they can save travel costs, but they do stack on fees and request tips for the runners. So, working with friends can help to save even more money.
If you need to pick up something from the pharmacy, you can find two nearby CVS Pharmacy locations. They are located at 2410 Polk Street and 300 Milam Street. There is also a Walgreens at 2612 Smith Street. These stores all offer in-store or delivery options. In some cases, the delivery may be offered through third-party apps.
Do you occasionally run out of food for your guide dog during the convention? Of course, most of the grocery stores I mentioned above can help with that, but I thought it would be good to share a pet store location as well. The nearest store is the PetSmart at 1907 Taylor Street, about two and a half miles from our headquarters hotel.
About a third of a mile from both the Hilton and the Marriott, you’ll find The Highlight at Houston Center. This venue doesn’t include much in the way of shopping, but it does have some food options that should be pretty affordable, and even though getting there might be a little hot, I know you can make it because you are strong-willed Federationists with a desire to save money and a big appetite. Chick-Fil-A, Otto’s BBQ, Leaf & Grain, Doozo’s Dumplings & Noodles, Simon’s Café, Salata, Bullritos (burritos), Potbelly Sandwich, and a couple of other options can be found here. The address is 1200 McKinney Street.
Under the streets of Houston is a seven-mile tunnel system. This underground includes shopping and personal service options, and it also includes restaurants and fast food. The tunnels are only open from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, but once you learn how to find an entrance, you should be able to find a few lunch options. Our restaurant list will include some information about how to find these underground gems because trying to explain the tunnels here would be a lot.
Hotel food can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If you look carefully at hotel menus, you can usually find some small entrées or lighter fare that is more affordable. Another money saving tip I have learned is to find an entrée or sandwich that is pretty big and split it with someone who is also trying to save some bucks.
I’ve tried to offer you some ways of cutting food in this article, but one of the other big expenses associated with attending the convention is your hotel room. President Riccobono and John Berggren always look out for us when negotiating hotel rates, but we know that even $119 a night plus tax can be a lot for many of our members. So I’ll offer one more tip. It isn’t one you haven’t thought about, I’m sure. Find one or more roommates. Maybe you aren’t used to sharing a room. So the thought of including a roommate in your plans may seem scary. Don’t think of it that way. Think of it as an adventure and a way to make new friends.
I was once able to attend a convention by rooming with three women that I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but we managed. After all, it was only one week. It was a great experiment in cooperation, I made new friends, and best of all, making the sacrifice allowed me to attend a convention that I wouldn’t have been able to attend without their generous help. Was it worth the inconvenience? It most certainly was.
We are in the process of wrapping up plans for our tours. The plan is to tour Space Center Houston and the Houston Museum of Natural Science and to take in a ballgame at Minute Maid Park, known in these parts as the Juice Box. You can register for any of these starting May 1 at https://nfbtx.org/tours. This link will not go live until that date. The deadline for registration and payment will be June 15 unless tour tickets are sold out before that date. The Houston Museum of Natural Science tour will happen on July 1. We are still negotiating the best date for the Space Center Houston tour, but it should be June 30 or July 1. The game between the Astros and the Seattle Mariners will occur on July 7. That means those wishing to attend should plan their departure after that date.I hope these suggestions make a difference to you because I want to have the opportunity to welcome you into the heart of Texas. Remember to call us if you need us. You can reach our affiliate by calling 281-968-7733.