Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The perils of food and lodging

Here is a view out of the window as I woke up and did my mathematics this morning.

We're on the 20th floor of a grand hotel in Columbus, Ohio, where MathFest is taking place.  Normally, I (and my family, if they tag along) go for a cheap hotel, possibly at some distance from the meeting.  But this year, I happen to be one of the big deal speakers, so the organizers arranged to put me-and-mine in a top-floor room of the swanky conference hotel, expenses courtesy of them.

We appreciate the gesture, really.  It's awfully sweet to have lodging paid for.  But being in a swanky hotel makes my family appreciate why we like our Holiday Inns.  For one thing, we always get a pair of double beds, but here we have a king bed (great for me and my hubby) with a rollaway bed and half-sofa (less great for the boys).  Not to mention crowded.  Adding the bicycles to the room doesn't help; my husband loves being on the second floor for easy bike transportation, so this 20th floor elevator ride is frankly a bit of an inconvenience for him.  (Cue the violins, everyone!)

Also, here in the Swanky Suites, the pool is small and there's no free breakfast.  The free greasy breakfast with piles of greasy sausages and greasy eggs and more sausages and maybe bacon is like, the best part of traveling, with the pool a close second, or so say my sons.  And J-son adds, the weight room is really big there.   If we'd paid our own way and stayed at our favorite dive, we'd have gotten all that, but instead, all we get is a king bed with a panoramic view.  Well, I guess you get what you pay for.

Speaking of getting what we pay for, this trip is turning into restaurant-mania.  I've tried to do my "preventative shopping" by bringing trail mix, bread, peanut butter, and a few other grocery supplies.  But there's no kitchen in the Swanky Suites, plus of course I'm here to meet with other math people, plus double-of-course my family is not as knee-jerk frugal as I am, so the restaurants keep happening.  And I've forgotten how much it costs for a family of four to eat out.

We had lunch with one of my coauthors, who was raving about a restaurant she'd been to with great piles of frog legs "for $10!"  And I knew that she found this price astounding, but I wasn't sure if she meant astounding because it was "so much money!" (like I was thinking) or "great bargain!" (which, it turns out, was what she meant).  I said something about being out-of-touch with restaurant prices because we eat so much at home.  My co-author replied that cooking at home can cost much more than eating out. I must have looked like I doubted that, because she continued, "well, you have to buy all the supplies."

For what it's worth, according to Mint, our family spent well under $4000 on food (groceries and restaurants together) during the last 6 months.  That's about $5.50 per person, per day.  These restaurant trips we're tucking under our belts on this trip are making me writhe.  I'm sure I'll get over it; it's probably good for me to deal with this discomfort.

But all this luxury is making me appreciate all my old familiar, run-down, elbow-grease-requiring, frugal comforts.


  1. The swanky places often make you pay for internet and sometimes charge you from the minibar or for parking even if you used neither. We never have problems with the budget places we stay when we're traveling not for work.

    1. Isn't that funny? I assiduously avoid hotels that charge extra for internet, which you'd think would mean I go for more expensive places. But internet-included places tend to be among the cheapest.

      Fortunately, the Swanky Suites do include free internet, in spite of being swanky. Phew!

  2. I'm here at the Swanky Suites in Columbus, too. (Unfortunately I'm heading home early Saturday morning, so I'm very disappointed to have to miss your talk!)

    I've had the wonderful opportunity to be part of a program that's had me here since Monday and eating a lot of Swanky Suites catered food, and I've been struck by how fancy it is and how much money it cost the MAA to feed it to all of us. I'm having a fantastic and productive MathFest, but I really would prefer to be eating my own cheap home-cooked food.

    1. Maybe next year at MathFest someone should organize a picnic, where we all just bring a bunch of food and sit around in a park and share. That could be really nice. The group that you're part of (lucky you) is really good at organizing funky things like that, you know!

      Safe travels home, and best of luck to you in your new job.