The road trip to Austin is a frequent one for Houston actors. Recently, I covered those miles three times in a single week for two auditions and one callback. The investment can be a big one if you drive as average fuel costs in Texas remain above $3.00 per gallon, yet I routinely find ways to spend less every trip. Here are a few of my tips as an actor who travels the state almost every week of the year.
One of the biggest way to save on the road is not owning a car or not relying exclusively on your car. Yes, it sounds crazy covering hundreds of miles in Texas without one, but I speak from years of experience. When I had a car, I would often drive out of town for auditions and low paying gigs. I was so eager for opportunities and exposure, I didn’t carefully measure the financial investment of each trip. Driving from Houston to Dallas to be a stand-in on The Good Guys cost me at least twice what I made on set. By traveling without my own vehicle, I am more likely to carpool, which reduces the cost of each trip.
2. TAKE THE BUS.
I rely on Megabus and Greyhound a lot to get to auditions and gigs in Texas. Although Megabus promotes $1 tickets, I usually pay $10-$15 one way to Austin and almost twice that amount for a one-way ticket to Dallas. That’s still far below the cost of filling a car’s tank once for the same trip. Plus, I get to meet all kinds of colorful characters along the way.
The local buses also offer great savings for getting around town once I get to my destination city. I only pay $1 one way in Austin, $1.25 one way in Houston, and I get a $5 day pass in Dallas. If it’s raining or the bus is running late getting to my destination city, I will order a cab online. It will be unavoidable at times to incur this extra cost.
3. WALK WHEN YOU CAN.
When the weather conditions allow it, I will walk to my audition from the bus stop. I don’t recommend this for every traveling actor, but it’s a great way to see the city, get some exercise, and mentally prepare for the audition. I once did an 8-mile walk in Austin, and I routinely walk at least a few miles on every audition day I’m not riding with another actor.
4. SKIP THE CONVENIENCE STORE & STARBUCKS STOPS
Packing food and beverages purchased from your neighborhood grocery store can reduce your road trip snack costs dramatically. If you need some math to chew on, consider this: every cup of coffee you make at home likely costs you somewhere between $0.38 and $0.70, depending on the type of coffee you buy, what you put in it, and the equipment necessary for brewing. Even low-end convenience store coffee starts above $1 and you know how much Starbucks charges for the Grande size of your drink of choice.
5. AVOID BIG MEALS ON THE ROAD.
All the money you saved by taking the bus or carpooling and skipping the high-priced snacks and coffee can be eaten up quickly by dining out when you’re traveling. Unless I’m on the road back from a paid shoot, I tend to avoid stopping at restaurants. I can’t justify spending $20 or more on a meal when the purpose of the trip is an audition.
If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to budget for audition road trips, here’s one approach. Take the total payment amount of the job if you book it and subtract your agent’s commission. Today’s audition for a print job for an energy company will pay $1000 if I book it and my agent will get 20%. That leaves me with $800. Now I take 5% of that amount, or $40, and use it to create my budget for the day. By riding with a colleague I paid only $15 towards fuel and spent only $5 for food and a beverage at a grocery store. That’s only half of my budgeted amount.
Try using one or more of these tips as 2013 comes to a close. Then come back and share the results. I guarantee you will free up a lot more cash to say yes to more auditions in 2014.