Anatomy of a Free Audition Part One: Getting There

Anatomy of a Free Audition

Part One: Getting There

Part Two: Staying There

Part Three: Getting Around There

 

You go to the musicalchairs website and see your dream job posted. You submit your perfectly polished résumé and wait for a response. Two weeks later you receive the email that you’re invited! You print out the audition repertoire list and start practicing several hours a day, but there’s still one caveat – how do you get to the audition without going broke? Here’s how I took an audition for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra a few months ago and paid a total of $11 on travel.

One of the primary ways I travel for free is with credit card sign up bonuses. Bear with me, it’s not as sketchy as it sounds and won’t destroy your credit. If you’re responsible with your finances, credit card sign up bonuses can be an incredibly lucrative way to travel for free. In my next post, I’ll explain how you can leverage credit cards to actually increase your credit score. The first card I signed up for with the intent of earning valuable points was the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Actually, I initially applied for it to have a card that waived foreign transaction fees because my wife was about embark on a month-long research trip in France and I didn’t want her to pay those pesky 3% fees.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The first year is free and it comes with a sign up bonus of 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (a fancy term for transferable reward points), plus 5,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user, after spending $4,000 in 3 months. After you meet the spending requirement (that number sounds daunting, but there are several ways to reach it without changing your spending habits), you’ll have at least 49,000 points. The great thing about these points is that you can either redeem them for cash (at a 1 point = 1 cent rate, so 49,000 points = $490 you can pocket) or transfer them to one of Chase’s many valuable partners to stretch their value. The partners include:

Airlines

British Airways

Korean Air

Singapore Airlines

Southwest Airlines

United MileagePlus

Virgin Atlantic

 

Rail

Amtrak

 

Hotels

Hyatt

Marriott

InterContinental Hotels Group

Ritz-Carlton

 

In order to have the option to transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to partners, you need to hold either the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Plus business cards. These all transfer at a 1:1 ratio and I’ll focus right now on the two partners that I used for this specific audition: Southwest and Hyatt.

southwest-airlines-co-logo

I love Southwest for auditions because of the flexibility with their tickets. Something changed with your work or school schedule and you need to audition the next day or can’t make it? No change or cancellation fees. You need to check two bags for this audition? No baggage fees. I have friends who book multiple return tickets with Southwest for auditions that occur over multiple days. If they don’t advance the first day, they’ll fly back on the first ticket (usually that evening) and cancel their second ticket. If they do advance, they’ll cancel the first ticket and take the second ticket. When cancelling a ticket, you receive the entire ticket back as a credit for a future flight.

For this audition in Indianapolis the audition was going to be over 3 days: 1 day of prelims, 1 day of the remaining prelims and semi-finals, and 1 day of finals. The finals would be held in the evening of the third day after the orchestra rehearsed in the morning. I was assigned a time in the morning of the 2nd day for my prelim round, so I needed to be there for 3 nights. I booked a roundtrip from Houston Hobby to Indianapolis for 7,814 miles each way with Wanna Get Away Fares (the cheapest option of the three). I transferred 16,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover the cost of the flights. There were government taxes and fees of $5.60 each way ($11.20 total). Bam, flights taken care of. Next on the docket? A place to stay.

Stay tuned for part two and feel free to ask any questions!

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Welcome!

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Anatomy of a Free Audition Part Two: Staying There

2 Comments

  1. Joey, Wow! What a great website and service! I put a link to your site in a recent blog post, so I hope many more will take advantage of what you have here.
    You might consider adding a section about carry-on restrictions for airlines. These are starting to go away, but recently Andres Cardenes (PSO Concertmaster) had a problem taking his violin on board. He had a copy of the law allowing this, though, so the dispute was settled, but it seems that some airline employees are not aware.

    The AFM site has this in regards to carry ons: http://www.afm.org/departments/legislative-office/instruments-as-carry-on

    When TCO travels, our tour manager tries to get us Premiere Access so our instruments will be first in the cabin instead of all those overstuffed, non-essential carry ons that most people have now. I’m sure it would be harder for individuals to request this, but for airlines which board by groups, it’s always good to try for an earlier boarding group so you can be assured of some overhead space.

    Keep up the good work!

    Barry Stees

    • Joey

      Thanks for reading!

      Airplane boarding is probably the next topic I’m going to tackle. I’m definitely glad it’s getting better, but it’s obviously not fool-proof yet. The amount of variables is kind of staggering, though (different instruments, case sizes, individual airline rules, overhead bin size, etc). Getting on the plane first should definitely be the highest priority.

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