Anatomy of a Free Audition
Ride Sharing Options
At the time of this audition, I was in Houston without a car, relying on Uber for transportation, so I was pretty comfortable with the app and the process. I had to get to/from the hall from the hotel a total of 4 times (twice both days I played). The cost was about $11 each way, but fortunately I had some Uber referral credits for free rides. To get your first ride for free sign up here (any ride up to $20 will be free and anything above that will have $20 deducted):
Use the promo code ubermusician while signing up for an account on your Android or iPhone. If you buddy up with a friend for the audition, you can catch an Uber from the airport to your hotel, refer your friend with your new referral code, they call an Uber car back to the airport, and you get a free ride for a future use. Win-win. Check out their list here to make sure that the city you’re traveling to has Uber. They are operating in almost every major US city and are really expanding worldwide (57 countries as of now).
It’s super simple to use; you open the app, either drop a pin on the map where you are or plug in an address, and you track the driver in real-time with a picture of them, their car, and license plate. Your credit card info is stored in the app, so physical money never exchanges hands (especially helpful in foreign countries – in our recent trip to England we used Uber extensively and never even held a single pound). There is no tipping involved and don’t worry, the drivers still get paid the same amount when using a free ride (Uber picks up the tab). I have found Uber to be consistently 25-50% cheaper than traditional taxis and a much better experience. I’m a big fan!
Another ride-sharing service is Lyft, famous for giant pink mustaches on the front of their drivers’ cars (which unfortunately have been changed to small mustaches on the dashboard). They are also running a $20 free first ride special to compete with Uber (promo code JOEY477618).
Their reach is smaller than Uber (US only as of now), so check out their city list here. Their rates are pretty similar, but with Lyft you’re allowed to tip the driver. I usually tip $1-3, depending on the length of the ride.
One of the downsides of Uber is surge pricing. If it’s an especially busy time, the app will multiply the fare to keep up with demand for drivers. You have to agree to the surge multiplier up front so there are no surprises when you get the bill emailed to you. If the surge is especially high, I’ll open the Lyft app instead. Lyft has “Prime Time”, but tops out at double the price (though the highest I’ve ever seen it is 50% higher). If you split transportation with a friend and refer them to both Uber and Lyft using YOUR new referrals, that’s 6 free rides ($120 worth) between the two of you.
With the rise of the ride sharing options, I generally find rental cars not to be worth the hassle/price. In big cities, such as Chicago, the price to park your car downtown has become exorbitant. The Grant Park South Garage, which is across the street from Orchestra Hall, is $31 if you park for 2-8 hours. Most downtown hotels there are at least $40 per night to have your car sit there. I also find it slightly stressful to drive in an unfamiliar city with different traffic patterns and roads. In an audition situation, I want my stress level to be as low as possible. Also, keep in mind that you’re in this city to take an audition, not to sightsee. You can check out the cool places after you win the job.
If I don’t have many bags (I usually have my instrument and one small bag), I’ll also check the public transportation options. Many cities have trains or buses that pick up from the airport and go to the downtown area (which is where most symphony/opera halls are located). These options are typically slower, but often cost significantly less than a taxi.
Mostly Free Audition Summary
Let’s break this Indianapolis audition down:
Flights: Revenue cost of around $240 – Booked with 15,628 Chase UR points transferred to Southwest Airlines and $11.20 in taxes
Hotel: Revenue cost of $508.95 – Booked with 15,000 Chase UR points transferred to Hyatt and $0
Transportation: Free hotel shuttle and Uber referrals – $0
Total cost: 30,628 UR points and $11.20
Amount saved: ~$780
From one credit card sign up, I was able to cover travel costs for the entire trip and still had over 18,000 Ultimate Rewards points remaining (which I can use for a future trip!). Credit card signups aren’t the only way I travel-hack, but they are certainly one of the more lucrative!
Please comment below if you guys have any awesome travel tips you enjoy using for auditions!