Birding Festivals – A great way to travel

I have attended three Birding Festivals over the past two years.  My first was the Lower Rio Grande Birding Festival, headquartered in Harlingen, Texas, in the fall of 2011.  In February of this year, I attended an American Birding Association Bird Rally in Albuquere, New Mexico.  And in September of this year I attended the Monterey Bay Birding Festival headquartered in Watsonville/Santa Cruz, California.

Allow me to explain a little about attending a birding festival.  A festival is generally about 4 days long.  On each day, you meet with a trip leader.  The trips usually begin around 7 AM and finish around 3 PM.  There are about 15 people in each group.  Sometimes a van or bus is provided and sometimes you form a caravan using your own vehicle.

I usually book eight (8) days for travel, attendance at the festival and some time left over to soak up a little of the ambience of the area.  For example, for the trip to California in September, I flew to California on a Wednesday and returned the following Wednesday.  The festival itself started on Thursday and finished on Sunday; the festivals and rallys I have attended have been 4 days long.  Since I arrived on Wednesday, it gave me part of a day to get settled and survey the lay of the land.  After the festival was over,  I allowed two days to further explore the area.

Return air fare to a festival can run somewhere between $500 to $700.  The room we rented in Watsonville (Best Western) cost $1020.00.  We rented a car for our stay there at a cost of $272.00 (this included liability insurance and unlimited mileage).  We spent about $100 in gasoline.  Breakfast is supplied by the hotel.  We usually stay at a Best Western.  And since our daily festival trips departed very early in the morning (before the continental breakfast was available), the hotel would supply us with a doggie bag of breakfast eats.  We usually would buy some fruit and sandwich at a local deli the night before to take on each daily trip.  The daily trips are usually over by 4 PM, leaving plenty of time to dine out for supper.

Attendance at the festival is not free, but the ones I have gone to have not been overly expensive.  For example, the Monterey Bay Birding Festival daily trips were in the range of $15-$25.  There were two trips that did cost more — the pelagic trip out into the Bay was $150 and the trip down to Big Sur to see the California Condors, was $134.  There are a wide variety of daily trips available during the festival and by registering early you can pretty well have whatever trip you want.

Evenings are free time.  And if you give yourself a couple of extra days stay after the festival is over, you can explore the area and take in sights and sounds and tastes of a non-birding nature.

So here are the costs of my most recent trip:

  • Room  —  $1020
  • Flight  —  $650
  • Car rental  —  $272
  • Festival Costs  —  $375
  • Food and souvenirs  —  That is up to you

Reasonable cost for an eight-day stay in California.

Perhaps there is a Birding Festival in your future.



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