Our Tuesday/Wednesday trip to Manhattan stands as another prime example. Below is an itemized list of our expenses:
1. Round-trip bus fare (Providence to Port Authority) x 2*: $160
2. Cab fare (three cab rides): $58**
3. Parking at the bus*** depot in Providence: $16
4. Three soft drinks: $7
Total: $241 (for a day and a half)
Now, keep in mind, we had a place to stay, so no hotel bill, and Peter and Susan picked up the dinner tab on Tuesday, then Peter fixed us breakfast, so no meals were purchased. Lodging and meal expenses could easily have added another $200+. For one night. Obviously, a four-day convention is much more expensive.
Now, I also have to add to the total our museum visit, which added $53. But. We virtually never do anything of that sort. Our normal monthly entertainment expenditure averages less than $60. So, you add the museum (which isn't the business part), the cost goes up to $294.
* If you're wondering why I don't save money by traveling alone, the short answer is because I'm not well enough to do so, not at the present. Maybe at some future date, but not now.
** True, the subway would have been much cheaper. But. Our schedule would have made using the subway extremely inconvenient, neither of us are familiar with the routes, and riding the subway vastly increases the odds of catching this or that bug and sacrificing more money to lost days/productivity once the trip is over. I've used the subway lots (last January, for example). This time, it simply wasn't practical.
*** Had we taken Amtrak from Kingston, RI it would have cost us about twice as much.
So, why don't I do more conventions, readings outside Providence, etc.? This is why. Rarely do such activities even begin to prove cost effective. What they do, primarily, is increase my visibility within the community of writers and editors. Most readings net tiny attendance and insignificant book sales (and often lead to bookstores returning the extra stock they ordered for the event, which drives up my return rate). Far bigger names than me often have lousy turnouts at readings. And even if, say, fifty people show up (and for most of us, that's a huge turnout), what the bookstore makes selling books, and what your publisher makes, is likely less than what it cost you to travel to the event.
So, what work-related traveling I do, I choose the trips with great care. I do only those things I really, really want to do. KGB readings, for example. And ReaderCon. Of course, if an event or publisher is willing to pay for all my expenses, I'll usually make the trip; this has almost never happened for me.
I would also add, it horrifies me to think how much I would increase my carbon footprint...
By the way, have I mentioned this wonderful book my nihilistic_kid (Nick Mamatas), Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life.