If your venue is free, transportation and travel reimbursements are often the most expensive part of putting on a hackathon. After reviewing the information below, watch our short transportation webinar to ensure your transportation planning runs smoothly. While many hackers have come to expect some sort of funded transportation, it is not required in order to put on a successful hackathon.
Charter buses are typically the most affordable option for getting hackers to and from your event. Keep in mind as you plan that most buses fit 56 attendees, and the average cost per weekend is $3,300 (based on 31 hackathons in Spring 2014). Your hackathon date matters as well: for example, bus prices are often higher in April because so many schools charter them during that month for class trips.
Determine how many seats you’ll need
Reach out to student leadership at participating schools to find out how much interest there is in a bus. Have your contact create a Facebook event with the bus boarding time and ask them to invite as many people from the school that they want to.
Some interested students won’t show up when it’s time to board; we recommend ordering one 56-seat bus per 70 "yeses"
Dishing out seats on a first come, first serve often works best
2. Create a travel itinerary
Exact locations of pick-up and drop-off points
Contact info for a point person at the destination and arrival locations
Trip duration and distance
3. Collect quotes
Use BusRates.com to sort bus companies by number of buses available, number of seats, bus ages, and cost. We recommend only requesting quotes from companies with 4 star ratings or above.
Bus.com allows you to organize buses to your event in a central dashboard and request quotes directly from bus companies. They also will help you compare and find the cheapest bus company. The companies on Sharethebus are pre-vetted so you don't have to worry about ratings.
Questions to ask
How much will tip, tolls, hotels, fuel, and taxes cost?
Can the company provide proof of insurance and US D.O.T numbers?
Create a quote spreadsheet for each route and every company you requested info from. Include company name, price, contact info, number of buses available, etc.
Occasionally, you will need to issue travel reimbursements for some or all of your attendees. A few tips:
Email attendees via a service like SendGrid or MailChimp with instructions about how to claim their reimbursements. Include a clear timeline with receipt due dates.
Upload receipts (Wufoo is a good resource). All should clearly show price and date of purchase to qualify.
Send reimbursements (Venmo is 25 cents per transaction)
Keep all receipts for tax purposes
Local bus companies are usually much cheaper than national ones because national companies typically sublease from local companies. (So there’s a markup)
Adding stops to a route doesn’t cost more money
Plan for buses to arrive 30 min before pick-up time and stay 15 mins after drop-off
Bus companies like to send email spam. When soliciting quotes, use a bus-only email address to keep your inbox clean.
Don’t be cheap. Watch the Transportation Webinar below to hear some stories about why it’s important to pay for quality buses
Webinar: Hackathon Transportation 101