Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Is PAX Worth the Price?

Robert Rath | 10 Apr 2014 16:00
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How Does PAX Stack Up To Other Destinations?

So what we've got is this: for someone that lives far away and doesn't engage in significant cost-cutting, PAX is a three to four day vacation that can cost between $1,000 and $1,500.

That's a lot. Enough money that the question shouldn't necessarily be "Should I go to PAX?" but "Where could I go instead?" And the truth is - with careful planning - you could vacation internationally for roughly the same price.

Whenever someone told me the price they paid for a ticket to PAX, I immediately pulled up the website SkyScanner.com. After entering their departure city, I entered "Everywhere" as their arrival city and made their departure/return dates flexible for the whole year. The results were shocking.

For the cost of a $369 round-trip ticket form LAX to Boston, you could go to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or Costa Rica. With a $380 ticket from Miami to East, you could make it to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. The $600 flight that took one friend from Montana to East could've put him in Honduras or Mexico. And the $720 flight from Raleigh-Durham to Seattle? Man, where do you want to go? St. Petersburg. Ireland. Belize. Guatemala. Barbados. Add $60 more and you're in Shanghai; add a hundred and you're in Istanbul. Keep in mind, these fares are if you're entirely flexible on travel dates, but it's possible if you plan in advance.

Also, many of these destinations offer cheaper accommodations than Boston or Seattle, with hotel rooms for under $100 a night- and in some countries like Costa Rica and Turkey, as low as $40 for a three star hotel. (And that's if you don't want to stretch your dollar by staying in $15-a-night hostels.) If you're willing to miss PAX twice and save money for one big trip instead, doubling your budget could open up destinations in Europe or Asia - you just have to snag cheap tickets and plan in advance.

And you don't have to go as far as another country, either. There are plenty of travel destinations in the U.S. that would serve you well for a splurge weekend. You could load up the camping gear and visit the fossil quarry at Dinosaur National Monument or hike the Grand Canyon. Hell, if you want a bonding experience with friends, round them up and head to New Orleans for a weekend of ghost tours and bad decisions. The point of travel isn't how far you go, but that you go somewhere new, interesting and fun. If you play Watch Dogs at PAX, sure, you've played it first, but in a few months everyone else will have played it too. But if you go to Costa Rica or backpack the Rockies, those experiences - and those stories - will last you a lifetime.

Don't get me wrong: I love PAX. I've spoken there three times, and hope to do so again. It's a fun expo, and there's nothing like being surrounded by games and the games community for three days. At my last PAX I talked to a woman who was escorting her kid there, and asked her what she thought of the show. What she said sums up, in my mind, what PAX can be at its best: "His older brother's a baseball player and his sister's a cheerleader," she said, patting her kid on the head. "He loves games and I figured, hey, this weekend is his time to shine."

In my mind PAX is like Disneyland - everyone should go once, and I'll never begrudge someone who makes it a yearly pilgrimage.

But if you already went last year, and are ready for a new adventure, you might consider where else in this amazing world that $1,200 could take you.

It may be further than you think.

Robert Rath is a freelance writer, novelist, and researcher based in Hong Kong. His articles have appeared in the Escapist and Slate. You can follow his exploits at RobWritesPulp.com or on Twitter at @RobWritesPulp.

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