I am planning to go to PAX Prime 2011 (yes, 2011 I have to finish school first) and as someone who lives in Australia, I was wondering if anyone else has travelled to PAX from Australia and would like to know how much it all cost and how the experience was.
Airfares start at about AUD$1100 for a flight from SYD-LAX if you get a promo fare from Qantas or V Australia; from there it's about a three-hour flight (AUD$160 on American) to SEA. Or you could time your run and join the West Coast Train Trip.
From there it's a matter of how much you want to spend. My hotel this year is only about A$110 a night, you can spend less if you have a roomie (or don't mind hostel-level accommodation) or more if you want to go upmarket. Subway/Maccas/etc cost about the same as they do here, but there's usually a restaurant recommendation thread if you don't want to do that.
And yes, it's entirely worth it- I had a ball just attending it as a 'show' and seeing the show floor/panels/concerts etc. I think this year I'll approach it a bit differently and get a bit more involved with the Buttoneers/Magical Mystery Tour etc, but I had a ball last year.
Oh, and add AUD$208 for your passport, but that's a one-off- they last ten years.
Virgin Australia may still be running a promo right now - Arnonaut and I just got return tix LAX - MEL for US$850 each for mid-August (my first trip to Aussieland). The SEA - LAX skip is usually pretty cheap, especially if you do it mid-week. Don't pay more than US$129 each way for that. All total, our tix were about $1120. Keep a close eye on the fares to get the best deal, and remember that PAX is on a national holiday weekend so everything will go up in price.
After currency exchange fees, you should break about even when you change your money.
If you book in one of the PAX hotel blocks, a room will be roughly US$169/night. If you split that between 4+ people it becomes significantly cheaper. You can also stay in one of the local hostels for ~$25/night and have a short walk to and from the convention each day.
For food and drink, there are some great happy hours available around downtown Seattle. Expect to pay $5 for a pint of beer on average and $10-$15 on a regular meal. Fast food (Tacos, sandwich, pizza) will of course be cheaper and are available at the convention center.
Off the top of my head I can think of 6 Australian Enforcers - one now has a green card and lives in the states, another in Canada, 2 from Perth, one from ACT and one from Melbourne. Arnonaut (Melbourne) is here currently for 12 months on a J-1 visa, having been to PAX and loving the convention, city, etc. We have enforcers and attendees from 6 of the 7 continents and it seems like we're getting folks from new countries every year.
Re: Travel - Don't think of the time difference as 15 hours. Think of it as 7 hours and the jet lag will disappear much quicker. No matter what time you land, plan the day according to the local clock. Don't go to bed until you normally would and if you NEED to take a nap, make sure it's only ~30 minutes.
Depending on how long you'll be in Seattle, try to see as much as possible. It's a beautiful city. Also try to participate in a handful of the Pre- and Post-PAX events. You'll meet an army of friends and fellow gamers this way and see a lot of cool stuff.
Bring a camera with extra memory card or two. Do NOT bring an umbrella.
I guarantee you'll enjoy yourself.
This. SO this. It is so worth it. You can walk underneath an SR-71 Blackbird. You will also get to see plenty of other amazing things, like walking through an old Air Force One and an example of the Concorde, as well as see the will-never-fly-again F-14 Tomcat.
Here's a picture I took of the Blackbird:
I went to my first PAX last year, and will be going again this year. Flights were both around the $1200 mark from SYD to Seattle with a change at LAX (return) I'll be staying with a friend again this year, so I can't really help with accommodation.
I was only there for the weekend last year, but got to have a little look around the city, and it was great, loved the fish shop in Pikes Place.
Totally recommend it!
(It's great fun picking up on a random Aussies accent in the crowds )
Sanity is a slippery slope, and I'm wearing Teflon shoes.
My only suggestion--because everyone else has covered the "Yes come to PAX!!!"-- is that you should come to town early and join up with the Magical Mystery Tour, the pre-PAX tour of Seattle!!!
In 2008 I checked in a group of 9 Irish guys, plus countless folks from the UK and a smattering of others from around the EU. Kiwis too!
The more Aussies, the merrier.
Previous PAXs: PAX Prime 2011, PAX AUS 2013
Other touristy things worth doing in Seattle are the Seattle Underground Tour, and the Sci-fi Museum.
Previous PAXs: PAX Prime 2011, PAX AUS 2013
Prices in $AUD.
You don't mention where you are so I'll assume Sydney. Looking directly at the airline web sites, for a Aug 31 departure this year and a Sep 7 return home, I got quoted $981 on United, $1167 on V Australia, $1184 on Delta and $1232 on Qantas, all going Sydney-Los Angeles-Seattle-return.
Accommodation through the official PAX hotel booking system starts at $190 a night, although obviously that can be split if you have more than one person in the room. Or you can book elsewhere- the hotel discussion thread has more ideas. The PAX hotels are close to the convention centre so you won't have any additional transport costs (unless you really feel you need a cab at some point).
You'll need a passport ($208 if you don't already have one) to enter the USA.
A cab from the airport to the centre of town is about $50. The Link Light Rail from the airport costs about $3 each way.
Oh, and of course, you will need your three-day pass to PAX itself (AUD$66).
So on my quick maths, airfare + 4 nights in Seattle runs you a bit under $2000 total- plus food and whatever other expenses you decide to rack up.
Obviously, if booking this far out, things are subject to change- the Australian dollar's performance against the greenback right now makes me cry- but that gives you an idea.
Now that is out of my system, you should go, definitely. For your first year you will probably want about $4000 overall. Flights, hotels, food, drinks, swag. You WILL go mental the first year. You can probably do it on $2500 if you get early cheap flights and go cheap on the hotel and don't eat at bars or drink.
But trust me, my first PAX trip was going to be a once off. Until I actually went to PAX. Now it is a yearly thing and I have a metric tonne of friends over there who I miss a bunch and can't wait to get back to see. This will not be a once off thing, you WILL go back.
As for going over as a group, it is hard with availabilities and people coming from different cities, but when I was planning something like that out, I was going to have it so it is about 2 weeks over there, meet in Sydney the weekend before PAX, fly over on the Sunday/Monday, get into Seattle, spend some days seeing the sights (maybe joining the Magical Mystery Tour which is most excellent for seeing Seattle), PAX, then a few days to recover and sort all of the crap you acquired at PAX to fly back Thursday/Friday after to Sydney. That would be the best plan for that.
Of course I also recommend hanging out around here, in the #paforums_pax irc channel and talking to the Twitter Shitters to make a bunch of friends to hang out with before your feet even touch American soil. Maybe if you're feeling spendy, fly over to the East Coast and run the CCST with Moe. I GUARANTEE it is the best thing you will ever do. Apart from attend/enforce PAX.
I don't plan to make this a one-time trip, either. I plan to go to several PAXes. Are you attending this year, Cuzza?
Looking forward to meeting everyone there.
Coming late to the party
Am flying in Friday morning on the Red Eye from LA so might be a bit out of it for the first day.
Will keep an ear out for others from the Land of Oz.
So so excited for PAX
I arrived in Seattle yesterday, this will be my second pax. I'm stoked!
+1 for an Aussie get-together.
I'm in Seattle as of last night
+1 for meet up