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Hell Week on a Budget: A Guide for the Frugal Singer

Ah, hell week: the pinnacle of audition season where singers from all over the country converge on the Big Apple to sing for as many opera companies as possible. Pacing yourself through this marathon can be stressful; don’t add financial stress to that list! Use the following tips and tricks to keep costs low so you can focus all of your energy into nailing your auditions.

Hell Week Prep


  • Make a spreadsheet of the companies hearing auditions in NYC around the same dates. Apply for as many (teacher approved) YAPs as possible, in the hopes of knocking out as many as you can in a short period of time.

  • Don’t forget to check out auditions in neighboring cities like Philadelphia or Boston. These dates often don't fill up as quickly as the NYC dates, increasing your likelihood of being heard.

  • Book your flight once you have two audition dates confirmed. Consider those your schedule anchors. Some companies won’t get back to you until the last minute, but the longer you wait, the more expensive your flights will be.


  • Use Google Flights to compare prices on flights. (You'll have to check Southwest separately.)

  • Check the price of one-way flights versus round trip. Explore neighboring airports, too; you might be able to save some serious money by flying into New Jersey or Philadelphia.

  • Pay attention to the fine print of the flight you book. Some cheaper flights won’t allow you to make changes. In this case, flexibility is worth the higher cost. You want to be able to change your travel dates if an audition later in the week doesn’t pan out.

  • Try flying out midweek for cheaper flight options.

  • Download public transit apps to make navigating the subway a little easier.

  • Utilize your Sephora or Ulta points to get free travel sizes of your skin care and make-up. Keep an eye on the rewards all year so you can cash in your points on products you know and love.


  • Ask if you can stay with friends in the city, but be prepared for them to say no. Couch space is at a premium this week. Ask them early, and offer to pay your host. Throwing your friend a chunk of money is much cheaper than paying NYC prices for a week of lodging.

  • If no friends can house you, considering renting an Airbnb with other out-of-town singers.


  • Remember: You can pack snacks! Save room in your bags for a pack of protein bars or instant oatmeal packets for a quick meal on the go.

  • Bring your reusable water bottle and coffee mug. Not only is this good for the earth, but you will save money when purchasing water and coffee.

Crisis Prevention:

  • Alert your bank that you’re traveling. Pack an emergency credit card and emergency cash. If your card is blocked for some reason, you have a safety net.

  • Buy a portable phone battery.

  • Make a physical copy of your itinerary and important information like the address of the place you’re staying. If your phone dies, you still need to know when and where your auditions are scheduled and where you are staying.

  • Pack light. Do this by making a packing list and making sure all audition needs are included. (blow drier, shapewear, etc.) This minimizes the chance of you forgetting something and having to purchase it.

  • Have a copy of your resume, rep list, and sheet music scanned and saved on a jump drive. This will save you time and money if your audition binder gets lost or wet.

During Hell Week

  • Hit up the grocery store the first day you arrive. Buy enough food so you don’t have to eat out for every meal.

  • When you purchase a meal, pack up half of it to eat the next day.

  • Coffee hack: Go to Starbucks and order a trenta, no water, no ice, cold brew. Cold brew is usually cut with water, so mixing your own from the concentrate will make your coffee fix last for a few days.

  • Remember to budget for purchasing a gift for your host, be it dinner or a bottle of booze.

  • Avoid eating near tourist attractions. The food will be much more expensive.

  • Save all of your receipts for tax purposes. Track your spending closely!

  • If you have a free evening in the city, utilize the Met’s rush ticket policy to score a cheap seat.

  • Bring a small amount of mad money. This money is for the impulse purchase of your choosing, be it martinis after a bad audition, a ticket to a museum exhibition, or even a must-have clothing item.

Most importantly, be kind and polite to every one you meet. Not only is this just good conduct, you never know who is on an audition panel or who works the door for the company auditions you want to crash. Channel all of the excitement of the week into positive energy, stick to your budget, and have fun!

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