For a couple of years I've had the pleasure to attend SQLPass in Seattle, Denver and Grapevine.
If you do the math on costs, you'll see the cost may even be less if you take advantage of the early subscribers reduction !
I file for budget somewhere end of Mai because that was the time schedules were roughly known, so I could actually plan on a per hour bases and map the plan to known issues in house.
It has always been a tough week ( focused attention + jetlag ), but it has always been worth every penny because of the vast technical input, solution driven from other actual users that are also in the heat of the battle on a day to day basis. This all well supported by MS (pss/dev & others) and 3-th party technical people.
Last year I had to cancel a week before the conference :crying::crying::crying: because of some bankers ... You know the story.
This year, my budget request has been revoked, because of the same economical climate.
I didn't request for SQLPass Europe because it's promotion was to much focused on SQL2008, so I knew "new technology" would be rejected.
Another very nice thingy is you get to know many people that are in the line of business, and your network of resources that may help you if you get into troubles, expands to your advantage !