Saturday, May 05, 2007

Possible trip to New York City in June

I had been considering a trip to New York City later in May, but time is running out, my budget is tight (a modest deficit), I'm busy right now, and the weather might be more pleasant in June. I'm think of the middle of June, probably after the June statement date for my credit cards so that I wouldn't actually have to pay until August. Maybe a five-day trip, staying four nights. If I budget $350 for airfare and $90 per night for hotel and $25 for airport transportation and $25 for the bus to visit my mother, that would come to $760. Or I may make it a five night trip, bringing the budget to $850.

Unfortunately, if I want to buy a plane ticket with two weeks advance notice and still beat my June statement date of about 6/6, I wouldn't be able to travel until 6/20, but that's still workable.

Looking at Priceline.com right now, I see a non-stop flight on Delta for $383 with a reasonable schedule and a $375 flight on ATA with an unreasonable schedule (requires that I leave in the morning before the earliest bus.) Since I actually do have a surplus of vacation days, I'm seriously considering using Priceline's Name Your Own Price feature to get a much cheaper fare even if the schedule is terrible, since presumably a cheap motel room near the airport will be less expensive that paying a published fare. At least that is the theory, but that theory predates the current phenomenon of most flights being absolutely packed, giving carriers (and Priceline) little reason to offer a really sweet deal. Hotels are still reasonably available.

I queried Priceline for a plane and hotel package deal and I got a price of $2,121 for the Grand Hyatt, which is a nice hotel, but that is a little outside my budget. Literally the best offer Priceline gave me in Manhattan was $1,174 at the Roosevelt Hotel and an overnight connecting flight. That's not a very good deal. I was never impressed with the package deals offered with Priceline, my preference being to pay the listed airfare and then use Name Your Own Price for the hotel. About the cheapest hotel Priceline offers in Manhatten was $207 for the Days Hotel. Even at 50% off, that would still be $104, making the Roosevelt deal look fairly reasonable.

Maybe I'll have to rethink my budget or length of stay. I'll check again in a week and see how the price is trending, and if it is still a bit too outrageous, I'll consider two options: immediately do a low-ball bid or consider skipping this trip entirely. Maybe I'll try the low-ball bid each week until the secnd week of June and then give up if I can't do this trip for less than $900.

My only real hesitation is that NYC is a very popular destination even for international travelers, so booking a flight or hotel at the last minute can be problematic since sellout conditions are fairly common for NYC for "cheap" accommodations.

I also need to contemplate whether an overnight flight (especially one requiring a connection in the middle of the night) is acceptable.

I haven't finalized this "plan", but this is now my best guess.

And I have to go through all of this hassle simply because I don't have a high enough income to midlessly afford "full fare" and "rack rate." Sigh.

-- Jack Krupansky

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