For past few months a few friends of mine and I’ve been eyeing on a trip to Manhattan, commonly known as the big apple. Back in April, I did search on Orbitz, Travelocity, site59, you name it and I will try and got astronomical figure of $300+ one way per person flight quote from SFO to any of 3 major airports near Manhattan, for time in June.
We told ourselves its summer vacation, it’s normal to be expensive. So we checked again in late May, early June. The price actually went up and not down. Finally, as we curse the historically high temperature and heat outside, we got talking about some vacation burn time again. Europe? Maybe, when and how? And, we talked about hitting NYC yet again.
This time, instead of just scanning we did a rather thorough search and gave 1st week of October as the weekend to try. A city like New York, there’s no peak season per say, but that week seem to be a breather week from summer season full of families with kids and many festivities & fun of New York city when it’s cooling off a bit and yet dry enough.
Either that or I’ll have to wait for the Thanksgivings. Lately flight on holiday itself, like Thanksgivings or Christmas or New Year’s day have become a popular day to fly for those not celebrating the holiday with families; it used to be that the airlines couldn’t fill the seats and had plenty of availability and discounts. It still is relatively cheap and easy to book those dates. Flying out of Oakland or San Jose, and fly during weekdays, between Thanksgivings and Christmas or post New Year’s in winter also is cheaper than other times to get to NYC. I’ve honestly seen flight tickets discount of less than $100 one way from SF to JFK/Newark from carriers like jetBlue.
Anyways, after a few dozen shopping through flight booking specialist websites and hitting airlines’ website directly, and also checking out STA, the student travel agency site, finally got $288/person for round trip plus tax, which would add up to $315 per person or less. Not bad, I thought. Half the price what I saw during summer months.
Alas, while debating hours, and worrying about lodging, a day lapsed and when returning to the saved travel info I learned that the very same flight from the very same carrier went up by $20/person overnight. Oh, my… So we couldn’t hesitate no longer, with or without lodging & transportation settled. Modifying original request to fly out of SFO and return to SFO, I checked nearby airports to check as well and flying out from San Jose and fly back to SFO would bring back the cost almost back to normal, still slightly higher than the original query. It’s like literally 2 months away. A lesson learned? Do not waste time waiting for better deal, there isn’t one.
Flying to JFK used to be cheaper and convenient than to fly to Newark, NJ. From past few flights my opinion changed. First, MTA raised fee on metro and especially on the monorail between airport and metro station to be some $7+ per ride. It used to be free or equivalent to a metro ride. Last times I landed JFK and took metro to downtown Manhattan it cost me $10+ and had to carry my luggage’s and wait for the train hours. And, JFK being one of busier airport than Newark, tariff and other port fees would be higher, I’m sure. Getting to Port Authority literally blocks away from Times Square in New York from Newark isn’t all that difficult and costs about same, no changing bus and spacious couch seat in a big bus. There are local buses from NJ to Manhattan for local bus fare and there’s airport shuttle which was about $12 last time I took it, and in 20min you’re in Times Square area.
Living in SF, and enjoying convenience of Bart into SFO, I do try my best to use public transportation. And, transportation from Newark to Manhattan hasn’t so far aroused any concern for me.
Next issue to resolve would be lodging. Looking at hotels listed on travel booking sites, even cheap hotels start from $100+ a night just for being on Manhattan Island, however crappy the location or condition is. Most of midtown hotels begin with $300+ per night. I have a few options, find lodging near Newark airport and commute to Manhattan, pay $300+ per night, go look for a bed at ever so many hostels located in NYC, or turn to craigslist for sublet or vacation rental. Hostel, with or without student id, is not a bad option if traveling alone and spend most of the day outdoor doing tourist thing. For three of us, securing a room at hostel with private shower is about as expensive as getting a nice hotel, however. And, I don’t know if I want to subject my friends to dorm style 6-coed or 8-coed bunker bed hotels, just because average price per person is $30. If cost is more important than comfort, or just can’t find availability under $1000 during peak season or holiday seasons, hostel is a nice cheap and safe alternative. Shared bath, shared TV/entertainment/kitchen room and shared laundry aren’t all that bad.
Obviously I turned to craigslist. Reading through some 200 posts, I responded to about 15 and heard back from about 5, most of the answers negative. But I think I finally have under $200/night lodging for us in a nice Upper East Side apartment.
Now, we can focus on musical tickets, shopping in SoHo, or what to eat and where.
So far our budget is like $450 per person, less than half of what many would spend. That means more cash left for shopping and eating needs. Do your home work, and think about peak/off seasons before your next booking. Also try to be flexible, resourceful to check all possible resources available, and be adventurous/creative to try different things.
Will post again once the trip is completed!