Flying around the US for 3 weeks. Any suggestions for optmising the budget?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by keepinitsimple, Mar 24, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    I and my spouse are planning to be in the US for 3 weeks in May-June. We havent come up with exact plans for places to visit and how long etc... But it is most likely to be the east coast attractions - Orlando/DC/NY/New England. And Chicago

    Any suggestions for cheap and efficient domestic travel in the US? Is there a fly-as-much-as-you-can monthly ticket sold by any of the airlines or alliances? I do remember the story of a guy who bought one from a US airline and flew around for a month or so...

    Or should I just buy regular tickets for each trip?

    Thanks.
     
  2. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    There is no such thing, unless you luck out and JetBlue introduces their promotion early this year... :)

    New York, DC and Chicago are budget busters in terms of spending for hotels and food, so it would help tremendously if you could narrow down your dates. :)
     
  3. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    In NY/Chicago and Boston, we do have family. And for DC, I can use some *Wood points. Its the air travel I am more concerned about...
     
  4. Gnopps
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    Gnopps Silver Member

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    You could easily book an open-jaw ticket Europe-NYC and MCO-Europe for example, this you can research yourself on various online booking sites. However, you can also get all or many of the US domestic flights on the same ticket as your international ticket - this may save you money depending on the ticket and the airline. Many airlines will allow routing through and stopover in the cities you wish to visit on the way to your "goal". If you want to explore this road yourself and don't feel familiar using tools such as expertflyer and ITA then I suggest you get a good travel agent to help you. And I mean good, there are too many that don't know advanced routing/itineraries very well.

    Even if you don't get the domestic flights on the same ticket as the international one you can still save on some of the taxes (perhaps €5-10 per segment) if you buy a separate ticket. You need a travel agent do arrange this, it is called cross-referencing the tickets.

    There are also special US domestic (VUSA) fares for international travellers as well but I generally find that normal, published fares are cheaper.
     
  5. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Thanks.. I am getting a miles ticket for international travel into EWR. So will need a separate domestic ticket.
     
  6. Original Member
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    Other things to consider... NYC-MCO fares are relatively cheap ($250 or less r/t). And in this market, as well as Chicago, one way is typically 50% of round trip. You could rent a car in NY and do the whole New England thing, take a train from NYC to WAS, then fly to MCO and do whatever it is you want to do there, then fly to CHI and back to NYC vs. return home from CHI.

    I personally wouldn't fly from NYC-DC unless I needed the miles. It's expensive and a hassle. It's faster and more relaxing to take the train when all is said and done.
     
  7. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Thanks. will probably take the train then..
     
  8. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Also DC-NY-Boston are all connected by very cheap buses. Usually $20 or less per person one way.
     
  9. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Thanks... Dont want to optimise too much :)
     
  10. Original Member
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    There are some busses that are nice. Not the classical "greyhound" nasty busses. There are some "luxury branded" busses. Megabus, limoliner, and Bolt are three bus services that offer more room between seats, WiFi, and other amenities.

    That being said, if you are trying to get outside of Boston, you may want to just rent a car in NY and drive up there; it's not that far and weekly rentals generally cost about the same as a 3 or 4 day rental. You could drive NYC-DC but you'd likely have to pay extra $ for vehicle drop off charges if you went one way... and returning the car to NYC will cost you 1/2 of a day of vacation.
     
  11. wanderlust
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    wanderlust Silver Member

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    In addition to buses (of which there are some decent ones), Amtrak is also a possibility for the east coast cities. If bought in advance you can get comfortable seats cheaper than air tickets, with less hassle in getting/to stations and less TSA security nonsense. Check out the Acela, it's fast and very comfortable.
     
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  12. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Acela is a nice ride. Depends on what they want to spend. As for buses I'd check Bolt or Mega first.
     
  13. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Will definitely be trying out at least 1 trip on the Acela.
     
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  14. Tenmoc
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    My vote would be the NYC-Boston leg. Sit on the right side when facing the direction of travel. Most of the run through CT is along the coast. Quite a nice ride. DC-NYC is more inland and through suburbs and cities.
     
  15. ahow628
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    You might do some price comparison between buying individual tickets and using something like this:

    Visit North America

    It prices segments for travel based on mileage.
     
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  16. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    I am going to try out both OW and *A tools for this.
     
  17. Skyvillager
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    Would you care to tell us which airline and program miles you are using?

    I suspect an award to EWR, MCO or CHI will cost same ## of miles.
    Some programs allow both stop-overs and open jaw trips.

    If you have not purchased yet or can change your tix - find out if you can get a stop-over in NYC, changing your final destination to another city.

    I suggest train vs. buying separate domestic air for East Coast travel in US, but if you can add a few segments to existing itinerary for no extra charge - why not?
     
  18. anng3
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    anng3 Silver Member

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    You might consider flying into Orlando and driving up to DC. Through May until June 12th you can get a Florida drive-out rate from Hertz for $5 per day. You can keep the car for that rate for a maximum of 14 days so you could use it in Orlando and then drive up maybe stopping in Savannah in GA. Continue then driving to DC. Then once in DC you can train to NY. In NYC there are cheap buses from Chinatown to Boston. From Boston you could fly to Chicago and leave from there. Alternatively if you didn't want to drive to DC. You could drop the car of in Atlanta and catch an Airtran flight to DC.
     
  19. MSPeconomist
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    Investigate the Visit USA fares of major legacy domestic airlines, although note that you might need to use the same carrier as for your TATL flights. The scheme is something like 8 one-ways (I don't think connections of less than 4 hours count as more than one) for a set price. You must be a foreign resident and there might be restrictions on the type of US visa you can hold (if required). These are nonpublished fares that book into a certain inventory class, so don't assume availability on the exact flights you want. IIRC they do not earn FF miles either, but every carrier will have their own rules. Read the fine print carefully or work with a knowledgeable real (bricks and mortar combined with a human being) travel agent, who will charge a fee for service.
     
  20. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    USAirways DM :)

    I need to be in EWR for a meeting which will last a couple of days. So need to stop there. Trying to get NorthAsia - EWR (stopover) - CDG (destination) - Northasia award. Not yet ticketed. Plan to do it in 1st week of April.

    At least 1 trip will be on a train to check out the Acela. The others will be based on a combination of:
    Cost (Ticket + conveyance to/from airport/rail-station and hotel)
    Convenience
    Air miles earnings
     
  21. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Ahhhh.... Need to get a US driving license...
    I paid a bribe to get my original driving license in my native country... without knowing to drive... LOL.
     
  22. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Thanks for al your suggestions. A summary of the planning so far...

    TOTAL TIME AVAILABLE: In the US for a total of 4 weeks. 1 week for business. 3 weeks for tourism.
    ARRIVAL PORT: New York (EWR)
    DEPARTURE PORT: New York (EWR). JFK also possible if DM doesnt consider it an open-jaw
    DESITNATIONS: EWR (confirmed) -- then -- Boston (confirmed) -- then Washington / Orlando / Chicago / Others (order not confirmed)

    Program Affiliations: *A Gold (Krisflyer) / *Wood Gold
    Point available: Krisflyer (110k for me) / USAir (90k each for me and spouse) / *Wood (11k)

    BUSINESS TRAVEL (1 week)
    EWR: USAirways DM award ticket (J class) to EWR from North Asia. To ticket in April week 1. Arriving EWR in mid May.
    Pickup: Arranged by host company
    Stay: Arranged by host company

    4 days later, we will be going to Boston (confirmed).
    Travel: Arranged by host company (not train)
    Pickup: Arranged by host company
    Stay: Arranged by host company

    3 days later the tourism part starts....

    PERSONAL TRAVEL (3 weeks)
    The confirmed stops are Washington, Orlando, Chicago (order not decided). Other stops based on time.
    Travel: Either trains or flights. Cannot drive. Also would prefer not to travel by bus due to a niggling back injury.
    Stay: Chicago (relatives) || Washington (hotel) || Orlando (hotel)
    Pickup: Depends on mode of travel. Cannot drive

    Need to decide:
    -- How long in each city based on sightseeing opportunities
    -- Based on time available, other than these 3 cities, what other places are recommended for a first trip to the US. I am thinking of focussing on the East coast this trip and West coast a year later.
    -- Ordering of travel for these cities (Based on travel convenience, and crowding at Orlando. Is it peak season for Disney World?)
    -- How to arrive into each city. Would want 1 segment on the Acela to try out the US trains
    -- Recommended hotels except for Chicago for best use of *wood points.
    -- Pickup (hotels have free shuttles?)

    Priorities
    -- Safety (Our first time in the US. Life is more precious than 200$ savings on a room rate)
    -- Balance of cost/convenience/opportunity to try some new travel option

    Financial situation:
    I am pretty well off. But I love to get "value" for the money I pay. Basically a well off guy who loves to get deals (aren't we all?)


    Thanks
     
  23. MSPeconomist
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    With Starwood, your best deal is likely to be cash and points if it's available for the dates you need.
     
  24. keepinitsimple
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    keepinitsimple Silver Member

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    Agree... Will be checking the availability after exact dates are finalised.
     
  25. tassojunior
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    NYC-DC is certainly best by Bolt or Megabus. Google them. Acela is expensive and not really much faster than Northeast trains. DC museums are all free, the Metro subway is extensive, and there are many tour bus options.Do not under any circumstances stay in the new chain hotels on New York Avenue. It's really a highway in a dangerous remote area. Best convenient smaller hotels for price and convenience are in Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill. Of the Starwoods, the Westin Georgetown at a cat 4 is by far the best choice. If you're in DC long enough a day trip to Baltimore Inner Harbor is grand. It's $7 by MARC train from Union Station DC and about 30 miles (weekdays only).

    DC- Florida flights are plentiful and cheap- especially from downtown National Airport. Orlando's not the best of Florida. My fave is Fort Lauderdale for price, convenience, atmosphere and closeness to Miami and Bahamas. There are great day cruises to Bahamas for $75 to $100.

    Boston can be expensive but nearby New Hampshire and Maine are nicer and more affordable.

    Learn to use Priceline "name-your-own-price" for hotels. Most here do. You can often get 30-40% off lowest prices found elsewhere.
     
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