Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stuff I've Learned: Last Minute Trips Out of NYC

City Guy, bless his heart, has a demanding work schedule that never allows us to plan a vacation more than a month ahead. Years ago when we got married, I was even worried that he'd have to cut our honeymoon short due to work (luckily, that didn't happen ).

The thing is, we love to travel, and by travel we mean, get outside the US. So over the years, we've had to scramble to get last minute trips planned. Our trips to Bali, Mexico, Egypt, Paris--all planned two weeks or less out. So yesterday when City Guy called and said it looked like he could actually take Labor Day weekend off, my trip finding machine went into high gear.

Within a few hours, we were booked into the hotel of our choice in Turks & Caicos, two reasonably priced plane tickets (with first class seats on the return!) and I had a name for the best dive shop on the island. Here's what I've learned that helps me with last minute travel:

1, Always have a wish list handy. I store websites for hotels or articles about destinations I' interested in in my Delicious bookmarks so I have them handy when I hear "go!" I also have a top destinations list on my computer. Of course, when you're booking so close to departure, you don't always get your first choice, so be willing to compromise a little. But you'd be surprised, especially in this economy, how often hotels still have availability. Flights are also sometimes cheaper closer to the date of travel, as surprisingly they were for this trip to Turks & Caicos.
2. Know what destinations are close to NYC. For trips of under a week, I don't want to spend more than seven hours on a plane. Here are some of my top close destination picks. Hours listed are for nonstop flights.
  • 7-8 hours: London, Paris, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Peru
  • 5-6 hours: Iceland, Costa Rica
  • 4-5 hours: Barbados, Mexico
  • 3-4 hours: Jamaica, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico
  • 2-3 hours: Bermuda
  • 2 hours or less: Montreal
3. Use to find the best air fare. Kayak will list airfares it finds and then transfer you to other sites to book. If you can't book a flight through one of the discount sites it sends you to(Travelocity, Expedia, etc.), go directly to the airline sites. Their systems are more up-to-date and accurate for flights that are quickly booking up.
4. Use Trip Advisor to find the best hotels, and to learn from traveler reviews what to expect when you get to your hotel. Once I book a hotel, I read the reviews again to figure out things like what part of the resort is best, what activities are can't miss, and any other recommendations from past travelers.
5. Have a good travel agent to call for upgrades, difficult itineraries or when you're losing your mind.
6. Have a reputable source for travel insurance. City Guy and I are divers, so it gives us peace of mind to pay $20 per person and know we're covered for medical evacution, in case something happens. The policy we get through Medex has a hazardous sports rider, which covers us for activities like scuba diving.

We make this work for us because we have to, but we envy those of you who can plan in advance...and spend weeks at a time traveling. Some day. For now, I'm just so excited to be going away. Too many staycations this year, though those can be nice top. Ever notice how quiet the city gets on long weekends? Wherever you are, here or afar, have a great Labor Day weekend!

1 comment:

Miss Fashion said...

If you aren't already a member, consider joining DAN for dive travel insurance. DAN is dirt cheap and is a globally recognized and respected organization. They have connections with every available rescue outfit (aka helicopter evacuation) and hyperbaric chamber site worldwide. DAN also offers insurance for your SCUBA gear, as well as, optional trip cancellation insurance. The annual membership fee is nominal, but includes many priceless benefits.