Archive for July 2011

Bermuda on the cheap!   Leave a comment

Okay, Bermuda is never cheap, but here’s what I found yesterday (and the price is still good today!):

Boston to Bermuda over Labor Day Weekend:

4-nights at the Grotto Bay Resort, including non-stop flights on Delta: $761 pp including all taxes and gratuities on Orbitz!

That’s like getting free airfare and $150 in your pocket! 

I looked it up.  Booking the hotel and flights indepently is $1,146 pp!! 

Oh if I only I could afford that right now!  In my many years of plotting/dreaming of a quick getaway to Bermuda (it’s only a two hour flight from Boston!), I’ve never seen a deal like this.  Especially during peak season. 

We went so far as to find a store close to the resort to buy beverages and talked ourselves out of it.  We do have a 2-week cruise coming up less than a month after Labor Day.  We’d be better off saving our $$$ for that.  Oh, but it was painful to be responsible!  🙂

Posted July 27, 2011 by cubechick in Deal of the Day!

It’s never easy…   Leave a comment

When trip planning nothing ever goes, well, as planned.  I’ve been waiting for months to book our airfare to New Orleans in February.  JetBlue is the only carrier that flights non-stop from Boston to New Orleans, so I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to open their booking window.  Well, they finally do and wouldn’t you know that for about a six week period, they aren’t offering flights on Saturday (the day we want to fly of course!).  WTH?  They offer flights on every other day of the week and start offering flights on Saturday again the week after we need to travel.  AAARGH!

So now I have to start from scratch trying to figure out where we want to fly out of, which airline and which of the many layovers is the best.  <heavy, heavy, sigh> 

On a more pleasant note, we made the final payment on our Panama Canal Cruise with NCL which means we are barely 10 weeks away from 15 days of bliss aboard the NCL Star.  (Oh!  Have to mention the cruise price has gone up $3500 for the category of suite we booked since we booked over a year ago!) 

Soon we’ll be able to print our edocs and receive our “Welcome Aboard” booklet in the mail.  Piles will start to form in the spare bedroom, comprised of all the little doo-dads we feel we must bring with us. 

We finally decided what excursions we want to do at each of the ports, so now all there is to do is wait.  And book the transfer from the airport to the hotel when we fly into LAX.  I’m holding off on that since JetBlue has changed our flight times twice so far…

Posted July 19, 2011 by cubechick in Cruise Planning...it never stops!

Planning your trip to London   Leave a comment

There are a few things I’ve learned about myself along the way.  Four days is about the minimum amount of time I want to be in London (I’ve gone as low as three days, and while I’d do it again if that’s all I could manage, the extra day is better).  The ten day trip was the best as it gave us a chance to travel outside the city (we also went to Dover on the 2000 trip and to Paris for the day).  Another ten-day trip in 2004 was divided equally between London and Ireland.  But if all you can manage is the four days, it’s definitely worth it.

The second thing I learned is that the red-eye is my friend.  My first few trips across the pond I flew out of Boston in the morning.  I arrived in London in the evening and had just enough time for one pint before the hotel bar closed.  Not the best use of a travel day.  I was terrified of flying overnight though as I cannot sleep on planes.  I finally bit the bullet one year and have never looked back since.  I’ve flown over on the red-eye four times now and on one occasion didn’t catch one wink of sleep (combination of screaming baby in the next aisle and the mistake of being too close to the bathroom) and I was still fine.  I leave work, head into Boston, have dinner at the airport and board the plane.  I turn down dinner on the plane (but not the wine!) and try to get as much sleep, or at least relaxation as possible.  The next morning I arrive in London, to start my first day of vacation.  The morning after the sleepless screaming baby flight, we went to Windsor in the morning (after dropping our luggage at our hotel).  Spent the morning touring the magnificent castle there, followed by roaming around the lovely village and a nice lunch before catching the train back to London.  Stopped by the hotel in the afternoon to freshen up and unpack (we weren’t able to get into our room until check-in time).  That afternoon we spent walking around Trafalgar Square and down to Westminster Abbey before going to a pub meet.  We ended up being out until 10:00 that evening, after catching our seven or eight wind.  For myself I’ve determined I’m better off if I just keep going.  A nap would be the end of me.  At the end of that first day (I try to make it until 9:00 pm at the latest) I’m ready for a very solid night’s sleep and day two of my adventure!

Now, unless I have a specific trip in mind (like last summer when we needed to make our way to England to catch the Norwegian Epic sailing out of Southampton), I have some long weekends in my head where I think I might be able to take off for a little getaway.

BOOK THAT FLIGHT!

The main website I use to watch airfare is http://www.1800flyeurope.com.  They don’t tell you which airline you’re booking with but they give you the exact times of your flights which makes it pretty easy to figure out from there (they also use “Major European Airline” or “Major Domestic Airline” as labels).  With the single exception of this year, I’ve found that 1800flyeurope always saves me a fair amount of money.  This year it was the same price as booking directly through Virgin Atlantic, so I just booked direct.  I start watching prices almost as soon as they’re available (or at as soon as the idea crosses my mind).  Last year, when I first looked at President’s Day weekend, the fare was over $900 per person.  Not good!  I idly kept checking and about six weeks out the price had dropped to around $550 (probably why the price was the same no matter where I looked).  Sweet!  Airfare has gotten difficult to predict in recent years.  I used to find that 6 months out was a pretty good time to book from a price perspective, but that’s not always the case today.  However, if you’re set on a specific time that you must travel, I feel that 6 months is still a fair benchmark.

BOOK THAT HOTEL!

Once I landed the airfare, I then went to my old friend, Priceline, to bid for a hotel room.  The first thing to know about London is the neighborhoods.  If I were looking for budget (and I usually am) I would stick with Kensington.  Kensington is a large area, but even at it’s westernmost point is maybe a 20 minute Tube ride from central London.  And you have a number of restaurants and shops in this general area.  I have booked in the Regent’s Park area, which got me the Hilton Metropole near Paddington Station for $85 a night (double occupancy), but that was further afield than I like to be (and you can in fact end up farther north than I was).  I have stayed in Kensington for $65 (Copethorne Tara Kensington…a Millenium property) in March and $85 in June (Forum Holiday Inn).  All three of the hotels were considered 4 star by London standards…I’d say 3 star for the Copethorne and 3 1/2 for the other two by US standards.  All were clean, convenient to a tube station (or more than one), near restaurants and shops and had full-service amenities (bars, restaurants, business center).  This last trip in February we doubled the budget and got the 5-star Intercontinental Park Lane in Mayfair for $150 a night.  SWEET!  That hotel was gorgeous (and the room very spacious for London) and less than half the price it would have cost to book it direct (and as I was traveling with a friend was $80 per night per person).  Not too shabby.

When you bid with Priceline you won’t know the hotel until after they’ve accepted your offer.  Therefore you need to keep in mind the neighborhood you’re selecting and the star level of the hotel.  There are no “bad” areas to avoid in London, just some that aren’t as close to the action as others.  Naturally, the more central neighborhood you seek the more you will pay.  I would also not bid on anything less than 4 stars.  If you want an idea of what bids are going for, you can check http://www.betterbidding.com where people post what offers they’ve had accepted.

Now that you know how you’re getting there and where you’re staying, how about some trip planning?

 

ETA that 1800flyeurope doesn’t seem to be all that great any more.  Priced a trip today and got no better pricing than on Orbitz or Expedia and they now show you the airlines you’re looking at.  Oh well, the savings were great while they lasted!

Posted July 13, 2011 by cubechick in London

A little London in my life…   Leave a comment

It may seem from my posts that I’m all about cruising.  While cruising is obviously right up there (with our 18th cruise coming up in October it had better be!) nothing really gets my travel juices flowing more than London, England.  Since 2000, I have been to London seven times.  London was the trip of my dreams.  As a teenager, I would walk the streets of Boston and pretend I was in London…or better yet from London, visiting Boston (but that’s another story!).  I figured if I loved Boston (and I did/do!) then I would absolutely love London, which in my mind was Boston on steroids.  I loved the crooked streets and antiquity of Boston.  I loved walking down narrow cobble-stoned streets and stumbling upon postage stamp-sized cemeteries. I was certain London would have all of that and more.

My dream came true in 2000 when DH’s parents lived there for a short period of time.  We were able to visit them for ten glorious days which brought fantasy London to brilliant reality.  I fell in love with London.  The wonderful architecture, the history, the people…

In my many trips I have learned to reign myself in (the first couple of trips had every moment mapped out in hours of sightseeing…I’m sure to the distress of my traveling companions!), I learned the neighborhoods of London and mapped my days by location.  I learned some of the best ways to book airfare and hotels (best = cheapest) and, going outside of my normal comfort zone, I’ve met some wonderful people in my travels…and made some great friendships.

I will share some of my tips and experiences here…

Posted July 13, 2011 by cubechick in London

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