Saturday, September 25, 2010

$1 per day Car Rentals

Just found this superb deal on one-way car rentals.

~ $1 per day car rentals from Thrifty for one-way travel
~ pick up in Seattle, Portland or Boise
~ return to major airports in California, Arizona and Las Vegas
~ rent (pickup and return) between September 21 and October 31
~ more details:

Monday, September 6, 2010

8 Ways to Get Free Lodging in New York City

Tomorrow I (and many others) begin a month of travel using JetBlue's All-You-Can-Fly pass. One destination I want to visit is New York City. That is convenient, since New York's JFK airport is a JetBlue hub and their HQ.

Some say New York City is the greatest city in the world. I recently saw Travel and Leisure's ratings of the world's top ten cities: New York City was number 10. It was the #1 city in the United States; San Francisco was #2.

I have already planned a couple of day trips to the Big Apple. It is an easy flight to and from my home airport. However, I do not plan to spend a night in the city that never sleeps. I would like to but have not found a place to stay. OK, my budget is very, very tight and I am looking for free or cheap lodging. Here is my process. Perhaps it will help others:

1. Have a friend living in the city

I will start with the obvious. Knowing someone in New York City or even close would be ideal. I do not. Strike one.

2. Have a friend of a friend in the city

I even put out a feeler on Facebook and LinkedIn for a friend or a friend of a friend. I must know someone or know someone that knows someone there. OK, I can certainly try harder but I have not. Strike two (let's call it a check swing).

3. Anonymous "friends"

There are places to find people with a spare bed, couch or floor space for a night. I have not tried, servas, craigslist (shiver) or others. There must be dozens or hundreds. Again, I could spend some time trying to find a place or a host. Do I want to? I am pretty comfortable flying up in the morning and flying home 8 to 10 hours later--and even repeating the process the next day. I know that I could try alumni groups and even travel contacts. Hey, Donald Trump might be in Chicago or Palos Verdes during my visit. Even if he is in town, there would be plenty of room. So, Mr. Trump, have your people call my people. OK, I have no people. Darn. Strike three (looking).

OK, so the nearly passive approach will not work for me. What else can I do? I struck out but I am still in the game...

4. Make a new friend during my trips

Indeed, I will attend the JetBlue AYCJ kick off celebration in Terminal 5 tomorrow. Perhaps I can sweet talk my way into some free floor space in one of the boroughs. Yes, Upper East Side is preferred but anywhere is a short subway ride from anywhere. Right? OK, this idea has merit. Also, I will be on probably a dozen flights during the first two weeks. There will probably be over 2,000 potential people that live in New York City or know someone that lives there. On the other hand, I am not much for in-person networking. Plus, is the allure of a free place to stay worth the potential risk? I am not Monk from USA Network but, still, many people are scary.

5. Sleep? I don't need no stinking sleep

I can book a morning flight to New York City and return home the next morning. Sure, I can stay up all night and see what the fuss is all about in this city. When it gets to be 3am, I just have to stay awake until my flight in the morning.

6. Ride the rails

Researching ground transportation options from JFK airport to Manhattan and around New York City, I learned that the subway operates 24 hours. Sweet! I can ride the rails when I get tired. Oh, yeah, there are the muggings on the subway. I cannot realistically do this, can I?

7. Sneak a snooze

Then there are hotel lobbies, all night diners (like on Seinfeld), theaters, train/bus stations and parks. Again, scary people and the mugging factor. Perhaps the JetBlue terminal would be a safe haven. I can book an early morning flight from JFK, play in the city all night and when I get tired, take the subway/train to JFK and snooze before the flight.

8. JetBlue Flights

I can keep doing what I already have planned. Visit New York City between morning and evening flights. Take an evening flight home and then fly back to New York City in the morning. Honestly, I live close enough to do this and it will be fun. If I did not, I would consider flying to another city to stay the night and then return the next morning. JetBlue has tons of flights from JFK and there must be many evening flights to destinations with less expensive lodging. For instance, there is a 10:3oPM flight to Portland, Maine. Perhaps there are even red-eye, overnight transcontinental flights (there are from the West coast to the East coast).

So, there you have my 8 Ways list. What do you think? Any additions? More importantly, can you spare a spot for me in the next month? Especially anyone from the Trump camp.

Happy Travels.

©2010, Charles McCool

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

JetBlue's All You Can Jet deal

OK, JetBlue is doing it again. They are selling a pass for unlimited travel during a one month period. It costs as little as $499, to be able to fly on Monday - Thursday and Saturday. To fly every day, the pass will cost $699. The period of travel, incidentally, is from September 7 through October 6. They call it the All You Can Jet pass.

I just purchased mine but ran into one snag. The website initially said that no more passes were available. I was crushed. Instead, I opened another browser and, voila, I bought a pass. Perhaps what they say about airlines and internet cookies is true.

Let me know if you buy a pass. Perhaps we can meet along the road, er, sky, somewhere.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ritz-Carlton Discounts

The best hotel rates (for most chains and properties) are usually accompanied by a special rate code. You never know where you will find that rate code so keep your options open. I consider the AAA rate as my baseline amount and try to find lower rates than that.

Recently, I was looking up college football 2010 schedules. On the website with the University of Miami schedule, there is a link to "travel and leisure partners." I clicked the link and checked out some of the hotels. One of the offerings is the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove. I looked at sample rates for a weekend in October. Here are the results:

$189 - University of Miami rate
$269 - AAA rate
$299 - regular rate (corporate rate)
$299 - (Best Rate Guaranteed, ha!)

I would check a few other online booking sites, but, in this case, I would also call the headquarters (800-542-8680) and the property directly (305-644-4680) to see if they have any weekend specials, visitor rates, etc. (I love to find discounts).

Just spending a couple of minutes (and knowing the secret, negotiated code) saved me $110 PER NIGHT (or $80 per night off my AAA baseline rate). Places to find these magic codes include, magazines, e-mail subscriptions, your company's HR department, and so on. Any other suggestions?

Happy travels. Incorporate this strategy into your travel skill arsenal and save big money on lodging this summer.

©2010, Charles McCool

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Road Trip Zen

The day after my latest road trip, I was working in my yard when my son came home from school. We said hello and then I said, "What did you learn today to get you closer to your dream job?" He looked at me like I was insane, which is typical since he is a teen and I am his father.

It got me thinking about what steps I took today and recently. Whether you know me or not, a little insight is that I have struggled with the dream job/what to do with my life/who am I issues for at least 25 years. I am not making the leap (yet) into being a life coach but realized a great analogy from my recent road trip.

As usual, my trip goals were to have fun and explore, to stay off interstates and not go to any chains (to eat or stay). My first paid lodging stay was at Motel 6 in Bradenton, FL (and I drove I-75 from Naples to get there) but otherwise I managed to avoid interstates and chains between Miami and DC.

The last morning of my trip, I sat in the parking lot of Compare Foods (an awesome Latin grocery store) in Rock Hill SC after buying a couple of pastries from the independent bakery inside. I stared at my iPhone GPS app and maps for literally 15 minutes (and, Yes!, I know what literally means). You see, I could not make up my mind which road to take. It was a frustrating series of what-ifs; what if this road accidentally merges onto the interstate, what if this road is not fun, what if this road takes too long, and so on.

Unlike my dream job search, I had an end goal for my road trip--to be in Northern Virginia by my kid's bedtime. If I sat there staring at the map for another two hours then I would have to take the interstate and ruin my fun trip. I was suffering a massive case of TCS (trip completion syndrome). It was the last day of a fun road trip. I wanted it to last longer. I wanted everything to be perfect on that last day. I did not want to miss anything.

Surely you know what happened (and stop calling me Shirley). I picked a route and started driving. For a few miles I had buyer's remorse. I kept thinking that maybe the other way would be better after all. I played with the radio and scanned for some new stations. Then I popped in a CD. Really, this road stinks, so maybe I should turn around and try another route. All of a sudden a possible interesting shortcut road appeared, not shown on my map. I checked the GPS and it does look like a connecting road to my next target road.

Predictably, I eventually forgot about the other route and started enjoying the journey. I saw some great new sites that I had no idea was near: a US President's hometown, gorgeous small roads through southern NC, oncoming drivers doing the finger wave (a sure sign of a great road to me), and at least one BBQ joint to go back to. I even ended up in a town with a "must try before I die" BBQ restaurant that I could never seem to find a reason to visit. As an aside, I thought that Lexington BBQ was OK but their peach cobbler is superb.

The rest of the day was fantastic. My TCS anxiety was left near the SC/NC border. Later, I stopped for a break and walked on a great green trail in Reidsville, NC. I ran into groups of high school baseball players walking the opposite way. Was this a sign? A couple of days earlier, I ran into a former teammate in Miami who encouraged me to pursue baseball coaching (one of my what-if dream job possibilities). Well, that remains to be seen but I did "discover" to get unstuck, at least for one trip:

Lesson 1: when stuck, do something. Do anything. Get moving. I had to leave that parking lot, pick a road, and start driving. Otherwise, I would have remained in that parking lot forever. I have read and heard this suggestion but still remain paralyzed in my life's passion pursuit.

Lesson 2: be open to possibilities. During my trip, new opportunities (expected and unexpected) presented themselves. Ironic that such valuable lessons were learned, not in a seminar or book or coaching session, but alone in an unrelated leisure activity. You never know where inspiration will come from.

Lesson 3: you gotta swing before you can hit a home run. Well, it is a sport's analogy but appropriate for getting unstuck. First, you have to simply be in the game (or even know what game to be in), then you have to step up to the plate. Getting unstuck is not always fixed with one swing; often it is an incremental, step-by-step process...

... and here are some steps:

Step 1: Start Where You Are

- figure out your current location
* for any problem, define the issue
* while travelling, use a map

Step 2: Determine Where You Want To Go

- if no idea where to go:
* for any problem, choose an action and see what happens
* while travelling, pick a route and get moving or stay put
"If you do not where you are going any road will take you there."
"When you see a fork in the road, take it."

Step 3: Move Between Location (Step #1) and Destination (Step #2)

- track your progress on a map or journal
"Life is a journey, not a destination."

Step 4: Reassess Your Route

- periodically figure out where you are (Step #1) and where you are going (Step #2). Change the route, as needed.
"We are lost but making good time."

Step 5: Avoid Traffic Problems

- unless your goal is to blaze a new trail, there is an established path to your destination. Learn from others.
- look out for traffic jams. Learn from mistakes. "It's deja vu all over again."

Congratulations on the completion of your journey, whether it was actual travel or some life issue. Please share your "trip report" comments with others.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cheap Rental Car Rates from Florida

It is that time of year again. The rental car companies need their cars to leave Florida for other parts of the United States. They are offering low, low daily rates for one-way rentals.

Hertz, for instance, has rates as low as $3 per day for rentals in March. For April, I just booked a week's rental for $30 and am also considering upgrading to a RAV for an extra $10 a day ($100 total).

National has a similar promotion for $10 a day.

If you are planning a trip between now and Labor Day, consider driving one of these cars out of Florida to another state. You can easily fly one-way into Florida. For instance, flights between Dulles and Ft. Lauderdale on JetBlue are only $74.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Restaurant Discounts - Dining Deals

Most travellers are going to eat out more while on trips than they do at home. In fact, travel dining expenses can easily be most expensive part of your trip. Here are some easy ways to save some money on restaurants, whether at home or for trips:

1. Costco sells restaurant gift cards at a 20% discount. Some national chains included are McCormick & Schmicks and Baja Fresh. Costco members can visit warehouses on their trips, too. Cheap basic prepared food ($2 giant pizza slices, $1.50 hot dog & drink), goods, and gifts are obvious purchases, but also look for local restaurant gift cards. The other day I bought a $100 gift card (for $80) for Glory Days in Northern Virginia.

2. certificates have been a favorite of mine for years. In fact, they are celebrating their 10th anniversary now. They sell $25 certificates for $10. Wait, there's more. Sign up to receive promo codes by mail (and there is ALWAYS a sale) and save up to 90%. Yes, you can buy (and I have, many times) $25 certificates for $1.

3. I have used Entertainment discount books even longer than certificates. 2-for-1 dining coupons are the primary draw, but they offer attraction and other travel (air, hotel, rental car) discounts, too.

4. also check local sources, such as Half Off Deals and Living Social. When travelling (or before), I like to browse local newspapers and tourist guides.

Happy Dining!