The place to discuss all HOPE-related topics.
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You'll find sections on just about anything of interest to HOPE attendees. If you think something is missing, let us know.
You've seen the crazy airfares the airlines are trying to get this year... $600, $700, $800 or more. The fares are even higher if you're coming from outside the US. And you're wondering how you're possibly going to afford to get to NYC without sleeping atop a subway grate while eating rat kabobs for dinner.
Travel has gotten a lot more expensive. Fuel is the airlines' biggest expense--if you think it's expensive to fill up your car, try paying a whopping $40,687 to fill up a 737-700ER! However, don't despair. With a little thinking like a hacker, you can find a way to NYC without spending a fortune. The proof? I'm flying from Seattle (the center of the known universe) to LaGuardia for only $320 including tax! This is about 50% more than I'd normally pay, but given the crazy fares this year, I consider myself fortunate to have found such a bargain.
Fare Search Tools
Since the last HOPE, there are some new and very useful ways to search for airfare. These companies are small and don't advertise, but have good technology that is worth including in your search arsenal:
Farecast is a Seattle-based company that will give you a forecast of whether airfares are likely to increase, decrease or hold steady for a given route and date combination. These forecasts are surprisingly accurate (just like weather forecasts in Seattle--rain, changing to showers, with possible sunbreaks).
Fare Compare lets you compare the lowest published fares with the fares available on any given date. Results are shown on a calendar. This view is very useful, because if you leave a day earlier or come back a day later, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars.
Kayak checks several travel Web sites along with the airlines' own sites for fares on a given date and route. This helps you find exclusive fares offered only through a particular travel Web site (for example, some Frontier fares are published exclusively on itn.net, an American Express affiliate site you have probably never heard of but Kayak checks).
Free or Reduced Travel
Airlines offer ways to travel for "free" (you still pay taxes and booking fees, but the airfare is free). You may also be able to find reduced fares. Here are some ideas...
- Northwest Airlines offers "zone fare" coupons. These coupons split the country up into 3 zones (A, B and C), and you pay a flat rate to travel between any points in these zones. These fares are laden with restrictions and generally aren't all that great if you're flying between major airports with a lot of competition, but they're excellent if you're flying from a smaller airport. Check your junk mail and the newspaper; these are the most common sources of such coupons.
- Some travel agencies known as "bucket shops" offer bulk discount fares. Most of these can be found online, but it doesn't hurt to check with a local travel agent as well. In general, such discounts are more readily available on international routes than domestic routes.
- Do you have a credit card that offers "rewards" points that you've been accumulating for years? Give your credit card company a call. You may be able to cash them in for a free ticket.
- Frequent flier seats are exceedingly difficult to find, but it may be possible. Don't trust the Web sites; they always say there is no availability. Call instead. Even with all of the tricks I usually have up my sleeve, I could not find a single workable itinerary for HOPE when checking 8 different airlines. However, I did manage to book a late summer trip to Tbilisi in the beautiful Republic of Georgia (probably because the country is currently in the middle of a civil war). What's a vacation without dodging bullets?
New York has three major airports: Newark (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), and Kennedy (JFK). Of the three, Newark is by far the most convenient because you can take a train directly from there to Penn Station, which is across the street from the Hotel Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Newark is also a Continental fortress hub, which means that flights to Newark are often (although not always) more expensive than those to the other New York airports.
When searching for fares, the "NYC" wildcard airport code searches all three airports. This is useful if you are willing to fly into and out of any major New York airport (and you should be, since being flexible can save you a lot of money). Keep in mind that many itineraries split the inbound and outbound airports, so be sure to double-check your tickets! For example, you may have to fly into Newark and fly out of LaGuardia in order to buy a particular low fare.
The FAA has substantially limited traffic into the three major New York/New Jersey metropolitan airports (Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK). This has had the benefit of more flights adhering to some reasonable semblance of schedule, but the drawback of fewer flights amid increased demand. This has (predictably) driven up fares, which comes on top of the staggering airfare increases we've seen due to increased fuel costs.
If you're willing to travel a little farther from the airport to Manhattan, consider using the HPN, ISP or PHL airports. These are in White Plains, Islip, and Philadelphia respectively (and are listed in the order of convenience to Manhattan). You can reach Manhattan from all of these airports via a 1-3 hour journey on public transportation, depending which airport you choose and when you arrive. I nearly booked a flight into White Plains this year, but I managed to find a flight into LaGuardia for a slightly lower fare.
The Flyertalk Web site has a very useful forum that can be helpful in learning how to find low fares. While the discourse is somewhat dominated by road warrior business travelers who are more concerned with perks and frills than low fares, you can find great information on low fares as well. The Mileage Run forum is particularly useful.
- Ever wanted to see America by rail? This might be a good time to consider it. Amtrak fares may be lower than airfares (and often are, by a fairly wide margin).
- If you're feeling really adventurous, there's always Greyhound. They run frequent specials, including sale fares that top out at $99 each way.
However you get there, HOPE is a potentially life-changing experience. And this is the last one, ever. Make it yours... be a part.
See you at the Hotel Pennsylvania!
aka The Telecom Informer
If coming from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton PA area, the Martz bus is the way to go. The round trip adult fare as of this posting is $74.00. When you consider the cost of driving and parking a car in NYC, the bus is the best deal going.