Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Some Possibilities

With two weeks off between jobs and a year's worth of savings in my bank account, now would be the perfect time to do something fabulous and adventurous. And I am, but it's not at all what I expected. More on the real trip in a few days, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share some of the ideas we considered before deciding. Given that I only knew I would take said vacation a week or so ago, there wasn't much time for really planning something, so you'll notice that three of these options are cruises. I normally don't like all-inclusives or cruises, but there is something to be said for not needing to plan anything yourself, and while we eventually ended up deciding it just wasn't for us right now, if you're planning to go on vacation in the next few days, but don't know where, a cruise might just be the route for you.

Seattle-Portland-San Francisco: I have a lot of friends from the Pacific Northwest, and I suspected we could do some couch surfing if we visited, in addition to seeing this epic place everyone loves. Flights from NYC were around $500, and we hoped to take a bus between the three cities. Reason nixed: The drive along the coastline here seems like the ultimate roadtrip, and it's ultra-expensive to rent a car if you're under 25. See you after next February, West Coast.

Peru: I've already listed this in my "Tax Refund Trips" post, so you know why it's awesome. Reason nixed: A mudslide knocked out some of the major railroads in the country a few months ago, including the main route to Machu Picchu, and while I'm sure we could have figured out alternate routes to everything we wanted to see, I had a week to plan the whole thing.

Alaska: My parents tried to plan a trip to Alaska two years ago, and I've really wanted to go for a long time. It's supposed to be gorgeous and if you couldn't tell from my trip to Iceland in January, I generally like cooler weather. Unfortunately, between the airfare, cruise and interior trip they'd planned, it came to around $5,000 per person and we went to Florida instead. Turns out, however, that in early June, cruises of the southern tip can be found at around $629/person. It wouldn't have been nearly as extensive as my parents' enormous adventure, but it seemed like a great deal, and we would have spent a few days in Seattle before boarding. Reason nixed: The cruise returned on June 13, the day before my job begins, and it was cutting things a little close.

Oslo-Copenhagen-Tallin-St. Petersburg: We found this unbelievable 7-day cruise for $209, and would almost certainly have taken it, if flights to Norway weren't $1,100. The reviews of the boat were a little mixed, but $209 for meals and a hotel for 7 days makes me wonder how much people were expecting. Reason nixed: Although the ports-of-call are all amazing cities that neither of us have ever seen, you're only in each for a day, and with the expense of the flight, it seemed worth it to go during an off-season and have some more time to explore.

Miami-Grand Cayman-Honduras-Belize-Cozumel: The only cruises and all-inclusives I've ever taken have been in the Caribbean, so this feels like the most traditional vacation on here to me, and there's something to be said for two weeks of sand and sun and not thinking. Like the Alaska trip, we planned to spend some extra time in Miami after the cruise, priced at $599. This would probably have been the most affordable of the trips, and would certainly have been the most relaxing. If we'd been really desperate to save money, there were cruises out of New York for between $400 and $600, and those seem like the easiest trip ever. Reason nixed: While in all honesty this probably would have been our best option, we're both a little sensitive about colonialism right now, and it just didn't feel right. Also, Roger hates beaches and neither of us has ever been good at relaxing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tax-Refund Trips

It has come to my attention that many people in my age bracket have received a tax-refund of about $1,000, and that many of them don't know what to do with it. I suppose if I was a good influence, I'd tell them they should save it because many people in my age bracket don't have very much in savings. However, I'm not a good influence, I'm an enabler, so here are five fantastic place to go (from New York) with your $1,000.

  1. The Caribbean. I'll be honest, I don't love the Caribbean as much as a whole lot of other people do. I've actually only been a few times, but the place is rife with problematic dealings between flocks of tourists and residents still coping with the effects of colonialism. Having said that, it's really, really easy to find a cheap package on cruises and all-inclusives down there, and it's pretty much the easiest way to go on vacation ever. And if you've never been, it's warm and beautiful and a lot of fun.

  2. Napa Valley. With thousands of wineries and some of the world's best restaurants, Napa is like the really nice version Geneva. I think. I don't know, because I've never been there. But it looks nice, and tickets to California are pretty cheap right now. Note: pretty much everyone I know who has been to Napa goes on a balloon ride. I, personally, would opt for a meal at The French Laundry instead. At about $250 for an hour flight or the tasting menu, they're comparable, and will both cause you to go over your $1,000 limit.

  3. Ireland. Depending on when you leave, you can get roundtrip tickets to Dublin for around $500, and if you're good about spending while you're there, you can get by pretty easily on the remainder. While you're there, make sure to visit the Dublin Writer's Museum and the Guiness Factory, both of which are wonderful for different reasons.

  4. Philadelphia. Take the Bolt Bus (about $30), enjoy the Mutter Museum (my favorite museum of all time), and grab a cheesesteak at Jim's. The most economical of all the trips on here, there should be enough of your tax-refund left to help save for retirement, a down-payment on a house, or the keg for your next party.

  5. Peru. If I was going to plan a trip with my tax-refund ($1,002 federal, $75 state, for all you nosybodies), I think I'd make it to Peru, where roundtrip airfare is as low as $596. I've never been, but really, who can resist the allure of Machu Picchu?