How to Save Big on NYC Hotels
After the onslaught of travel that defines November and December, January is a notoriously slow month for the hotel industry. It’s a challenge that restaurants face, too, so as a solution, cities like Chicago, New York City, Santa Monica, Kansas City, Asheville, and Oakland offer Restaurant Week, when you can get three-course prix fixe meals at a wide variety of restaurants for a jaw-dropping price. Nancy Friedman took her cues from that movement when she launched Hotel Week NYC in 2012. This year’s takes place from January 5 through 15.
17 PARTICIPATING HOTELS
New York is the leading American city for hotel construction, Friedman says, with 55 projects in the works, which translates into nearly 140,000 rooms. Bargain hotel rates aren’t impossible to find in Manhattan on any given day, but Hotel Week offers some pretty exciting steals, mainly because most of the 17 participating hotels are independently owned boutique hotels, the kind that garner attention because of their singular design focus or special amenities.
UNIQUE EXPERIENCES AT GREAT PRICES
In fact, part of what makes Hotel Week exciting is that it features hotels that are experiences in and of themselves. To whit: a night in the Library Hotel near Grand Central Station, which features books of a different category of the Dewey Decimal system on each of the ten floors, is yours for a cool $200. Same goes for Hotel 50 Bowery, which boasts a lively lobby restaurant with food by “Top Chef” competitor Dale Talde and a rooftop bar with knockout views; the Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District, which features a heated rooftop pool (yes, it’s open in the wintertime) and a lively bar that's popular among locals; the centrally located, ultra-stylish Refinery Hotel, which is designed to winkingly play up the building’s former incarnation as a hat factory; and the James Hotel, part of the super-chic and elegant James Hotel—NoMad. And that’s just to name a few.
AN AFFORDABLE STAYCATION FOR NEW YORKERS
As far as Friedman sees it, in addition to catering to the countless tourists that visit, Hotel Week is a prime opportunity for locals to indulge in a staycation. “There isn’t anywhere you can find 24-hour entertainment that’s as enjoyable and relaxing as staying in a hotel. No better vacation than getting out of house and having someone make your bed, you don’t have to clean up and it’s okay to throw your clothes on the floor. They you can go down for a drink at night or breakfast in the morning and you don’t have to prepare a thing.”
Cheap Flights for Christmas and New Year's
No plans for the holidays? No problem. Our friends at Skyscanner.com have got big plans for you: They’ve crunched the numbers on Christmas and New Year’s airfares to deliver some truly amazing deals. Your only challenge will be to pick one of these dreamy destinations and book now. CHRISTMAS 2017 FLIGHTS UNDER $400 Houston, TX, to Los Angeles, CA (December 23 – 27). When a city is named for angels and nicknamed Tinseltown, you’d better believe it’s a sweet place to sing “White Christmas” (in fact, Irving Berlin wrote that iconic song in Los Angeles). From the Hollywood Christmas Parade to the L.A. County tree lighting to festivals of lights and music all over Southern California (not to mention the year-round warm beaches, diversity of world-class cuisine, and gorgeous museums), we heartily recommend flying west for the holidays. Washington, DC, to Miami, FL (December 24 – 28). When all you want for Christmas is a sunny beach, Miami delivers. The decidedly design-forward city is brimming with tree-lighting celebrations, holiday sand sculptures, and its always-vibrant medley of cultures and cuisines. Miami, FL, to Denver, CO (December 24 – 29). Ready for a real Winter Wonderland? Your holiday vacation in Denver can include the city’s great museums and public spaces, and a drive up into the Rocky Mountains will put you at the epicenter of Colorado’s epic skiing scene. Orlando, FL, to Salt Lake City, UT (December 24 – 29). Craft beer, amazing choral music, and jaw-dropping mountain trails just outside of town for skiing and snowshoeing make Salt Lake City one of America’s most welcoming holiday cities. Atlanta, GA, to New York, NY (December 23 – 28). You’ve seen NYC decked out in its holiday finery on TV, now drop in for a first-hand experience. From storybook store-window displays to the towering tree at Rockefeller Center, from the timeless grace of The Nutcracker ballet to uptown jazz and gospel celebrations, the Big Apple is welcoming more visitors than ever before. NEW YEAR’S 2017/18 FLIGHTS UNDER $400 Chicago, IL, to Charleston, SC (December 30 – January 7). For a taste of delicious Low Country cuisine, a charming small-town feel, and streets and public spaces that feel like a trip back in time, Charleston is one of our favorite mid-size cities, and its holiday displays, concerts, and unique shopping opportunities will charm you, too. Dallas, TX to San Francisco, CA (December 30 – January 5). A New Year’s Eve stroll through Golden Gate Park to the Pacific Ocean is one of the sweetest ways to say buh-bye to 2017. And San Francisco’s mild winter climate, exceptional wine and food (on every corner), and buzzy party scene make it one of the coolest places to ring in the New Year. Boston, MA, to West Palm Beach, FL (December 30 – January 5). For a warm beach escape with personal pampering available everywhere you turn, Palm Beach is a great spot to catch up with loved ones, eat and drink to whatever extent you like, and drink in the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. Miami, FL, to Las Vegas, NV (December 30 – January 4). New Year’s Eve. Sin City. Any questions? Detroit, MI to New York, NY (December 30 – January 4). Everything we love about NYC at Christmas is available over the New Year’s weekend as well, and, if Times Square at midnight is on your bucket list, Skyscanner has found a way to get there for a price that won’t break the bank. Skyscanner is a travel search site offering a comprehensive range of flight, hotel, and car rental deals. Skyscanner’s Christmas deals and New Year’s deals are subject to change as we get closer to the holidays.
6 Money-Saving Thanksgiving Travel Tips
Sure, the week of Thanksgiving is one of the most hectic travel periods of the year, with tens of millions of people expected to fly between November 16 and 27. But that doesn’t mean Turkey Day has to break the bank. Here, our best-ever money-saving tips. 1. THE BEST DAYS TO TRAVEL FOR THANKSGIVING To save money and hassle this year, travel November 16 through 20 or on Thanksgiving Day itself. For the return trip, hold off till Monday November 26 or try Black Friday, when so many people are busy shopping. 2. IS IT TOO LATE TO GET A DEAL ON AIRFARE? Sure, it’s late to buy Thanksgiving airline tickets, but look for last-minute deals with our friends at Skyscanner.com and be flexible with your dates and airports. Coast-to-coast flights for under $500 are still out there. 3. ARE SUPER-LOW-COST AIRLINES REALLY A GOOD DEAL? If that $30 last-minute flight to Grandma’s house seems too good to be true, I promise it probably isn’t true: It is a rock-bottom basic fare and you will be charged extra for everything from choice of seat (really) to checked bags (of course) and maybe even for your carry-on bag. It doesn’t mean you shouldn't book a super-low-cost flight, it just means you must read the terms and conditions and know what you’re getting into before you hit “purchase.” 4. TREAT YOURSELF TO A HOTEL FOR THANKSGIVING Surprise! In survey after survey, up to 7 out of 10 travelers admit they really don’t like staying with relatives for Thanksgiving (but surveys also suggest most people suck it up, stay with relatives, and pretend to enjoy it). The good news is, hotels are often underbooked around Thanksgiving and you can find deals even at the last minute. Hotels that cater to business travelers - such as suites and airport hotels - are especially affordable on holiday (and non-holiday) weekends. 5. BEAT HOLIDAY TRAFFIC BY DRIVING AT NIGHT Glamorous? Nope. Tried and true? Yup. You’ll hit less traffic if you hit the road after dark, let the kids sleep, and catch a nap before your turkey dinner. 6. PSST! HERE'S A NATIVE NEW YORKER'S SECRET FOR VISITING THE MACY'S PARADE This tip is based on my personal experience as a native New Yorker: If you’re traveling to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, take public transportation or park your car on the far West Side of Manhattan and head for Central Park West below 77th Street, where the parade starts out with its high energy, giant balloons, marching bands, and iconic views of the park.
Travel 101: Best Credit Cards for Travelers
Part of being a savvy traveler is making sure you have the right credit card to maximize your travel rewards. Of course, there are a ton of travel credit cards for you to choose from. So, what’s the best piece of plastic for you? Ultimately, it boils down to your travel behaviors—and marrying how you spend money traveling with a credit card’s rewards program. “I always recommend having a redemption goal in mind before you set off to earn points and miles,” says Zach Honig, editor-at-large at The Points Guy. “Those 100,000 Alaska miles you racked up with credit card sign-up bonuses won’t do you much good if you don’t plan to fly Alaska or any of its partners.” If you’re eyeing an airline rewards card, “make sure the miles you’ll earn can get you where you need to go,” Honig says. Likewise, if you’re focused on earning hotel points, “make sure there’s actually a participating property at your intended destination,” Honig advises. International travelers should look for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. Why? Because some cards charge up to a 3% fee on foreign transactions, which can effectively negate whatever rewards points, dollars, or miles you’d earn using the card. Granted, a travel rewards credit card isn’t right for everyone. For one thing, rewards credit cards typically have higher interest rates than non-rewards cards. Consequently, “you shouldn’t have a rewards card unless you’re going to pay off the balance each month,” Hardekopf says. Also, because some rewards cards have high annual fees (like the Visa Black Card, with its whopping $495 annual fee), having one may not make sense for infrequent travelers. That being said, many consumers can save big bucks with a travel rewards credit card—that is, assuming you remember to redeem your rewards. (A recent Bankrate.com report found that three in 10 credit cardholders have never redeemed their credit card rewards.) Still, it begs the question: what are the best credit cards for travelers? Focusing on credit cards with not only generous rewards but also low fees and convenient redemption options, we spoke to Honig and Hardekopf for their top recommendations. One of these five cards could be a great addition to your wallet. Chase Sapphire Preferred card: If you’re looking for a credit card that earns points that you can transfer to hotel and airline partners with ease, this is the card for you, Honig says. If you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, you’ll earn a 50,000-point sign-up bonus that will get you two free round-trip domestic flights or multiple nights at a high-end hotel. In addition, the card offers rental car insurance and has no foreign transaction fees. The card, however, has a $95 annual fee after the first year. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard: This rewards card has been around for a while, but it’s still one of the best rewards cards for airline miles, Hardekopf says. The card has a nice sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days—enough to redeem a $400 credit toward an eligible travel purchase. You earn 2 miles on all purchases (a solid payout compared to other miles rewards cards) and get 5% of your miles back every time you redeem them. The card has no foreign transaction fees, but there is an $89 annual fee after the first year. Citi ThankYou Premier card: You earn 3 points on travel for a range of expenses, including gas, airfare, hotels, cruises, car rental agencies, travel agencies, railways, public transportation, tolls, taxis, and parking. (Translation: there are plenty of opportunities to accrue points with this card.) This is also a great all-around rewards card, says Honig, since you earn 2 points on restaurants and entertainment and 1 point on all other purchases. It has a $95 annual fee after the first year. United MileagePlus Explorer card: If you’re looking for an airline carrier-specific credit card, this one earns top marks, Honig says. Similar to the Barclaycard, you earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get nice perks, such as priority boarding and one free checked bag for you and a companion traveling on your reservation. The card has a $95 annual fee after the first year but no foreign transaction fees. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: LowCards.com rated this card 5 out of 5 stars for several reasons. First, you can get a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. You also earn unlimited 1.25 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. The best part? Redeeming your rewards is a piece of cake. “You can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime,” Hardekopf says. And, unlike the other cards on this list, this card has no annual fee.
5 Mishaps That Made Me a Better Traveler
My best-laid plans went awry. And I'm glad. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little. But I can tell you that, this past July, I was forced to face some of my most nagging travel fears (what if… I miss my connection, my flight is canceled, my bank card stops working, my kid gets sick…) when all of them actually came true. Here, a few minor and not-so-minor disasters that made me a better traveler. 1. My bank card stopped working Yup. I tried to pay for lunch at a Boston Market in Oakland (long story, don’t judge), and the cheerful young woman behind the counter announced, “Oh, sorry, your card is invalid.” What I learned: I should have told my bank back in New York that I was going to be traveling in California. It turned out the bank blocked my California transaction as suspicious, but was easily able to unblock it. And I got to eat those delicious Boston Market mashed potatoes. 2. I was told I couldn't rent a car using a debit card Huh? I had plenty of hard-earned (and carefully saved) money in my checking account, yet I was being told I could not use my debit card to rent a car. What I learned: The dude at the rental counter was basically, um, lying. Or at least exaggerating to an unforgivable extent. Most rental car agencies (including the one we were using) will rent you a car using a debit card, but they first put a hold on the estimated rental total (days rented, distance you plan to cover), and may ask to see your flight itinerary to confirm that you’re actually taking the car where you say you are taking it. The process is a bit of a hassle for travelers and agency employees alike, which is why, I suppose, that dude flat-out lied to my face until pressed to tell the truth. 3. I missed a flight connection Sorry, but I hate layovers and connecting flights, mostly for the same reason you may hate them: My fear of a missed connection. I always imagined the missed connection leading to disaster, sleeping on an airport floor, sustained only by expensive airport food. What I learned: It turns out, at least in our case, dealing with our missed connection was as easy as stepping up to a friendly gate agent who re-ticketed us on the next available flight. (Psst: We were lucky enough to be flying Southwest, which deals with this kind of thing exceptionally well.) 4. My flight got canceled This one was not quite as easy to handle as the missed connection I just mentioned. We boarded a flight, the plane began taxiing toward takeoff, then the pilot slowed us down, stopped, and announced there was a mechanical problem and we’d have to get off the plane. Of course, I appreciated the pilot’s unwillingness to take to the skies with a broken plane, but I also knew the chaos that a cancelled or long-delayed flight would cause for every passenger onboard, and that our chances of making it home that day were fading with the afternoon sun. What I learned: Long story short, we walked away with $800 in vouchers for future flights on that airline. Our secret weapons were chocolate and patience (I know, Chocolate & Patience sounds like the name of a long-lost Noel Coward play). After an hourlong wait on a seemingly endless line to get re-ticketed, my wife offered the gate agent a chocolate bar. The agent smiled wearily and said, “Can you tell how much I needed this?” Although we did miss any chance of getting home that day, we were booked on a flight for the next morning and took home not only our happy memories of a vacation in Southern California but also those much-appreciated vouchers. 5. My child got sick an hour before boarding I know I risk sounding churlish when I admit that I really like flying alone, and the more traveling companions I have, the greater my anxiety. That goes for flying with my kids especially. It’s not that I don’t enjoy traveling with them, it’s that my tendency to catastrophize travel mishaps is perhaps at its most pronounced when it comes to the safety and happiness of my children. So, when one of my daughters admitted that she wasn’t feeling at all well shortly before we were scheduled to board a transcontinental flight, I panicked. My wife, however, remained calm and approached a gate agent, asking (politely) for any special accommodations to ease our child’s situation. What I learned: Telling airline professionals what’s wrong and asking for help is not the same as being a “doting parent,” (parents: please read the previous sentence aloud several times) and it is far better than keeping it to yourself. We were given “pre-boarding” privileges that allowed my child to get comfortably situated for a sleep-filled flight. Has a travel mishap ever taught you a valuable lesson? Share it in a comment below.