This year’s trip to the Big Apple for the Christmas atmosphere was the most difficult yet when it came to saving money. I just checked on Priceline a couple of hours ago and there are no three-star or better hotels willing to give up rooms for $200 plus taxes. Last year, I managed a great room for less than $120.
Finally, this year’s trip came together with airbnb, priceline, travelzoo and parking coupons to get another bargain Christmas vacation. It wasn’t easy, but it can be done. Better yet, these deals came mostly from sites that I didn’t even use a year ago and didn’t expect to use this year.
Hotels this year are more expensive than ever
At least in my experience, this was the toughest battle to get a good lodging price that I have faced. I spend about a week searching and failing at finding acceptable lodging pricing on online travel agency sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, hotwire and EasyClickTravel.com, which often has great bargains I can’t find on other sites.
As always, I dutifully worked through hotel bids neighborhood by neighborhood and luxury level by level at Priceline. I finally gave up there as well.
1. Airbnb to the rescue
With affordable lodging options shrinking I decided to look at Airbnb.com. If you haven’t heard of this website, adventurous travelers should bookmark it immediately. I had used this service on a recent trip to San Francisco and scored a private room with shared bath for around $40 a night in the Mission District only steps from the BART trains.
My search in New York City provided me plenty of options. Though, I would be perfectly happy sharing an apartment and bath with a stranger, my significant other wasn’t so enthusiastic. She would rather stay a bit out of town in a hotel room rather than share digs with strangers in Manhattan.
I found some bedrooms with private bathrooms but then discovered that Airbnb actually had several complete apartments available in Manhattan. Of course, these one-bedroom and studio apartments are more expensive than a shared apartment with private room or comfy couch, but it was just what was needed.
Airbnb actually allowed for searches to be conducted based on my dates of travel to New York and then filtered by full apartments and by neiborhood. Prices ranged from around $100 to $1,700 for a Manhattan apartment and they ranged from apartments that can sleep an army to those good for only two. I was amazed at the selection: everything from hippie lofts to exposed brick rehabs and from garden apartments to penthouses.
Eventually, I settled on an apartment on West 57th Street for $300 ($150 a night) including all cleaning and booking fees. The site is holding a $100 damage deposit, that I expect to get back. Not bad.
2. A Priceline deal in Tarrytown — Doubletree Hotel for $84 a night plus taxes.
For a followup Saturday stay, I did get a great Priceline room for the last night of my trip in Tarrytown, NY where I was going to be visiting with friends to celebrate a big birthday.
3. For parking check BestParking.com
Anyone who has been faced with parking in New York City (or Boston, San Francisco or Washington, DC) comes away with sticker shock. Both the website and the iPhone app allow travelers to search for parking lots by neighborhood and see where bargains are offered. The site is amazing. Both this site and CheapGas (another smartphone app) should be on all drivers’ smart phones.
Using BestParking.com I found garaged overnight valet parking for only $30 a day with a coupon and another garage with parking for $20 a day. Compared to the hotel valet parking for $50-something, these prices are a bargain. Plus, the parking lot map allows travelers to see nearby bargains. Walking two blocks can save almost $35 on a two-night stay at a New York City garage.
4. The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show for $55
After initially giving up on going to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall because it just cost too darn much, I got an email from Travelzoo.com announcing a $40/ticket deal for select performances. I pounced. Within minutes, I had tickets for two at a Thursday night show. Everything added up to around $110 for two.
5. Daily deals galore on Groupon, LivingSocial, nycdailydeals.com and others
I have long been a devotee of Groupon and LivingSocial deals, but I haven’t used their instant deals until recently. Now, whether I am walking across the Hill in DC or hanging out on the waterfront in Boston, I have become addicted to checking out nearby instant deals on my smartphone. More than once, I have changed lunch plans because of a half-price burger deal or pasta blowout all-you-can-eat bargain that I found on either the Groupon or LivingSocial app.
Now, I’ve discovered more sites with local deals. In New York City, I will be checking out NYCDailyDeals.com and Yipit.com as well. You can’t beat one-day or one-hour deals like this:
…all items on their menu for just $2.00 at their new location on 23rd Street & Madison Avenue. This includes their double cheeseburger (normally $8.50), fried shrimp and fries (normally $9.99), and their fresh beet and goat cheese salad (normally $8.50).
I just checked the “Groupon Now!” deals near my apartment in New York. There are 25 deals covering everything from bars and restaurants to pizza joints and burrito shops. LivingSocial has similar deals. Yipit.com has even more deals ranging from French Toast tastings and poetry readings to salsa dancing and four-course meals.
It’s a new world of travel bargains.
Here’s the tab for two nights in New York for two before meals.
Airbnb apartment with fees = $300
Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall = $110
Parking = $40