How to plan a vacation:
If you are not independent or do not want to make a lot of decisions go to a travel agent and a tour. A lot of fun is exploring on your own and finding vacations treasures. Getting lost you meet interesting people and the accomplishment of finding your way. I arrived in Italy at night and stumbled into a dark area and then turned a corner and saw what looked like a palace I discovered. It was a beautiful duomo or church. In L.A. I noticed an interesting looking old hotel. It turned out to be the Roosevelt Hotel where the Oscars used to be in 1929 and is now a landmark attraction.
Research: First read a travel book and figure out what season you want to go, what week and you may consider their festivals or what entertainers are touring there. The main things to book are the flights and lodging. If going to more then one city or town decide in which order. Which one do you want to be at for the weekend which has more events but higher plane, hotel and show prices. Consider seeing people not just monuments. Get involved in the culture with a community event such as a town hall meeting or poetry Open Mic or a tradition.
Length: Based on the sights you want to see, figure out how many days you want to stay. If it is a few destinations consider which one first. If you do not want to carry much luggage, do a laundry and figure in which destination.
Consider the pace, as in a lot of museums and walks and dancing will tire you out so put in a bus tour or cruise some days. In case you meet someone, find out more attractions or something goes wrong, consider adding in an extra day.
Times: Consider the days the sights are open and free. Call or write the visitor information centers and lodging for help planning the trip. Check items such as tour days and what time buses stop running or some may not run on Sundays. Check if your lodging has tours.
In Las Vegas or convention towns, check if a big convention is in town because they use 50,000 rooms and it is then hard to get one.
Consider if you want the first day to be long and action packed or leisurely. Generally if flying, you have to get to the airport early, consider the flight time and if it is delayed, the time getting to and from airports and the time before leaving packing and buying last minute items makes it a very stressful long day. Arriving early in a destination gets more hours for the money for the lodging but you may be exhausted when you are there and when you get home will need a vacation from the vacation. You may want the last day to be at a leisure pace so not tired when you get home. Consider a leisurely pace as you arrive at night and have night activities instead of a whole day of activities ahead. I had a tour bus pick me up at an airport hotel when I arrived. I took the city tour and got dropped off free in the city by my lodging to save airport transportation. It was exhausting after sitting on a plane and then a bus all day.
Flying is usually cheaper Tuesday to Thursday and certain hours. Generally it is when others are not flying and the same with lodgings, (terms: peak, non peak and blackout periods).
Amtrak is the easiest form of transportation. You do not have to get there way before departure. Luggage used to be much more than other transportation modes. The chairs are better with more arm room, leg space and some people stretch out across 2 chairs. There is a sleeping and dining car. You can walk around.
Save all research such as flights and lodging you researched but did not use, in case they lose your reservation. If you have a flight transfer, have a list of lodgings in case you miss your plane and you have to stay there. Check out in advance where the crime areas are. You might ask the police or taxis at the airport.
This will eventually be moved to the Vacation Planning on the top tab.
Planning a sightseeing trip
By B. Crane
I have been to over 100 cities and hamlets. Technically 84 when you consider some repeat trips. I have been to 20 states and 7 countries.
[I say I have been lost in all of them. I say to all like me in most situations to not worry because it is only for a minute].
I have an associate degree in travel and tourism. I have been an air courier and auto shipper and all that means is I have to keep refreshing to stay up with the changes.
You will get a lot of discounts as a college student and under age 25. Find a student travel agency. There are less today and you have to search for them. Some discounts: Amtrak, Greyhound, British Rail, museums…
Amtrak college discount is 15% if you buy a $20 yearly pass and book 3 days prior. greyhound may be similar.
The first thing to do is see a travel book and list all the sights you want to see.
Then plan how many days it will take. Pick lodging’s in your price range andtransportation and you should be ready to book. Not exactly.
If you stay in a city only a few days you will be surprised to find out the venue or tour is closed the day you are there. There are many jokes of a city closed for the month. There is a high, low and shoulder season. Some reservations you have to book a year in advance. An example is restaurants in Mardi Gras. I went to Ireland and discovered the trains were on strike. If it rains will you be in mud and have few things to do? Check the weather if it is just days prior to leaving and booking. To avoid all this that read the areas newspapers online.
If going international consider checking out the US government restricted advisories country lists. If you need help narrowing down the 200 countries of the world and many domestic areas ask a travel agent for some suggestions.
When you plan an itinerary consider you walk, stand and climb steps maybe double or triple what you normally would. Popular sights are museums and observatory or mountain views. See that you don’t have morning and night events wear out your legs and all fast paced. A day of museums, hiking and dancing is not for everyone physically if you can avoid it.
To help your pacing, consider an afternoon on a bus tour or cruise. Consider adding an extra half day or day unplanned to give you flexibility to make changes. You don’t want to return home and then need a vacation.
The most travel books are in the Mid Manhattan Library opposite the 2 lions and Grand Army Plaza Library. Barnes and Noble may have newer editions. The college library last time I checked had none.
The best books for decades were the Let’s Go series which covered many country and cities. It was written by the Harvard students to find the cheapest places. If they couldn’t they slept in a cemetery.
There are not many Lets Go books around now. The best now for budget or college students might be the Lonely Planet or Blue Moon series.
The trip planning pages are invaluable especially internationally.
To acquire information see the sites of the Visitor and Convention Center, Chamber of Commerce, hotel sites supply attraction links and when there the mail men and cabbies.
See the calendar of events of the town. Look for toll free numbers to call. Call or e-mail your questions.
To book, kayak.com covers flights and hotels and compares other sites. Booking online is cheaper.
Try to answer all questions before you go because the information bureaus are crowded and you want to relax on your vacation.
Check when the city buses and trains stop running or you will have trouble getting back to your room. Try to get the bus maps of the city prior to going. Subways maps are usually more abundant because most are in a rush but tourists should use buses to see more sights when commuting to attractions verse seeing subway walls. A subway is an experience in some subways with rubber wheels and murals.
Find out the crime areas from the police or information centers.
When you get home you will print your photos and read brochures you acquired. Many tend to glorify it reading only the highlights. I have a survey rating my trip or tour as I do it. Everyone’s individual survey questions would be different.
Rooms: hostels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, camp grounds YMCA, motels to hotels. Look for ones that have been rated by travel books or AAA (automobile club).
The cheapest way to lodge is a hostel but not for everyone. Details at the bottom and at ayiah.org. Many hotels say or write they’re a short walk from the sights. I have found that to be blocks to miles away. The best way to check is map it on mapquest.com.
Sometimes it pays to call long distance to directly talk to the lodging proprietor verse a toll free number with an operator not on the location. Ask about all the hotel taxes not initially in the price.
If you don’t want to make all the detailed decisions and navigating transfers, consider a tour. Consider how much you want to pay extra for that. There are tours with a guide nonstop and some giving you many hours to be on your own. I spend a lot of time planning the sights and realize it is usually the top tourist sights on tours. Many discover more by getting lost and feel accomplishment finding civilization. They meet more people on their own. For many meeting the residents is the experience. You will appreciate your city more when you return. Many tours have many New Yorkers and you have less of a cultural experience.
A top hosteling organization is Hostelling International. http://www.hihostels.com
Ask airlines the cheapest days and times to fly (usually mid week). If you call right after midnight they have more time to talk to you and cancelled reservations are open by phone but wouldn’t be seen in the computer for a while.
With planes you have less chance of cancelling and getting refunds. With trains and buses you can change plans a lot easier. If your destination is not that far, consider the time getting to and from an airport and the time you have to get there early and get screened. It may easier by train or bus. Bus is usually cheaper. International flights are cheapest 4 to 6 weeks prior.
For everything ask if there is a discount.
TRAVEL GROUPED BY CATEGORY:
Architectural Sites, Arts / Performance Venues, Beaches, Bridges / Tunnels, Cemeteries, Educational Institutions, Financial Institutions, Gardens / Arboretums, Government Buildings, Historic Districts / Sites, Hospitals, Houses / Mansions, Information Centers, Libraries, Marinas / Piers, Markets / Bazaars, Memorials / Monuments, Military Sites, Museums / Galleries, Nautical Sites, Neighborhoods / Streets, Parks, Promenades / Boardwalks, Public Art (Mural / Sculpture / Statue), Religious Sites, Restaurants, Sports Venues, Squares
Stores / Malls, Tours, Transportation Sites, Zoos / Aquariums
Consider traveler insurance but most have to be bought months in advance.
I have my own list what to do weeks prior to the last days so the last day I’m not busy nonstop and tired starting the trip. I build up my walking in advance. Don’t try out anything new like eye glasses, shoes, clothes or a backpack.
Internationally it pays to exchange money in the country you are visiting for the best rates. An International Student ID gets it for free.
Write all you’re planning in one memo book and take it with you. If you miss a train or they lost your lodging reservation you have your own list of the next choices.
It is common to misplace items. I use different color pens, paper clips, folders and bags to color identify items.
On a good map I plot the room, attractions, restaurants and night life in different colors.
Ask the Visitor and Convention Bureau for coupons. Have numbers and locations to call for an emergency like the police, hospital and poison control. If stumped planning call the weekend travel radio shows.
Hostelling: If you are fussy than you have to pay $200 a night for a room you only sleep in and are paying for the convention/business areas and lobby you won’t use. Usually there are 3 roommates and some can come in while you are sleeping. Some go to sleep early or wake up late and may want the lights out. Generally lights are supposed to go out 11pm to 7am. There is 24 hour access. Some places you can’t be in the room in the day because they are cleaning it. They are in central locations.
Sometimes you can get a private room. You probably won’t have a dresser. Usually you have a locker near the bed. There are usually bunk beds and washing machine access. It is communal living in rooms and in some refrigerators. Some have a refrigerator for everyone to write their name on items and one to share food. Some have an occasional free meal.
Hostelworld.com rates by security, location, character, cleanliness, staff and fun.
Rating a trip
Sights- historic, sky scraper, museum, park, tour (bus, cruise), market,
festival, zoo, aquarium, concert, sports, play, dance club
Pace—rushed, relaxed, crowds
Confusion: lost directions, money
Bored-lines, long commutes
Vacation sights near by:
Grayline Bus Tours is a national company that has one day, 12 to 14 hour tours for $149 to Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Niagra Falls and Long Island. If you have a friend visiting NY there 4 hour Manhattan narrated tours would cover more than you could on your own.
An inexpensive trip is to Club Getaway in Connecticut. They have many rave reviews in magazines. It is a cheaper Club Med in Kent, Connecticut with almost all New Yorkers and many that live near you. Most are from their 20’s to 40’s.
Weekends have themes such as for singles, sports, yoga and family week end and more.
A 90 minute ride and a bus leaves from NY as a group. If you go by yourself there is a Port Authority bus.
It is about $400 with no frills. It is bungalows and no tv. The attraction is about 10 events an hour to do or do nothing if you want. It attracts an active crowd into sports. Most are coed sports and hikes. At night there is square dancing, a campfire, a bar and volleyball all night. A lot of lake activities like skiing, wind surf also zip lining, repel a tiny mountain, trapeze, massage class…
Visit Boston where Paul is revered and there is the original tea party.
Fodor’s said it best: “There’s history and culture around every bend in Boston-skyscrapers nestle to historic hotels, while modern marketplaces line the antique cobblestones streets.”
It is as Old World as the New World gets. If you missed the revolution this is an easy trip to plan. You may just have to book a hostel and go to Amtrak. Boston is a pretty and clean city and hub for many sites. It is the biggest New England city and once was called Taxachussettes. There are an estimated 350,000 students in the city and surrounding areas.
Sites: The Freedom Trail of Revolutionary War sites where one if by land, two if by sea was said and colonial style buildings. It is the Athens of America with over 100 schools. Harvard and M.I.T. are in the suburb of Cambridge 5 miles away and a few subway stops. There’s Fenway Park where the Red Sox play and a harbor with whale watching boats. For a quiet reflective spot try the Boston Commons and swan paddle boats near real swans and the Christian Science Monitor block has a long reflecting poll. There’s the Boston Pops and many classical music concerts, JFK Library, museums and dozens of colleges.
Boston is known for their seafood like clam chowder and a duck boat tour. There’s the TV’s Cheers Bar, a gold dome State House, the Boston Massacre site, the posh Newbury Street and Beacon Hill and crewing races.
Franeuil Hall I think is the top image of Boston with the crowds. Part of it is Quincy Market or Haymarket with street performers. The Boston accent is one of the most parodied with the hard r’s to say pack ya car by the red sawks. Get some chowdah at Hayvard yawd or at the Gah-den.
You need to be 21 to drink. The Beehive Club at 541 Tremont St (Hanson Street) is considered the best laid back jazz and in a bohemia décor. The Good Life Bar has the best dancing even though crowded at 28 Kingston Street, a block from Essex St. Big crowds are at the reenactment, July 4th fireworks and marathon in April.
Amtrak to Boston runs from $69 to $156 and takes from 3 ½ to 41/2 hours. Amtrak.com. Amtrak college discount is 15% if you buy a $20 yearly pass and book 3 days prior. Bus $15 taking 4 hours Fungh Wah Bus Company (fungwahbus.com) leaves near Canal and Bowery. Greyhound Bus is $40 and cheaper on line one way. There are shuttle planes leaving nonstop to Boston from $100 to $400.
The subway or T is very efficient and run till 2:30am. The Greyline bus tour gets you to all the sites with commentary and a hop on and off trolley and also to sites out of town. There are walking tours of Harvard, M.I.T. and Boston University. Reserve the later online. For Boston information: Bostonusa.com (800) 733-2678.
The Freedom Trail: USS Constitution Boston tea Party, Paul Revere House,Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel, King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Benjamin Franklin statue, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House and the gold dome, Site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Bunker Hill Monument and USS Constitution.
The advantage of staying at a hostel: you meet international students and travelers from every continent. Most are alone and friendlier then the average person. Travelers have been to many countries. It is a communal setting. There are common rooms with a TV, library, kitchen, laundry and lockers. There are group tours, activities, pub crawls and it is centrally located. There are discounts in stores with a yearly membership at iyhf.org Disadvantages are some noise with 5 roommates or more and lights out 11pm to 7am. The newest and biggest is the Hi-Boston Hostel $30 to $56 a shared room with 6 bunk beds Private rooms start at $120 888-464-4872 617-536-9455 12 blocks to Amtrak. For more see tip planning button on top.
Toll Free: 888-464-4872, 19 Stuart Street Boston MA 02116 with private hall bathrooms.
Hostels are inexpensive, safe and clean. They range from urban high-rise buildings with hundreds of beds to small more remote hostels in rural settings. I’m guessing rates are around $30 but was surprised Boston was $46. Hostels are friendly and people oriented, filled with others who are looking for the same things you are-adventure, excitement, discovery and a chance to meet others from around the world. You may meet new or worldwide travelers. It may be the lowest prices around and self-service kitchens, lockers and laundries. It has some of the best travel information. Travelers have already found the great places to eat, shop and sightsee. The hostel may have activities such as biking, trekking, horseback riding, skiing, nature walks and pub crawls. There are programs and activities, including architectural and historical walking tours, environmental programs, cultural events, theater outings, baseball and other sport events and barbecues are part of the hostelling experience. There is a yearly membership to get discounts on your lodging and in stores in many areas. In Canada hostellingintl.ca
Some have lock out times like 1 am to 5pm but less in recent years. Quiet hours are 11pm to 7am. Often they are open 24 hours. Blankets and pillows are provided. To foster the community spirit they limit the stay and natives of the area are not allowed unless there is a lot of room. There are common rooms, libraries, lockers, storage, Internet for a fee, in Boston it was 20 minutes for $2.
Sites with overview by Fodors: http://www.fodors.com/world/north-america/usa/massachusetts/boston/sights-nam_best:30058.html
Philadelphia trip planning
A quick cheap weekend or longer trip is 2 hours away in Philadelphia.
Hostel (lodging) $40
Walk, bus or subway very cheap in the city.
Advisory: I have been there twice. I went early July and had a safe time. Recently there has been some crime so you may want to check the Philadelphia Inquirer. I was told the tourist areas were safe but the edges of the city were not. I would avoid South Street. There is a 12 hour Grayline tour from New York which also goes to the Amish Country for $149.
Philadelphia Trip Highlights: Independence sites, Ben Franklin’s and Philadelphia Museum with the Rocky Statue.
There is a 2 hour city hall tour. It is the biggest in the world and most statues. It has chandeliers and the senate in session. There are muralled walls outside. The observatory has a good view of the city. Open Monday to Friday. Tour 12:30pm (215) 686-2840. Italian Market tour in South Philly for groups Friday 10am.(possibly you can group up with a hotel tour leaving) For more tours check with the information bureau or concierges.
They have the third biggest Chinatown with an impressive gate. In City Center there are sidewalk cafes.
There are many museums like The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, African American Museum and the US Mint.
The Masonic Temple is impressive. The American Jewish Museum had many displays with 5 minute videos. They show comediennes like Mel Brooks, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny and the 3 Stooges.
The River Deck Bar holds over 1000. It is on the river and has Japanese lanterns and a broken pier which makes a nice design in the water. Some nights they have contests. Macy’s was the old Wannamakers and a very big department store.
There is a 12 or 14 hour tour to the Amish Country near Lancaster. (Grayline Bus tours from NY also has a Philly tour has a 12 hour tour also for $149) The one from Philly I was not thrilled with and had many dead hours. At the town of Bird in the Hand you see a film and a replica house and school. There is a farm and restaurant and horse and buggy rides. Then there is a van tour of the area. The Amish do not want to be photographed and it violates their religious beliefs.
Some foods they make are shoe fly pie with molasses. In Philly they sell their goods at the Terminal Market. Phillysteaks and pretzels are famous all around the city. Ferry cruises and concerts are at Penn Landing.
It is a very small city about 3 miles long and on a grid. A cab to most spots is under $6. The bus/subway is SEPTA septa.org. Try to get a bus map on Market Street and about 10th street or information bureaus has it. Market Street is the main commercial Street through the city.
There is a narrated hop on off bus for $27 and a cheaper one probably not narrated.
In Philly I stayed at the Ace Hostel which was recommended in many travel books AND by HostelWorld.com.
Apple Hostel of Philadelphia $40 (877) 275-1971
Visitor and Convention Center (215) 686-2840
Gophila.org visitphilly.com independencevisitor.com muralart.org visitpa.com
Buses from NY to Philadelphia $15 MegaBus, Bolt, $20 Greyhound
LivWell Television: http://livewellnetwork.com/Travel/111?tag=travel