Category Archives: cost-saving travel

New York on the cheap

As if.

well everything’s relative and I guess that means New York’s version of cheap is Des Moines’ version of not-so-cheap but that said, the NYT had some suggestions for people visiting the Big City on a Tight Budget:

– The Jane – 113 Jane Street (a very sweet street in the West Village that my cousin used to live on)…”50-square-foot cabins” for $99 a night (that’s a single withe shared bath)…

– The Hotel Chelsea, studio and shared bath for $99…if it was good enough for Sid and Nancy it may be okay for you.

– MOMA is free on Friday nights. Otherwise it’s $25 as I recall painfully.

– for other free events look in the listings of Time Out NY and New York magazine also and

– a seven-day unlimited ride metrocard $27. soon to be $29.


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Filed under cost-saving travel, LODGING, New York City


So i guess there’s a megatrain to go with the megabus in London – not sure how that works but worth finding out, especially since it seems to go to some places I go in England – like Bath.

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Filed under cost-saving travel, England and U.K., train

Bus travel – the wave of the future in budget transportation?

It’s hard to imagine that bus travel is the wave of the future when it comes to budget transportation.  Riding a big ol’ bus seems rather old-fashioned and non-green and a throw back, reminding me of my  lost youth,  30 years ago, when I used to ride the Magic Bus in Europe because it was the cheapest way to get around – albeit one of the slowest.(My trip on the Magic Bus from Istanbul to London took four days…and cost $86.)

But in the past few days, before and after my ride on the new Megabus from Chicago to Des Moines (for a whopping $10), I’ve been talking to friends here and there who say they too are suddenly riding cheap buses – that are suddenly available – for five-or-more hour trips. A friend in Maryland today mentioned her family recently rode  a new cheap bus to NYC. A relative said he’s also taken cheap buses – rather than more expensive trains and planes – on East Coast trips.

Cheap buses are a particular godsend for small Midwestern cities like Des Moines where the airfare is particularly expensive – and expected to increase further as airlines buy each other out – and where train travel is unreliable and expensive.  Truth be told, I’d rather take a train than a bus – if it was more feasible – but since it’s not, the bus is better than nothing.

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Filed under Adventure travel, bus service, Chicago, cost-saving travel, Des Moines

A review: the Megabus from Chicago to Des Moines

I planned to blog from the road yesterday – specifically while cruising along Interstate 80 from Chicago to Des Moines in the Megabus but alas, the bus’s much-ballyhooed free WiFi was on the blink.  The driver didn’t know why but said this happens occasionally. Otherwise,  the bus ride was just fine – and for the $10 fare, better than fine. (Some people paid as little as $1 for the ride, a few others got two tix for $8 total. Fare comparisons dominated the chitchat amongst passengers. )

The bus departed on time (5 p.m.) from Chicago at the crowded Megabus stop just south of Union Station and Jackson Street, on Canal Street – and it arrived in Des Moines about 35 minutes late, which was no big deal. The bus was clean, the seats comfortable, the air not too cold or  too hot. The driver was courteous and informative, taking the time to fill us in on bits and bobs, like the one scheduled pit-stop at a small gas station on I-80 near Davenport.

A few minor quibbles, some beyond Megabus’s control, that  have more to do with the nature of cheap bus transportation in general.  The bus stop in Chicago was somewhat chaotic, with a large crowd fanning out across half a block as a succession of buses pulled up – one bus going to St. Louis, another to somewhere-ville Ohio, another to Ann Arbor/Detroit and my bus to Iowa City/Des Moines.  As one of the older passengers correctly noted, this open air bazaar – with no visible crowd control and no benches to sit on or lines to stand in – is relatively OK in pleasant weather, which we had yesterday early evening.  But it might not be so OK when it’s raining or snowing or bitter cold.

Many passengers, as expected, were young people in their late teens and 20s  some tattooed and pierced, some black-clad Goths with dusty white faces, two chic geeks, some inner city kids wearing droopy pants.  Great people watching and reminded me of my lost-youth, riding the Magic Bus in Europe.

But on my bus there was also  a large multi-generation Asian family with a pushy patriarch, a Mennonite woman, some middle-aged couples, a few moms with kids.  I worried at first when the watery-eyed man in front of me took a sip from a liquor bottle inside a brown paper bag but he was well-behaved throughout. So was the little girl who sat on the lap of the teen-ager  beside me. The rowdiest passengers were some  women in their mid-30s who laughed and talked loudly, as if they riding their very own party bus after hitting the bars on Division Street (which come to think of it was probably where they had been.)

There were other annoying sounds and smells but that’s to be expected: a rattle-and-squeak  from  somewhere in the back of the bus near the bathroom, pulsating iPod musak from somewhere in the bus’ mid-section (the Ipod must have been  cranked up to blow-your-eardrums-out volume), smells of fried chicken, McDonalds (from the pitstop in Davenport), a fully-loaded brat, and corned beef (my bad. I  brought the sandwich with me from a Chicago deli.)

Next time, I’ll remember to fire up my Kindle – or at least bring the cord so I can plug it in. (There was an outlet below my window but my cord was in my suitcase in the bowels of the bus.) And I’ll remember to leave my novel out of my suitcase. I’ll also remember to fire up my phone (which was also losing juice.) Thank God my iPod was still working.

All told, it’s great to have a viable and inexpensive new option for getting to Iowa City and Chicago from here.

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Filed under Adventure travel, bus service, Chicago, cost-saving travel, Des Moines

Last-minute airfare sales

If your schedule permits – and alas mine usually doesn’t – apparently this is the summer to find last-minute airfare sales, requiring you to leave in a few days, tomorrow or even today. So says an AP story I read recently in the DM Register. The most popular days for these sales are on the “off days” of Monday and Tuesday. And the people who have a leg up on this are users of Facebook and Twitter (which may again rule me out.)

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Filed under cost-saving travel, flying

Megabus reviews

Overall, the Megabus – from Des Moines to Chicago and Des Moines to Iowa City – got good reviews in a story by a DM Register columnist today. Sure there was a delay and snafu here or there but overall, people seemed pleased with the service – and such cheap prices! Good to know – I’ll be trying it out on June 14. Off to N’s high school graduation ceremony! Happy 75th to Dad in Detroit!

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Filed under bus service, Chicago, cost-saving travel, DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Iowa City

summer travel bargains

Here’s what I heard from the editor of Budget Travel mag who was on NPR today:

— as the Great Recession continues, we’re all still looking for bargains. (you betcha)

– – airfares high, so stick to the road trip

– the Euro is 17 percent below what it was last year (i think it was last year) so suddenly places like Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece offer good value, plus there are cheaper hotel rooms to be found in places like Paris and Rome. But you don’t have to just go to a destination that’s having a severe debt crisis – Germany good too.

– cool small towns: Saugatauk, Mi., Ely, Minn., and Cloverdale, Calif.

– groovy college towns like Ann Arbor, Tallahassee (also a state capitol, as I recall) and two of my personal favorites, Ithaca, N.Y. and Iowa City, Ia.

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