There are a lot of clichés in the news business: shots rang out, untimely death, in the wake of …
Oh geez, this is getting a bit morbid.
Well there’s another, more fun cliché: the bustling summer travel season.
Indeed, summer might be travel time for the rest of you, but I am about to head out on my first of two (count ’em, two!) December trips. It’s time for *MY* busy travel season.
This coming weekend, I’m heading to Los Angeles to see my brother and some USC friends, giving us all the privilege of griping about the state of Trojan football in-person.
The round-trip cost from Pittsburgh to LAX? $56.
Cross-the-country and back for less than what most people withdraw from the ATM.
But how do you find the cheap fares? Well, allow me to shill for my favorite travel engine, Google Flights.
A Bargain-Hunter’s Dream
The Google Flights website is made for finding the best fare, particularly those times when you just went to get out of town.
I’m fortunate to have a job with which I get a good amount of vacation time. I’m less fortunate to have a job in which I have to work every holiday, and a lot of weekends.
Working on Christmas sure ain’t holly jolly. But I try to take advantage. And I have learned the joys of the MeCation, particularly in wintertime.
Here’s the secret to some early yuletide cheer: Those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually the cheapest time of year to travel.
My Miami Trip, 2017
That also goes for, in many cases, airline miles. In November 2017, I booked myself a trip that was easy on the wallet and my points balance.
And where better to escape a dreary late-fall Pittsburgh than in South Florida?
- JetBlue flights to/from Fort Lauderdale: $11.20 (+7,000 TrueBlue points)
- Food & drinks: $126.63
- Stay at The Confidante Miami Beach: $245.20
- Lyft & Uber trips: $52.04
Grand Total: $435.07 (+7,000 TrueBlue points)
(As a side note, I also picked up a $50 Hyatt credit because of this trip. Like many other hotel chains, if you find a better price than what’s on the official site, they’ll price-match and give you an extra $50.)
I had never been to Miami, but I got the classic Miami Beach getaway: Checking out the art deco hotels and buildings and tasting some muy delicioso Cuban food.
On a Tuesday when most people were toiling away in the office, I headed to the beach to read and have a server bring me Shiner Bocks and shrimp tacos.
My MeCation also gave me the chance to strike up conversation in Wynwood, allowing me to find a group to tag along with for some Miami bar-hopping.
Example itineraries for winter trips
Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with family and friends (you’ll read about my trip to Berlin and Munich in a future installment). But few trips are as refreshing for me as the two- or three-day solo jaunts, when I can do what I want, when I want.
If you need some inspiration for a MeCation or another quick getaway, here are some examples of direct-flight itineraries out of Pittsburgh this winter and spring.
- Disney World decked out for Christmas: $77 round-trip
- Fort Lauderdale with the snowbirds: $103 round-trip
- Boston for Opening Day at Fenway: $111 round-trip
- Las Vegas around Valentine’s Day: $133 round-trip
- San Diego in mid-Decmber: $137 round-trip
- Iceland to see the Northern Lights: $189 round-trip
If you clicked through to those itineraries, you’ll notice that the flights were either (A) on budget airlines or (B) in basic economy.
Ladies and gentlemen of the traveling public, don’t pack your pride in your carry-on luggage. I have flown the Spirits, the Frontiers, the WOW Airs of the world. Those low-cost carriers are where the deals are found, and I’ll take ’em every time.
Follow along on my value-travel adventures, and you’ll realize that a little less legroom on a flight really can be a great deal. (Even if you have to stuff all your clothes into a backpack. But we’ll get to that.)