Saturday, June 13, 2009

How To Fly For Less Than The Cost Of A Flight

I've been a naughty blogger. I went to Berlin. I had a great time, stayed slightly within my means, and left this blog hanging while I funneled the content into Jaunted.

If you'd like to see what went exactly went down overseas, some of it is here, but now I'd like to tie up the loose ends of my last post by dissecting exactly how I managed to go to Berlin without bankrupting myself. It became a three-step process, one that I highly recommend
for those who can do it. Shall we begin?
  1. Flexibility. Since my employment is somewhat fluid, I was able to utilize that magical travel booking engine feature of searching +/- 3 days. After posting my last, emotional entry on trouble with such sites, the heavens opened and I stumbled across my dream $381 roundtrip direct (including taxes and fees) on Delta from JFK to TXL.
    I booked the shit out of that, even though they barely had a seat for me on the plane and it was, in the simplest way I can put it, a shit flight.
  2. Humility. Look, in the immortal words of Sheryl Crow: "This ain't no disco; this ain't no country club either." This is a last-minute trip on less than a shoestring budget. I booked this baby 4 days prior to departure, and whipped out a Priceline voucher code for $50 off a name-your-own-price hotel stay, a deal I magically got on Twitter.

    Since I was due to meet up with my guy-friend for the last 3 nights of my stay, I opted to name my own price for a 5-star hotel in the Tiergarten district, which returned with the Marriott Berlin. That added another
    $150 onto my trip total. The humility enters the picture for the first two nights, when I bit the bullet and shacked up at Jetpak Hostel, which boasted of Free WiFi and rented me a bike for a whole day for 5 Euro.

    It was on this bike and at Jetpak that I was able to quickly get a feel for the city, while befriending the amazing Miriam, one of the hostel staff who has now also taken up travel blogging on an Italian site. The hostel was about another
    $35, but factor in a few more dollars for all the 1 Euro cappuccinos I consumed while happily working the mornings away in their cafe.
  3. Localizing: Sure I wanted to shop, and have a nice meal at a fancy al fresco restaurant, and take a side trip, but that's because those are the urges one has when exploring a new destination. You wouldn't be doing those things if you actually lived in Berlin, and so I thought--what would I be doing tonight if I lived here?

    Eating 3 Euro currywurst from a corner Imbiß and chasing it with 75 Eurocent beers in bed while watching
    Bernd, das Brot. Or taking a free stroll through the Tiergarten to the Siegessäule. Or recycling--an action made so much cooler when a barcode-reading, bottle-eating machine is involved.

    At the end of the trip, I realized that I had only shopped for one thing: a
    3 Euro magazine on modern European Architecture from Pro QM.
All in, I'm looking back at a 5-night/6-day trip to Berlin that cost about $600 total. Damn, I'm cheap (and good). Considering that flights for the same route--when searching around the web--were averaging $800, I think this trip was a flippin success. Not to mention how cozy it was that my tax refund arrived prior to this. I won't be getting one of those next year, so I better travel the heck out of this year; am I right?

Cynthia, travel dork: 2* Economic downturn and lack of sustainable income: 0
(2 because I traveled to Hong Kong in February using these 3 steps)

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