Archive for June, 2008

Road trip Vs Flying – Which is the best option ? – Final Part

Howdy folks?! It’s your money matters man, Vijai back after 2 weeks of break trying to get into the groove of blogging. Today is July 1st, my special month as and Six months just vanished from this year calendar and so far its been a worse year in all extents for lot of folks.



Stock market hitting new lows every day, oil price sky rocketing expecting to see $5 per gallon real soon in Houston, all essential day-to-day items like egg, milk, bread just keep on going up on price. Airline tickets are now untouchable with charges on check-in bags even for the first one making the vacation really unafforadable. It seems life is getting really tough to manage with the same paycheck which used to get a year ago to summarize it all.



But what to do life must go on and we just have to go ahead with our plans. I happened to plan my vacations at the wrong year. You can’t just walk away on planned trips in which you already spent chunk of money on tickets. Its been an expensive year nevertheless a memorable one.



As I mentioned in my last blog post, we went to Los Angeles and Las vegas a week ago and had a great time. It was so hot around 107 F but we still get to do whatever we planned to do. But I one thing I am really amazed. Man, I don’t know how the people live in those cities paying $4.75 per gallon gas already. Anyway, I will talk more about the money aspect of the trip to share my experience.



Let me get on the pending part of my Road Trip Vs Flying series.




II. Action


All the plans never really matter if you don’t take any actoin. So i got to work. I checked my car’s tire pressure the day before the trip. I also filled up the gas on the day of the trip and reset my trip meter to track mileage for every tank filling. I also have another trip meter which I reset to track the total mileage travelled in whole trip. We were all set to embark on a exciting road trip packed with everything possible to have a great time.



We took few stop overs to fill our stomach and gas. My wife saved some by packing some lunches from home. After 15 hours of drive, we finally reached St.Louis at my long time friend’s house. We had great dinner at his place. He is so grateful to cook some nice indian dinner which is what we just needed.



Next day, we went on a day trip to check out at St. Louis. We first went to Gateway Arch and took the tram trip to go to the top for $10/ person. That wasn’t bad price for a very fantastic view. I was so amazed how they build a tram to on a arch. Thats really some engineering. Then we went Busch Brewry which had a free tour. It was already late afternoon and evening we visited the Hindu temple with my friend. We had a great authentic Thai food at Thai Kitchen – Maryland Heights, St. Louis. It was real good food. I highly recommend checking it out if you happen to be at that place.



We stayed that night at his place and started the next day. I was happy it all worked with my friends schedule. It’s nice to see him after a long time and also his new house and I even end up saved lodging and food for a day. We started the next day morning and reach Chicago Suburb on Thrusday afternoon. I saw my cousin and his wife first time. I also met my aunt and uncle who came from India. We just took it easy after and spent rest of the day and next day evening we went to another famous Hindu Temple in Chicago. It is my tradition and sort of wish to atleast go to as many temple in US wherever I go.



On Saturday, we went to Chicago downtown with my sister who came from CT with her family. I am also seeing her first time after she came to US. We took the metro train from a nearby station and purchased $5 day pass which is worked out cheaper and also have access to metro bus in Downtown. We got there after an hour train journey and started embaring on some featured items listed by my cousin. Millennium park topped on my list.

We checked out Magic Bean, new stadium nearby and some interesting artifacts. We had an expensive but no so good italian lunch at The Village in Downtown. It was the first ever Italian restaurant which I would rate only 1 out of 5 and not satisfied after spending $12 per head. We then head out other way to see Fountain and Lake Michigan. To top it all off, we went to John Hancock tower which was recommend compare to Sears Tower to get a good view. It was $15/person for general admission. It was a Spectacular view of Chicago both city and lake on the other side. That ended the day.




Sunday was busy day with formal Baby Shower for my cousin’s wife. We all great fun on the occasion. As planned I left Sunday evening after the Babyshower at around 4:30pm, drove for 6 hours and night stop at the Super 8 motel on the way which I already booked for $65 a night in hotels.com. We started back again on the road around 6:45am on Monday. As usual stopped for gas and noted the mileages and filled our stomach eating a nice chinese buffet lunch for just $6.99 on the way. We safely reached Houston around 9pm.



III. Perfect (Fun) Vacation



We really enjoyed our roadtrip. Especially my wife had a fun vacation. We spent good time together on the road, talking and sharing about our family, careers, and many things. We also got see my friend, my family together after a long time.



Final Expense List

Gas- $375

Lodging – $175 (saved a day staying in my friends place)

Food – $ 125

Other expenses – $50

Total – $725


If I choose to go by Air, ticket itself would have been $400 * 2 + Car Rental 5 days – weekly rental $150 + Food $125 + other expenses $50 = apx $1125



I saved some good amount of money and at same time had good time driving with my family. I also get to visit my friend and see St.Louis which is a bonus.
Overall, Road trip never fail to entertain you if you plan it out well.



To conclude, its always good to go on a roadtrip if you have

(1) Good amount of time to kill,

(2) less time to book the flight ticket and

(3) well maintained car with an average 25-30 miles per gallon.



It will work out much cheaper and sure to have a fun vacation. I definetly recommend my blog readers to reconsider your plans for fun roadtrip after reading this post.

Road trip or Flying – What is the best option? – Part 2

Last week I started a blog post sharing my latest road trip experience in a way to show to avoid getting riped off during this hot high gas price season and still have a good time going on a road trip. Let me get right into the topic as you all been waiting for a week. I talked about doing a Research before you making the decision. Obviously, next step is Decision making.



2. Decison Making



I questioned myself with 3 important questions that eventually helped me to make a decision.



1. Is Roadtrip going to work out cheaper than Flying with hotel expense on the way?


Yes. It is going to work out atleast 30-40% cheaper even after taking the High gas price into account. Last minute deals also came out higher than road trips. Also road trips are for many reasons like packing, taking big gifts and even packing sleeper bags incase we need it. For everything road trip
seems to be the way to go.



2. Do I have enough time to drive to – fro and also have time for sightseeing? Is it going to be relaxing vacation?

Yes, if I properly plan. I know Chicago is 20 hours one way(1200 miles via Baton Rouge to avoid slow traffic via Dallas which maps suggest)from houston. Its almost a day to drive down one way which is really tiring. Since I have a week on my hand, I am afford to spend a 2 days for travel. Also If I do proper planning and take breaks on time, I surely can avoid tiredness and have a good time inspite of long hour driving.



3. Can I take advantage of this road trip to spend a day or two on the way for sightseeing and see few more places?


That would add as a bonus for taking road trip. But it’s going to add up on expense. Its worth it as we spend hours and money to travel that far. I also remembered about my friend who is in St. Louis who is been inviting to come down. It is actually on the way to Chicago. If I check with him, I should be able to drop by and take a break in his place saving both lodge and food expense on one way and at same time check out St. Louis.



After answering these questions, I was more than convinced road trip is turning out to be better option especially seeming to work out well on longer trips. It’s not going to be cheap like a years ago but its affordable, cheaper than flying for last minute. So I stopped wasting time on finding flight deals.


3. Planning



I started out planning for the trip. If my memory serves better, everytime I plan on big things I use a technique called “Visualization”. Actually I been using this technique all along for years without even knowing its technical name happen to know recently.


It is simple and an easy routine. Let me sketch it out real quick. You just start to visualize the whole trip step by step starting from the day you leave and every other day. Do one day at a time and jot down the points or things you need or wanted to get it done. If you just follow and do what I said, you surely won’t miss a thing. Visualization is a key aspect I always recommended to people to use it on any occasions during planning.


I visuvalized and noted like essential things needed (car, hotels, maps, directions, places planning to go and so on.



For road trip, obviously I need a reliable car to travel long distance. Since I have my 3 year old Honda Accord with just 38000 miles
which is in good condition and capable of minimum 30 miles per gallon. So I just striked it in my list.


Next, I started finding hotels for the main destination(Chicago). When I was searching for hotels, I was looking for a reasonable(2-3 star), affordable($50 max/day), convinent(with needed amenties), and closest(to save on gas) to my cousins place.

I tried on hotels.com, priceline.com to find some hotel deals. Hotels.com seems to be atleast $3-$5 cheaper and also have better hotels options on the list. I found hotels from best (5 star) to better (4-3 star) and good (2-1 star) ratings. I am ok with 2 star as I am not going to stay all day. It’s just for sleep and getting ready in the moring. I found a great deal with 20% discount on a Travelodge Motel for just $45/day but its only for one person. Its a tricky deal. They give you 20% off but add on price for additional person. I called the hotel directly and confirmed the usual occupancy of 2 person/room. So I gone ahead and booked for one person and plan to pay if needed when I get there.


I also booked for hotels to stay to take break while we come back for $60/day in Super 8 motel at hotels.com. That completes all the lodging needs. I did research on places to go in St. Louis and took print outs. I am also planned on few places to go in Chicago and decided to check with my cousin when I get there. I checked with my friend who just went on a Kentucky road trip and found alternate route to avoid traffice. I took all the maps and directions print outs.


By taking care of hotel bookings and sight seeing, Planning process is done. I still have to few more tips to share with you all and this post already too long. You have to wait for the next post. Before I even finish this post, I am leaving for another trip. I am going to Las vegas for 5 day vacation with my family. This time, I am flying as I planned this trip well in advance. Will share all about it later and I should be back next week to post the last of this series.

Road trip Or Flying- Which is best at this High Gas Price?

Are you kidding? With high gas price making all time record numbers every day, are you about it?! This was the first question asked by my friend when I told him about my plan to go on a road trip to Chicago from Houston 3 weeks ago. That really didn’t stop me. I ended up going, more importantly for a week and made it thru the tough wave of gas prices in different states.


I know it is hard to think about budget friendly vacation these days with big shift in the tourism because of price increases in various aspects starting from flight tickets, boarding, lodging, car rentals, sight seeing tickets and not the least but the most important dinosuar level gas prices adding it all up to eat your wallet.



Many of you already cut down on your vacations just because of this very own reason. In this post, I am just going to share my real roadtrip experience by taking you all along for the ride and show how you can still have fun on roadtrips in cost effective way.


I. Plan





I know planning comes first before you ever start. I am not a neophyte for roadtrips. I have planned many of them and made memorable lines in my life chapter. At the same time, I also flew to many cities for vacations. Comparing them, I totally fell in love with driving on the American roads and anytime prefer to do roadtrips if I have lot of time in hand. This time I luckily got a week long time to kill in my hand. My wife just used this opportunity to bring up our month old topic of going to Chicago for my cousin wife’s baby shower.



1. Research
At first I didn’t even blink my eye and gave thought about it because its only a week away and too less of time get a deal on flight tickets. I know its really hard to get reasonable price with the high gas price affecting this airlines too. It is a cockroach which is now everywhere and its going to be a tough task to get it out of the system for a while.



Anyway, I started pondering around my favorite last time resort websites, to see my luck on getting last min deals. First Orbitz.com to get a average fare per person for roundtrip. Then I went to my favorite site, Priceline and started bidding for flights with various different combination to see whether I atleast get a reasonable price 25% lessthan the round trip fare from orbitz. No luck, it all came out to be close $384/ person. Then I visited my other saved sites like Farecompare, Lastminute.com and Sidestep to compare the prices average at this time of the year. It seems to be no chance to getting lower than that one. Farecompare.com


After seeing that number, I remember my wife suggesting for a road trip as the final option since we have good amount of time in our hand. So I got to google maps to figure out the mileage for the road trip. Then I jumped to google search to see whether I can find a fuel gas calculator and compare with airline charges. I couldn’t find what I was looking but happen to hit on the AAA website to find how much will be gas expense.


FuelGasCalculator
is the tool to find an aproximate estimation of gas expense for your trip by AAA. I was really amazed with the options like car model to determine average mileage. I typed all they wanted including to and from and details and got the gas expense for two way around $300. That is with an average 30miles per gallon for my Honda Accord. It is just almost 60% of savings just for travel.

Thats just for travel after taking high gas price into account. It doesn’t mean all other expense going to be cheap. So I took my research further asking few questions,


1. Is Road trip going to work out cheaper than Flying with hotel expense on the way?



2. Do I have enough time to drive to and fro and have time for sightseeing? Is it going to be relaxing one?



3. Can I take advantage of this road trip to spend a day or two on the way and see few more places?


I love to continue but it will get too long on this post. So let me answer these questions on the next one. Hold on for a bit to catch the more fun part..

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