America Is On Sale
If you have any money at all, America is your oyster.
I'm making my annual CNBC pilgrimage to the Big Apple, and the savings this year make me want to come back on my own dime.
I flew Virgin America for the first time. LAX to JFK is $245.20. ROUND TRIP! I got that price booking only six days in advance. The plane was mostly full, but I don't know how you turn a profit with fares like that. I did pay $14 for a meal and drink on board, which I ordered from my personal TV screen at my seat. While the Airbus had no leg room, the interiors were very sleek, with neon lighting. The crowd was much hipper than normal, with what I call a "high smug factor" (the guy sitting in the front row was speaking French). I laughed, then I proceeded to fall in love with the whole thing. It's amazing how black leather seats and fresh hummus make you feel like you're no longer sitting in coach.
I'm staying at the Club Quarters at Rockefeller Center for $202 a night. So two nights in the heart of midtown total $404. A year ago, that wouldn't even cover one night in this part of town.
I bought a round of drinks (ok, two rounds—for them, not me) and also some appetizers for a couple friends at Piano Due near 30 Rock. The total was well under $100. Two years ago, same friends, same bar, it was over $100. Later, I bought myself some lobster salad and a Cosmo at a restaurant overlooking ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. Total? $32. Did I mention that this was Manhattan, where nothing is affordable?
I usually rent a car when I come to New York because I'm from California. It's not natural for people like me to be without a car. One feels naked. However, this time I threw caution to the wind and took a cab to town. It's now a fixed price of $45 from JFK to Manhattan. $45! I remember taking a cab years ago and it was more like $80.
In all, my three-day, two-night trip to New York is under $1,000, including air fare. I'm staying in a nice place, eating good food. What's more, the service has been great. Now, no one wants companies to operate at a loss (Virgin America), and high unemployment is creating an air of fear and uncertainty across this country. But if you are lucky enough to have money, or to have an employer who still pays for travel, relish these days. We will look back and wish we'd traveled more.
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