Big City Trips: Big City Nightmares

By | March 31, 2009

Some friends just visited us from New York City, and while they were quite wistful about coming to Taiwan, I was quite envious … envious because I would LOVE to visit New York City and spend three months exploring life there: it’s a city I have dreamed about since I was a kid, seen in movies and on Friends. Of course, I would HATE the New York Style Winter months, but life in the summer months must be pretty good.

I already have a list of all the different things I will do: Statue of Liberty, trip to Washington DC, Central Perk (oops! I mean ‘park’!), Donald Trump’s buildings, Stock Exchange, theaters…

Finding accommodation in a New York City hotel can be challenging at best, frightful at worst. And always exorbitant. London is the same. If you stay even in budget hotels, it is going to cost. Oh, and you will likely have to book weeks or even months in advance to get something affordable.

So here are my three tips for saving money, spending less in big cities and having fun at the same time!

  1. There are websites for booking accommodation in big cities: always check out what is available,
  2. Avoid visiting your favorite city in mid-season (you’ll pay through the roof for everything, and it will be crowded!), and
  3. Be flexible in your choices: manual car vs. automatic, location, travel arrangements, etc.

Being flexible is perhaps the most important aspect. And it’s one I try to practice but sometimes fail. When I was in the UK, I rented a car on several occasions, but because I drive an automatic car in Taiwan (who doesn’t?), I don’t have much experience on manual cars. I had to rent an automatic on the roads in Britain, I just don’t have the confidence or experience to make a manual car work. Result: Bills 30% to 60% more than they’d otherwise be.

Traveling at the last moment makes some arrangements easier, some more difficult. If you don’t arrange things months in advance, you can take advantage of changes of plans and schedules. I was able to visit several friends that I would not have been able to see if I had tightly scheduled my trip. Such chances meant that I was able to change plans even within 48  hours. Did I save money? Not really, but it made my trip much more rewarding.

Not having made detailed arrangements also meant that I got to stay in fabulous locations at ridiculous prices because I traveled slightly out of season, happened on a great last minute type booking site, and was fortunate enough to find some wonderful places. So… it was fantastic: staying in a hotel right near Hyde Park in the center of an expensive and exclusive area of London, but to be lucky enough to pay decent rates. Wonderful.