Saturday, March 23, 2013

Start Spreading the News: Introduction

After a very busy few months at work, interspersed with a maniacal frenzy of frequent flier booking, it was at long last my daughter's school's spring break, which means we were officially on vacation.

The Goal

This trip is the next in our quest to have as much fun as we can on a relatively modest budget, within the limits of my family's patience.  In this case, we are spending one night in Connecticut, four nights in New York City, and two nights in Boston.

Most if not all people I know who consider themselves frugal enjoy one or more particular splurge.  We are no exception.  In fact, frugal might be the wrong word entirely.  More to the point, we spend money on things that are important to us, and in particular, that we can't get for free or nearly so.  Otherwise, if it can be scrounged, it will be scrounged, and unapologetically so.

The Agenda

  • Drive from Sacramento to San Francisco, fly from San Francisco to Newark, drive to Connecticut.
  • One morning visiting family in Connecticut
  • Drive to Manhattan, check into hotel, return car
  • Four days in New York City
  • Bus to Boston
  • Two nights in Boston
  • Fly back from Boston to San Francisco
  • Drive home to Sacramento

The Finagle


As discussed previously, our flight east was executed rather painlessly using points on United Airlines, flying coach - which is how we roll, as always.  The four one-way tickets were 12,500 miles each, plus a $2.50  About 40,000 of the 50,000 UA points were transferred from Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards points.  I had transferred about 20,000 of them about a year ago to buy a ticket the UA website showed as available, but it turned out to be a glitch in their system and I wasn't able to book the ticket.  So the points stayed in my UA account since transfers from Chase are irreversible.  I transferred the remaining points immediately before booking a few months ago.  My wife and I each got the Sapphire Preferred cards 2 years ago, when they had a 50,000 point signup bonus (now 40,000), and then we used it for most of our casual and business spending last year.

The return home (to Northern California) is technically the first portion of a reservation  from Boston to Tokyo (segment 4a in the graphic), with a seven-month layover in California, using American Airlines points.  The Boston-SFO-Tokyo one-way itinerary in coach during the off-season was 25,000 points plus $32.50 in fees per person, or a total of 100,000 points and $130 for the four of us.  By using the "free stopover" privilege, our Boston-San Francisco segment cost us only the TSA fees of $5 per person, with no additional point outlays.  Basically, the same as breakfast.


I pretty much liquidated my cache of hotel points between this trip and our next (to Japan), and also called in whatever favors I could.  For the stay in Connecticut, we originally had planned to stay with family, but given our late arrival time and jet lag, we decided to get a nearby hotel.  I had a $50 welcome rewards credit on which I used at the local Days Inn, for a $90 room with 2 queen beds (net cost about $45 including taxes).  For New York, I used my annual comp night from my Priority Club credit card, plus 3 more nights at 25,000 points, all at the Holiday Inn Soho.  For Boston, we stayed 2 nights at the Hyatt in Cambridge, for which I transferred a total of 32,000 points (16,000 points per night) from our Chase Sapphire account.

NYC to Boston Transportation

We looked at taking the train, which at about $150 for our family wasn't bad at all, but $34 for the four of us on the Megabus was so cheap I had to try it, at least for the material, and the wife was perfectly fine with it.  Which is of course why I married her.


So our expenses in the NY and Boston metro areas were limited to food, local transportation, and other expenses.  To be sure, in those places, there are plenty of things to spend lots of money on.  One of the reasons we wanted to stay way down in Soho was to be near relatively inexpensive and interesting food options.

Stay tuned...

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