I love to travel. I love my friends. And when I get to travel to see my friends, I'm happier than a tour bus operator with a load of Koreans*.
A couple of years ago, my best friend, Stuart, and I met up in Edinburgh. He was attending a history conference and carrying out some research; I was getting away for a few days and carrying out research for my book. While we had different agendas, we did have plenty of time to spend together and explore the East-Lothian region.
In high school, Stu and I were inseparable. It was tough when he left Ottawa for university. Though I had a few friends that stuck around town, none were as close. Stu was like a brother, and his absence was profoundly felt.
When we caught up in Scotland, we had a great time. Even when I dragged him over Arthur's Seat, in search of a small village with a Medieval pub. I didn't have my map with me, but I had my memory of its location from Google Earth. And though Stuart's patience ran thin, he did continue and we did find the pub. And it was great.
In the more than 30 years that we've known each other, we've never fought. Our arguements are civil and respectful. And that's one of the reasons, I believe, that our friendship has endured and remained strong.
There's nothing that we wouldn't do for one another.
When we left Edinburgh, we promised to get together again for another getaway, to maybe make it an annual event. Different venue, but same company.
Two years went past and nothing happened. Life got in the way. We both have families with young, busy kids. Time just flies. No blame, no excuses, no bitterness. We both know that though we couldn't make our getaway happen, we were still in each other's thoughts.
Last summer, we talked about an autumn getaway to New York City. We were both enthusiastic about it, and we even included another friend of ours, Ed, who I have known since the sixth grade and who was part of our circle of good friends in high school. Three buddies in NYC in the fall: what could be better?
And then life got in the way again.
Timing in the fall didn't work. And so we promised that we'd make New York happen in the spring, in May.
And so I plan.
Because we chose New York as our destination, finding good, inexpensive accommodation can be a challenge. But I'm sure that we'll be able to find something through Hotwire, Hotels.com, or Travelzoo. Splitting a place three ways will also make it easier, as I want to reserve the bulk of my spending for attractions and nightlife.
The most difficult part of the trip is deciding on transportation, and this is where I have started focusing.
My first choice was to fly. I have earned enough Aeroplan points that I could fly anywhere in the world, first class. All I have to do is pay the taxes. So, using my points, it would only cost me about $180 to fly round-trip from Ottawa. The only problem is the timing.
While the trip there would be perfectfly out around 7, be in the Big Apple by 11the return flight sucks: leave at dinnertime, arrive in Montreal by 10, and then stay for eight hours before catching my connection flight to Ottawa.
In eight hours, I could drive back and forth between Ottawa and Montreal four times.
I looked at flying with Porter Airlines, but that would cost $427 and would take a huge bite out of my budget. Same with WestJet.
I considered driving to Syracuse and either taking a flight for about $150 (round-trip), but with fuel to drive there and back I'd be looking at an additional $80. I could take a train from Syracuse for less, but it would actually take longer than if I drive all the way.
Which is what I'm considering.
Costing it out, both financially and time-wise, it would take me seven hours to drive from home to Secaucus Junction. Fuel cost would be about $150, plus another $50 to leave my car there for the weekend. Add another $10 for round-trip transportation from Secaucus Junction to Penn Station, and the transportation cost is $210.
That's $30 more than it would cost to fly on points, but I would also have to find a way to get from the airport into Manhattan, and the time saved in travel makes it an ideal way to go.
Plus, if I take my car, I can bring more beer home. I can stop along the way home and check out any breweries along the way.
What do you think? How would you travel from Ottawa to NYC?
With the options I've considered and the plans in motion, May can't come soon enough. I'm looking forward to hitting the town with my great friends.
* Having travelled with groups of Koreans, I can honestly say it's one of the easiest ways to travel. The itinerary is all planned to a T and runs like clockwork.