When booking breaks
Erin McAuliffe | Monday, March 27, 2017
I tried to avoid going spring broke this break and forwent the all-inclusive resort destination (and, thankfully, the “Cancun you believe I’m here?” / “Cancun I stay here all year?” Instagram “puns”) for a road trip across California with four friends. However, the trip taught me a few lessons about the pains of staying on budget while traveling for over a week, which I’ve compiled for you here:
How to select a hostel
Even if the hostel has a “Fabulous” rating on multiple websites, you should still Google its location. What if Vice wrote an article about a police ride-along in what it calls “San Francisco’s Worst Neighborhood?” That Google search could have kept you from spending four nights in the most dangerous part of the city. But hey, the audible debates about “crack-rock” on the street started to lull you to sleep after the first night. And “Feeling Myself” isn’t the worst alarm clock, even if it’s blasted at 4 a.m.
How to select an Airbnb
We made a sharp transition from the center of San Francisco to Coulterville, California (population 115), after our stay in the Tenderloin. Located a mere 3 1/2 hours from Yosemite National Park with an easy drive across the Golden Chain highway (read: many cliffs, zero guardrails), Coulterville provided an almost too quiet reprieve from our nightly street lullabies. Upon entering the General Store, we raised the town’s population by 5 percent. However, the cabin was nice and had a fire in the fireplace when we arrived, which was cozy, albeit somewhat dangerous.
Our other Airbnb on the trip was located in Hollywood, California, again a big switch from Coulterville. The reviews on the Airbnb page warned about “dirty carpets” and “a weed smell.” They were correct. However, the place was nice enough for a senior-year spring break and girls fresh out of Coulterville. There was also a pool and a TV with Hulu access — so we could watch “The Bachelor” without commercials, which is always a plus.
How to select a hotel
About “The Bachelor” — after a seven-hour hike in Yosemite, we were all looking forward to streaming “The Bachelor” finale (three days late) on a phone. We ended up booking a hotel so as to avoid another treacherous 3 1/2-hour drive from the park to Coulterville. We hoped to nestle in bed and watch the finale on an iPhone 6s Plus (the big kind). The hotel had no wifi and no service, but it did have some mediocre chicken wraps that cost $12.
How to select flights
Don’t book Frontier. Definitely don’t book Frontier for an overnight flight. I am currently writing this with my head leaned awkwardly to my left, a leftover symptom from four hours in the sky in the middle of the night in a seat that wouldn’t recline. I tried to sleep on the tray table, but it was the size of a matchbox. Also, we flew out of the budget terminal, so they knew we were trash and only had a Burger King, a Starbucks and a painting of a Shake Shack that was “coming soon” to choose from for dinner. Trying to find an outlet meant I had to walk past a child barfing into a plastic bag and leap over a man who was coding on his Lenovo.
We flew Virgin Airlines on the way there — this was one of the only good booking choices. They have a little screen, and you can order free ginger ales on it. They will bring you at least three free ginger ales to your seat (maybe more, but I only ordered three). You can also order a box of relatively large cookies for $4. They were crispy and filling.