PAULINE FROMMER BUDGET TIPS...NEW YORK CITY DEALS
Had a brief chat with Pauline Frommer the other day (she of the famous Frommer travel guide name, of course).
Quite a nice person, and she has some interesting insights on where to find budget deals. She just finished a book called Cancun/Yucatan - Spend Less, See More and says it's an incredible time for deals to Mexico.
"It's no secret they've had some image issues lately, so hotels have slashed their rates to get people to come. I went to a 5-star Fiesta Americana, on a beautiful beach. Rooms usually are $250 to $300 U.S. but were going for $125. You can do even better sometimes with packages. I'd say from Toronto you're going spend as little as $600 for a roundtrip ticket, and a full week on the beach" at a nice hotel.
She recommends expedia.com and bookit.com as places to check for deals.
"Right now is whale shark season. They're in the waters right outside Cancun. You can swim in a pod of 40 or 50 of them. They're filter-feeders, so unless you're plankton you're okay."
The limestones caverns that fill with water, called cenotes, are magnificent, she says, and there are lots of Mayan ruins, including renowned Chichen Itza.
"I hate to say it," Frommer explains, "but one of the best rules you can use for the deepest discounts is to follow the disasters. Ireland's economy is melting down, and Iceland is in trouble. In Las Vegas you can get rooms for $29 because they've lost so much convention business. And it's especially cheap in Vegas now because it's so hot."
Frommer suggests Orlando for late August as many U.S. schools are in session at that point, leaving places like Disney World with far less crowds than early August or anytime in July.
As well, she suggests looking at sites such as vrbo.com, flipkey.com or homeaway.com and renting a home directly from a homeowner. "There are jaw-dropping deals," she says. "I found two condos on the beach in Maui for $77 a night."
I looked the other day and found a two-bedroom unit in the popular Kahana area of west Maui (close to awesome beaches and to Lahaina and Kaanapali) for $149 U.S. a night - about what they're asking for a Saturday night in August at the Buffalo Niagara Marriott if you're looking for a comparison.
FROMMER TORONTO TIPS
Not to give Frommer folks too much of an ego boost, but I came across an interesting item the other day from their Canadian expert, a chap named Gene Shannon. Shannon suggested several ways to enjoy a Toronto holiday on the cheap, including:
- taking advantage of free admission to the ROM and the AGO on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
- riding the streetcar (not suggested if you're a commuter from the Beach who does this every day already)
- checking out prix fixe meals at restaurants like Fat Cat and the Gilead Cafe
- taking in a day at Sunnyside or Woodbine Beach (I prefer Toronto islands but the city workers' strike makes that tough)
- strolling through the Distillery District. It's a great spot and is home to my favourite coffee house in the world; Balzac's
- watching the baseball version of the Toronto Maple Leafs for free at Christie Pits (try to avoid sitting downwind of the garbage pile)
He also recommends the Toronto Music Garden at Harbourfront, which is a fave of mine.
I LOVE NEW YORK
Who doesn't love the Big Apple? Okay, okay, we all know folks in the 905 who won't even venture into Toronto, fergawdsake, let alone New York. But that means more room for the rest of us. And it's a good time, as you can check out lots of bargains at nycgo.com.
From free rooftop films to free concerts by the likes of Gladys Knight (personally, I always wanted to be one of the Pips, swaying in motion and doing that "toot toot" motion during 'Midnight Train to Georgia'), NYC is full of great bargains. Check out the NYC: The Real Deal program for special offers and packages. American Express cardmembers get special deals, as well.