Items tagged with 'travel'
Announced today: JetBlue will begin service out of Albany International Airport in 2015. Chuck Schumer has been pushing for the airline to serve ALB, so he was chuffed about the announcement. Said the peripatetic Senator in a press release from his office:
"This should increase competition at the airport, increase the availability of flights to Albany International's most popular destinations, like Florida, and drive down prices for the average flyer. What's more, it will keep more residents in the area flying out of Albany, instead of traveling out-of-state for cheaper flights. It's a win across the board that will reap benefits for Albany International, JetBlue, and the region's tourism industry for years to come."
The two flights planned for the ALB schedule: Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Here's JetBlue's current service map. Its slate of upstate-ish cities currently includes Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Newburgh, Westchester, and Burlington.
When word started spreading about JetBlue's impending arrival this morning, we noticed a bunch of people in our Twitter stream hailing the news. To which we ask, earnestly: Why?
We're kind of the thinking that most airline travel is pretty much like any other airline travel these days. Sure, there's some variation -- the Southwest people might be a bit funnier and that airline doesn't charge you for checking a bag. But on price, and many other aspects, there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference. So, aside from the increase in competition, what's the big deal? If you've flown JetBlue, please share. We're genuinely curious about what separates this airline from the others.
Elsewhere: A ranking of nine major carriers by the WSJ released in January pegged JetBlue at #5.
Albany has its share of emerging breweries and distilleries, along with pubs serving craft beers, spirits, and ciders. But sometimes you just need a change of scenery.
So I recently took a trip up to Vermont for a day-long brewery tour in the Burlington area...
For obvious reasons, we've been thinking about travel to warm places. So, as we've done in years past, we figured it'd be fun to see where we could get the most degrees for our airfare dollar.
Sean emails with a travel question:
It's no secret that Albany has a small airport, and that finding reasonably priced, direct flights to big cities can often be a bit challenging. I've just booked a cross-country flight out of NYC and was hoping your readers could help me settle on the best option for getting from here to there before lift-off (and then back again a week later).
The current options (as I see them) involve driving + paying to park our car for a week, trains (whether from Albany or Poughkeepsie) or a one-way car-rental each way. We'll have lots of suitcases and a small child in tow.
We did the math on a similar Albany-to-NYC question in the past -- and while the numbers surely aren't still the same, some of the general conclusions probably still hold true. But Sean's question is different because he's headed to one of the NYC airports (presumably JFK or LaGuardia, not Newark). And the "lots of suitcases and a small child in tow" adds a degree of difficulty.
So... thoughts for Sean on the best option for his trip? Please share!
Carolyn emails with a holiday travel question:
Wondering if you can do a thread on what to expect if you're flying into Albany and trying to get to downtown Albany by taxi. In the past I have had to some strange experiences. I.E. having to share cabs with strangers and then been price gouged for the pleasure.
This year I'm going to try and set a price before leaving the airport but I'm not even sure what's normal here. What is a reasonable amount to pay for a cab from the airport to Albany? Thanks and happy holidays!
Let's just put this way: We don't think Carolyn is alone in having odd Capital Region experiences. We're guessing plenty of people have their own similar stories.
So, got an answer to Carolyn's question -- or even just some local taxi negotiation strategies? Please share!
Sean emails (emphasis added):
I'm looking for recommendations for a weekend camp/cabin rental somewhere up in the Adirondacks. My desires are simple - on a body of water. I'm not looking for anything fancy or expensive - simpler is MUCH preferred. We like to swim, kayak, hike, have campfires, grill and just relax. My wife and I are looking to begin what we hope to become a yearly tradition for our new family. Where have you, your families or your friends gone that you might recommend?
Do you have any tips for searching for something like this, whether through realtors, any site that's specific to this kind of search, etc? Three years of NY living don't provide me with the strong base of relatives / schoolmates / neighbors who I can mine for recommendations. Any thoughts / help would be greatly appreciated!
If have a specific suggestion, by all means please share. But what we really like about Sean's question is that he's asking how to go about finding a place like this. Sometimes that's the best way to help someone.
So, suggestions for how Sean should start looking into? This summer is nearing an end, but it could help him (and others) get a jump on next summer.
illustration from Adventures in the wilderness, or, Camp-life in the Adirondacks (1869) via archive.org
Traci Cornwell comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her grandparents opened Cornwell Appliance on Central Ave in Colonie over sixty years ago. And her great-grandfather owned a shuttle business in Coxsackie. So her current path probably shouldn't be a surprise.
Traci was a finalist in last year's startup grant contest with what was then called The Bridge Runner Express, a plan to transport people between Albany and Saratoga. She didn't win the grant, but the judges were big fans of her, and they liked the idea -- they just thought it needed some more development.
A little more than a year later, her idea is up and running as The Giddy Up, offering $10 rides between Albany, Clifton Park, and Saratoga for Track season -- with plans for more.
Jenn asks via Twitter:
Hey @alloveralbany, I'm planning a date on 6/28 (or 6/30) for my boyfriend's and my 2nd anniversary. Any ideas of something fun and unique?
My goal would be an activity we've never done before or something hands on, but open to any out of the box suggestions!
We live in Colonie, so anywhere within day-trip distance. Otherwise, anything other than dinner and a movie is great! Thanks!
We get the impression Jenn is in some competition with her manfriend to see who can come up with the best anniversary date, so obviously we want to help her win.
The specific dates make this a bit hard to pick things like classes, but we've come up with three ideas -- two easy day trips, and one class -- after the jump.
Have something in mind? Please share!
Sometimes you don't need a whole day trip, right? It can get tiring, to have the whole long day away from the joy of work and traffic, to just shop and eat and enjoy the day. No, thank you, just a half-day for me. That's all I need.
One destination for a quick half-day trip: the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie.
Have you ever tried a beer and thought to yourself: "This is the best beer around."
The winner: the Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, for its Higher Standard IPA.
So I obviously had to try the best beer in the state... you know, for journalism.
Noted and filed under road trippage: There is book titled Unknown Museums of Upstate New York, by Chuck D'Imperio. Blurbage (links added):
Unknown Museums of Upstate New York is an informative and entertaining guide to the rich resources available at fifty small, often overlooked, regional museums. Even those familiar with the upstate area will likely have never visited and perhaps never heard of some of the treasures this guide unearths, such as the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum, the Kazoo Museum, and the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum. D'Imperio tells each museum's story, in light of its cultural and historical relevance, and he provides a wealth of information about the museums as places of interest to visit, not just to read about.
D'Imperio really seems to have honed in on niche. Among his other books: Monumental New York! A Guide to 30 Iconic Memorials in Upstate New York and Great Graves of Upstate New York
book cover: Syracuse University Press
The mention of the Vermont tree house last week got us browsing through AirBnB this week looking for cool/interesting/cozy spots to stay for a weekend not too far way. Hey, an hour away from town can feel like a completely different place.
So we pulled together some rentals that caught our eye. And even if we never go, it's fun to gawk....
The "Tiny Fern Forest Treehouse" -- in Lincoln, Vermont (near Middlebury) -- is available via AirBnB. From the description:
The treehouse is indeed a cozy little place perched on four maples 30 feet above a blanket of ferns. Access is by a ramp 70 ft. from the main house, where you'll have a private bathroom with shower. This quiet place in the woods has heat, electricity, and a small refrigerator. The main floor has a single bed, or CLIMB THE LADDER to the loft with a queen sized futon and down comforter. Enjoy the comfy reading rocker or sit on the deck and gaze at Mt. Abraham and the Green Mountain National Forest. The hot tub is a sweet new addition to the place.
There are a bunch photos at the profile page. It's $149/night and includes breakfast. It's also booked up/unavailable until December.
The reviews -- of both the tree house and its hosts -- are overwhelmingly positive. (Seriously, we don't think we've ever seen online reviews that positive. We're not sure what these people are putting in the pancakes.)
Update: Sebastien's stayed at the tree house and has an account of his visit (and photos), along with some thoughts on using AirBnB.
Upstate New York is clearly the most interesting part of the state. Clearly. But, begrudgingly, we have to admit that downstate has a lot to offer as well.
One example: our recent destination, Hyde Park -- pleasantly situated on the east side of the Hudson, just north of Poughkeepsie, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Albany on I-87.
The surrounding area is full of food, scenic views, historical sites, and shopping...
My husband and I have an unfortunate habit of taking trips to places where the weather is worse than it is in Albany: Michigan in February, Washington DC during a three-digit heat wave, and this recent trip: Vermont during a very very cold snap of single digit and negative temperatures.
Luckily, Manchester offers more than just cold weather. A beautiful New England village nestled in the mountains, it's a ski town (Stratton and Bromley are just up the road) that has grown to offer a little bit of everything. Due to the extreme cold and very little snow, we opted for indoor activities and dedicated our time to wandering, shopping, browsing, and taking in some history. For us, Manchester also offered a getaway from our daily life as parents of a toddler -- she went off to the resort paradise of a weekend with her grandparents while we headed east for 36 hours in Vermont.
We were in Manchester from Friday night through early in the day on Sunday, but at just under an hour and a half away it also makes for an easy day trip.
The AOA-organized trip to North Creek on the Saratoga and North Creek Railway was this past Saturday. It was a nice time -- and we had some good wine and cheese at barVino. Thanks to everyone who came along.
Here are a bunch of photos...
Amtrak says it carried 31.2 million passengers during the fiscal year that ended with September -- a new record for the train org (Amtrak started in 1971). That's up 3.5 percent compared to the year before.
Ridership on Amtrak's Empire Service -- the line between Albany and New York City -- was up 3.8 percent in fiscal year 2012 compared to the previous year. There were 1.06 million riders on the line.
If you count the Northeast Regional service (Boston to DC) and Acela Express (Boston to DC) with the other short distance corridors, the Empire Service was the 7th most popular short distance corridor in the nation in fiscal year 2012.
Amtrak says the Northeast Corridor service (Northeast Regional and Acela combined) -- which runs between Boston and DC -- had its best year ever, with 11.4 million passengers.
A table with the figures for all the short distance corridor totals is after the jump -- we've highlighted all the routes that include a stop at Albany-Rensselaer.
Earlier on AOA: An updated vision for high-speed rail
Road trips are pretty high on the list of fun things to do with a fall day in the Capital Region. A scenic drive on an autumn weekend can take you to mountains, lakes, wineries, cities, and small towns in time to explore, enjoy and be home in time to sleep in your own bed.
Great Barrington, Massachusetts is one of those places.
Lesson number one: Barrington and Great Barrington are not the same place. This may seem as obvious to you as it did to me, but for some reason every time I told someone from the Capital Region that I was going to Great Barrington, they said things like "have a good time in Vermont."
This quaint little Massachusetts town is a pretty common destination for people fleeing NYC or Boston for the weekend. The shops are eclectic, the food is interesting, there's plenty of nature -- and good beer.
Beer enthusiasts will travel a bit to drink at a bar and restaurant, but the most gonzo beer appreciators like to travel to the source. A visit to the TAP New York festival this past April was a reminder of how easy that is to do if you live in the Capital Region.
One downside to beer festivals is that an hour into the tastings most palates are ruined, and the rest of the evening is spent coping without peripheral vision as you polka dance with strangers and speak/scream drink orders. In contrast, brewery tours allow you to taste beer, pair it with food, and learn something about its production.
After the jump, some tips on brewery tastings and a list of some local favorites with details on what to taste, when to visit, and some side excursions to turn a brewery visit into a day trip...
There's still a little winter left, and if you're looking for a way to make the most out of it, Lake Placid is less than a
two-hour three hour drive from the Capital District. Sure, Lake Placid is a bit of a tourist trap, but as a two time host of the Winter Olympics it comes by it honestly (only seven cities can make that claim).
Now, I'm not a fan of tourist traps. I'd rather let wild hyenas pull my toenails off than shop for cheap souvenirs or pay $10 more than I rightfully should for a steak. Lake Placid has some of that, but it also has real history and plenty of locals who are trying to survive and keep the magic alive. Yes, there's a faux outdoor outfitter outlet, but there's also a local movie theater and dozens of shops and restaurants that will give you an authentic Lake Placid experience.
Here are a few ways to get the best from your visit.
With what sounds like quite a trip ahead of her, Wendy emails:
We are planning a family vacation later this year that will include one-way plane trips and one-way car rentals. I've started poking around on the various travel planning sites, but I'm wonder if the brilliant and resourceful readers of AOA have suggestions for either a good travel agent, or for a site that has worked especially well for them. (The trip is Albany-San Diego-Phoenix-Albany).
Having planned a trip like that a few times, lining up everything up -- and checking prices against each other -- can take a while. We're curious if a travel agent could score Wendy a deal and save her some work.
So, got a suggestion for Wendy? Please share!
photo: Flickr user irishflyguy
The Megabus will be offering service from Saratoga to both New York City and Burlington, starting April 2. The currently posted schedule has Saratoga > NYC trips leaving at 7 pm, and Saratoga > Burlington trips leaving at noon. Tickets are currently $4 (as with all Megabus trips, that price will go up as date gets closer).
The Megabus website doesn't have a confirmed stop for Saratoga yet -- it says booked customer will get an email. The stop in Burlington is near the UVM campus. (Its website also says its departure stop in NYC will be moving mid-February.)
Megabus doesn't currently offer service between Albany and Burlington, so that's a new local connection on the bus line's map. And as Matthew Loiacono point out today, you can
Earlier on AOA: The last time we ran through all the options for getting to/from New York City, Megabus was one of the best.
With an eye toward next month, Robert emails:
So I want to plan a nice Northeast winter weekend getaway for me a my beautiful lady. Something real romantical for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, I've never been skiing so I don't even know where to start. I basically want to eat good, peep some beautiful scenery, bundle up in front of a warm fireplace with a bear skin rug and love my lady. Can you and your all knowing readers help me out on this one?
One of the good things about this is region is that there are a lot of small hotels/inns/bed-and-breakfasts in scenic places that are not too far: the Berkshires, Vermont, the Hudson Valley, and so on.
If you're willing to go a bit farther, there's Montreal and Quebec generally. It's like a whole different country up there.
Got a suggestion for Robert and his lady? Please share!
Elsewhere: A similar question came up recently from one of Kristi's readers.
photo: Flickr user Max Wolfe
It was still dark enough to see stars overhead when I came to the Saratoga Springs train station, bundled up against single-digit temperatures. By the time the sun rose over hills and treetops I was riding toward the Adirondacks on a trip that until this year, no one had taken since 1942. The Gore Mountain Snow Train was bound for North Creek and I had a panoramic view of the snow-covered landscape rolling by.
After the jump, a little bit of my trip, complete with photos.
Amtrak announced today that there's now free wi-fi service on its Empire Service route, which travels from Buffalo to Albany to NYC.
The Empire Service is one of 12 routes to get wi-fi today. A few other locally-connected routes are also getting the service, though it will be limited to select cars: Ethan Allen Express (New York City - Rutland, Vermont), Adirondack (New York City - Montreal), and Maple Leaf (New York City - Toronto). Look for the wifi sticker (right) in the cars.
Amtrak already had wi-fi on Acela routes. Has anyone used it? (Update: Benita says she used it yesterday and "it worked just fine.") We're hoping it's better than the often dodgy service on the MegaBus. Amtrak says it makes use of mobile data networks to provide the service, and there's limited bandwidth among many of its routes.
Full press release with more details after the jump.
Earlier on AOA: The best way to get from Albany to NYC?
As my four-year-old ascended the grand staircase at our bed and breakfast, I caught her singing to herself. It was a wistful little tune about how this place is so much better than our house, and her voice soared up high for the end: "I wish I could stay here for ... evvv ... er."
I didn't take offense. How could I blame her? We'd all just called a castle our home for the night.
Let's be clear: The Amsterdam Castle bed and breakfast is technically not a castle. It was built in the 1890s as the headquarters for Amsterdam's New York National Guard company. But your kids won't care about such details. Does it have a tower? Yes. Tall, narrow windows? Yes. A scale and grandeur that most private homes could never approach? Yes. And yes, there's a throne. That the throne sits in the middle of the indoor basketball court just makes the place even more awesome.
The Castle has that combination of quirks and elegance that makes a great B&B. And as a family getaway, it's in a class all its own.
Here's a quick photo tour.
After seeing this week that Southwest is adding a direct flight from ALB to Atlanta, we were curious about how many places we (or you or anyone) could fly directly from the Albany International Airport -- and how much it costs (versus a non-direct flight). [Southwest] [TU]
We're now boarding with the answer...
I love checking out new places, but it's kind of hard for me to get away for more than a day. So my fiance and I made a list of things we'd like to try that are closer to home. The list included a lot of factory tours, and a bunch of them were on the way to Burlington, Vermont. So we took a little road trip.
Burlington is about a 3 hour drive from Albany -- but if you're the kind of person who likes to see how things are made, it's well worth the time. There are lots of factories along the way that offer tours and samples.
It's a fun trip that's just a little bit out of the way, but you can totally do it in a day.
So, which IKEA should you go to? We've broken down the decision...
Open the middle door to find a set of stairs. Ascend. Then climb the blue wooden ladder. Lift the heavy metal trapdoor and -- you're swimming in slanting winter sunlight.
Up in the tower of the Saugerties Lighthouse, my husband and I were grinning like kids. A lighthouse tower! With no tour guide or line of other visitors waiting their turn. Sheltered from the wind, we were free to watch the light play on the Hudson River's mosaic of ice for as long as we wanted. We spent an hour up there, eating pears and drinking in a 360-degree view of winter as the sun sank behind the Catskills.
The Saugerties Lighthouse is a landmark from another time. The historic -- and still active -- lighthouse is also a bed and breakfast. And the fact that you can't reach it by car makes it all the more an adventure.
The arrival of actual winter weather this week had us thinking about warmer places -- specifically, about places that are warm in February. Because it's right about that time of the year that we usually become officially sick of winter.
With that in mind, we curiously scanned Southwest's winter fare sale this week for ALB-to-(insert other place) specials. There were a lot of warm-weather options -- but which was the best non-winter value?
So, we did some quick math to determine which spots would get us the most degrees for our airfare dollar.
Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving. But Wednesday is The Day of Travel Frustration. A few things to keep in mind:
+ The NYS Thruway Authority says the two busiest days on the system are typically the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. The peak travel time is noon to 8 pm. Yes, you almost certainly will have to wait at the Exit 24 tolls -- and probably any other major toll plaza.
+ ALB says the airport will be at or near capacity Wednesday -- and is urging people to arrive 90 minutes ahead of their flights' departure time in order to deal with the crush. [TU]
+ Amtrak is expecting Wednesday to be its single biggest day of the year. It says every one of its passenger trains will be in service that day.
So, leave early. Take a deep breath. You'll get there -- eventually.
The NY City Bus line has raised its Albany-New York City fare to $20 each way. When we talked to a rep this afternoon, he said the $10 fares had been a promotional rate (not entirely surprising... it was really cheap). He said there's now a $5 discount when you book a roundtrip.
Thirty-five bucks to get to and from NYC isn't a bad deal. But it's a lost closer to the Megabus fare (anywhere from a few bucks if you're really lucky, to about $50) and the Dragon Deluxe (running its own $35 promotion right now).
Kalyn recently talked with a few people (among them, Albany Jane) about their NY City Bus experience -- and they sounded reasonably happy. Though, as a few commenters noted, the extra bucks for the Megabus do you get a few extras (air conditioning, wifi).
Good to know: NY City Bus is planning to start service from Saratoga Springs. The fare currently listed on the schedule is $20. The listed pickup point is near the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center on Broadway.
The rep we spoke with said they're hoping start the service August 1, but it could be later. He said their website would have the date when it's confirmed.
photo: Albany Jane
As of today, the NY City Bus -- which runs between Albany and New York for just $10 each way -- has been up and running for a month.
So we thought now would be a good time to track down some people who've ridden the bus to give us the scoop...
One of Amtrak's "weekly specials" right now is Albany-Rensselaer to/from New York Penn during parts of July.
When we checked Amtrak's website this morning, it quoted us a $27.75 fare for:
+ afternoon trips (leave 3:05 pm) Monday-Thursday starting July 12
+ morning trips (leave 7:05 am) Saturdays starting July 10
That's about $10 cheaper than the usual lowest price (make sure you go through the weekly specials section). And, of course, you'll probably need to get back -- the return fare is $37 and up.
By the way: The weekly specials page includes routes in other states -- and they have much cooler names than "Empire Service." Michigan has a "Wolverine" line, Florida a "Silver Meteor" and California a "California Zephyr."
(Thanks, Jessica R!)
Earlier on AOA: The best way to get from Albany to NYC?
Check it out: the travel website Kayak has an "explore" option. You tell it where you're at, how much you'd like to spend, the season you want to go -- and it tells you where you can fly.
Here's the result for flights from ALB this summer under $400. (That's the screengrab above.) You can also sort by activity, language and weather (we're filing this away for January).
There's something about seeing all the spots mapped out like that gives us a bit of wanderlust...
Earlier on AOA: Daydreaming of a long weekend
We were quite happy to recently come across AirBnB, a site that's "an online marketplace allowing anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out their extra space." For two reasons:
- We got to feed our desire to gawk at real estate
- It allowed us to indulge in a little daydreaming about heading off to the country for a long weekend. For example, at this gorgeous place in Coxsackie (photo on the right).
[via Swiss Miss]
A few of the recent updates:
$196r/t Raleigh-Durham from Albany down 12%, [http://bit.ly/4HFQ1U]
$385r/t Mexico City from Albany, winter or spring down 29% [http://bit.ly/8DfHFW]
$675r/t Honolulu from Albany down 16%, [http://bit.ly/4tOrIb]
$937r/t Bangkok from Albany, winter or spring down 11% [http://bit.ly/8lJJP2]
After just a quick scan, the deals seem to match up fairly well with results from Kayak.