Travel Expenses

The Cost of Attending a Weekend-long Improv Comedy Festival in New York

Last summer, I looked out at the audience while performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and saw an entire row of people asleep. That’s what happens at 6:45 a.m. at the Del Close Marathon, an annual weekend-long improv marathon with more than 50 hours of continuous comedy on multiple stages. We were okay with this because we had also crammed a handful of Pittsburgh improvisers into a tiny New York apartment, saw some really great shows, and had a blast.

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Think Of The Money I Could Make By Simply Ruining My Life With Airbnb

My sister is in town, staying at an Airbnb in the neighborhood. Or the neighborhood-ish. The intolerable and overpriced part of the neighborhood, that is. PEAK WILLIAMSBURG.

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Are You ‘Last Minute Trip to Burning Man’ Rich?

Emily Witt went to Burning Man and wrote about it for the London Review of Books. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

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How to Repair a Car That Isn’t Yours

Fast forward ten years and I’m stuck in Woodstock, New York, with a baby in my lap and something called a “Hooter Hider” hanging around my neck. It’s 90 degrees out. I’m texting my friend furiously but she isn’t answering. We have borrowed her car for the weekend, or actually we told her we would ‘babysit’ her car for the week, which is a thing you have to do in the city: babysit cars. That is, agree to move friends’ cars around to different sides of the street on cleaning days so they don’t get tickets.

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“Frozen” Huge in Japan Because KARAOKE (Also Empowerment)

Disney’s Frozen is the best movie ever according to lots of four-year-olds and one of the most successful ever according to facts. It has made over $1,000,000,000. You see all those zeros? That’s a lot of mouths gaping open in surprise at how well a lady-driven Scandinavian-ish cartoon featuring a talking snowman has done.

One corner of the globe where the movie musical phenomenon has been a surprising extra-super hit, though? Japan.

The movie’s made $231.8 million in Japan so far, more than any movie in Japan’s history except Spirited Away in 2001 and Titanic in 1997—and it’s within striking distance of the latter.​ … Japan’s Frozen box-office receipts have contributed 19% of worldwide earnings, second in the world behind the US’s 32%, even though Japan has less than half the population of the US.

So, nanika atta?

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The Cost of Living in Shanghai

I moved to China in 2005, and among the many culture shocks I experienced during the six months I spent studying Chinese in Beijing was incredulity at how cheap everything there was. The exchange rate had been fixed at 8.2 renminbi (RMB) to the dollar and prices were low; I used to groan whenever I came into possession of a 100RMB bill, because I knew no taxi driver or store clerk would want to break it.

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I Went to Germany to Be an Au Pair and Get a Master’s Degree for 1,000 Euros

If you’re young and dumb (under 26) you can become an au pair in Germany. If you don’t mind that the potential for exploitation is really high and the entire au pair scheme is a weird, paternalist way of prepping (mostly) young women for a life of housework and child-rearing rather than preparing them for the workforce, then it’s a pretty okay way to get far away for a long while.

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When Life Sends You To Grenada, Make Grenadine!

A traveler who wanted to go to Granada, Spain, ended up in Grenada, the Caribbean island. He was not pleased.

After two years without a holiday and a lifetime of longing to see the architectural treasures of Granada, Edward Gamson felt he could at last relax as he sat back on a British Airways flight en route to the capital of Moorish Spain. It was only when the American dentist and his partner glanced at the electronic map on the in-flight entertainment system and noticed their plane was heading due west out of London that they became concerned something was not right. …

The mix-up initially resulted in apologies from BA staff on board the flight, and a promise that the couple would be put on the plane’s return trip to Gatwick en route to Granada. Instead, they were subjected to a further three-day ordeal which resulted in them never reaching Spain, and a refusal by BA to reimburse their £2,650 first-class tickets, and which is now the subject of a damages claim before the US courts. Mr Gamson told The Independent on Sunday: “I have a lifelong interest in Islamic art. I’m also of Spanish Jewish heritage so it was something I had always wanted to do to visit Granada and the Alhambra. I made it absolutely clear to the booking agent I wanted to go to Granada in Spain. Why on earth would I want to go to Grenada in the Caribbean if I was flying back to America from Lisbon?”

I feel you, British Airways. You just can’t please some people. Here you give them an exciting surprise, complete with beaches and sunsets and perfect weather, and they complain that they’re not touring ruins. They even refer to a spontaneous Caribbean vacation “a three-day ordeal.”

Things to do if you accidentally find yourself on some warm, heavenly shore: 1) Drink something fun. 2) Go swimming. 3) Thank your lucky stars you’re not in Jersey.

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Budgeting for Vacations, Other People’s Weddings, and Other Summer Stuff (Yay Summer!)

Mike: So Ester, it officially feels like summer! Maybe because it was 90 degrees the other day (but I still haven’t put in my air conditioner, perhaps to Josh Michtom’s delight). But I will! I did it in July last year.

Ester: We haven’t either! I always hold out ’til the last possible moment, til I feel like a wax person whose own skin is melting off my body. For environmental reasons.

Mike: I guess for me it’s part environmental reasons, but also because I don’t think it’s so terribly hot yet? I’m also not home very much, so that may be one reason. I’m at the office right now, and it’s usually on, but it’s quiet here today so I have turned off the a/c and opened the windows. It’s below 80! Who needs it? Okay, so, the thing I wanted to ask you is whether you have summer travel plans and if you planned for it financially in advance.

Ester: Last summer, as you may recall, my husband Ben, babygirl and I decamped for seven weeks — we stayed in Vilnius, Lithuania, in an AirB&B that thankfully did not burn down (the Lithuanian rain would have taken care of that right away anyway I guess), in a couple different places in England, and then in a family friend’s house in Spain. That was pretty amazing — and kind of ate up our travel budget for two years. So we don’t have anything planned for this summer, really, except to figure out how to have, entertain, and enjoy time with a kid in the heat without leaving NYC. How about you?

Mike: I have a savings account through Ally that is specifically for vacations. I just checked and there is $400 in it.

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The Cost of a Solo Trip to Montreal

I chose Montreal because I could get there by train: the trip is scenic in its own right, winding up through the Hudson Valley and traveling parallel to Lake Champlain.

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When Your Airbnb Rental Catches on Fire

I haven’t traveled anywhere yet that’s made me consider using Airbnb (except maybe Madrid a few years ago), but here’s a good question to ask if you are ever looking at spaces: Is your place insured? Medina Eve learned to ask this after her Airbnb rental caught on fire due to a wood-burning stove:

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Hitchhiking: A Terrible Idea That Saves You Money

As perhaps you’ve heard, three boys, including an American citizen, were kidnapped this week while hitchhiking in Israel. Hitchhiking used to be a national pastime, a cheap and easy way to get from Point Aleph to Point Bet; though we knew the dangers, even my friends and I did it on occasion, with no ill effects. (I lived there in 2000, before the Second Intifada and the wall and everything, basically the last good time.) Now it’s mostly settlers and very religious people who are tremping (hitchhiking), not just because it’s convenient, but to make a point:

With a vast manhunt under way since early Friday as police and the army search for the three teenage boys abducted late Thursday night, the subject of hitchhiking is on everyone’s minds. The three boys were tremping home from their schools in the West Bank, as is customary. It’s a cheaper, and often more convenient way of getting around than the less frequent public buses. … 

S., the high school student, lives in Jerusalem, but attends an all-boys school in Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to Hebron. His parents would prefer that he only take the bus, and have even offered to pay for a private cab, but that’s not an option, he said, even though his parents can afford it. “It’s just not normal to take a cab, no one does that,” he said. “If you’re right-wing or an extremist, you take a trempTremping is the norm.” He said he knows how to identify a safe driver, or fellow hitchhiker. They look like him, he said, pointing to his jeans, polo-shirt and kippah. “If I see someone with a kippah, wearing a tee-shirt with a school emblem and with a backpack, I feel like I know him,” said S.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting someone because they look or act like you. (See: Frozen. “We finish each other’s –” “Sandwiches!” “That’s what I was going to say!”) Especially when there’s an economic incentive. (See: Madoff, Bernie.) And of course everyone thinks their own judgment is solid; we’d have a hard time functioning if we questioned every first impression and gut instinct. How do you thread that needle? How do you decide who to trust with your money or your safety? Do you have any good hitchhiking stories, or is it something you’d never do, never never never, no matter how cash-poor you got?

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