Mona Lisa

The Louvre Method

The Louvre Method is my name for a trip that is not long enough for flitting from famous monument – museum – show until I drop.  It refers to a Frommer’s walking tour that suggested if one only had one day in Paris, a trip to the Louvre should target a pre-specified object d’art that one did not wish to die without seeing.  You choose a quick route TO the object, and a different quick route AWAY from the object to the exit.

In fact, if you are going to Paris, the Louvre offers thematic “visitor” trails designed to give you an overview of the scope and richness of the museum’s collections. Each trail is based on a selection of works that typify a period, an artistic movement, or a theme. They can be viewed online or printed out prior to a museum visit. (I took that description right off the Louvre website)

This works equally well for a short trip to anywhere.  I check the destination cities calendar of events (they all have them online), find the date I will be there, and choose one event, monument, museum, show, park…etc.  In advance I map a route TO my chosen target from the airport, and a different route BACK to the airport.  I use public transit whenever possible… it’s usually fast, convenient and inexpensive.  Check the airport’s terminal map to find a quick route from the gate you land at to the public transportation that will take you into the city.

For a ONE Day trip:

This is, for me, usually a very long layover, pre-planned.  I choose the second leg of my flight to wherever specifically to accommodate a 5-6 hour layover.  I always figure it will take me 1.5 hours to get to and from the city (it doesn’t usually I just like a buffer zone), so that’s 3 hours of travel, leaving 2 hours to sightsee and get you back to the airport an hour before your flight.  If you choose something above ground, like a public transit bus, you get to see more of the area, though it may take longer.

In two hours you could go from NY Penn Station to the West Village, eat delicious bagels, people watch in Washington Square Park and boogie back to the airport in time to fly. You could take a bus from Madison Square Garden to Central Park, eat a hot dog from a street vendor, or buy some art from an artist on 5th Ave.

In two hours you could go from The French Market in Chicago for a lovely lunch and walk at the lake, or take a quick tour of  The Museum of Science and Industry on Lake Shore Drive, or walk along the Chicago River that runs through the city.

You get the idea. Just keep your eye on the clock and leave for the airport in time to be there ONE HOUR BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT. This is key.

For a TWO Day trip:

Route yourself through a stopover where a friend you don’t get to see much lives.

I’ll be honest. I have a travel bed.  I stuff a self-inflating double high twin air mattress into the hot pink light-up-wheels rolling backpack my daughter used in 5th grade a bjillion years ago.  It also holds a blanket, sheets, pillowcase and pillow (I suck the air out of the pillow in one of those space-saving bags).  It fits in the overhead bin, but if they make me check it, the $25 is a lot less than a hotel, especially in a big city.

In a pinch, it actually sits perfectly on top of the bathtub, I kid you not.  But usually it fits in a corner somewhere and is very comfortable.  And I can stay up late talking with my friends and it’s awesome.

Hotels are nice.  Friends are sooooo much better.  It’s not really about the money – but I’d much rather buy dinner, buy the wine, buy flowers for my friends and spend more time with them. Sure – be considerate, clean up your messes, don’t spread out all over the living room, don’t stay too long, chip in for food.  But sleepovers rock.

If they have a bed for you, strip the sheets and stuff them into the pillowcase before you go, police up any mess.  They’ll ask you back.

Pick up a great host/hostess gift before you leave home, make it something signature to where YOU live.  It’s an exchange of cultures that way.

Airfare
Matrix ITA   http://matrix.itasoftware.com is a great place to look for the cheapest fares anywhere.  It’s not a booking service, it’s a huge, constantly scanning database (like Google for airfares) and it will find you today’s very cheapest price for any given ticket.  When you find the one you want, go directly to that airline’s web site (avoiding booking fees) and book it from there.

Transportation from airport to location
This varies a lot from airport to airport, so before you leave home, check out the airport website for the airport you land at.  On their web site, search “transportation”.  It will tell you all possible ways to get into the city and you can decide what you want to pay for. Many of the major cities have Metro straight from the airport.  Denver and DC are building lines (as of 3/13), Chicago, New York, and other major metropolitan areas have them already.  To find out what is available, go to the AIRPORT web site and search transportation.  For example, from Newark Airport to NYC it costs $25 per person round trip to take the train to NY Penn Station.  From O’Hare into Chicago, the Blue Line train costs $4.50 round trip.  Both take about an hour.  The key is to research before you go.

Food
If you are going into a big US city, I just plan $10 per person per meal.  But that’s me – I take this as a personal challenge.  I don’t eat swanky, but I do eat healthy and yummy. I look for the little, tucked away ethnic cafes and bistros, especially ones that I can’t find where I live, eat very healthy (read lots of veggies) which is generally less expensive and gives me better energy to explore, and drink only water. I rarely spend $10 on breakfast or lunch, which gives  the dinner budget a little breathing room.  You will have to budget based on how you want to eat.

Bottom Line: When you are going somewhere, it’s often possible to go somewhere else first.  Try choosing a long layover and The Louvre Method.  And don’t forget your camera!

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