Saturday, June 6, 2015

Operation Friend VACA - Chicago

One of the hardest things about moving to the East Coast from SF 7 years ago was leaving my best friend Diana. We had worked together at Riordan HS: an all boys school, which presented us with a daily laugh track. Other than my college best friend Sasha, who I lost to cancer this year, I never knew two girls could be so close. Diana is my sister, and I miss her everyday. With Sasha gone, I understand more than ever the urgency of making time to see each other - especially since anyone who knows me will tell you that I avoid the phone like the plague. Thus, "Operation Friend VACA" is in effect.

Mission: plan a 4/5 day getaway for my best friend Diana and I to reconnect in July

Challenge: cost (we are both teachers) and distance (I live in NYC, Di lives in SF)

Our Previous Trips: Nicaragua, Vegas, Key West, Santa Fe

Possibilities: Puerto Rico, Austin TX, Savannah GA, Chicago IL... After some preliminary checking, I found the most cost effective from both SFO and JFK is Chicago:


Inbound Tues  July 7
SFO - ORD American Airlines Red Eye: arrive in Chicago 5:59 am AA1522
LGA -  ORD American Airlines arrive in Chicago 8:37 am AA307

Outbound Fri July 10
ORD - SFO Virgin  6:40 pm VX 0211
ORD - LGA American Airlines 6:35 pm AA348

Hotels - 4 star

Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront $255
Hotel Chicago Autograph Collection $223
Westin Michigan Ave $183
Millennium Knickerbocker $167
Fairmont Millennium $189 special rate (winner!)

Planned Itinerary (all prices for 2 tickets)

Wrigley Field
Stubhub $241
We both love baseball so Wrigley Field is a no brainier : 7:05 pm Wed 7/8 night game against Cardinals - Upper Deck Infield Box 429 Row 1
Best Seats at Wrigley

Architecture Foundation River Cruise
Ticketmaster $102
10 am Reservations on Thurs - arrive 9:30

Hop on and Off Tour
Groupon $64
48 hours hop on and off

16 Best Affordable US Vacations
Fodor US Trip Picks
Trip Advisor: 3 days in Chicago
Top 25 Things to Do Time Out
Must Eat: Deep Dish Pizza
Millennium Park: Chicago Bean
Water Tour Plaza on Magnificent Mile
360 Chicago
Taste of Chicago Festival
Viator Top Ten Tours

I'm impressed with the people from Chicago. Hollywood is hype, New York is talk, Chicago is work. - Michael Douglas

Friday, June 5, 2015

Destination Alaska

With summer coming, it's time to think about traveling. After all - why survive cancer if you don't take advantage of seeing the world? Victor and I love all reality shows Alaska related: Bush People, Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, and Bearing Sea. So it wasn't hard to pick Alaska as a possible destination. I've done a little research, and planned a 6 day trip exploring Southern Alaska between Anchorage and Seward... Here are my notes:

Anchorage - Girwood - Seward

Anchorage: Thurs - Fri (2) Nights (Grand Hotel $199 walking distance to train)

Thurs Day 1: Fly into Anchorage
Leave JFK 7:15 am - Arrive Anchorage 6:02 pm - Rental Car at Thrifty

Friday Day 2: Optional Day Trip

Sat Day 3:Girwood (1 hour scenic drive south)
Cow Creek Goldmine Panning Experience, Girwood ($20 per person) -  Dinner at Alyska Resort - Seven Glaciers Restaurant on top of the mountain

Alyska Resort
Cow Creek Mine
Late Afternoon: drive from Girwood to Seward  (1.5 hr scenic drive)

Seward AK
Seward: Sat - Tues (3) Nights (Windsong $259 per night)

Sun Day 4: Fishing and Glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park and Wildlife Refuge

Take a small 6 person boat for a day of sightseeing and fishing. Sightseeing includes Chiswell Islands and Aialik / Holgate Glacier areas. Fishing includes halibut, cod, black bass or salmon. Their goal is to have everyone catch their limit of halibut or salmon. Use "Captain Jack's" or "J Dock" to process fish for shipping home. Miller's Landing (note that rain does not cancel trip)

Monday Day 5: Alaska Sea Life Center, Seward ($20 per person); explore town

Underwater Viewing at Alaska Sea Life Center

Tues: Day 6
Drive back to Anchorage (2.5 scenic drive)
Leave Anchorage 8:50 pm arrive next day in JFK 10:35 am Wed

Flight: $1,400
Hotel: $918
Fishing Trip: $350 x 2 - $700
Gold Panning: $40
Seward Wildlife Center: $40
Seven Glaciers Restaurant (about $100 per person)
Car -Thrifty, PROMO AK15 - $360 unlimitted miles
TOTAL = $3658

Visiting Anchorage
Summer of Sharks at Sealife Center in Seward
Destination Girwood Itinerary
Alyeska Resort
Glacier Cruise Whittier (by Seaward)
Best of Kenai Fjords National Park
Miller's Landing Combo Sightseeing and Fishing
Alaska Base Packages -
Alaska Tour Groups