New York for $325
- RT Airfare, Seattle to JFK: $219
- One night, The Pod Hotel: $104 (free Internet)
- RT Subway: $4
- RT Airtrain: $10
- Lunch: 4.50
- Dinner/Breakfast/Lunch: included with meeting
- Dinner: $4.98
- Turkey Sandwich on plane: $8
Around here, everyone is focused on saving money where they can. While I was looking for a flight and hotel from Seattle to NYC for an all-day meeting I attended, I found a round trip, direct flight for $219. That inspired me to see just how little it would cost for the entire trip.
The lowest discount rate at every hotel downtown was more than $300 a night, so I thought I'd check around. For one-night meetings, I've stayed near the airport, so I thought I could find something a little less expensive.
I logged off our corporate travel portal, and checked out Expedia. When I searched on price, I found The Pod for $89. Expedia rated the hotel with 2.5 stars (of 5), but it earned a 4.3 for User Satisfaction, and 94% recommend it. Add my name to that list. New hotel. Good neighborhood, just a few blocks from Times Square. One block from an express subway from JFK. A few blocks from the meeting location, and one block from the place we met for dinner the night before (BTW, world's best guacamole, Dos Caminos).
The Pod Hotel (my new favorite "anti-W" place to stay) is a cross between a very, very nice hostel where you don't have to bring your own sheets, and a very, very small full-service hotel. The hotel lobby was as nice as many niche hotels in NYC (hip artwork, nice furnature, professional staff, bellman, even a decent cafe). The lobby had several business travelers in suits, and several college-age visitors.
The rooms themselves had good beds, clean linen, air conditioner, a flat-screen TV, phone with free local calls, a clock radio with iPod dock, a small desk, a room safe, and a trundle-type full-size bed. It also had a small vanity sink/mirror and a hair dryer. And free wi-fi Internet.
Two catches: 1) It was small. The entire room was (no kidding) 6 feet by 12 feet. Sitting on the trundle bed my feet hit one wall, and my head the other. But if you're looking for a place to do a little work and get some sleep, it was as comfortable many full-priced hotels (think Holiday Inn, not Starwood). 2) Shared bathrooms--no kidding. There are lights in the room that indicate when the bathrooms (four on the floor I was on) were empty. For the record, I never saw anyone in the halls heading to/from the bathrooms. And they were very clean (though they had been used by others, evidenced by water in the shower floor and towels in a corner). In my case, there was a bathroom right next door, very easy to get to.
Who does The Pod Hotel owe for getting my business? Expedia, for starters. And a decent website that made me feel like the hotel was legit. But ultimately, if there weren't recommendations from people who had stayed there, I wouldn't have made the decision to stay there. And now, they have one more advocate with a story worth sharing. In "Purple Cow" terms, the experience was "remarkable."
Getting to downtown from JFK took a little time, about 50 minutes from the time I walked out of the airport. The Air Train cost $5 each way, and the subway to downtown (the E train) cost $2. A direct cab during the day would probably take 25 minutes, but last time I took a cab from downtown to JFK during rush hour, it took 90 minutes and cost $100.
The catch: 1) Dragging your luggage on a subway isn't fun, but an overnight trip only required a small wheeled bag--not bad. I usually take the subway from JFK, so I knew where to go. 2) Coming home during rush hour was crowded (I stood most of the time), and it was humid and hot in the subway. Not as pleasant as a cab with air conditioning taking you from door to door, but it took nearly the same amount of time (it might have even been quicker getting there during rush hour), and cost 1/10 of the price.
Fiscally sound? Or a little crazy? I'm not sure. But I do have a good story to tell when we're discussing ways to cut travel expenses.