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January 26, 2009


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Definitely sign up for hotel rewards. Starwood's preferred guest program isn't really worth it for free nights, but you can often redeem points and pay a little bit of cash ($50 or so) for a decent hotel room. Right now they're running a promotion for 500 free points per night through April. Also, Amex has a Starwood card that gives you 10k free points on your first purchase... which should get you enough to redeem for the aforementioned points + cash reward. Note that it has a $45 annual fee after the first year.

Check airfare comparison websites. is pretty popular.

There are two airports in metro Chicago, four in the NYC area (JFK, Laguardia, LI Islip and Newark). If you can be flexible both on your dates (travel on a Saturday will always be cheaper than a Sunday) and on your airports, you will be able to find better deals. Sign up for several airlines' mailing lists, so you can get first notice of their sale fares. All this depends, of course, on how much advance notice you have of when you'll be travelling.

Check the price of Amtrak train tickets....although it will take significantly longer to travel, it will be much cheaper, and might be sort of fun (if maybe only for a few of the 12 trips).

Do you have any family that are in or closer to NY than you are? If so, could you stay with them during that time? It might considerably cut down on your travel, that is if you don't have compelling reason to stay in Chicago during that time (like a job).

Consider bidding on hotels with Priceline. There are two websites that post previous winning bids by City/Zone/quality that can be very useful for bidding purposes: and You can sometime get great deals on priceline and these two sites can help you see what typical winning bids have been in the past. They can also give you some idea of the hotels that you might get in a certain area/quality level.

Try the club quarters outside of Times Square. I've found rates there during the week for $125 a night and the place is very nice and clean.

Enroll in a frequent flyer program as well as hotel rewards program. Also, look into an airline or hotel rewards card. The miles/points gained from charges as well as the actual flights/stays should be enough to help subsidize her travel costs.

Along those lines, she could also see if any friends or family have expiring miles/points that they would let her use.

(Assuming you're flying...) You're flying from one hub to another so you're probably getting screwed on airfare. Try booking flights to some other destination that connects through where you want to go (I know that makes no sense, but it is cheaper). Or you could fly to a different nearby city and drive to your destination - I'm sure hotels are a lot cheaper in Milwaukee anyway.

rdub's suggestion is really the only one that makes much sense to me.

If you can't stay close by for most of the duration of the trial then I don't see how you are actually saving much by doing this. A typical IVF cycle is on the order of 10K give or take. If you are going to have 12 trips and stays to NY you are going to spend probably close to the same amount and have a whole bunch of hassle. (air fare [how much of it is last minute notice?], cab fare, hotel, food) If you are married and your husband is participating (I assume he is) he will have to make some of these trips (atleast 1 at a minimum if not more) and miss work. Do you work and will you be missing work?

I understand the desire to do the IVF is beyond money but I would caution you not to get so excited about the "free" nature of it that you overlook the fact that it might not save you anything if you have to actually travel 12 times, pay for everything, mis work here and there, and in the end have a big hassle that doesn't save you much if any money.

Pencil it out before you do it and make sure its a good deal for you. If you truly can't afford to do it at home, convincing yourself this is a good deal won't change the finances of it in the end if it turns out its not a good deal.

I travel 100k+ miles each year and I always use and Best sites for travel in my opinion.

And I agree with everyone else who said sign up for travel rewards...they add up quickly and are a nice perk for all the nights you're away.

You should be building a relationship with the management of one specific hotel on your first trip, given the number of trips you'll be making. If the management of the hotel at which you happen to stay isn't receptive to talking discounts on frequent future visits, shop around for another *in person* during your first trip. Presumably you'll have some spare time, and you should be able to visit a few different hotels within a few blocks in most parts of the city.

By your third or fourth stay within a relatively short period, they will know you're sincere about the amount of business you can offer and they should be offering you a decent discount on additional trips if you deal with them directly. NYC hotels are hurting for business and prices are competitive for the forseeable future.

Put aside hotel affinity rewards programs for a moment. The hotel that may best serve you may be unaffiliated with the big chains--in NYC, the big chains are more the exception than the rule, there are great independent and boutique hotels.

If the IVF program is within a hospital, they often have discount rates at nearby hotels. Check with the clinical coordinator to find out if they can help.

Call the airlines to see if they offer a discount for buying 12 trips. I had a deal with American airlines a couple years ago by booking out a 6 months of travel.

One other thing, check with a travel agent about doing "back to back" tickets. They will know what this means. It makes it look like you are staying a longer period and gives you a better rate.

Look into booking cheap tickets on Southwest/Jetblue. with southwest, they'll have great fare sales, but then the cheap tickets always get sold out first. On Southwest, you can fly from Chicago Midway to Long Island. Not ideal, but the price difference might be worth it.

I would second the idea of trying to negotiate a hotel rate directly with the hotel. Also look for a cheaper hotel that might have a kitchen to limit eating out. If you're staying at one hotel a bunch of times, they might let you check in a bag with the front counter so you won't have to carry as much stuff each trip.

If the trial is in NYC, it might be worthwhile to get a month long unlimited subway pass (not sure how often you'll be going). Also you can take the train or bus from the airport to NYC (I've done it for LGA and JFK). I know you can do it for Islip and Newark, but I've never done that.

Why get a hotel at all? Try a hostel. Most hostels run you about $30 per person per night, and these days very few are restricted by age.

Try Hostelling International's location in New York:

My experience with HI hostels all across America and Europe were almost invariably positive. Sure, you share a room with some people, but what are you going to do besides sleep there? There are big lounges to relax in, activities, kitchens... I dare say it's even more convenient than a hotel. Plus I always enjoy meeting people, be they foreign travelers or my fellow Americans.

Just bring sandals for the shower.

Absolutely get a frequent flyer account and stick with one that works for various airlines. The miles will add up fast and from ORD to JFK is 1474 round trip for a total of 17688 miles. That's enough to pay for 1/2 a flight in the future. Set up email alerts for the time range of your flights. Use Priceline.

Continuing where Apex left off. You may be able to deduct the costs of IVF therapy, if you get it in Chicago. This however requires that you spend at least 7.5% of your adjusted gross income on medical expenses and itemize for the year. For more details, see

It appears from the above IRS webpage that you cand deduct transportation costs for medical expenses as well. Which may mean that either doing it in Chicago or New York, may be OK from a tax perspective.

You may want to talk to a CPA, if you are close to the 7.5% per year cut off and you do itemize your taxes

This is tough to answer without more detail, but here are some ideas:

1) Roundtrip on Southwest is less than $200 (on the web). The set of treatments could cost less than $2500 for airfares.

2) Driving may be an option depending upon how many people are travelling and how spontaneous you are. I love to do "side" trips and see the country when I drive somewhere.

3) Stay at hotels well outside the big cities and stay for 40-50 a nite for a decent clean place (but that may mean renting a car)

4) If your trips are long, stay at extended stay america or someplace similar...the price per week is very reasonable for a suite with kitchen

5) If you are going 1 time per month and staying for some time you may consider driving out and leaving a car near the city to use when you are there. Or consider using zipcar if you are staying for short periods of time.

6) Check with your church, temple or synagogue for assistance with living space...this is very common with many religions (the Synagogue in Mumbai did this type of thing)where they may have some space for someone to stay nearby.

7) An apartment may be useful if you would use it enough. Outside the city, you could probably get a small space for $400-500/month.

8) Hostels may be an option.

In the past I have tried to get trains and buses but the small cost savings over airfare (and sometimes it's more) doesn't seem to be worth the extra time and hassle (stopping every 100 miles or so or more)

It's been said before but I'll second it. PRICELINE is your friend for hotel stays. Go to or to learn the ropes.

Virtually every airline has non-stop service between these cities. Competition is good, I don't expect you'll pay more than $300 for any roundtrip. 12 1400 mile roundtrips is probably not enough to establish elite status on any airline unless you have other travel planned, so sticking with a discount carrier is probably your best bet. JetBlue and Southwest are the most friendly to the cattle class traveller.

I sometimes take vacations on the end of work trips and here's a few things I've learned:

1. Priceline (as mentioned earlier) is excellent; however, you never know where they're going to stick you. You may be thrilled, or deeply disappointed (had both).

2. Try to book via They have a reward program of buy 10 nights get one could buy 10 cheap nights in a hotel and then have 1 nice night on the town with your man.

3. Southwest's location is really far away from NYC. Look at fares for travel to/from and you'll find that your savings are quickly eaten up.

4. Avoid a rental car in NYC. Parking is really expensive and it's hard to drive anywhere.

5. If you're youngish check out The Pod Hotel ( You can get (tiny) private rooms there from $79/night and it's really close to all the fun stuff.

6. There's not really great public transit to La Guardia, so plan on paying for a cab if you fly in/out of there.

Enjoy yourself. NYC is one of the greatest cities on the planet and you can have a lot of fun for a small price if you just wander around eat street food. If things really are tight financially though, make sure that this 'free' study doesn't cost you more than just doing it at home; also, don't forget the emotional costs of being stuck alone in a city that has little empathy.

If the program is in Manhattan, learn the subways and stay in cheaper hotels in Brooklyn, Queens, or New Jersey. It'll be far cheaper than staying in Manhattan itself and riding taxis everywhere.

If you can fly from Midway to Islip, you can take southwest. Join rapid rewards, since one of the flights will be free (you get a free flight after 8 roundtrips). Roundtrips are going for $140 including taxes if you buy advance tickets at the best discount.

You then take the shuttle ($5) and the LIRR train into penn station (price varies, but you can buy a ten trip off peak tickets for $79), then use the subway.

So that's less than $170 total roundtrip (not counting getting to and from Midway). It will take a bit of time, but I assume you have more time than money. Cheaper than any price I could get out of Kayak.

Of course, if the time of day doesn't matter, and the economy is poor, I also recommend bidding on priceline for everything (note that you have to be really flexible on flying times if you're bidding on flights). I needed a rental car, and priceline suggested I bid around $30/day to be successful. I bid $18/day (which they said probably wouldn't succeed) and it was filled by Hertz.

To add to my post above, if you are going to fly to Islip on SWA and use the LIRR. You can have your hotel stay be anywhere along the LIRR line, that's near a station. I'm sure you could find a nice place for $85 somewhere.

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