My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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help with vacation planning

It is absolutely ridiculous that i haven’t taken a proper vacation since January 2002. I’m longing to see a proper beach and do a shitload of reading for my orals while lounging in sand. The problem is that i have no idea how to best go about finding a cheap flight to some place warm. I’m curious if anyone who reads my ramblings has a good idea of where to look. I want to fly out on March 18 and want to come back on March 27 (could fly out after 8PM on the 17th and could land on the 28th at any time). Hawaii, South America, Caribbean, Asia… i don’t care. Just warm, sunny, beachy and not resorty (i.e. i want to find a hostel or a bungalow or something else that is low-key). Does anyone have any suggestions of how to get somewhere for relatively cheap? Everything that i’m seeing is >$700 and won’t take my miles (American).

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22 comments to help with vacation planning

  • Jamie

    American flies to San Jose, Costa Rica – which I think meets your criteria. Expedia lists flights for under $700.

  • Actually, on Saturday I’m off to San Jose, Costa Rica. Which is not where we’ll stay. We’re going to Cahuita for beach, sun, snorkling and other vacation-activities. There’s a slight chance of rain on the Caribbean coast, but February, March is among the drier months. Of course, I can’t say whether I’d recommend it before I’m back 🙂

  • How about Bali ? My best friend just came back from Bali and it sounds great : very cheap, not a lot of tourist, beach all over the place…

  • Yatin Sethi

    i don know …. i think i browsed down to ur blog from this link …

    and then this blog….

    hey, i’m from india …. the best thing that’ll suit u this time is here…
    but i don know the prices for flights from ur location to india … but anyways its’ a good option to consider …


  • I’m totally amenable to all of these suggestions, but i have no idea where to find a cheap flight. (And i’m trying to get closer to the $450 range instead of the just under $700… or ideally free with miles except that everything seems to block out that time period.)

  • john

    try, especially if you’re “flexible” with when you leave, and whether or not you care about having a layover.

  • Your university undoubtedly has a travel center where you can find really cheap flights, especially if your university has a large international student population.

  • Dav

    I haven’t tried this myself, as I’ve only flown there before, but how about renting a car and driving somewhere isolated in Baja Mexico? You could probably fly to San Diego even, cross over to Tijuana and rent a car on that side of the border much cheaper than $700.

    It was nice seeing you (briefly) at 1015 the other night! Was a very colorful night for me 🙂

    BTW, alternatively you could come visit me in Brazil. I’m flying there on Feb 9 and staying until May or July (depending on visa extensions). I plan on finding a nice inexpensive spot near a beach where I can just surf and hack my time away. Mie might even be there by then (6A is giving her a sabbatical sort of thing).

  • You might find the US Vigin Islands to be a fun escape if you have American Airlines miles — you can get there for 30K miles, a bit more if you want unrestricted times. American services St. Thomas from both NYC and Miami, and if you are lucky you can even schedule a layover in one or the other on the return.

    Like many resort islands, day room rates can be $500 a night or more, but what I recommend is for you to stay at Maho Bay Campground ( ) — it really isn’t a campground but an eco-retreat center with canvas cabins (you really don’t need much more in the tropics). It is staffed by very progressive and artistic folk who I think you’d enjoy a lot (if go you go, take the glass blowing class ;-). When I went rates were about $80 a night, but during “season” it is about $120. I think the season ends around April 15th.

    My mom is a sailboat captain down there, and I can get you a free day sail on her boat ( ) — several of my friends have gone with her and have said it was the highlight of their trip. She also really knows the islands, and can give you more advice on cheap places to visit or stay.

  • Esme Vos

    You should go to the Philippines: the most beautiful beaches, very inexpensive accommodations and cheap but delicious food. The people are also very friendly and everyone speaks English. I’m Filipina so I am slightly biased but seriously, the country has over 7000 islands and many quiet beaches.

  • Jon

    Have you tried Mobissimo? I use it often — the prices are low and it has a simple search interface. I have never tried to use frequent flier miles with it, and I suspect that it doesn’t take them.

    Negril, Jamaica is probably the most relaxing place I’ve ever visited.

  • 1) look in the back of the NYTimes’s Sunday edition travel section. There are always some fun, cheap ‘bulk’ flights that get listed there. I took a round trip flight from NYC to Tokyo for about $300 from there; a good friend of mine spontaneously flew to Geneva, Switzerland for a weekend because of an $86 round trip flight she snagged there.

    2) – have used it many times. You can bid on what you’re willing to pay for a flight, and the bid will either get accepted or not. Since you’re flexible on departure/arrival times this could really work for you. If the bid isn’t accepted, often it will get returned with “if you’re willing to pay $20 more we can give you the flight” which is another handy feature.

    3) courier flights – can be really cheap if you’re flexible. I haven’t gone this route personally but many travel friends swear by it.

    4) It’s not intuitive to think this but actually, you can often get a cheaper total vacation by going to somewhere in Southeast Asia (Thailand is my personal fave, you cannot go wrong :)) than trying to go somewhere in this hemisphere. I routinely see round trip flights to Bangkok for

  • less than symbol got munged at the end there, should be:

    “I routinely see round trip flight to Bangkok less than $500, and once you’re there you can live on a few dollars a day.”

  • Years ago, when I was in college in the Bay Area, three of us did the “Fly to San Diego, cross the border on the streetcar to Tijuana, catch a cab to the Tijuana airport, get a rented VW Beetle, then drive south until it is warm enough to swim”. I ended up in Mulelge, and had a great week.

    Your mileage may vary — it would be better with friends.

    Hell, if you are going to be at SWSX you could just proceed south from there …

  • David

    Check out this STA travel link:

    Flights to Latin America starting at $208. Prices like that are almost always from Miami, but this deal includes a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, from LA for $208. Tack on $100 for an R/T to LA from SFO and put $10 on your BART card and you’re set. Should be under $400 or so, with all taxes, etc.

    You have to be under 26 -OR- have an ISIC card ($22, good for a year, nets you other discounts in Lonely Planet-type locales) and be under 34.



  • I very recently got tickets for a roundtrip flight from Seattle to San Jose, Costa Rica on America West Airlines for about $250 plus tax.

  • Brian Walsh

    I would definitely check out Panama. My girlfriend and I just spent 16 days in Panama and it was awesome…if you are looking for a desolate, beautiful beach, cheap stays, good food, and plenty of hammocks, check out Santa Catalina in Panama.

    We stayed there for 5 days, which included 3 days of diving. Staying at Rolo’s Cabanas cost $7.50 a night — a really nice hotel/hostel with shared bathrooms. There are 3 choices for restaurants in town:
    at the main one, the excellent meals are $1.50 for veggie, $2.00 with fish
    at the pizza restaurant, which acts as a gathering spot for many each night, excellent wood fired pizza’s cost $4-$6 each and are awesome.
    an Argentinean restaurant with the most expensive meal in the $5-7 range.

    The beaches are HUGE with great swells…this is a world class surf spot! We layed in the hammocks at Surfer’s Oasis for 2 days and did nothing but get in the water, read, and enjoy each other’s company. It was awesome.

    The other option would be the san blas islands — right out of a gary larson comic strip. Some of the islands have only white sand and a couple of palm trees on them. We stayed on two islands there…Kaunidup has 8 huts on the beach, costs $45 a night (including 3 good meals a day) and provides 1 snorkelling trip a day. It is GORGEOUS and tranquil. The color of the water makes you rub your eyes to wonder if it is real. The other island, Mr. Robinson’s Cabanas is a bit more rustic — you sleep in hammocks rather than beds — is only $17.50 a night including 3 meals a day, but there are more peeople (probably 15 when we were there) and the food is not as good. However, the entire San Blas archipelago is just a slice of heaven!

    e-mail me if you have more questions!


  • Liz

    hi, my name is liz and I’m constantly using your site as an ani lyric resource, (thanks, by the way!), tonight I was browsing the rest of your blog and thought I’d let you know, is a great site for cheap airfare, as long as you have an e-mail address associated with a university or college you’ll have access to much lower fares, especially close to your intended departure date. Thanks again and have a great trip.

  • Zen

    Come to St. Maarten the metropolitan island of the Caribbean, not sure how much the flights cost, but I’ve heard from other visitors that you can get cheap packages and/or flights. We have the best beaches, exciting nightlife, fantastic restaurants, and all the tropical beauty the Caribbean has to offer. It’s easy to visit surrounding Islands for a day, like celebrity favs getaway St. Barths, Anguilla and the one-of-a-kind volcanic island Saba. St. Maarten is the Las Vegas of the Caribbean but without the large crowds! and still plenty of space for peaceful retreats. Once you visit, you either stay or you surely want to come back! You won’t be disappointed!

  • I attended your lecture today via the internet. (No time to drive 15 minutes and park). Great insights into friendster.

    Below you’ll find a link to last minute deals from Travelocity:

    They can be quite good. Also I have a web site where I keep travel coupons up to date. There’s an rss feed too. I put a link to the web page.

    (FYI, I share a percentage of the tiny commissions I get with Habitat for Humanity.)

    I’d avoid Mexico these days. It’s getting pretty dodgy there. South America is generally inexpensive, but the plane tickets can be costly and it takes a while to get there from the west coast.

    It’s hard to believe, but I bet you’ll get the best value in Hawaii. Try to get to the big island or Kuawai since they’re much nicer than Oahu.

  • mkd

    i second: going to baja. screw bali, as u will blow $700 on the plane. Mexico is NOT dodgy. Drive to La Paz at the end of Baja. you will not regret it.

  • This is going to get weird.