Times to Save Money and Time

Last week my parents flew out to New York City from Montana. They were supposed to visit me in June, but that trip got canceled because at the last minute my grandma passed away. I ended up flying back to Montana instead, which brings me to my first tip:

Helen Jackson saying hello

Be aware of Bereavement Fares. Hopefully you’ll never have to utilize them, but should you ever have an immediate relative who is dying or has recently passed away, and you need to fly to be by their side or attend their funeral these fares will be cheapest. Basically, the airline will honor the price of a ticket purchased in advance and not charge you the amount that it costs to fly last minute. In my case, all I had to do was call Delta and provide them with my grandma’s name, her doctor, and the hospital where she had been when she passed away. True, I was on hold with Delta for far too long before I finally got a live person on the line to explain my situation (you have to call in to be eligible,) but it was worth the wait as the Delta representative was able to give me a $600 fare that was $200 cheaper than their current price. Several different airlines offer bereavement, or “compassion fares” as they are also called, but since I had a positive experience with Delta I’ll link to their info here.

Since my parents had to cancel their original trip to New York because of my grandma’s death, they decided to rebook for October so they could see the New England fall foliage. I was pumped because autumn is my favorite season. However, as my folks were flying from Montana to New York, our family dog of eight years, Zoe, was struck by a vehicle on the highway. She died, and like all good guard dogs, went to dog heaven.  It’s pure coincidence that both times my parents tried to take a trip in the past few months a family member has died. 

Zoe (as a pup) enjoying the Montana fall foliage

This second tip pertains to booking accommodations when you’re on the road. While the idea of being flexible and not locking into a room in advance is appealing, my parents and I found out the hard way that it pays to plan ahead. Our initial approach was to not have any of our nights booked in advance so that we were able to stay as long as we’d like in a particular area or leave early if we determined the leaves weren’t at peak. In theory it sounded like a great idea, but in practice, it was a terrible mistake. We would wake up in the morning and worry all day about where we would be that night and if we’d be able to find any rooms available. While we should have been taking in the sights and enjoying ourselves, we would spend a large chunk of daytime trying to track down free wifi or adequate cell service so we could all look up accommodations. More often than not, most places we were interested in were already booked so we usually ended up in a chain motel. We spent 2-3 hours most days trying to find a room.

It was while staying in the Quality Inn in Brattleboro, VT, or as we renamed it, the Low Quality Inn (email me if you want an explanation) that I decided to look and book more than 12 hours ahead of the time we wanted to check in. Because Zoe was still on my mind, I googled her breed, “Great Pyrenees” along with the words “bed & breakfast.” I’ll be darned if it wasn’t divine intervention that the first search result was for a B&B in the Berkshires (Massachusetts) where we had planned on traveling to the next day. This B&B, the Staveleigh House, is owned and operated by a woman named Ali who owns rescued Great Pyrenees and fosters other dogs that are in need of “forever homes.” We made a reservation that night and were able to enjoy the next day because we had the luxury of knowing where we would be spending the night. As you can see from the photo below, I got very friendly with Ali’s furry friends/guests, but our entire experience at the Staveleigh House was incredible and for me, was what traveling should be all about. Making the most of your time while meeting the locals and their mutts.

And here I thought the Walmart greeters were welcoming!

And food. Ali made us omelets, homemade cornbread, fried potatoes, and a lovely fruit salad for breakfast. Yes, food must be a priority. But with food you can be more spontaneous and leave that up to fate. When it comes to where you sleep, I recommend securing something sooner than later. If you decide to wing it and try to book something at the last minute, I recommend packing this guy as a plan B. Especially in monkey country.

The parentals & I in front of the Staveleigh House. Built two-hundred years ago, this house is now a 7 bedroom B&B in the Berkshires

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