NYC to Atlanta and back on $200 or less.
July 5, 2012 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Round-trip from NYC to Atlanta, GA for under $200? On Labor Day weekend?

So, I'm going to Dragon*Con this coming Labor Day. This will be my fifth year there, and while I have a bigger budget than in years previous, money is still tight in general. I can leave, at the earliest, on Wednesday afternoon (8/30), and would like to arrive no later than 7am on Friday. Coming back, I can arrive any time on the following Tuesday or Wednesday, but I don't want to leave Atlanta until Monday.

It will be me and two friends (all of us courteous, mannerly young men, if it matters) with a grand total of three duffel bags and two backpacks worth of luggage... And we need to individually pay less than $200 round-trip.

I'd love to take the train (my whole body starts to hurt something fierce when I have to sit on a bus or in a car for more than four hours at a time, so you can imagine how the 25-hour bus ride or 19-hour car ride would go for me), but it's $325 per person - not possible.

Can anyone help me out here? Anyone have any travel tricks (beyond just traveling by montage) that might help get the three of us to the con on time and on budget?
posted by Urban Winter to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
The answer to your question is No. You cannot afford to go to DragonCon.
posted by kindall at 4:07 PM on July 5, 2012

So, I'm going to Dragon*Con this coming Labor Day.

You need to plan for 2013 Dragon*Con the day after the 2012 Dragon*Con ends.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 PM on July 5, 2012

Yeah, I agree that it is highly highly unlikely you will be able to find a transportation method within your price range on a holiday weekend at this late date.
posted by elizardbits at 4:16 PM on July 5, 2012

There are AirTran flights for $214 (including taxes) round trip from LGA to ATL (findable on Kayak and AirTran themselves, it seems). With three duffel bags, you'd also need to pay $20/each per way. So about $254/person. Is that too high to be out of the question?
posted by skynxnex at 4:19 PM on July 5, 2012

So you're looking at spending $600, total.

A car is absolutely going to be the cheapest way to do this, because you can stick all three guys in one car whereas you'd need three tickets for any other form of transportation. Even Greyhound is $150 per person.

So. NYC to Atlanta is a 1700-mile round trip. If your car gets 30 miles a gallon, at $3.50 a gallon, that's about $200 in gas. At 25 mpg, it's $240. Let's call it $240.

If that's all you need to spend, you'd be golden. So if that $200/person limit is just for transportation, heck, just drive. You'll be fine.

If it isn't though, you're screwed. You're also going to need to eat for five days. Call it $10 per person, per day. That's another $150. You can maybe save some money by hitting a grocery store on the way out, but this is gonna be dashed inconvenient and might not save you all that much considering you'll need to get stuff that doesn't have to be cooked. So ramen is right out. And you'd need to be able to eat it while driving too. I think $150 is actually a pretty conservative figure.

And where you going to stay? Even at a $50 no-tell motel under the freeway, that's a solid $250.

This puts us at $650 for the trip. If you haven't purchased your passes yet, that's another $120 a head, which'd make the total more like $1,000.

Unless your $200/person figure is limited to solely transportation, there isn't any way of making this work at your budget level.
posted by valkyryn at 4:30 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Look for crazy good flight deals. According to Kayak, deals have been had for as little as $119 for your dates.

Alternately, if you care more about the trip than your aching back, scour Craigslist for people looking for someone to drive their car south who will let you drive their car for free and/or even throw in some cash for gas. You can look for more official forms of this on Auto Driveaway sites like this (though this company doesn't have an office in NYC).

I'm unclear on whether you want to spend $200 RT for just transportation, or if your $200 RT pp is for the entire trip. If the latter, this is entirely infeasible. If the former, you just need to be flexible and creative (and likely willing to drive a vehicle).
posted by arnicae at 4:32 PM on July 5, 2012

I don't know how serious you are about the inability to sit for long periods of time, but I can sort-of vouch for the shady-and-often-illicit bus companies at (as much as it is possible to vouch for operations of this nature). I've taken these up and down the East Coast multiple times, but never quite as far as Atlanta. Please note that this website is a ticket distributor for oft-maligned Chinatown bus lines, and you should ride them at your own risk.

It looks like there are two overnight buses leaving NYC on 8/30 - one at 9:00pm, the other at 10:00pm, with ticket priced at $85 and $80 respectively. I'm not sure why I can't find tickets for the return route, but they have them for mid-late August so I suspect that they haven't been posted yet.
posted by hot soup at 4:33 PM on July 5, 2012

So, I'm going to Dragon*Con this coming Labor Day. This will be my fifth year there

Shouldn't we be looking to you, as a veteran, for this sort of advice? What have you done in previous years? Obviously it worked well enough that you came back... More seriously, have you made contacts or friends in the past who might be able to RV-pool with you (has the added advantage of having built-in floor space for sleeping) driving down?
posted by arnicae at 4:34 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: I should have been more specific. The $200/person is for transport only ($250 would be okay for me, but maybe not for my friend(s), and we want to go together). We've already got our con passes, hotel, and meals accounted for. Also, this is the earliest we've ever planned transportation - and the first year it's almost solely my responsibility, due to Friend A being a con virgin and Friend B working 70-hour weeks. In previous years Friend B used to plan everything and just tell me how much I owed for my share of the hotel room.

I mentioned the long-sit not because I can't ride in a car or bus, but simply because the train is much more preferable. We've driven down the last three years and took Greyhound last year. I'm trying to find out if there are any magical travel secrets I don't know about.
posted by Urban Winter at 4:45 PM on July 5, 2012

Okay, if it's just for transportation, it's entirely possible. The car is going to be cheapest, hands down. It's really either that or flying, because there's no obvious reason to prefer a bus to a car, and the latter is going to take longer and cost twice as much.

I am, of course, assuming that you have access to a car. If you don't, Greg Nog has you covered.

You can find flight deals that work, but you'll need to pretty much babysit the thing and be willing to float the cost until your friends pay you back, or get them to pony up ahead of time so you can buy three tickets all at once. It's possible to do this for under $200, but really, really hard. You have to get just the right deal, and these deals can last for a day or less sometimes.
posted by valkyryn at 4:52 PM on July 5, 2012

If you do settle on taking a car to Atlanta you're going to have to account for where you're going to park it while you're at the convention. You haven't mentioned what hotel you'll be staying at, but all of the main host hotels charge per day for parking. There are other parking garages in that neighborhood, but they aren't free either, and they probably fill up pretty fast (this is speculation on my part... this will only be my 2nd year at D*C, and I didn't park downtown last year).

If you don't mind riding the MARTA train, several (but not all) MARTA stations offer long term daily parking (usually $5/day, some stations $8/day). Leave a rental car at a beltway station like Kensington, or Dunwoody, and ride the train in.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:03 PM on July 5, 2012


Dirt cheap, and it looks pretty cool. You can get up and walk around.

New York to Washington, Washington to Charlotte, Charlotte to Atlanta.

It may take a while, but you'll get there.

You'll be sleeping on the way back that's for sure.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Parking around the con hotels is a crapshoot. (Former D*C volunteer here.) You say you've already got the lodging nailed down - where are you staying? Are you staying in a con hotel or will you have to add in a hotel commute?

D*C is not the only thing that happens in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend; it's also African-American Atlanta Pride weekend (warning: autoplay music) and Chick-Fil-A Football Kickoff, and folks here for both of those often stay in the con hotels and fill spaces in the parking decks/lots. Doing con with a car means an easier trip between home and con, but a bigger hassle during con; doing con without a car means an easier con, but more hassle on the trip.
posted by catlet at 8:36 AM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Catlet: We're not in one of the con hotels, but we're only a couple blocks away, so there's no commute. Staying farther away really isn't an attractive option, since both myself and Friend B like to go to and from the room several times (6+) throughout the day and night (we don't really sleep).

Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and tips. We sat down and talked it over, and as a group decided that the best decision would be to go a tiny bit over budget for the sake of convenience (and avoiding travel-exhaustion). We ended up going with AirTran both ways - and we've written down the info regarding rental cars and such for next year and/or sharing with other people.
posted by Urban Winter at 10:04 AM on July 9, 2012

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