Help me plan a last minute international trip to an unknown destination
December 19, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Emergency Vacation: Help me book a trip from San Francisco to Somewhere Else in the World between Friday 12/21 and Monday 12/31.

I haven't taken a vacation in 5 years. A coworker just reminded me that we have two back-to-back 4 day weekends, so I would only need 3 days of time off to make an 11 day trip.

I'm in a place in my life where I have money to spend on something like this, and I could definitely use a spontaneous adventure.

The problem is, I haven't ever travelled or planned something like this and I'm woefully unprepared to do so on such short notice.

Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Especially appreciated would be links to any specific international travel deals in my date range, 12/21 - 12/31 leaving from the SFO or OAK, or even LAX airports, less-than/around $1000 roundtrip. Preferably to a destination where they speak *some* English. Total budget < $2000

I've never really been out of the country so just about anything is game...

Some background:

I'm a 28 year old guy, like to drink, do outdoors stuff, meet random interesting people and am very laid back. Equally happy on a bike in a rainstorm as in a 5 star hotel.
posted by farmersckn to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Play with Kayak Explore to find last-minute airfare in your budget.
posted by purpleclover at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2012

You have a passport, right? If not then the most exotic is probably going to be Hawaii. And this time of year might make finding hotel for that span of time in your budget problematic; you might need to head to Kauai or somewhere less saturated, and find a guest house or something.

If you do have a passport, go to Kayak, click the 'Explore' button, and begin searching by origin. In my experience the most important thing is to secure the flight first. If you're flexible on accommodations you can usually find something last minute wherever you go.
posted by par court at 1:45 PM on December 19, 2012

awesome, these are the best trips!! start with to randomly find an afordable destination, and simultanesouly use skyscanner or kayak to confirm flight reality.

here is a starter for homeaway (i filtered based on your dates and $1000 max per week..., now you filter based on beach, etc etc etc etc)

once you arrive tripadvisor is your best friend.

please do tell us where you settled on.
posted by chasles at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're leaving the country, you'll need a passport, and you won't be able to get one in just a couple of days (not unless you want to spend two of your vacation days at the Passport office.)

Here's a link to American Airlines Last Minute Deals

They do them with Travelocity, but I find going through American you get more information.

You might love San Juan. Christmas through New Year in Puerto Rico is a freaking BLAST! The bonus is you don't need a passport.

You get the sun and fun of the Carribean, but they just voted for Statehood, so...go with it.

Will you have someone to go with? The single supplement can kill you on such a thing, and really wreck your budget.

Mexico might be a thought. Somewhere in Baja, Puerto Vallarta, or Mazatlan. I'm not sure how the violence is impacting tourist stuff, but if you have an adventurous soul, it might be worth looking into.

Here's a Travelocity link to Mexican vacations, they're within your budget, especially if you pick an all-inclusive place.

Christmas holidays are usually SWAMPED in countries that celebrate them. Same for skiing holidays. Your budget doesn't really allow for travel to Asia or the Middle East.

You're going to get creamed by last minute prices on a very congested air-travel holiday.

What about driving to Vancouver? Or Palm Springs?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2012

Awesome suggestions so far, and just to let confirm, I do have a valid passport.
posted by farmersckn at 2:07 PM on December 19, 2012

SFO-Chicago O'Hare for $163
then Chicago to Moscow for $575 (you will probably freeze but it sounds cool??)
or Chicago-Kilimanjaro, Tanzania for $903

LAX to Nairobi for $1,007
LAX to Tel Aviv for $835
OAK to Hawaii $270
LAX to San Juan $404
LAX to Dublin $709 (will also be cold)

If you can get yourself to NYC for cheap, here's super cheap to Germany and Zurich.

Kayak Explore is also great!
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2012

quadrilaterals: "SFO-Chicago O'Hare for $163
then Chicago to Moscow for $575 (you will probably freeze but it sounds cool??)

I believe Americans require a visa to enter Russia, which must be applied for in advance. I doubt you'll be able to get one in time (though I do not have personal experience applying for one).

Note that the State Department warns that "If you arrive in Russia without an entry visa you will not be permitted to enter the country, and could face immediate return to the point of embarkation at your own expense."

It would definitely be cool though.
posted by dd42 at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2012

LAX to Tel Aviv for $835

Having flown LAX-TLV non-stop in coach about a year ago, I'd recommend stabbing yourself in the neck and spending a few days in the hospital as a better vacation. 15 hours is a long ass time to spend on an airplane full of people like me.
posted by foodgeek at 2:53 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites] just told me about a low fare from OAK to Maui (OGG) RT for $267 on Alaska Airlines. Don't even worry about lack of places to stay: go to or these places won't have views, but they are very low-priced rooms or B&B's, and you can go to any number of higher end resorts or bars to enjoy the food, view, landscaping, etc. But really, just go to Hawaii for the weather.

I just returned from Hawaii, and December in Hawaii is just fantastic. 80 degree weather, 60% humidity, and ten days there is perfect (it's a long flight). No worries about visas or passports or language or money exchange, though admittedly you will pay dearly for a rental car this close to pickup date.

Hawaii is as active or sedentary as you like it: excellent hiking, snorkeling, body-surfing, or just plain sleeping on the beach for hours like an endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

And unlike a trip to Denali Park in Alaska, where you *may* see fleeting glimpses of moose or reindeer, the marine wildlife can be found very close to shore in Hawaii (Dec thru Mar is Humpback whale season, which means nursing calves, males showing off/competing for females, which causes all those aggressive tail slaps and breeches and whales a-courting!)

From my balcony (lanai) in Kauai, I saw several whales and sea turtles daily, and snorkeled with sea turtles every time I went out...they simply can't be avoided on the South Shore right now (tides are milder in winter on the south shores of all the Hawaiian islands). Oh, and I saw several of the aforementioned Hawaiian monk seals basking on the beach, as they are wont to do. And then there are the dolphins! Fun, wacky spinner dolphins.

As you can tell, I'm rather Hawaii-crazy, pls feel free to memail me, I'm full of Hawaii info! I think everyone should go to Hawaii, but especially Americans, because it's so darn easy for us.
posted by honey badger at 3:35 PM on December 19, 2012

That cheapass to Tel Aviv might be interesting. Weather's decent -- a little brighter than SF but similar. Israel does visas on arrival, English is widely spoken and 11 days is enough to see the major sights of the country and still relax. Obviously better if you're familiar with the western religious traditions. ~$100 a day is workable; budget hotels and hostels (the one in Jaffa is great). Warning is you'll probably arrive in Israel on the Sabbath, so everything will be shut down and/or charge a hell of a lot more. And I think they historically have a huge uptick in Christmas-specific travel, e.g. Bethlehem is pretty busy. And obviously the flight is neverending.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:11 PM on December 19, 2012

While a can't complete vouch for the source, here's a list of countries US citizens can travel to without a visa.

I looked for a list from a more definitive source, but didn't find anything better. I'd use this list as a starting point and validate before you purchase tickets. Visa requirements do change.
posted by 26.2 at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2012

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