I get mail. Some of it from people telling me that they’ve been stranded overseas and will I please wire them money. Some telling me there’s $10 million in an account that can be transferred to my personal account if I only pay a small handling fee. But more often, it’s from readers and clients asking for my input.
To wit, here’s what showed up in my inbox a few day ago: “Dear Mr. Feldman, My name is Ricki Cohen. I’m 37-years-old, married with three children. You may have heard about me. Our new Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, has been writing about me lately on Facebook. I apologize in advance for my poor English.
My husband, Yossi, works in the hi-tech industry and asked one of the managers to help me write to you.
Like most of Israel, you must be also aware that the two of us earn NIS 20,000 per month or $5,400. We know we are fortunate, both of us are employed and as Yair Lapid noted we own our apartment and every two years we travel abroad.
That’s the reason I’m turning to you. As a teacher we can only take time off during the summer and this summer is the year we are planning on travelling abroad.
By the way, the years we don’t travel abroad we go to Eilat, where the prices seem to be going up and up. Okay, we do enjoy shopping there and saving on the value-added tax, but I have trouble feeling I’m getting my money’s worth.
This year our eldest is celebrating his bar mitzva and we have to decide how big a simcha we will arrange, as he desperately wants to go abroad.
Shalom Ricki, Thank you so much for your email. Too often politicians create fictitious characters to make a point, so happy to deal with your request. First and foremost you need to decide where you want to go. We always recommend when traveling with children or grandchildren to get them involved in the process. Are you looking for a resort package, with a flight and hotel? Now it’s true many people are considering going back to Antalya in Turkey, but the vast majority feel more secure going to a Greek island.
Where have you been in the past? Disneyland in Paris can and should be considered, and is one of the few places where you can get a family room to sleep all five of you. Or were you thinking of a longer trip, crossing over to the United States? Thank you for your prompt reply. We have been to Turkey many times in the past; we used to love going there. Two years ago we were in Paris and before that in Rome, so we were thinking of going farther this time – to New York. Yossi has an Uncle Sam that lives in Brooklyn who said we could stay with him. We do want to go to Florida as well as Washington, DC. We’re hoping that since Yair Lapid has written about us, he can get us a meeting with President Barack Obama. We want to depart early July and stay for 3 weeks.
Please send me some prices and suggested sightseeing.
Then to the US it shall be. First and foremost, make sure everyone has a passport and a visa to the United States. The visa will cost $150 per person.
Let’s first explore the options on flying to New York.
Surprisingly, the least expensive airline is Turkish Airlines.
They fly via Istanbul with a short layover in both directions, but the luggage is sent straight through. Moreover, they permit two checked bags for each of you, so you will be able to come back, if needed, with 10 suitcases! Both the security and the service onboard are excellent, although morally it still rankles every time their president chides us.
An adult fare starts at $1,235 with every tax known to mankind included, while each of your children under 12 years old would pay $1,035.
British Airways, an excellent airline, flying via London also has reasonable fares starting on your desired dates, at $1,300 for you and your husband and $1,100 for each of the kids. You will need to switch terminals in Heathrow Airport, which means we need to give you a wee bit more time on the ground, but the shuttle bus works quite efficiently.
What about a nonstop flight I can hear you asking? El Al to both Newark and JFK airports, Delta to JFK or United to Newark will cost a bit more. Each of their summer fares start at $1,497 for each adult while $1,296 would be the price for each child under 12 years old. Alas, once your child has reached 12 years old there is no discount.
He too shall pay the same as his parents. Hope this helps in your plans.
Once you’ve acclimated to the 7-hour time difference you can start exploring the city. Expect muggy weather and the occasional downpour, but the city has never looked better. Take a subway into Manhattan and start your day from Times Square. Just observe the masses of humanity. You can go up to the Top of the Rock Observation desk at 30 Rockefeller Plaza; indulge yourself at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum; and if interested, take the NBC Studio Tour. You must give yourself an entire day to head to the Statue of Liberty cruise and explore Fifth Avenue. Now while your kids may not enjoy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, do take them to the American Museum of Natural History and plan a picnic lunch in Central Park.
Hope this whets your appetite.
OMG, you are talking at least $6,000 just to New York.
There’s just no way we can afford that. We barely finish each month on our income. I notice you didn’t put in the flights to Florida or any of the other costs that I’ll need to make a budget. Is London the same price as New York? Ricki, Ricki, Ricki, you are quite perceptive – the further you fly the probability is that the fare will be higher. To be fair though, prices inside the US are far less than Europe. A plane down to Florida will set you back $129.
Motels near Disney World can be had for $100. Eating in the US is far less than what we’re accustomed to in Israel and renting a car in Florida for a week will be under $300.
London, though, can and should be considered. Both El AL and British Airways fares will be almost 50% less than what it would cost to fly to the Big Apple. If you’re flexible, you’ll end up paying between $630 and $690 with all the taxes. The two kids under 12 will only get a $50 reduction from your fare. Keep in mind though that unless you’re staying with the Queen, hotels in London are far more than in the US. Be prepared to pay for the five of you at least $200 a night, as you’ll need two rooms. So you’ll need to add an easy $1,400 for a week of hotels.
Do avail yourself upon arrival of taking a London Sightseeing bus. It will be over $25 but will give you a full overview of the city. You’ll see as you meander throughout the city many sites where you’ll want to get off and explore on foot. Definitely Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard. The kids will love the clock tower at Big Ben and you’ll enjoy exploring Westminster Abbey.
Explore the Harrods department store, but trust me, with their prices you won’t be doing any shopping. The family will also love the Tower of London and here too you have the original Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Hanging around Covent Garden should also be on your list.
So are you ready to listen to Beatles music and have tea with the Queen? I do appreciate all of your details and agree that one week in London will be much less than 3 weeks in the US – but it still seems an incredible amount of money. Especially as Lapid has hinted that he’ll be raising taxes. Maybe we should stick closer to home. What about a Greek island? Ah, the cradle of democracy will make a great summer trip. I’d suggest Rhodes; large enough to explore the island, with resorts to satisfy the entire family. A four-star hotel with two meals a day will cost you $769 for each adult, while each child will be $709 or $3,665 for the entire brood. They too have an Old City, and a smaller version of the Acropolis can be found in Lindos. Keep in mind that their beaches will be as crowded as Tel Aviv though.
So if you’re ready to say “It’s all Greek to me,” then let me know.
You’ve given me much food for thought. But with Independence Day upon us, I’m thinking that maybe staying in Israel this year is all I can afford.
To all of your readers: Happy Independence Day!” Mark Feldman is the CEO of Ziontours Jerusalem For questions & comments, email him at email@example.com