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Trip to Israel on a budget - possible? help me plan!
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amother




OP


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 1:02 am
My daughter recently became Bas Mitzvah, and she didn't really want a party (her birthday is during vacation time so few of her friends could have come, and she doesn't really like that kind of attention anyhow).

She does want to go to Israel instead.

But we are the people who really should be eating beans and rice and selling our hair to pay tuition, so I feel guilty about the thought of doing this, and practically we are going to be on a very limited budget.

However, time is passing and I really want to give her this trip, hopefully before she turns 13! She is okay with the only way I could manage it, which is by bringing along the 1-year-old.

If it was a boy I would have spent several thousand dollars on Tefillin + Bar Mitzvah, so I think it is fair and reasonable to spend a significant amount of money on something important to her.

I see I can get flights for $600 or so if we are flexible with timing. I'm thinking to go for 7-10 days. Neither of us are very high maintenance as far as food or accommodations. We could just go to a store and buy a loaf of bread, cheese, and bissli Smile

I would want the trip to be primarily to see holy sites (I know her, she would enjoy this too - as long as I read up on it first and can tell her about them!). We wouldn't need to do activities or visit museums. We could ride buses and walk.

My thought is to go to Yerushalayim, the Kosel, ideally Kosel tunnels
Kfar Chabad (we are Lubavitch)
Kever Rachel and Chevron
Possibly Teveryah and Tzfas, maybe Nachalas Har Chabad (Kiryat Malachi).

How much money would I need to pull together for this? Is it possible to do this cheaply? Are there hostels that could work for a mother with a baby and teenage girl? I imagine that actual hotels would be very expensive.

I have some acquaintances in Israel from seminary some 15-20 years ago, but I don't think I'd feel comfortable waking them up with a blast from the past and expecting them to host us.
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LovesHashem




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 1:32 am
Hotels are expensive. I would look up Air Bnb.
I live here and know many families who live here, in the central Israel - Jerusalem, Beitar, Beit Shemesh who look up Air bnb rentals to go to to the north during bein hazmanim. We have too, we've they can be considerably cheaper.

There's public transportation EVERYWHERE. If you aren't renting a car. I don't know how much it would cost completely..
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banana123




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 1:42 am
Doable. Kotel Tunnel Tours are great but they are the expensive point in your plan.
Not sure why you'd want to see Nachlas, unless there's someone/something specific you want to see.

You can try AirBNB.

Kotel is free. Kever Rachel you pay for a regular bus. Chevron I don't know, depends when you come. Tverya and Tzfat you can see what you want, just pay for a bus.

I would add the Dead Sea or one of the separate beaches on the Mediterranean. Depending on when you come it might be worth taking a hike or two, entry fees for the national parks are pretty cheap.

If you have Facebook there is a group "Jewish Girls Travel Forum" or something like that - worth asking there for recommendations.

How long will you be here for?

I might suggest something like this:
Day 1 - Jerusalem. Kotel, Old City, Meah Shearim (if it interests you), shuk, Jaffa, Yad Vashem (free, if you think she's mature enough), City of David/ one of the Old City museums/ Shiloach
Day 2 - Me'arat Hamachpela, Kever Rachel, and go back to your AirBnb to chill (they're not in the same place, so you have to count travel exhaustion).
Day 3 - Tzfat (remember there's a long bus trip), visit the Old City and any kvarim you're interested in, then head to Meron.
Day 4 - Tverya, any kvarim you want to see, walk around the city, then go to the Kinneret.
Day 5 - Kfar Chabad, Tel Aviv/ old city of Jaffa, the beach, maybe you want to bring her to Bnei Brak (same as Nachlas, in my book - only go if you have a good reason for it).
Day 6 - the Dead Sea and then maybe south, Be'er Sheva has Avraham's Well (they have cheap or free tours, I forget which). You could do Eilat but I'm not a fan of it and it's a long trip.
Day 7 - You just missed kever Yosef, but maybe you could schedule so that you make that trip, or visit Itamar, Ariel, or another yishuv - preferably one with a tourist attraction like a farm or winery.

Day 8-9 - Two of your days will, presumably, be Friday and Shabbat, so you need to decide where to spend Shabbat, and then you'd plan Friday around that...unless you rent a car, you need to remember that after 12 the options for public transportation slowly star to thin out...

Day 10 - you will probably have at least one place you really want to go back to, or something you thought of and really want to see...

I don't know how much money you'd need in total. But Egged's site usually has prices listed and bus.gov.il may also. So that will be your main expense other than food and a place to stay.

If you have FB you can look up the Chabad women's groups in Israel, maybe someone there can help you find hosts?
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amother




Cyan


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 3:46 am
If you are only two people, it isn't asking too much to have people host you for a few nights here and there. You might like to spend the money on a rental car instead of airBNB to maximize your time and accessibility. Food shouldn't be expensive if you are used to eating beans. Fresh produce and fresh bread is inexpensive and delicious. Sounds wonderful!
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Ruchel




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 4:42 am
More than expensive, hotels are e xpensive fror their worth Sad
Even the class of "middle range" ones
Airbnb is complicated if you don't want to cook and clean and it's a blessing on a budget
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imasinger




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 4:48 am
Another vote for Airbnb.

You don't usually have to clean, just don't leave a mess.

Cooking, you have to first figure out if you trust the kashrus, not only of the host, but of any other guests. Otherwise, what's easy to kasher? Could you buy cheap takeout or eat with friends or get a cheap disposable grill?
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Ruchel




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 5:07 am
With children not leaving a mess means cleaning Wink we're big airbnb fans despite this. But especially on a budget she wouldn't take the cleaning lady option
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Rappel




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 5:13 am
amother [ Cyan ] wrote:
If you are only two people, it isn't asking too much to have people host you for a few nights here and there. You might like to spend the money on a rental car instead of airBNB to maximize your time and accessibility. Food shouldn't be expensive if you are used to eating beans. Fresh produce and fresh bread is inexpensive and delicious. Sounds wonderful!


I second this, and will be happy to host you! (our house is small, but our friends have a spare room) Warning: Itamar easily has several days worth of activities just within the town, and there's a lot to do in the region. You may end up spending more time around here than you originally planned!!
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DrMom




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 5:34 am
banana123 wrote:
Doable. Kotel Tunnel Tours are great but they are the expensive point in your plan.
Not sure why you'd want to see Nachlas, unless there's someone/something specific you want to see.

You can try AirBNB.

Kotel is free. Kever Rachel you pay for a regular bus. Chevron I don't know, depends when you come. Tverya and Tzfat you can see what you want, just pay for a bus.

I would add the Dead Sea or one of the separate beaches on the Mediterranean. Depending on when you come it might be worth taking a hike or two, entry fees for the national parks are pretty cheap.

If you have Facebook there is a group "Jewish Girls Travel Forum" or something like that - worth asking there for recommendations.

How long will you be here for?

I might suggest something like this:
Day 1 - Jerusalem. Kotel, Old City, Meah Shearim (if it interests you), shuk, Jaffa, Yad Vashem (free, if you think she's mature enough), City of David/ one of the Old City museums/ Shiloach
Day 2 - Me'arat Hamachpela, Kever Rachel, and go back to your AirBnb to chill (they're not in the same place, so you have to count travel exhaustion).
Day 3 - Tzfat (remember there's a long bus trip), visit the Old City and any kvarim you're interested in, then head to Meron.
Day 4 - Tverya, any kvarim you want to see, walk around the city, then go to the Kinneret.
Day 5 - Kfar Chabad, Tel Aviv/ old city of Jaffa, the beach, maybe you want to bring her to Bnei Brak (same as Nachlas, in my book - only go if you have a good reason for it).
Day 6 - the Dead Sea and then maybe south, Be'er Sheva has Avraham's Well (they have cheap or free tours, I forget which). You could do Eilat but I'm not a fan of it and it's a long trip.
Day 7 - You just missed kever Yosef, but maybe you could schedule so that you make that trip, or visit Itamar, Ariel, or another yishuv - preferably one with a tourist attraction like a farm or winery.

Day 8-9 - Two of your days will, presumably, be Friday and Shabbat, so you need to decide where to spend Shabbat, and then you'd plan Friday around that...unless you rent a car, you need to remember that after 12 the options for public transportation slowly star to thin out...

Day 10 - you will probably have at least one place you really want to go back to, or something you thought of and really want to see...

I don't know how much money you'd need in total. But Egged's site usually has prices listed and bus.gov.il may also. So that will be your main expense other than food and a place to stay.

If you have FB you can look up the Chabad women's groups in Israel, maybe someone there can help you find hosts?

If you are not renting a car (expensive), this can be a very harried schedule.

I'd stick to Yerushalayim (excellent inter-city transportation) and maybe one or two other places so you don't spend your entire vacation waiting for buses.
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amother




Pink


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 5:40 am
We planned and paid for nearly our entire israel trip (flights and hotels) with credit card points. I definitely recommend looking into this.
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simcha2




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 5:50 am
The itinerary above looks good. But if you have a one year old with you, you need to build stuff in for him a little bit. Time to run around, parks, playgrounds etc.
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grace413




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 12:32 pm
I advise against renting a car. Traffic in Jerusalem is a nightmare and you probably don't want to drive to Kever Rahel or Hevron. Not to mention that you would need a car seat for your infant.

Don't try to pack too much into every day.
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chanchy123




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 12:50 pm
imasinger wrote:
Another vote for Airbnb.

You don't usually have to clean, just don't leave a mess.

Cooking, you have to first figure out if you trust the kashrus, not only of the host, but of any other guests. Otherwise, what's easy to kasher? Could you buy cheap takeout or eat with friends or get a cheap disposable grill?

Just buy a cheap pot frying pan sharp knife and cutting board locally.
There are tons of kosher rentals in Yerushalayim.
Try looking for a rental farther out from the center of town during the week and use public transport (try for somewhere on the lite rail line) and get another place walking distance from the old city for shabbat.
You can also totally live off sandwiches. Take out on the cheap at Coffix (anything from salads sandwiches pastries pasta etc for up tp 16 nis (5-16 nis).
I agree OP should focus on a Jerusalem based itinerary. The City of David (tons of various activities and tours) Kotel Kotel tunnel. Yad Vashem. Shuk. Do at least one museum (bible or Israel or Machon hamikdash, which is cheaper) you want to see understand the history and context of what you are seeing. You can spend at least two full days in the old city.
Venture out for a day trip to chevron and kever rachel.
And another day trip to Kfar Chabad.
While it might be tempting to come in the dead of winter (unless you are coming for Chanukah which is cool here). You might find that maneuvering in Jerusalem in the winter on public transport with a baby is not so easy.
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flmommy




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 2:27 pm
Just want to say You sound like a great mom and I’m sure you will have an amazing trip!
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amother




Cerise


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 3:00 pm
First figure out your budget not including airfare.

Why do you want to go to kiriyat Malachi
I understand you are Chabad, but my SIL lives there and I go often. The shul is nice, but all you are going to see is a normal town with buildings, etc. At least in Kfar Chabad you can see 770. But also with so many places you want to go, I would skip it.

If it were me I’d go straight from the airport to Tzfat. Stay 2 days and do Tzfat, Meron, Tiberyas, and then spend the rest of the time in Yerushalayim. You can take a bus at the Tehanat Hamerkazit for kever Rachel and Maarat Hamachpela. It’s 2 different buses. You don’t have to do both the same day.
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STovah




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 6:55 pm
Kotel tunnel tour is not expensive. You can book an English tour on the Kotel website and costs around 30 shekel per person (well worth the money).

Tours of Ir David can also be booked online and are not very expensive.
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gande




 
 
 


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 9:22 pm
My idea would be to rent an apartment in geula through a travel agent. It will be about $125 a night. You can use buses to go to kosel, kever ruchel ect..
For the north you can go with a tour they take you to many places in a jam packed day. We used Hoffman when we went 10 years ago. They have options to choose from including an overnight option.
Opening a credit card and using the points can get you free tickets for 2 in the winter.
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amother




OP


Post  Mon, Oct 07 2019, 11:51 pm
Wow, I want to thank you all so much! I'm really touched at all of those who took the time to read my post, and give such helpful and thoughtful answers.

I really should respond to each individually for Hataras Hatov, but then I'll never end up getting this post written!

Thank you especially Banana123 for taking the time to write up a comprehensive itinerary, and FLmommy for saying something so sweet!

The idea of AirBNB seems very good. It looks like I could get most nights for $60 or so plus surcharges, which seems reasonable, even if it does add up.

I spent some time in seminary in Nachala, but I think you all are right - it would just be for my sentimental reasons, not right to take up a day of my daughter's trip on it! I'll point out the exit or something Smile

Paying for the trip with credit card points is a fantastic idea, but unfortunately our credit is shot so we wouldn't be able to open any cards at this point (pun unintended...)

I looked into renting a car, but although the base prices are peanuts compared to USA rentals, there seems to be a $15 per-day surcharge for insurance, and adding in the cost of gas and tolls and parking, it might get very expensive very fast. I also am petrified to drive in Israel!

Chevron and Kever Rachel both seem to have very cheap buses, so that's great! It seems that buses anywhere are fairly reasonable, and it looks like I can get a Rav Kav at the airport (which is probably also a really nice souvenir).

I don't think we'll mind buses too much, even street signs are exciting when you're a tourist Smile And I think you can put strollers and luggage under the bus, so it should be fine.

Ideally we would like to come before Chanukah, but that will depend on whether or not I can pull together enough money in time to make it happen! Avoiding the dead of an Israel winter would be nice!

The idea of going straight to Tzfas and "getting it out of the way" so to speak is interesting, I'm a little nervous about adding 4 hours onto an 24 hour flight situation (including time to get to the airport and the stopovers) but maybe I'll just do it, and plan to go straight to bed! Then we have the luxury of spending all the rest of the time in Yerushalayim, with one day trip out to Kever Rachel and Chevron, and another to Kfar Chabad.

I will need to mentally prepare to be shlepping all of our luggage wherever we go. Very good motivator to TRAVEL VERY LIGHT! (Are there laundromats? Will hand washed clothing dry overnight inside in the winter in Israel? Are diapers cheap enough that I shouldn't bring from the USA?)

I'm working a little backwards here, because I will need to beg/borrow/scrimp/save for the trip, as opposed to having an actual fixed budget. Ideally I would love to keep the cost of the trip under $3,000 (I'd say $2,500 but that's wishful thinking), which will have to include passports for 3 of us (that's $270), flights (about $1300 hopefully), lodging ($800+ it looks like), bus fares, food, souvenirs, prizes for the kids left home, and any attractions we do.

It seems like it is doable, as long as I don't pretend this is a vacation! It seems like it will be a lot of shlepping and figuring things out. But I think it will make my daughter very happy!
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banana123




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Oct 08 2019, 12:26 am
grace413 wrote:
I advise against renting a car. Traffic in Jerusalem is a nightmare and you probably don't want to drive to Kever Rahel or Hevron. Not to mention that you would need a car seat for your infant.

Don't try to pack too much into every day.

For her purposes, the light rail is sufficient. No need to get stuck in traffic.
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banana123




 
 
 


Post  Tue, Oct 08 2019, 12:30 am
chanchy123 wrote:
Just buy a cheap pot frying pan sharp knife and cutting board locally.

Im kvar, she should just bring those from home.
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