Whether you want to go in the future, or you’re looking forward to your first time in Eretz Yisrael for Sukkos this year, here’s what you need to know.
The most popular time to travel to Eretz Yisrael is Sukkos. It’s no wonder why. Seeing Yerushalayim transformed with sukkahs on every balcony and lulavs and esrogim gives us a small glimpse into what it was like when Bnei Yisrael came up to Yerushalayim for the Shalosh Regalim. But if you’re thinking about traveling during this busy time, there are some things you need to know.
Want the best flight prices?
Book in November for next year. Airlines open flights 300 days before your travel date. If you know you’ll be going, book your flight that day. There are not so many flights between Yom Kippur and Sukkos (often, there’s just one travel day), and airlines don’t add flights just because it’s popular travel time. Don’t wait for the “deal” as prices will just go up and up the longer you wait.
Didn’t book before Pesach?
If it’s within six months of Sukkos (like now), regular flights will either be sold out or available at astronomical prices. During this time, though, you can still get a ticket from a travel agency such as Do-All at a more affordable price. This will be your best bet if you can’t decide on Sukkos before Pesach. Travel agencies usually have exclusive tickets in different price ranges, from business to nonstop, to flights through Europe with stopovers. The regular nonstop flights usually sell out first.
Want to stay in a hotel? Book that early too.
On Sukkos, the 5-star hotels build a few big sukkahs on-premises and decorate them beautifully. There are also popular 4-star hotels that build nice sukkahs and offer Yom Tov meals. Unlike travel the rest of the year when it’s possible to stay anywhere, on Sukkos, you’ll need a hotel that caters to your Yom Tov needs (ask your travel agent for recommendations). No matter which hotel is in your budget, they will all sell out…so again, book early! Like flights, hotel prices never go down and only go up.
You can also stay in an apartment.
When a family needs multiple hotel rooms, the price can get prohibitive. For many, apartments make more sense. There is a range of apartments available for rent for Yom Tov, from luxury options to more basic. Real estate agencies can connect you with an apartment. Make sure your Sukkos rental comes with a sukkah already built (or for an extra fee). You won’t have that much time to build once you arrive.
What do I do for food?
If you’re staying in a hotel, it’s best if you book your Yom Tov meals at the same time you book your hotel rooms. You’ll always get a better price “as a package” than if you book the meals separately. Note that most hotels will only offer meals for the first day of Yom Tov (and the first day of the second half) and Shabbos, but not the second day of Yom Tov. The second day of Yom Tov would be separate (if it’s offered).
If you’re staying in an apartment and don’t want to cook (many cook in advance, freeze, and bring their meals), you can also hire a local caterer to provide ready-to-warm meals. Many eat in hotels too, but it’s just much more expensive for non-guests.
You can also order food from a caterer.
Because Israelis don’t have a second day of Yom Tov, there are many caterers that will deliver fresh hot meals to you that don’t even need to be warmed. Look out for the advertisements.
Network, network, network.
Need a babysitter or cleaning help? You’ll be able to find anything you need by networking with locals. Call anyone and everyone you know who has relatives in Israel and you’ll be able to find virtually any service you need. You just have to make the initial effort.
Kids still need toys, even when you’re away.
Whether you’re staying in an apartment or hotel room, when there’s a lot of Yom Tov days, if you have little ones, there will be times when they need something to keep them busy. You can bring toys with you or pick up some in Israel. Games…scooters…a doll carriage and doll. These will go along way. You don’t have to shlep them home either. Before you go, donate the toys to a local family that will be happy to have them and you’ll leave Eretz Yisrael with a priceless gift of good chinuch as your children have the opportunity to do a personal chesed.