Category Archives: Travel Tips

Trip of a Lifetime

 

How do you celebrate after the greatest and most important day of your life?…With a honeymoon trip of a lifetime!  What exactly does that mean? How about a 2 week trip visiting 5 countries (my wife will say 4, does being on a river in Zambia and seeing elephants count as visiting a country?).  This included visiting one of the seven wonders of the world, seeing one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and going on a week long safari.

Cairo

Lucky for me, I married someone who loves adventures.  Not surprisingly her biggest adventure wasn’t our honeymoon, but was allowing me to completely plan our honeymoon.  I constantly teased her that we’d be staying in hostels and eating Peanut Butter sandwiches the entire time in order to afford the trip.  But since it was our honeymoon I decided to trade in the tents and hostels for hotels and switch the PB&J’s out for restaurant food.  Uh, staying in nice, comfortable private rooms and eating amazing cuisine…What has marriage done to me?

Honeymoon Tip: Just two quick pieces of advice:  1. If you’re planning a honeymoon, I highly recommend you wait a couple of weeks after your wedding so you can be rested and fully able to enjoy your honeymoon.  2. If you can afford it, take a trip that you’ve both always wanted to take, no matter how crazy, long, or expensive.  Now is the time to take that dream trip because you never know what will happen in the future…like getting pregnant half a year into your marriage…not speaking from experience.

Lions

Trip Idea:  My love of Africa, which came from spending 4 months in South Africa, combined with Courtney’s love of the Lion King resulted in our idea to go on safaris in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Trip Summary: I wanted to show Courtney a little of South Africa before our safaris so I booked our flight from Houston to South Africa.  For $100 I routed our flight through Egypt with a 2 day layover so we could see the pyramids and other sites.

Travel Tip: Find flights that have a layover in another place you want to visit and then do an extended layover.  This often costs very little so it’s like taking 2 trips for the price of 1.

We spent 2 days in South Africa and then flew to Botswana.  After 4 days of safaris we drove to Zimbabwe for another 3 days of safaris.  In addition to the safaris, we did an elephant ride, visited Victoria Falls, and walked with lions.  For us, mixing in other activities in between safaris was the perfect combination.  This may seem like a jammed pack trip with a lot of traveling, but we did everything we wanted to and still made sure we had plenty of down time to relax.

River

Our honeymoon was the perfect way to get our adventure together started.  The next few posts will be about our trip of a lifetime.

Advertisements

Cheap Trips

I don’t like making recommendations without trying the product myself, but I feel very safe about this recommendation.  Recently I discovered a site called TravelZoo.  The website offers cheap flights, cruises, hotels, and vacation packages.  In a couple of months I will be planning a big trip and TravelZoo will be the first on my list of sites to visit.  I have seen some of the lowest priced domestic and international flights.

From the reviews I have read about TravelZoo there are a few things you need to be careful of.  My main recommendation is be SMART!  Of the few negative reviews I found, most people were upset because they got something they didn’t expect.  Some people got a hotel that wasn’t as nice as they thought or they thought they were getting more activities on a travel package than they did.  To avoid this problem, read the description carefully, look up the hotel or airline that’s being offered, and research other deals.  As soon as I plan my next trip I will let you know how it goes with using TravelZoo.

If you, or a friend, have used TravelZoo comment about your experience.  Comment on any other websites you have used.

AA 30th Anniversary

American Airlines is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  What better way to celebrate than offer chances to win AA miles?  They have a special website that you can enter to win miles and find ways to earn bonus miles on different purchases.  Each day there is a new deal, but some of the deals last longer than one day.  Go through each of the days to see which ones have expired.  

Since my kindness has no end, look at MAY 9TH for a chance to win a trip around the world.  Also on the upper right hand corner you can enter for a chance to win 30,000 miles everyday.  In order to enter these contests you have to have an AAdvantage number.  If you are not a member of their frequent flyer program, no worries.  Sign up using the promo code ADV30 and you’ll receive 500 bonus miles.  Good luck to everyone, especially me!

Prepare to Save

I have been slacking with the travel tips as of late, but this week I have a couple that will save you a lot of money.  There is a website called Airfarewatchdog that allows you to find unadvertised sales and cheap flights.  All you have to do is sign-up with your email address and select alerts from your home airport and other close airports.  If you are looking to travel to a certain city you can also select “to a city”, which alerts you of deals to a certain city from various airports.  It’s a great way to find the cheapest flights.  Once you find a good deal, select it, and to the right of the flight information there will be several discount websites you can book the flight through (Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.)   To get these deals you have to act quickly and have flexible travel dates.  The tickets go fast because you can save hundreds of dollars. This gives you the power to find deals that you would have otherwise missed. 

If you hate renting a car as much as I do, you will enjoy this tip.  Auto Slash helps you find the cheapest car rental prices.  The cool thing is that if you’ve booked a car and the price drops, you’ll receive an alert and be allowed to rebook at the lower price.  I compared the prices from this website with other common cheap car rental websites and Auto Slash has been the cheapest and easiest to use.  It provides all of the details of the car rental agreement.  This is a great tool to help you quickly find cheap rentals.

Although I haven’t used either website, I know that both websites will help you save a lot of money.  There are a lot of good reviews and information about both sites.  I can’t wait to begin using them!

Credit Card Received

This is going to be quick, but I just had to tell everyone – I RECEIVED MY CITI VISA CARD! If you couldn’t tell, I am really excited about this.  Now all I have to do is spend $4,000 in 6 months and I have enough miles to get a round-trip ticket almost anywhere in the world.  It’s amazing that you can see all your dreams fulfilled in one small piece of plastic.

Right when I got the card I began planning my next adventure. I know exactly where I want to go and what I want to do.  The only thing is I have a crazy idea that I may try.  Lately I have been thinking that if I get enough people subscribing, commenting, and viewing my blog I will let all of you decide where to send me.  I’ve even been toying with the idea of letting people choose what I do in the country everyone picks.  Let me know what you think.

Where would you go if you had a free trip anywhere in the world?  Where would you send me if I let you choose my next adventure?

Win a Trip, What a Tip!

I know, I have mad rhyming skills.  Originally I was debating about sharing this information because I don’t want more competition in winning a free trip, but because I’m so benevolent, I decided to share it with all of you.

There are two competitions that you can enter to win free trips.  The first contest is by Jetsetter.  All you have to do is add your email address and you are entered to win one of seven trips.  You can receive more entries if you add email addresses of your friends and they enter.  The cool thing about this contest is that you can opt out of receiving email updates from Jetsetter.  I chose to receive their newsletter in case they have future contests or offers.  This contest ends January 30, 2011.

The second contest is the mother of all competitions.  I have ever seen something like this!  It is by Cathay Pacific.  The prize is a 80 day trip with unlimited round-trip tickets from Hong Kong, paid hotel rooms, and HKD 2,800 per day in spending money.  All you have to do is like the page and enter a video, photo, or written description of where you would go if you had an 80 day trip.

I never seem to win these contests, but they are free to enter so I figure why not.  Maybe some of you will have better luck than I.  If you do win I fully expect the other ticket or some other form of equal compensation.  Good luck everyone!  I hope we have a winner from this group.

No Plans, No Problem

Recently, one of my friends (yes, I do have friends) asked me to do a post about traveling with no plans.  I have taken two trips, New Zealand and biking in Europe, without planning beforehand.  Both times, when I got off the plane, shots of panic and excitement simultaneously went through my body.  I began to ask myself a million questions.  “Why did I think this was a good idea?” “This isn’t so bad, why was I so nervous?”   “Where am I going to sleep?”  “Where am I going?” More distressingly than all of these questions was the fact that I was talking to myself.  I must have looked like a crazy person.

This week’s tip applies to everyone, even if you will never travel without plans.  My main tip is don’t talk to yourself in public.  You will look crazy and no one will want to talk to you (trust me, it has happened to me before).

My main advice is very simple, Talk to Everyone! Talk to locals and fellow travelers to figure out the best places to visit.  They will know better than any travel book or tour guide.  By using these two resources you will have unforgettable experiences that you would have otherwise missed.  Even when I plan my trips, I ask people for suggestions.  Often times I scrap plans and follow the advice of others, which usually ends up being 10 times, nay 20 times better than my original plan.

Many people don’t ask for suggestions because they are afraid.  Ask!  If it’s a local, they will love to share information about their home with you.  Every traveler is looking for someone to share their experiences and discoveries with.  That is the whole purpose of my blog (I’m still trying to find someone who will listen to my crazy talk, well besides myself).  I literally spent hours listening to locals describe how things once were and how they have changed.  Fellow travelers have talked non-stop about their favorite destinations and crazy experiences they had along the way.  One of my favorite parts of traveling is the immediate friendships that are formed by asking someone a simple question about their home, trip, or life.

Just a quick comment, make sure you ask a specific question.  For example, don’t ask “what’s there to do in Auckland?”  There are a million things.  Instead, ask about things that interest you.  “Where’s the best place to go for a scenic walk in the mountains?”  You’re probably more likely to get slapped than get a suggestion for that last example, but you get the point.

Make sure you confirm any recommendation with other people.  You will meet people who have no idea what they are talking about, but they want to feel important, so they’ll give you a suggestion.  One time in South Africa, someone asked me for directions.  I pointed down the road and said take a right at the second light.  I had no idea where he needed to go, but it felt incredible that someone thought I was a local (or at least knew the area).  The funny thing is, when that guy stopped me, I was completely lost and was looking to ask someone for directions.  Good thing I didn’t ask first.

You can find the best place to eat, the cheapest hotel, the coolest local attraction, and any other thing you can think of.  Just Ask!

What suggestions do you have for someone traveling with no plans?  Have you ever knowingly given someone wrong directions or talked about something you knew nothing about?

Best Frequent Flyer Program

My good friend Kyle asked me a very difficult question (like all good friends do).  And no, it was not why am I not married?  So everyone, stop asking (just look at me and you’ll know why)!  He asked me, “which airline has the best frequent flyer program?”  Great question!  Since most airlines offer 1 mile per mile traveled when you buy an economy ticket, it becomes necessary to look at other variables.  These variables include the place of departure, destinations, upgrades, possibility of using miles for hotels or shopping, and which airline offers the most reward points.

Don’t worry I’m not going to write a complex formula to demonstrate how much work it was for me to get the answer, although I am a scientist (a scientist of politics).  I found that there were two frequent flyer programs that stood head and shoulders above the rest; Continental and American Airlines.

Continental has more partners, which means you will be able to fly to more countries and more airports.  It’s also easier to find flights using miles on Continental compared to almost all other U.S. carriers.  If you have to fly on a specific date this will be very important.

*No matter what airline you use it is very important to book as early as possible when using miles*

American Airlines charge less miles to fly to Latin American and Western Europe (40k compared to 50k on Continental).  The problem is that you have to fly on certain dates to get the 40k.  If you fly outside of those dates then the number of miles drastically goes up for both international and domestic flights (120k and 50k respectively).  I found that American Airlines credit cards offer more initial reward miles (there’s one with 75k, see previous Travel Tip).  Obviously this makes it initially easier to fly for free.

Kyle, I will specifically answer your question.  If you’re flying domestically Continental would be the best option for you because it has a lot more flights and seats available for redeeming miles.  You’ll use the same number of miles on both airlines to fly domestically out of Utah. If you’re flying internationally it depends.  American may require fewer miles, but your plans will have to be flexible.  Delta does have a main hub in Utah, but they have a lot less partners and the overall consensus is that it’s harder to fly Delta using miles.

The miles I quoted are for non-peak dates.  If you fly during summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or spring break the number of miles will increase.  Also, I only compared U.S. carriers because I feel that most of my audience will be using U.S. carriers.  If not, let me know and I can research international carriers as well.  Finally, it pays to comment and ask questions on my blog because I will research your question and answer it to the best of my ability. Let me know what you think of this post!

What’s been your experience with rewards programs?

This Just In

After hours of reading, I have amazing news.  The offer is legit!  You can apply for a Citi Visa or AMEX, and upon approval, you will receive 75,000 miles when you make $4,000 worth of purchases within 6 months.  The $85 annual fee is waived for the first year.  This offer is good until February 28, 2010.  The miles are enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe.  I’m not sure where else, but this is the best deal I have found so far.

I am very cautious when it comes to things like this because I don’t want any of my information to get stolen.  Anyone considering this should read the flytalk forum and confirm this information and the link I posted above with other sources (I got the link from post #2).  If you are unsure, then I would recommend not doing it.  Tomorrow I am going to sign up and I will edit this post and let everyone know how it goes.  Below I have provided some essential tips.

  1. Apply for both the Visa and AMEX. This could give you a potential of 150,000 miles.  You may not get approved for both cards, but according to everything I read there will be only one credit pull and it can’t hurt to try and get an extra 75,000 miles.
  2. Keep your card(s) for at least 6 months so they don’t take the miles away from you.  It is best if you hold on to them for 9 months or more.  I am planning on canceling my card, hopefully cards, after 10 months.
  3. If you don’t get instant approval you can call 1-866-606-2961 and ask about your status.
  4. These cards have high interest rates (APR) so do not get behind on payments.
  5. Read all of the fine print before signing up for the card.

If you have any questions, let me know. Please add anything about this offer or other offers.  I applied for both credit cards yesterday.  I called in today to verify that they received my online applications and they said that they did.  The approval process can take up to 7 business days, so I am waiting with my fingers crossed.  The link I posted is the correct link so good luck with getting the cards!  Let me know how it goes.

Quick Tip

There is an American Express credit card from Delta that offers 45,000 miles! The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.  The down side is that you have to spend $3,000 in three months to get the miles.  If you already spend that much, than this is an awesome deal!

There is only ONE day left for this deal so check it out at delta!

I found an awesome website that is all about frequent flyer deals and cheap flights.  It’s at FlyerTalk.

As a side note, I just found out that you can apply for the personal and business credit card, which would get you 90,000 miles!  Check it out.  You have to spend $3,000 in three months for each card.