saves you big $$$

Sunset dance in Palau
Amazing sunset in Palau

This past weekend I was able to put my travel knowledge into action to save hundreds of dollars!  My neighbor was in a dilemma for booking flights on an upcoming international business trip.  While his employer has no required airline carrier,  he has a personal preference and wanted to surprise his wife with a ticket to join him.  The flight prices were on a steady increase, ideal flight times were quickly diminishing and his preferred airline seemed impossible.

Here I come to save the day with my travel acumen and of course I am wearing a cape!

I encouraged him to try utilizing the travel search engine called  Well within 2 hours he stopped by to tell me he booked the flights on his preferred carrier, with excellent departure times, and it was over $400 cheaper than he had seen anywhere else. found the perfect flight and I enjoyed the victory lap as a dinner guest at the neighbor’s home.

Seek your adventure!

How to plan for any trip (Part 2)…final countdown

So last week we started planning for a trip by sketching out an itinerary.   Here are some additional planning steps to consider for your trip and suggested timeline.  Let’s start by setting a countdown clock and get excited about your trip!

Two months before the trip:

  • Check your passport expiration date as most countries require it is valid 6 months from your arrival date.  In addition confirm that you have at least 2-3 blank pages for immigration stamps which is required in most countries. Don’t be that guy who gets put on the first flight home because you don’t have a valid passport; this is sadly a true story.
  • Check for any travel visa requirements or entry/exit taxes.
  • Review the CDC website for any potential vaccinations or immunization requirements.  If you are uncertain of anything call your local travel clinic.
  • Review the exchange rate trends for the last 3 months for any foreign currency needs.   I utilize website or download their app.  Unless the exchange rate is drastically changing daily or weekly I generally never pre-order foreign currency before my trip.  The best exchange rate you will get is to utilize your credit card but first confirm the credit card has no foreign transaction fees.  The second best rate is withdrawing cash from a local ATM once you arrive.  Unless you are desperate never purchase currency at the airport because they give you a crappy rate and usually charge an additional fee.  Don’t even ask me about traveller’s check;  we have moved on from the 1970’s folks.
Directions from Cape of Good Hope

One month before the trip:

  • Review the logistics of your daily sketched out itinerary.  Look at a map.  Are all of these places you want to visit nearby?  Remember to check out the app Tripso.
  • Is there anything you can book in advance?  For example:  Pearl Harbor tickets are free to all visitors but there is a limited quantity and generally should be booked 30+ days in advance.  I waited too late so I ended up on a tour in order to get transport and admission ticket.
  • Review your wardrobe for key essentials travel items: walking shoes, swim suit, etc.  Go shopping to update essential items if necessary or perhaps treat yourself to something new.

Two weeks before the trip:

  • Review your selected assigned seat
  • Review hotel reservations and search to see if prices dropped if necessary make a new reservation/cancel previous.  For example  just before my trip last November my hotel and car rental combination package dropped over $200; that is a lot of pina coladas!
  • Do you know how you are getting from the airport to the hotel?
  • Check the weather forecast before you start pulling out the items pack your suitcase
  • Identify travel reading material, download movies, etc
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies that you are traveling especially international travel
  • Confirm exchange rates on

Two days before:

  • Confirm your summary itinerary  in the Worldmate app has all your details and print a hard copy of your itinerary with all of your confirmation numbers.
  • Confirm your seat assignments.  I know I am obsessed by this but those without seat assignments on an oversold flight are the first to get bumped off.   Besides who wants to sit in the middle seat?
  • Start trimming down your packing items based on weather forecast.  Will you actually wear that dress?
  • Ensure you have your passport in your carryon bag!  Don’t be that guy who puts the passport in checked luggage.

 One day before:

  • Check in online when the 24 hour advance window opens
  • Put all your items into packing cubes and load the suitcase
  • Try to get some sleep
  • For international travel – no caffeine or junk food.  This is step 1 in my jet lag remedy we will cover in another post!

 Just remember regardless of how much planning you do that we have no control over the weather.


Seek your adventure!

What would you pay for an upgrade?

Ahh I remember the days when I had elevated status and if the stars aligned I would get a bump into business class.   However with elevated status I would on a recurring basis get the free upgrades to economy plus along with any of my travel companions.

Here is a quick review of what the major domestic carriers provide with each status tier  American Elite,  Delta Medallion,  United Premier.   Please if you do have elevated status with any carrier learn about your benefits and don’t forget to utilize your benefits that you worked so hard for!  Don’t end up like my friend who recently traveled on a transatlantic flight in economy even though his status allowed him free access to economy plus.  He did not know the process to utilize his benefits and found himself squeezed in the standard economy seat for 9 hour flights Chicago to Germany return.

Sadly I currently have no elevated status with any airline carrier.   As you may recall from last week’s post “Does loyalty matter anymore?“; I am only loyal to my wallet.     But never fear….you can treat yourself to an upgrade or splurge for the whole year with an annual United economy plus subscription.

Here are the primary factors that go into my decision process for consideration when purchasing an upgrade. 

How long is the flight?

For any flight under 2.5 hours I would not really consider it unless it was an upgrade to business class or first class at a low price.

What benefits come with the upgrade?

  • Economy plus generally has early boarding, free checked bags, and sometimes even free cocktails.
  • Business class generally flights over 2 hours a meal is served, 1st to board, free checked bags, cocktails (even prior to takeoff) and typically special access to movie/entertainment system.

How much is the upgrade?

This is a personal decision for everyone on what you feel comfortable spending.  This really comes down to how much you value being comfortable.  I typically determine the cost per hour (upgrade price / flight hours) to help me decide.  So for example a few weeks ago on our return from Puerto Vallarta to upgrade from economy to first class was $119 for a 4 hour flight which is basically about $30 per hour which included dinner, cocktails and the royal treatment.

I compare that to other hourly rate or luxury services:  Chicago downtown parking $18 hour, massage $90 hour, mani/pedi $45, maid service $100 or a round of golf $80.

Hmm which would make me happier….4 hours traveling first class or maid service this month?     Well you know who won!

Dec 2105: Asiana business class
Dec 2105: Enough leg room to dance…













Additional considerations:

  • Do I have a connecting flight?
  • Do I need to sleep on this flight? (i.e. red-eye or international)
  • How much did I spend on the original ticket?

My personal limit is about $40 per hour however the flight duration and benefits included are critical in my decision process.   Although somedays I just want to be treated like a princess; on those days even the loyalty to my wallet gets tossed.   It is all about me with a glass of champagne!

Seek your adventure!


Let’s talk luggage!

So many choices in luggage!                            Photo source:

For me looking at luggage is like a kid in the candy story.  I want one of each!  I have purchased many pieces of luggage over the years and have learned what features are important.

For carry on rolling suitcases there are 3 primary things:

  • Are the wheels built with solid quality construction?  
    • This is very important!  Solid construction on the wheels will make the suitcase so much better.  I prefer the spinner wheels (aka 4 wheels) so you can simply stroll the suitcase next to you.
  • What is the weight of the suitcase empty?
    • This should ideally be no more than 9 lbs otherwise you limit what’s in the suitcase.
  • Is the suitcase expandable?
    • I will often put extra items in my suitcase when in transit on a train.  Or if I did some shopping and I need to check my suitcase on the return journey home.

My current suitcase that is utilized for nearly every trip at the moment is Travelpro Crew 10 21″ Expandable Spinner.  Travelpro is a luggage brand that is very popular with pilots and flight attendents.  I figure if they travel on nearly daily basis and it works for them; it must be good.  BTW you will notice the link for the suitcase was to which is where I purchase most of luggage and travel gear.  The often have sales and there is usually a promo code floating around on the internet.

Keep in mind every airline has different carry on limits so take this into consideration before you buy something.

Regardless of what suitcase you utilize please do yourself a favor as most suitcases are black so find some way to distinguish your suitcase.  A popular option is to put luggage handle wraps on the handles that will make your bag stand out.  This will help you quickly identify your bag when you are deplaning after a long journey.  Sorry one more thing, please ensure you have a luggage tag with your name and address information.  I personally prefer a luggage tag that provides privacy to my address so the person standing behind cannot read my address and decide to show up at my door the next day.

Seek your adventure!

5 must have items for any flight!

Here are the top 5 things I bring on every flight even if it is only 30 minutes.   You never know when you might flight yourself on the tarmac awaiting air traffic control for take off and that 30 minute flight quickly turns into 3 hours.  How many times have you been there?                                                                                                                                                                                          

#1 bottle of water – Even if you are flying first class it takes time before the flight attendants can serve you a beverage of your choice.  Throw in some turbulence and you might never ever see a glass of water.

Upgraded to First Class London to Chicago!

#2 snacks – I hate paying $5 for a small bag of nuts at the airport because I did not bring anything with me and now my flight is delayed.


#3 headphones – Some flights have entertainment systems but you have to bring your own headphones or purchase from the airline.  I also listen to music on my phone to drown out the crying babies around me.



#4 baby wipes or hand sanitizer – Often the line for the bathroom on flights is long and if you just want to wash your hands this provides a solution.  I also wipe down my tray table to minimize any germs.

#5 book or magazine – I still like the “old school” paper version plus I enjoy the break from digital world.  The added bonus that no matter how long the flight you never have to worry about the battery life.

We will talk more about packing the suitcase in another post.  Safe travels.

Seek your adventure!


So how do you book your flights?

I was reminded this week that as a travel addict I take for granted all the information I have on how to book a trip.  Given that travel agencies in today’s world are utilized for specialized trips the average consumer rarely has a need.  So where do we begin?

Question 1: Where do you want to go?

This sounds like something you would know the answer to but sometimes you need inspiration.  I read travel magazines, blogs, websites, travel books, and etc so my backlog wish list of places to visit will take me into the next decade without a doubt.

However I find that visual images always help quickly inspire the “I want to go there” feeling.  Take a look at Lonely PlanetNational Geographic Travel,  BBC Travel  and the guaranteed to knock your socks of sights from UNESCO World Heritage.

Or if you are driven strictly by price perhaps start with Google Flights to get an idea where you can go for how much and when.

Question 2: Where should I search for flights?

I have three favorites at the moment each has their own advantages.  I never book with any of these websites and many of them don’t support bookings.

Kayak is great for various simple or complex searches: round trip with flexible dates, one way, and multiple city only option is static dates.

Hipmunk is great for a visual view of flight timings and default sort by agony.

Routehappy is fabulous for long flights when you are looking for comfortable seats.   It rates the flight by timings and you can search for various aircraft features.

Question 3: Where should I purchase my flights?

I prefer to book directly with the airline carrier.  However sometimes you cannot find the same rate on the airline website or you are trying to book multiple airline carriers in one ticket; in those instances I try to book it on Expedia.  I find that Expedia has good customer service and I have never had an issue with flights booked on Expedia.  We will talk about hotels another day but I general do a search on Expedia to see if booking a flight and hotel combination will save money.


Okay so now you are ready to book your flights.  Hold on one minute!  Please, please, please make sure that you have signed up for the airlines frequent flyer program.  First and foremost it makes finding your reservation for the agents so much easier.  Second, I personally think it should be a crime to not collect your hard earned “butt in seat” miles flown.  Even if you don’t fly that airline on a regular basis; you never know what tomorrow brings.

So with your airline frequent flier number in hand proceed to the airline website to make your flight reservations.  Most airlines still give you an option to select your seats at the time of booking with no additional charge.  You should do this right now!  While you have the airline website open you can find out where the best and worst seats are by looking at Seatguru as there is nothing worse getting stuck next to the toilets or in the overhead bin like this guy.


Note:  Don’t try this on a commercial flight!  This was at conference for a travel addicts.  We “borrowed” a plane for the day and decided to have a little fun!


In a future post we will talk about the importance of travel insurance and booking hotels.

Seek your adventure now!