Archive for May, 2017

Top YouTube travel vlogger, “Hey Nadine,” talks about millennials’ influence on travel industry

Numbering more than 75 million, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. To better understand how these tech-savvy up and comers are reshaping the travel industry, we interviewed popular millennial Travel Vlogger and YouTube Celebrity, Nadine Sykora of

WATCH our interview with Nadine Sykora, YouTube vlogger at Hey Nadine.


Tell us about your vlog and how you got to where you are today? 

My site is and that’s also the name of my YouTube channel, which is kind of my main thing. Originally it started as a fun project when I was in university. I just started creating fun comedy videos in my dorm room to kind of give myself a creative outlet, because I was studying computer science and engineering at the time, which is not the most creative field.  When I graduated I really wanted to go travel before I settled down and started a real job. I was like, “I’m going to go travel for a year.”

I did a working holiday visa in New Zealand and I took my video camera along with me. I started doing little video blogs and text blogs of my experiences when I was traveling. At the time, nobody was doing travel videos – and travel blogging was still relatively new. So within that year, my travel vlogs just blew up from something that was a fun project, to the start of my current career. In the beginning, there was no money, it was just fun.

Who is a typical fan of Hey Nadine’s travel adventures? Who’s watching you? 

I appeal mainly to the millennial audience, so 18 to 35 are my core viewers because youth travelers are increasingly looking to go out and experience the world for themselves, as opposed to just waiting to travel when they are older. Fellow millennials that are in the same situation that I was in, they’re either in university at the moment or they just graduated and they want to go out and experience the world that they see all over Instagram, Youtube, etc.

Travel in general, I find is pretty universal.  But types of travel are very different and that could be any age range. If you’re a millennial or if you’re a senior traveler, it doesn’t matter. It’s the style of travel, whether you enjoy museums, whether you enjoy action, whether you enjoy culinary travel experiences or solo travel vs. group tours. I think style more aptly speaks to the type of traveler you are rather than your age category.

The world is so much more accessible now and people are realizing, especially young travelers and future travelers, “Hey, I can do this, this is achievable and I want to go out there and see some stuff before I …” do whatever it is they want to do in their lives.

That’s a great point. Now that millennials are maturing and settling into their careers, they are becoming a force to be reckoned with. They have money, there are a lot of them, and of course, the travel industry is paying attention. From your perspective, how do you think that millennials are reshaping the travel industry? 

I think millennial travel versus other types of travel is very much changing the travel industry because they look for different things. Millennials like a mixture of group package tours where they can meet other people because they’re finding they are traveling a lot more on their own. There are many people that aren’t traveling with a significant other because they’re single or they want to go, but their friends can’t afford it.  So I think you’re seeing a really big mixture of travelers that decide to just go solo and book and plan everything themselves, and then you have solo travelers that want to travel with other people, in which case they end up booking group tours. That’s why you’re seeing kind of an explosion in the youth group tour categories because youth travelers, millennial travelers, they want to travel with other people their own age.

Tour companies are really starting to capitalize on this. Many are distinguishing themselves as the, “Hey, we’re the tour company for 18 to 35-year olds,” and there are multiple options out there that cater specifically to that younger audience, which is really good.

Millennials are also interested in bespoke travels. They want more unique things. They’re not looking for the huge, mega resort, all inclusive, where everything is taken care of. They’re liking smaller places. They’re liking family-owned. They’re liking boutique. They’re liking cool designs or unique aspects, something that differentiates and what I like to call, “gives it that Instagram-worthy value,” because social media is a huge part of travel, and a very high percentage of millennials are on at least one social network.  Many are seeing images on Instagram and Facebook that inspire them to want to visit those places and do those things.  They are looking for places that stand out from the crowd because they stand out from the crowd.

If you were going to project into the future, 5 or 10 years out, what do you think is going to change from the airline or the hospitality industry, specifically? 

Technology is obviously a big thing. Most hotels are keeping up with at least the basics, like WiFi, public computers, in-room iPads, or chargers. They’re integrating technology a lot more into their offerings and services, which I think is really cool. Accessibility, ease of booking, easier access to reviews, all these are features that millennials expect and hotels are hearing us.

I find that millennials do a bit more investigating than other demographics. We’re a little bit more skeptical because there’s so much out there;  we want to see more of what we’re paying for. If I’m thinking about staying at a place, I want to see reviews, I want to see photos, I want to see videos. We expect more information about the places we’re going to. That’s going to affect the way the travel industry markets itself to people like me.

The sharing economy is huge with millennials, so your Airbnb, your HomeAways, your house sharing and couch surfing will continue to grow in popularity.  There is a big push away from the big box standard hotel and going for that unique experience that’s off the beaten path.  Something cool they can brag about to their friends back home and earn that all-important social clout.

Our audience is comprised of frequent flyers and hardcore business travelers. Do you have any ninja tips of your own for getting cheaper flights or just making your air travel experience better? 

There are a couple of different things, but when it comes to getting cheaper flights the biggest one I’ve always preached is flexibility and flexibility on destination. The more flexible you are and the more time you give yourself to book, the more deals pop up. It’s really up to you to keep an eye on the deals that surface.

Some rules of thumb:  Flip your way of thinking about planning a vacation. What I mean is, rather than starting off your planning by picking your destination first and then looking for cheap flights, start with a blank slate on your place and see what options pop up on Skyscanner or Google Flights by searching “Everywhere”.  You will likely find deals to domestic and international spots that are really interesting and you might not have thought of– and even some on your bucket list. If I have a date I want to travel and I seek out my cheaper options, I will achieve my objective to travel more and spend less – Be flexible.

Are there any do’s and don’ts that you think are important for younger travelers or millennials that are just getting started with their travel experiences? 

When it comes to do’s and don’ts, one of the biggest do’s is to go in with an open mind and to be respectful. When you’re experiencing a new culture for the first time, take time and research the people and their customs, so you don’t behave in a way that is perceived as disrespectful or obnoxious. Even if you’re a paying customer, it doesn’t give you the right to do whatever you please.

Remember that travel is a privilege. We’re very lucky to be able to do it and if you’re out there traveling the world as a millennial, be excited, but be respectful. You are an ambassador for your country and you want to make a good impression to the rest of the world.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection encourages travelers to “Know Before You Go”

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

us customsAs the busiest three months of international travel approach, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to “Know Before You Go” when traveling to the United States or returning home this summer. CBP officers at international airports, cruise terminals and land border ports of entry around the country and at Preclearance facilities around the world are prepared for the additional traffic expected this summer. Last summer, CBP processed more than 108.3 million international travelers at U.S. ports of entry.

“The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming country and CBP remains committed to facilitating lawful travel to the United States,” said Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “In the spirit of this commitment, CBP has deployed innovative programs and technology including Trusted Traveler Programs, Automated Passport Control kiosks and Mobile Passport Control to make the arrival process as efficient and as quick as possible while maintaining our dual mission of border security and travel facilitation.”

CBP encourages travelers to plan ahead to ensure a smooth and efficient processing experience. Use these tips to help you prepare. Continue reading →

Cash vs. Miles Study Finds 11 Travel Reward Cards Beat 2% Cash Back

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

travel reward credit cards

In a recent study, ranked 38 travel rewards cards with points that can be used for domestic flights, including the primary airline mile cards of the 5 largest airlines, along with the bank point rewards cards from the 10 largest banks.  Here are the key findings:

Eleven travel rewards cards beat 2% cash back

·         11 of the 38 travel rewards cards ranked came out ahead of a no annual fee 2% cash back card for domestic flight rewards when factoring annual fees. And three significantly outperformed.

·         The Barclaycard Arrival Plus, Amex Everyday Preferred, and Chase Sapphire Preferred each offer over $2,000 worth of reward value over 3 years, compared to $1,687 for a 2% cash back card.

best travel rewards credit cards

Only two airline cards came out ahead, both from Southwest

·         If you’re looking for domestic flight awards, sticking to a single airline card isn’t a good bet unless you fly enough to cover the annual fee with bag fee waivers or other perks. And even then, you’re often better off putting your spending on a different card.

·         Two things put airline cards at a disadvantage. First, most only earn a basic 1 mile per dollar spent with few bonus categories like dining or groceries. Second, excluding Southwest, the average price of a domestic award in miles is a high 37,332 miles round trip.

·         Southwest is the exception. With a generous sign on bonus and anniversary bonuses, plus very low prices of 13,722 points on average for a round trip flight, the flight value from its two credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus from Chase, beat a basic 2% cash back card.

When paying no annual fee, cash back usually wins

·         When travel rewards are involved, an annual fee can pay off. All of the cards that came out ahead of a 2% cash back card carry an annual fee.  But for consumers who want to pay no annual fee, a 2% cash back card like the CIti Double Cash is usually a better bet than using a travel rewards card for domestic flight awards.

·         The Discover It Miles, with a generous first-year offer that effectively offers 3x points on all spending, is the only no annual fee travel rewards card that matches a 2% cash back card for earning power.

·         Bank of America customers with high account balances can also get better than 2% rewards via the Bank of America Travel Rewards card using Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program.

Personal spending habits matter

·         It’s important to take into consideration personal spending habits when evaluating a card. For people who spend more than the average $3,008 a year on dining away from home, a card with a 2x or 3x bonus on dining like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve can outshine the Barclaycard Arrival Plus.  For example, a consumer who spends $6,000 a year on dining could earn $2,252 in flight awards net of fees over 3 years with a Chase Sapphire Reserve versus $2,104 with a Barclaycard Arrival Plus.

While the MileCards study used the average spending habits by category reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, using a calculator that calculates card rewards based on personal spending habits can help give a better sense of which cards will outperform. Read the full study on

Best travel apps you’re missing out on

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

top travel apps

Credit Donkey, a popular credit card comparison website, recently published their list of favorite travel apps.  Spoiler Alert: ExpertFlyer Seat Alerts is one of their top picks along with 70 some odd worthy competitors.

Read the full post here.


Getting High in Santa Fe

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe, New Mexico is the highest state capital in the United States. But did you know that Santa Fe is over 400 years old, and it’s been a capital city under three different flags: Spain, Mexico, and the US? We’ve been covering domestic destinations that offer a foreign feel and flavor, and Santa Fe is among the top picks representing international cultures — not to mention art, cuisine, and attractions.  We interviewed Cynthia Delgado, marketing director for Tourism Santa Fe to learn more about this unique city.

WATCH our video interview with Cynthia Delgado, Santa Fe Tourism


There’s a long history of foreign influence in Santa Fe, mostly from Spain and Mexico, but also from indigenous, native tribes. Tell us about that.

It’s interesting. Many people don’t realize that Santa Fe, New Mexico is over 400 years old, in terms of being a community. If you build in the indigenous peoples in the northern New Mexico area, we’re talking thousands of years old. As a capital city, it has actually been a capital under three different flags. We have the indigenous Native American communities – sovereign nations still. Back in the late 1500s and early 1600s, it was under Spanish rule, and Spain’s flag as a territory – that goes back pre-Plymouth Rock; then it was under the Mexican flag as a territory, and now, of course, it’s under the US flag. It truly does have an international feel, flavor, and really an embracing of all those cultures and traditions. Although we enjoy an abundance of varied cultural infusion, they all remain distinct in their own way.  You can experience it in food, and performing arts, in visual arts, in our 114 museums.

Talk about the impact of the railroad and the arts on Santa Fe’s success.

It really is a fascinating story. Back in the early 20th century, the railroad did come to Santa Fe, but it never came as a passenger rail. We had lumber coming in, we had brick coming in, we had what I would call Eastern lifestyle coming in, but the passengers actually went up to Las Vegas, New Mexico. It created this opportunity for the community, or elected officials, or community officials to really talk about who Santa Fe was, and what were the things that made people excited about visiting there. It really was that coming together of cultures, the traditions of those cultures and really this out-of-the-way place.

People like Georgia O’Keeffe, these renegade artists really saw Santa Fe as off the beaten path, because quite frankly it was off the railroad’s beaten path. And so, the community took that reputation, took that energy and said, “We’re going to be the city different. We’re not going to be your typical US Main Street city. We’re going to have this amazing adobe architecture that we’re going to protect. We’re going to have museums that become receptacles of art from not only the region but from around the country.” For example, our New Mexico Art Museum is celebrating its 100th anniversary in November.  Why is that interesting? Well, New Mexico was barely a state at the time and yet it had an art museum — and dirt roads leading up to it.

We really embraced that artistic, that out-of-the-way, that not what you’d normally expect to see in the US way of being. It played for artists who were on the East Coast, and although they were successful, they wanted freedom. I always like to say, people come to Santa Fe for the land, the sky, the light, and freedom.

If someone is planning a trip to Santa Fe, what are the not-to-be-missed art attractions?

That’s a difficult question, but I’m going to go for it. The art in Santa Fe continues to evolve. It evolves from our very, very traditional and masterful Native American art, so that’s one part of an itinerary that I would say to include. The Museum of Indian Art and Culture, our Native American Portal program where you can actually interact with native artists. That is an important part of our history and the art scene. Then I would say there’s Canyon Road, which is a little under a mile of over 100 galleries.

It’s the most concentrated street in the world in terms of galleries. That road and those galleries show the evolution of our art, Native American, Western art. You see a more modern, Georgia O’Keeffe feel to the art. Then we have our railyard, which has big contemporary art galleries. Those are three experiences, but last and definitely not least is a new art experience that opened just over a year ago that’s called Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. It is an art installation, interactive art experience that was developed by an art cooperative of about 150 young artists that wanted to build an exhibition where you didn’t just look at the art, or learn about the art, but you became immersed in the art with a component of storytelling, and discovery.

The House of Eternal Return is an exhibition you go to. You walk into this very large building, which used to be an old bowling alley, and you find yourself entering a home, a full-sized home. As you walk in, something just isn’t right. You can go through this house, look through the mail, turn on the computers, see videos, look in the files, go through closets, open the refrigerator and realize that it’s a portal to another world. All of a sudden, you become immersed in this story about a family that has disappeared. Within that scale, within that story, within that scope, you become part of the art experience. In the one year that it’s been open, they’ve had about 400,000 visitors. It’s a whole new way of experiencing art. 150 different artists developed it, and it shows how Santa Fe has been able to draw to it, maintain, nurture those artists that are challenging the boundaries of what we perceive art to be.

Let’s move from art to a different kind of beauty — Give us the high points of the Santa Fe landscape and how best to experience it?

Santa Fe is at 7,000 feet, which most people do not realize, so they come here with the thought of the word desert in their head. The one question I get a lot and it makes me crazy is, “Where are the Saguaro cactuses?” Actually, Santa Fe, in its geography is not a desert, from a biological perspective. It’s called a lowland forest environment because it gets more rain than what is considered a desert topology. So, we’re at 7,000 feet, we have all four seasons. Last Saturday, maybe the Saturday before, I was trying to get out of Santa Fe, and we had eight inches of snow.

We have all kinds of hiking, mountain biking. We’re an IMBA silver rated mountain biking destination, which there are I think only less than half a dozen of them in the country.  We have a wonderful spring season, where other mountain destinations are dealing with mud. We don’t have that because our snow evaporates. It’s really beautiful and we have no humidity — everyday is a good hair day!

What’s the best time of year to visit Santa Fe?

One of my favorite times of the year is the summer because there’s just so much going on in the city. We have the Santa Fe Opera, we have free music and dancing on the bandstand just about every night of the week. We have the Santa Fe Chamber of Music Festival; there’s the Bike and Brew, and we have our amazing markets!

We’re talking about how Santa Fe is one of those destinations you can feel like you’re leaving the country? Well, the International Folk Art Market happens in the second week of July, and they bring in 160 to 180 artists from around the world. This is a juried show. It’s juried by folk art market collectors and art museum curators. So, you’re getting to travel the world and see some of the finest folk art in the world. It’s a celebration of culture. They have music, food from around the world, and it makes you happy because this particular organization is the main source of income for many of the vendors. Many of the artists who exhibit here take home 90% of their sales for the year at this event.

I read recently that Santa Fe was named a top retirement destination so it would seem there is something for everyone.

The Baby Boomers are a very big dynamic for the travel industry. They’re healthier, they have money, they are active. They’re hiking, they’re biking, they’re eating, they’re drinking. They’re wanting to have great experiences. The Millennials that we talk so much about, you know what? They want to do all those same things, so we have to get it out of our heads to stop talking about age, and start talking about fun, and experiences, and adventures. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we all want.

What do you believe Santa Feans are most proud of?

I’m a 12th generation New Mexican and Santa Fean, and so for me, I think one of the things that is so important to the Santa Fe experience is our people. Whether they’ve been there generations, or they have become our biggest cheerleaders because they retired here. It is people wanting to share how much they love Santa Fe. And so, I always encourage people who come and visit, whether it’s your server at the restaurant or the individual at the boutique who’s helping you pick out that amazing piece of turquoise, ask them their Santa Fe story. Ask them about what drew them there, and you will learn about the magic of Santa Fe.

For more information on Santa Fe and a calendar of events, visit