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Quick tips for saving money on flights this summer

airplane

School may still be in session depending on where you live, but your thoughts have likely already drifted to this year’s summer vacation.  Where are we going to go? How will we get there? And, how much will it cost? If your destination requires a plane ticket, here are a few tips for finding the best deals to ensure you are getting the most value from your airline this summer.

  • “Code Sharing:” Understand what it is and how it works

In simplified terms, Code Sharing is an agreement by two or more airlines to share the same flight. This typically occurs between airlines that are part of the same airline alliance, such as oneworld or Star Alliance. Two carriers, say American Airlines and Qantas, for example, agree to offer/market the same flight. So, even though you booked your flight through American Airlines, Qantas may actually be operating the flight and a Qantas plane and pilot will be flying you there.

So you naturally assume that the cost of the ticket you purchased with American would be the same price if booked through Qantas, right? Not necessarily. While you may be a loyal AA flyer, you might actually get a better fare by booking the same flight on Qantas (in this example). And sometimes the difference in fares between airlines can be substantial, especially when flying internationally.

Tip:

If you see that a flight is being operated by a partner of your preferred airline (This information will be listed in smaller type beneath the carrier you’re booking through.), do a quick cross-check on their website to be sure you are getting the best possible price. If the airlines are partners in a major airline alliance your ability to accrue points/miles will not be affected. Continue reading →

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 HeyNadine.com.

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 HeyNadine.com 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 →

Feeling far away without leaving US soil

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Although in many ways, there couldn’t be a better time for international travel — The US dollar is kicking it, and once costly European destinations, like Paris, are very affordable. Despite these golden opportunities, many travel-lovers are skittish about traveling to Europe after a spate of terror attacks.  If you are among this cohort, we’ve got some local destination alternatives that may satiate your appetite for some far off culture, color, and cuisine.

In a recent interview, Jessica Norah, part of a travel blogging duo at Independent Travel Cats, tells us how we can experience a bit of Europe and Asia right here in the US.

WATCH our interview with Jessica Norah, IndependentTravelCats.com

Tell us about your blog, independenttravelcats.com, and the type of readers you attract?

Independent Travel Cats is a travel blog about international travel for independent travels, with a focus on couples travel, history, and mid to luxury range travelers. I attract readers who really want to know a lot of information about a destination as I write very detailed posts. Our readers are sophisticated and tend to have more disposable income than the “average” reader. I also co-run another travel blog with my husband, Laurence Norah called Finding the Universe, which is more focused on travel photography and adventure travel.

Many people would love to travel abroad this year, particularly since the dollar is so strong. But terrorism looms large and families are hesitant about leaving the US.  Can you give us some domestic alternatives to Europe and Asia that offer the feel, flavor, and flair of far reaching destinations?

The U.S. has some obvious more “exotic” locations like Hawaii which has wonderful beaches, volcano parks, and tropical plants. You also have Alaska where you can see glaciers, whales and polar bears. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is another place where it is easy to feel like you are in a foreign country.

In terms of places that feel like Europe. You can also take a “trip to Denmark” by spending a weekend in the little town of Solvang, California. It was founded by a group of Danes as a Danish colony and much of the architecture is Danish. You can eat Danish food, buy Danish dress, and appreciate the Danish history and architecture here.

For a taste of Spain, consider St. Augustine in Florida, it is the oldest city in the country and still has a lot of its Spanish colonial architecture. Or head to New Mexico. Santa Fe has a strong Spanish heritage as does the Old Town of Albuquerque. The central Plaza area of Santa Fe still retains a very European vibe and the city has some of the oldest architecture in the country.

For a taste of Germany, consider Hermann, Missouri or Leavenworth, Washington. Or join in on a Oktoberfest celebration held throughout the country.

Looking for a castle or stately home, plan a visit to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, Monticello in Virginia, Hearst Castle in California, or Stan Hwet Hall in Ohio. There is also a Tuscan style castle winery called Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley.

Looking for a long rail trip but don’t want to head to Europe, you can book an epic train journey on Amtrak and go across the entire country, discovering new places along the way.

Can’t fly to Switzerland, visit Vail, Aspen, Mammoth Lakes, and Tahoe all have great skiing and snowboarding.

Want to go on safari, The Wilds in central Ohio is a private, non-profit safari park where visitors can see rhinos, giraffes, camels, and other animals in open air enclosures in jeeps.

Experience the desert at the Great Sands Dunes National Park in Colorado.

For a good taste of Asia, you’ll want to head to larger cities like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. They all have large Asian American communities and you can find areas like Chinatown and Japantown in these cities where you can eat Asian food, buy Asia products, and be in an atmosphere that can transport you to China or Japan.

For those willing to visit our northern neighbor, Canada has retained more of a European connection than the U.S. and places like Vancouver and Montreal have a strong Euro vibe. This year happens to be Canada’s 150th anniversary so visitors can expect many special events and festivities for an unforgettable stay.

If you were to suggest some exotic vacation destinations in the US specifically for couples, what would you suggest?

It depends on the couple of course, but I’d recommend winter holiday lovers head to Vail or Aspen Colorado, beach and tropical vacation lovers head to Hawaii, art lovers to Santa Fe, city trippers to NYC or San Francisco, and those looking for a bit of Tuscany head to Napa Valley.

Families?

Hawaii is always a great destination for families. Hearst Castle is a fun family-friendly visitor attraction, large cities like NYC have tons of family-friendly activities, and there are also safari parks in Ohio and California.

Boomers?

Maybe an Alaska cruises, a trip to Santa Fe, wine tasting in Napa Valley or Sonoma, or a weekend in Solvang for a taste of Denmark.

Any special hints or tips for making these trips extra special or for getting a better deal?

Go some place that you are excited to visit, not to a place that feels like a second choice. Also, remember that exotic just means some place different so don’t just consider places that feel like Europe or Asia, but places where you’ll experience new things. Sometimes these places are much closer to home than we expect. As with any trip, plan ahead well in advance and book early for best deals.

Don’t get caught by airlines’ code share ticket price mark-ups

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Understanding esoteric subjects, like code sharing, yield management, and confounding airline pricing schemes could easily become a full-time job for the diligent. With the help of former pilot, air travel and insurance expert, Jonathan Breeze,  we’ve uncovered — and hacked — a troublesome pricing pitfall among the airlines.

WATCH our Video Interview with Jonathan Breeze

Don’t get caught by code sharing ticket price mark-ups

First, let’s define what Code Sharing is. Wikipedia defines a Code Share Agreement as an aviation business arrangement where two or more airlines share the same flight; meaning that each airline publishes and markets the flight under its own airline designator and flight number as part of its published timetable or schedule. This is a common practice among major airlines belonging to major airline alliances, such as Star Alliance, Sky Team and Oneworld.

So, let’s assume for a moment that you are an American Airlines frequent flyer. You need to fly to Lima, Peru. So, as a loyal AA customer, you go straight to their site to see what’s available.

Departing on August 15th and returning on August 23rd, the results yield a lowest fare of $3,025 for a non-refundable seat in Business Class. In this particular example, LAN Airlines (LATAM Airlines Group) is the operator of the flight. American Airlines and LAN have a code share agreement and are both part of the oneworld Airline Alliance. That said, the assumption would be that the price would be the price, right? But if you visit LAN’s website and query the same departure and arrival information for the dates above, as you can see there is quite a BIG difference in price — $1,834 vs. $3,025.

Jonathan advises air travelers to be mindful and wary of this yield management practice. If you see that a flight is being operated by a partner of your preferred airline, do a quick cross-check on their website to be sure you are getting the best possible price — if they are partners in a major airline alliance your ability to accrue points/miles will not be affected.