All posts in Travel Tips

Top Travel Hacks for 2017

According to Expedia and ARC’s annual Global Air Travel Outlook for 2017, travel hackers may not have to work quite as hard to get air travel deals in 2017.  It seems average ticket prices for economy class are dropping all over the world.  In fact, they haven’t been this low since 2013. Good news!  But wait, there’s more!  We’ve gathered tips and anecdotes from veteran travel hackers and experts to give you a definitive 2017 travel hacking cheat sheet.

WATCH our interview with Randi Wolfson of Skyscanner

  1. Use a VPN and clear your cookies!

David Bakke from MoneyCrashers.com says before you start shopping for travel deals you need to outsmart the search engines. “Make sure private browsing is enabled on your computer before shopping for travel deals – or at the very least clear your cookies. Due to airlines’ use of dynamic pricing, websites may show higher prices if you’ve clicked on them before.”

“It’s not widely known that the price of a particular flight may differ when booked from varying locations. One of the ways around this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that will allow you to check and compare the fares of the same flight by connecting to multiple countries and then book from the location with the cheapest price. This can save you a lot of money,” says Haris Mumtaz of PureVPN.

  1. Airline gold and credit card perks

According to FoxNews Travel writer and GotoTravelGal.com blogger, Lyn Mettler, one of the best travel hacks for 2017 will continue to be the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows one person to fly free with the pass holder for up to two years. “It’s fairly simple to earn the pass, which is achieved after you earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points. To easily earn the pass, you need to sign up for two Southwest credit cards, meet the minimum spend of $2000 through everyday spending that you can pay off within a month and then earn an additional 6000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Once you have 110,000 points, then book a lot of flights without spending a dime on airfare aside from the government required $5.80 per way security fee. My family of four has flown to six destinations within a year for less than $100 per flight using my methods.”

Robert Schrader, a popular travel blogger at LeaveYourDailyHell.com, says credit cards are the key to flying free in 2017, even more so than in 2016. “Now that all major U.S. airlines have finished their race to the bottom—they all use revenue-based mileage earning and have even introduced “basic economy” fares that earn no miles at all—earning free travel via flying is impossible for all but a few travelers.”

“Moreover, with poor airline lounge quality and scant upgrade availability, elite status has little value. Contrast this with generous credit card bonuses, from a recent targeted AMEX Business Platinum offer of 100,000 to 50,000 becoming standard on American Airlines co-branded cards from Citi.”

  1. Best practices for air travel savings

Valerie Bowden, author of Backpacking Africa for Beginners, offers three tried and true best practices for saving money if traveling by air.

  • Reconsider one-way flights. I’ve saved an enormous amount of money by skipping out on round-way tickets. First, airlines make a lot of money with canceled or rescheduled tickets. If you didn’t buy travel insurance, you’re looking at a $200-300 fee. Second, one-way tickets allow you to get better deals. For examples, one time I got a flight from Africa to the US for only $355 (including taxes!). Most tickets within the US cost that amount or more. This is all because I found a quick sale happening that I was able to take advantage of.
  • Take New or Rarely Used Airlines. Another reason why I found such a great sale was because I took Saudi Airlines. It sounds risky. But often Middle Eastern or Developing Countries have great new airlines, and they try hard to promote them. Through sales and special deals, you get tickets much cheaper than you would be taking Delta or Lufthansa.
  • Be flexible. Flights can vary by hundreds of dollars even within a 24-hour span. I like websites that let you search one month at a time because then you can see the best deals. For that, Skyscanner is by far my favorite. 
  1. Housesitting & Hotel Hacks

The ultimate travel hack to cut out ALL accommodation (and often food) costs is housesitting. According to Tanbay Theune, a professional house/ pet sitter and blogger at www.travellingweasels.com, The perks are hard to dismiss. “Most homeowners treat you like a guest. They pick you up from the airport/train station/ bus stop. They cook you a meal or two and leave you some food in the cupboards. All gladly received when traveling on a budget – and even when you’re not! They also show you the area and the secret spots only the locals know.”

James, another devout house-sitter, and blogger at portugalist.com, acknowledges that getting that first house sit can be difficult as you won’t have any references or experience. “The first two I did were actually in the town I lived at the time (Edinburgh). I did them just for the reference. Then, I applied for ones that I was interested in and managed to get several back-to-backs in France. One was five month’s long so, in the end, I was able to spend nine month’s there.”

James has written a list of sites where you can find those opportunities. Of these, Trusted Housesitters is the biggest and it has the most opportunities.

For folks who want to go traditional with their accommodations, Abigail, a travel blogger at Where Abigail Went,  says one of the best travel hacks she knows is this: Check if any of your family or friends are full-time employees of hotel chains. Associates’ friends and family are able to enjoy preferred rates.

“Now that Marriott and Starwood have merged, for instance, you can take advantage of the extended Explore Friends program, which entitles you to book an unlimited number of nights per year for leisure travel at any of their hotels across the world, based on availability. You can save up to 50% off rooms this way, which is a fantastic deal.”

  1. Avoid duty and tax fees at the airport

“I recently bought a blender for my mom for her birthday and had to carry it with me all the way from Australia to South Africa. It’s small enough to fit into my luggage, but when I was going through the boarding gates, they charged me tax on the item. I then saw a guy in front of me going through the boarding gates with a couple of gifts. He paid no tax on the items, simply because they were gift-wrapped. So, to avoid paying tax or duty fees on any items, make sure to wrap them in gift wrapping paper and declare them as gifts!” — Gerrard Hattfield, Flight Factory

Why 2017 needs to be the year you try solo travel

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Young and intrepid or all grown up seeking an adventure that’s all yours?  We interviewed Brenda Mejia, solo travel enthusiast and author of the blog, Traveleira.com, to understand the fears that hold us back from solo travel and the joys of getting past the fear and exploring the world.

WATCH our interview with Brenda Mejia, blogger at Traveleira.com

“I started traveling solo when I was 23. I didn’t have any friends that were into traveling or the destinations I was interested in visiting. So, I just said, you know what, I need to do this. I bought my ticket to Scandinavia and I haven’t stopped traveling solo ever since.” — Brenda Mejia

Now a 27-year-old grad student living in Spain, Brenda says that fear is normal, but you can’t let it be the cause of missing out on all that life and people of other countries and cultures have to offer.  “The biggest fear of first-time solo travelers is, of course, the solo part, and doing everything by oneself.  But, if the biggest fear is being alone, then the biggest surprise that solo travel offers is the number of new and interesting friends you make from all over the world!  When you travel with a group of friends, think about it…you are focused on them: talking to them, eating with them, touring with them.  You don’t make yourself available to other people.  When you travel alone — you are much more approachable and more likely to strike up a conversation with someone new.  That’s an amazing gift!”

As a backup, Brenda uses the coachsurfing.com mobile app to find like-minded travelers at her destination who want to grab a beer or go visit a tourist site or restaurant. “If I want to hit a club or something like that, I use couchsurfing.  They recently launched a new feature called CouchSurfing “Hangouts” where you can find people in your area who want to hangout. It’s great, because the people using the app have the same mindset, which leads to good conversations and a lot of fun. It’s a great tool for people who are traveling solo.”

To learn more about Brenda and her solo travels, visit her site at Traveleira.com.

 

What Airlines Won’t Tell You

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

ExpertFlyer co-founder and president, Christ Lopinto, was recently interviewed by FOX News anchor, Ernie Anastos, on little-known facts and tips that the airlines won’t tell you.  Watch the segment and read the Q & A.

 

Ernie Anastos: Listen, we just heard a lot about what the airlines are doing and so forth. You’ve got to be kind of like your own travel agent these days, don’t you? Really, all the details.

Chris Lopinto: Unfortunately, yes. Our motto is information is empowering, and that’s why we like to give as much as possible. Really, with a little bit of research, you can do quite well these days.

EA: Okay, let’s talk about how you get the best seats, because that’s what a lot of people are concerned about. How do you do that?

CL: Absolutely. Unfortunately nowadays, airlines reserve the best seats for their elite customers or those who are willing to pay for them. However, what they don’t tell you is that within about four or five days before departure, the airlines upgrade their best customers into business or first class. That means that a lot of good seats open up in economy class just waiting for someone to grab them.

EA: What do we do?

CL: What we do is we log into the airline website or whatever website you used to buy the ticket from and check the seat map again to see if you can get a better seat assignment within a few days of departure. By that time more economy seats will be available.

EA: A lot of people are concerned about frequent flyer programs. Is there a real payoff with that?

CL: There can be, but you have to be careful. Think of frequent flyer points as money in a bank account. However, unlike a real bank account, you don’t earn interest and the bank can basically devalue that money at any time.

EA: What do we do?

CL: There’s a term in the industry called, “Burn as you earn,” which means don’t save up a lot of frequent flyer miles thinking you’re going to have some big vacation somewhere down the line. If you have enough to use and you can use them, use them now because frequent flyer miles will never be as valuable tomorrow as they are today.

EA: Any other quick suggestions if you’re traveling alone or with other people? Your family and so forth?

CL: Well, one suggestion is that if you’re trying to buy a trip with multiple people, say a family of four. What the airlines do is, they’ll price the ticket for the amount that is the same for everyone. Let’s say there’s one cheap fair available. What they won’t do is they won’t give you one cheap fair then three of the more expensive fairs. In order to figure that out, you price it twice. One at the quantity you want, say four, and one with just one ticket, and if the price per ticket is different, you know that there’s some cheaper fairs available, but just not four. What you do is, you buy a few of the cheaper and then a few of the more expensive and you get an overall lower cost for your trip.

 

Expert Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

August is a popular month for family vacations.  Some will travel to Europe and other parts of the world, some will explore our National Parks, and others will visit local attractions or create a Staycation in their hometown.  Regardless of where you travel this summer, there will be plenty of picture-taking opportunities.  While most pictures taken this summer will never go beyond social media posts or the devices that created them, there are opportunities to create truly unique photos for display in the home or office and online photo labs offer several interesting finishes to match any décor.

Pro Photographer, Gary Arndt

Pro Photographer, Gary Arndt

We invited renowned travel photographer and blogger Gary Arndt to share a few tips for capturing memorable photos and telling your story (with pictures).  Gary has been traveling around the world virtually non-stop since 2007. During this time he has visited 120 countries/ territories and all 7 continents.  He has also visited more than 311 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which were created by the Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1978 as part of a global effort to preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Continue reading →

ExpertFlyer’s Summer Getaway Must-Takes

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics – Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

You’ve probably already started stockpiling your summer vacation staples: bikinis, sandals and blow up pool toys, but have you thought about some of these not-so-usual vacation take-alongs?

froggelzOuchless eye gear
Frogglez Goggles are a pain-free option to traditional swim goggles. They sport a unique headband that doesn’t squish your eyes and ears or yank out your little one’s hair. In addition to swimming and snorkeling, the company says they’re also tested for scuba diving, speed skating and jet skiing. Offered in both children and adult sizes, Frogglez are available at madebymydad.com and amazon.com for about $20.

 

CoolBag


Secure your stuff and save your seat by the pool
Don’t you hate it when you’re lying out on your beach chair under the red hot sun and all you want to do is go jump in the water, but you don’t want to leave your bag unattended? Well, the “CoolBag” may be the covert vault you’ve been looking for. The CoolBag is a practical, attractive and roomy tote with a secret weapon that guards against theft – a heavy duty locking system, which is built into the bag’s handle and can be attached to a chair or lounge, so you can walk away from your belongings AND save your seat by the pool without fear of theft. Priced at about $123, the CoolBag can store all of your beach and sporting essentials, and the bottom of the bag serves as an insulated cooler to keep your drinks and other perishables nice and chilly. For more info visit: CoolBag.com.

 

ReliefBandRelief for motion sickness is on your wrist
ReliefBand is a wearable drug-free treatment of nausea associated with morning and motion sickness. The first in a new breed of over the counter devices, Reliefband uses accurately programmed pulses with highly specific waveform, frequency, and intensity to stimulate the median nerve on the underside of the wrist. This activity, known as neuromodulation, uses the body’s natural neural pathways to block the waves of nausea produced by the stomach when you’re traveling by plane, train, auto, boat – even rollercoaster! Priced at $89.99, ReliefBand is available at www.reliefband.com.

 

Hotlogic Mini


Lunchbox with a brain
Summer’s the time to get outdoors and have some fun. Most of us will fill up a cooler with our favorite snacks and bevvies, but what if you want to eat a HOT healthy meal when you’re on the go? A new gadget called the Hot Logic Mini is the world’s first portable mini oven that cooks meals from scratch, reheats leftovers or frozen dinners, and keeps food piping hot for hours. Available at hotlogicmini.com, prices start at $39.95.

 

RobocoppSafety sound grenade
ROBOCOPP, the world’s smallest SOS alarm, works like a sound grenade; pull the pin to release an alarm as loud as an ambulance and you’ll deter criminals or repel aggressive wildlife. Legal on airplanes, this safety device is a great traveling companion. Priced at about $20, the product may be purchased at robocopp.com.