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Travel insurance is sexy when it helps you beat the airlines

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

You’ve heard the phrase, “Go Big or Go Home”? Well, Jonathan Breeze, CEO of Aardvark Compare, has his own motto, “Go Non-Refundable and Travel Insure!”. Don’t start yawning because you think this post is about insurance.  Once you wrap your head around Jonathan’s awesome travel hack, you’re going to perk right up.

Did you know that a large majority of companies insist that their employees book Refundable Airline tickets? In doing so, they believe they are enjoying increased flexibility in the event of cancellation or rebooking. Sure, that’s all well and good, but they are paying through the teeth for that allowance — typically three times more than they should be.

According to Breeze, there is a little-known travel hack that will beat the airlines at their own game. “The airlines are robbing us blind with their 3x pricing on refundable tickets. That is the basic math. The seat price for a Refundable flight, particularly when booked far in advance, is typically 3 or 4 times as much as a Non-Refundable flight. You will hear of these Non-Refundable tickets being called ‘Throwaway Tickets’ because if you don’t fly, you may as well throw them away.

The best way to think about Non-Refundable tickets is ‘Inexpensive, yet Insurable’. Not as sexy, I grant you, but certainly, much, much cheaper, most of the time, ” says Breeze.

Simplistically, a Refundable Seat can cost 300% of the price of a Non-Refundable Seat bundled with inexpensive insurance.

So, if one buys a Refundable Round Trip Economy Ticket, say from DFW to LAX in August for a week (6 months from now), American wants $2,100 for a Main Cabin Fully Flexible Seat. It’s in the Main Cabin, but it’s more expensive than a First Class seat.

aarvark compare

So, you bypass this option to seek a more traditional Main Cabin (Economy) seat. And now, this looks like a bargain, after you managed to avoid the $2,100 fully flex seat.

Breeze points out that American wants $1,150 for a Main Cabin Flexible Seat. So, it is flexible, just not ‘fully’ flexible. Travelers may change their flights, not lose all of their money, but they will need to pay for the effort to make the flight change — a $200 change fee.

aarvark compare

According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Top 25 US Airlines rake in $3Bn a year in Reservation Change Fees. And $4Bn a year in Baggage Fees.

“If businesses didn’t hate the airlines before, they probably hate them now,” says Breeze.

“But, let’s go beat them at their own game…

Just before I hit the ‘Buy’ button, I, unlike almost every traveler, decide to get creative. Why not buy a Non-Refundable seat, and wrap it up with some ‘Cancel For Any Reason’ Travel Insurance from a Marketplace, similar to what we do at AardvarkCompare.com.

aarvark4

American wants $400 for the Non-Refundable Main Cabin Seat. Add the Insurance, it will cost around $50 — And you’re bulletproof! You have secured coverage for Cancellation (Sickness, Death, Incapacitation etc) – 100% Refund; Cancellation for Work Reason – 100% Refund; and Cancellation for any other Reason – 75% Refund.”

So, for $450 a customer booking that DFW – LAX return has nearly the same level of coverage as the person paying $1,150 for the exact same seat — A $700 savings.

Breeze emphasizes that the person in the $1,150 seat still has to pay $200 every time they make a change. Whereas the person in the $450 seat just needs to throw the ticket away and use their insurance if a flight needs to be canceled.

“However, I haven’t explored why these price discrepancies exist. Normally there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It’s pretty simple – Travel Insurance is based on risk, and the probability of claim.

Whereas flight prices are based on pricing models that try to wring as much money out of a passenger as possible.

And if a company likes to fly some of the Execs in First Class, the numbers become even more staggering. Recently we ran a study that showed a $16,600 saving on a First Class ticket, using this exact same methodology.”

Watch out for these common travel scams

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

If you have an impending trip, you may already be scouting the best hotels, applying for travel-friendly credit cards, and researching local culture. But according to Brian Acton, contributor to Credit.com, there might be one set of local customs you aren’t prepping for: travel scams. “Scam artists around the world often try to separate tourists from their money or possessions.”

Acton lays out four common travel scams and tips to help you avoid these cons and traps so you can enjoy your vacation without the headache of being scammed.

taxi scams

  1.  The Taxi Scam

There are a few variations on the taxi scam. In one version, your driver will claim their meter is busted and negotiate a dramatically over-inflated fare. In another, the driver might take you on a long detour to your destination, artificially driving up your fare.

To avoid these scams, you could decline any ride with a “busted meter.” You may also want to bring a map. While you probably can’t memorize all the local roads, you can study the map before and during your trip, gaining a general idea of the area’s layout. If you must, you can negotiate a price before you get in the taxi to help avoid surprises.

  1.  Card Skimmers & Readers

Card skimmers and readers are devices that pull data from credit cards and bank cards used at a register, kiosk or anywhere you swipe your card. Once you’ve scanned the card through an unauthorized device, the skimmer sends thieves your card details, which can then be transferred to a fabricated card.

To help you improve your odds that this won’t happen to you, you may want to avoid giving anyone your card unless they’re about to process a purchase. Try to only use ATMs located inside a legitimate bank. For credit card readers, you can consider using a secure wallet. And, because this one isn’t entirely avoidable, it’s a good idea to always monitor your statements for any suspicious activity.

  1. free wifi“Free” Wi-Fi

Scammers can set up unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, then wait for people to access the network with their phones, laptops or tablets. If you unknowingly access one of these hotspots, it could leave your account, passwords, and computer vulnerable to thieves, who can then get hold of your personal information, potentially subjecting you to identity theft.

To help you avoid falling victim to this scam, it’s a good idea to avoid using unverified and unsecured Wi-Fi networks. If you’re in a hotel or restaurant, ask which network is the official one. When in doubt, keep using your data plan — it will be less costly than a hacked device. If you do end up a victim of identity theft, you will have to go through the process of disputing fraudulent accounts and getting them removed from your credit reports.

  1.  The Friendship Bracelet & the Gold Ring

The friendship bracelet is a common scam in Europe, particularly in Paris at the steps of the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. The scammer will approach tourists warmly, offering a friendship bracelet as a gift. They’ll then tie the bracelet onto the tourists’ wrist. But, according to Laurence Noah, travel writer at Finding the Universe, there’s a catch.

friendship bracelet and gold ring scam“Usually they will say this is a gift, but once they’ve got the bracelet tied, they will start to harass you for money,” Noah said. “Basically, don’t let anyone tie anything to you, and if they do, just refuse to pay or walk away.”

The “found golden ring” is a similar scam. Scammers will “discover” a gold ring and ask if it belongs to you. “Obviously, you’ll say no, at which point they’ll say they think it’s worth quite a lot, and if you take it to a jeweler, they’ll give you a handsome sum for it,” Noah said.

He said the person who found the ring (aka, the scammer) won’t be able to do this themselves for some convenient reason, and so they’ll suggest you just pay them a small sum for the [finders] fee. Of course, that fee will turn out to be far more than the ring is worth.

Travelling can be a great source of adventure and inspiration. But you might want to avoid the kind of wisdom gained by becoming a victim. By staying vigilant and protecting yourself from potential scams, you can increase the chances of an incident-free, pleasurable trip.

Brian Acton is a freelance writer and contributor at Credit.com. Several years ago, as he worked to pay down debt and purchase a home, Brian became interested in personal finance and credit. He has been covering these topics ever since. Brian has a BA in History from Salisbury University and an MBA from UMUC. He lives in Maryland with his wife and two dogs.

Following the hippie trail for deals and cultural authenticity

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

hippie backpacker travel

Wanna know where the hot destinations are before the tourism industry’s commercialization removes the authentic charm and affordability?  Ask a hippie or talk to Steve Bramucci, Life Section managing editor at Uproxx.com.

WATCH our interview with Steve Bramucci

According to Steve, hippies and backpackers are guiding the trends in travel. A self-proclaimed hippie traveler, Steve defines this traveler persona as someone who is:

  • Not averse to staying in close quarters
  • On a budget
  • Emphasizing experiences over luxury
  • Interested in lifestyle markers, such as holistic living, health, fitness, adventure and the like.

“I knew that Iceland was going to be big before it was big because there was this certain segment of society kind of buzzing about it,” says Steve. “Travel in Iceland from foreign countries got really big over the past five years – increasing exponentially – and you felt that coming if you were someone who was in that backpacker world.”

Backpackers have eschewed Costa Rica of late because it has become too Americanized and expensive. This led to a surge in travel to Nicaragua, which has similar weather, jungle experiences, access to authentic culture, and a surf set up at a lower cost than Costa Rica.  “People were buzzing about Nicaragua a few years ago, and now that’s being replaced by places like El Salvador, which is friendly for adventure travelers for a whole bunch of reasons,” adds Steve.

“Greece is another good example. There are going to be a lot of great travel opportunities in Greece right now and there will be a lot of backpackers flooding the country to take advantage, which is great because tourism really drives economies and in Greece, it certainly works like that.”

If you want to take a page from the Hippie Guidebook, Steve recommends setting aside the last few days of your out of country vacation to wander a bit. “Don’t plan anything. Go back to the places that you liked. Have experiences that don’t have an agenda. Talk to taxi drivers; go to the post office and mail a postcard; get a haircut; go to religious services. Do things that take you out of the tourism industry and put you into a more natural environment. Those are some tips you can take from the backpacker hippie traveler that can really benefit your travel experience.”

You can check out Steve’s post on hot travel destinations and hidden gems here.

WOW, what big seats you have!

wow logoBoarding Area’s Travel Skills blog posted updates on international discount carrier, WOW Air’s new premium seat offering for travelers flying from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami to Reykjavik.

While photos were not readily available, WOW says the seats, known as The BIG Seat, “…is an entirely different seat, bigger with a foot rest and will at first only be in our A330 planes.”

Travel Skills reports that the section will offer 37-inch pitch (vs. 31 in regular economy), and fares for the premium seats will include carry-on bags, checked bags, in-flight food service and priority boarding. Typical economy pricing on WOW includes nothing but the ride and a single under-the-seat personal item.

Read the full post here.

What’s in for US Travel in 2017? Small, sleepy and relaxed getaway spots

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Trip.com, a travel planning and local discovery app/site, has revealed their “rising star” destinations for US Travel in 2017 and relaxation paired with quieter beach destinations is a prevailing theme among their top 10 picks below:

  1. Portsmouth Harbor, NH

    Portsmouth Harbor, NH

    Portsmouth, New Hampshire– This historic coastal town on the Maine border offers a mix of traditional New England seafaring culture along with an artsy, coffee house blend with everything from breweries like Smuttynose and Redhook to accessible yoga studios.

  1. Gulf Shores– Like a surprisingly exotic Caribbean destination with a Southern accent. Visit for the National Shrimp Festival, ‘jubilees’ (crab and shrimp spontaneously arriving in huge quantities in Mobile Bay, ripe for gathering), white sand beaches, sea turtles from May to October, dolphin cruises and more.
  1. The Poconos– While for some, the Poconos are synonymous with ads featuring couples in heart shaped hot tubs, this area of Pennsylvania has definitely transformed from kitschy to cool.  There are timeless fun activities like skiing in winter and canoeing in summer, with fun stops like the Barley Creek Brewing where you can play whiffle ball and bocce on the Pint-Sized Park.  Travelers can also go hardcore with whitewater rafting, or visit an amazing spa like the Lodge at Woodloch for a super modern rejuvenation.
  1. Washington, DC– While administrations may be changing, Washington, DC is always a popular destination for those who want to see the history and be part of country’s seat of power.   Tripsters are excited about DC as a travel destination, too, however, and not just for the exotic new wildlife. DC has some great trails, fabulous restaurants like Founding Farmers, free museums (unlike most large US cities) and some quirky offerings like the International Spy Museum.
  1. Hollywood Beach, FL

    Hollywood Beach, FL

    Hollywood, Florida- An art deco downtown, kitschy beach boardwalk, and just a drive from Miami’s airport, Hollywood is another of the old-school U.S. vacation destinations cropping up on the list this year (perhaps due to a country-wide thirst for a more innocent time?). But Hollywood can also feel like a welcome change from decadent Miami or just so, so, so, family-friendly Disney. Plus, sea turtles and a great beachside boardwalk.

  1. Oakland- The artistic heart of the Bay Area, where all San Francisco’s creative people flock to amazing art houses and cool bars and galleries. Travelers may want to check out an Oakland A’s baseball game and then check out one of the city’s acclaimed soul food restaurants.
  1. Fort Collins- This Colorado college town is also loaded with great beer (and no, we’re not talking about the Anheuser Busch brewery – think Odell or Equinox). Make sure the buzz wears off before hitting up cool stores like the Cupboard for kitchens and Killer Rabbit for cool menswear.
  2. Virginia Beach– Like a few other USA Rising Stars, Virginia Beach is known for being a somewhat old school, sleepy beach town. But its time has come again. Tripsters appreciate a bit of kitsch (salt water taffy and custard on the boardwalk never grow old) and love it as a family destination.
  3. Twilight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Photo: (c) A. Duarte via Flickr

    Twilight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Photo: (c) A. Duarte via Flickr

    Great Smoky Mountains- Yes, you can really find both mountains and moonshine here. Devastating fires recently ripped through Gatlinburg, one of this region’s main cities. But we kept it on the Rising Star list because Tripsters did turn their attention to it this year – and there is plenty of mountain territory to enjoy that has not been destroyed. Road trip on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road), visit the Cherokee Reservation, hike the national park or visit Dollywood for a unique amusement park experience, see moonshine made, and…visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, a private collection open to the public for just $3.

  1. Myrtle Beach- Completing a hat trick of kitschy beach destinations reborn, Myrtle Beach completes the list. An old school boardwalk and a range of good seafood spots for dinner- and if traveling with kids or just a fan of revisiting childhood, there are plenty of opportunities to play mini golf and options like Alligator Adventure. Or check out the old school boardwalk and range of good seafood restaurants for dinner.