Thursday, August 29, 2013

Free Flights!

The Louvre
How would you like to fly to Paris to take in the sights, and then go on to Florence, Italy, for several days before exploring Spain's sunny Costa del Sol coast?  How about taking that trip in business class with room to stretch your legs and all the warm almonds and cookies you can eat?  And what if you could do all that flying for free?

You can!

And Rick Ingersoll, the Frugal Travel Guy blogger, wants to show you how.
Street in Malaga, Spain.
A couple weeks ago, the Nightline segment about Rick was re-broadcast on the Wednesday night show, The Lookout, (Click here to see the short film.) and I was reminded again how easy it is to get free flights.

I've written about this before in "Fly to Europe for Free (Almost)," but now, two and a half years later, Rick Ingersoll and I are not the only ones helping people reach their fly-for-free goals.

This post will give you the basics of the flying-free philosophy and supply many resources to help you.   Bear in mind this is simply an overview (Though a darned good one!) to help you get started and give you ideas.   Some people devote their entire lives to this endeavor, so you will want to consult their websites which are noted throughout this post.  Truly, although you may never be a multi-millionaire, you can travel as though you are!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happiness Is Hotwire

Renting cars in France allows us to stop at lovely picnic spots like this one.
I love Hotwire!  For my trip to North Carolina in September (Click here to read about the flights that cost $458 instead of $844.), I'll be renting a car from Alamo for $12.95 a day and staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, a three-star property, for $50.00 a night.

While this is an opaque site (You do not know the company providing your service until you've paid, but you are told the star number or rating before you buy.), I've been using it for years and never been disappointed with the service.  I always check to make sure Hotwire is giving me the cheapest price possible, and I always find it to be half to one-third the price I find on any other site.

Hotwire was started in 2000 by six airline companies anxious to sell their extra seats.  It's expanded to offering hotel and vacation package reservations and car rentals. If you've never heard of them before, give them a try when you're doing your comparison shopping.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Free City Guides

View of Montmarte from a window in the Musée D'Orsay.
Want a lightweight, three-page city guide to help you find the cheapest eats, the best attractions, climate information, embassy locations, and transportation suggestions? 

Hostelworld has just the thing.  They list more than ninety free pocket guides for cities around the world. 

Download and print the guides (They're all PDF files.) from your computer before leaving home.  Tucking these into your pack, pocket or purse won't weigh you down.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One-Ways Cheaper than Multi-City Flights

In September, I'll be visiting family in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, spending three nights in each state.  When I priced the tickets in June, I used two different approaches.

The multi-city flight, using ITA Software, with one round-trip ticket (Tucson to Raleigh to Philadelphia and back to Tucson) would have cost $821.50.  Since ITA Software gives the prices for many airlines, I also checked the same round-trip ticket with the same multi-city routing and dates on an individual airline site--American Airlines.  American Airlines gave me a figure of $844.40.

Next, I priced each segment as a one-way and found an amazing price difference.  Three separate tickets cost the following: $159.80 on American Airlines for the Tucson to Raleigh flight and another $159.80 for the  Philadelphia to Tucson flight.  I also paid $138.90 for the Raleigh to Philadelphia flight using Delta Airlines.  (The price for the RDU to PHL route was prohibitively expensive on American Airlines, but fairly reasonable on Delta.  Since I was buying one-way tickets, it was easy to shop around for the best price for that segment.)

The total for my three one-way flights is $458.50 which is an astonishing $363.00 cheaper than the cheapest multi-city round-trip flight ITA was able to find.

I don't know if it is consistently cheaper to book one-way flights instead of a multi-city round-trip ticket, but I will always spend a few extra minutes to find out.  

Practicalities -

If you haven't used ITA Software yet, be sure to give it a try the next time you book a flight.  While you can't actually purchase tickets on the site, it gives more information about options than any other site I know.  You almost feel like a travel agent with all this information at your fingertips!

Note, too, that you can use ITA to find the best price on upcoming flights.  For example, I just priced a flight from Raleigh to New York (JFK) in November and found prices ranging from $183 (mid-month) to $277 (beginning of the month and around Thanksgiving).  When your dates are flexible, using this software is an easy way to find the cheapest time to fly.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Alcatraz and Other Goodies

Approaching Alcatraz
Click here for lots of free stuff on the Open Culture website.  You can get e-books, movies, textbooks, college courses, foreign language tutoring for that next European vacation, as well as historical tidbits. 
"...break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz."
Right now, on the first page of the site, there's a 1946 Alcatraz Prison menu for a week's meals.  Experts said this was an impossible prison from which to escape because the frigid waters surrounding the island would kill any escapee within an hour.  
When the prison was occupied, a mattress would have been squeezed into the wooden planks on the right of the cell.
Still, if you had to be stuck there in one of the tiny cells, you would eat well. Meat croquettes with bechamel sauce for dinner, anyone?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Unique Budget Lodging

No, this is not what I have in mind!
I wrote this article in 2009, but David's and my trip through northern Arizona made me realize it's still just as relevant today.  Especially along the Mother Road, Route 66, unique and inexpensive motels abound, but these lodgings are also waiting to welcome you along America's other byways.
The Desert Sun looks inviting.
If you're looking for something special at a price that's usually half that of chain motels, be sure to look for these mom and pop places.  Here's the 2009 article.              
About five years ago, I traveled across country staying at some of the cheapest and most interesting motels in the United States. These are the small-town, forgotten motels with names like the Dew Drop Inn or the Wigwam; the ones that were on a major highway before the Interstate system bypassed them. Here you will find unique floor plans and, sometimes, astonishing color schemes. I'll never forget the place in Kansas with a grass-green bedroom and a Pepto Bismol-pink tiled bathroom! But, regardless of the décor, one consistent feature of all these motels is price. They are 50 to 75% cheaper than their counterparts on the Interstate.
Or how about spending a night at Earl's?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Travel Bottles for Tightwads

Brincatti travel bottles were recently advertised on Johnny Jet's newsletter.  And Johnny says that 2,300 kits sold in five minutes on QVC.

The Brincatti site emphasizes the ease of filling the wide-mouth containers but doesn't say anything about whether they are leak-proof.

I suppose if you have a burning desire to spend $9.99 plus shipping, you, too, could have a trio of those three-ounce bottles that may or may not be leakproof, or you could get your bottles the Tightwad Way.  The bottles I use are absolutely leak-proof (I've road-tested them all over the world.) and, best of all, they are free!

Next time you visit the drugstore where you have your prescriptions filled, ask the clerk for some of their smallest (three ounce) liquid medicine bottles.  I always offer to pay but have always been given the bottles free of charge.  These are evidently TSA approved because I have consistently carried them in my 3-1-1 quart-size carry-on and never been questioned.

I also pack the much larger liquid medicine bottles in my checked luggage for longer trips.  These have also been graciously given to me by the pharmacy.  I label the bottles with a black magic marker.

For spray bottles, I buy the little trial size/travel size hairspray bottles available in any big box store for 99 cents, dump out the contents, and fill with my own chosen hairspray.

Awesome Arizona - Honest!

I finished high school and graduated from college in Indiana, and that experience convinced me that some states have less to offer than others.  While there are wonderful people living in Indiana and other salt of the earth folks who would not live anywhere else, Indiana doesn't have much to offer topographically speaking.

It's mostly as flat as the computer screen in front of you with a few rolling hills in the southern part of the state and a few rolling sand dunes bordering Lake Michigan to the north.  That's it.  The vast middle of the state is a flat computer screen of farmland with a tree every twenty miles or so to break the monotony.  (It doesn't.)

Arizona, on the other hand, has something to intrigue everywhere you look.  In the northern part of the state are a natural wonder of the world, ancient Native American civilizations, canyons, mountains, lakes, slot canyons, and London Bridge (Really.  London Bridge was moved to Lake Havasu City.)
This is a charming mountain town with bouquets of flowers decorating the town's lampposts.
The middle of the state has the most biodiverse desert in the world with whole forests of the rare saguaro cactus while just a couple hours away are pine forests and soaring mountains.

In southern Arizona you'll find a ski lift (Mt Lemmon boasts the southernmost skiing in the USA.); Wyatt Earp's Tombstone, the town too tough to die; the old mining town of Bisbee which recently became the only city in Arizona to sanction gay marriage, and Kartchner Caverns, one of the few "living" caves in the world.

 And that's just a partial list.

So, come on over.  Do yourself a favor and visit Arizona.  How can you resist a state with towns named Show Low, Snowflake, and Strawberry?  And that's just the S's!

Awesome Arizona - Hopi Reservation

Hopi are surrounded by Navajo.
On National Public Radio (NPR) the other day, the announcer said that the Hopi Reservation was suing the Navajo Nation because the Hopi were being prevented from crossing Navajo property to reach their sacred lands.  It's no wonder the Hopi are frustrated.  Their entire reservation in Arizona is completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation.

Relations between these two tribes have never been particularly friendly, but you won't see signs of that discord when visiting the Reservation.  The proud Hopi have maintained their traditions and culture for hundreds of years, and they happily share it with visitors.

Their one request is that no one take photographs.  They want people to appreciate their culture first-hand, not through a camera lens.  David and I chafed at that restriction at first, but we discovered that not having to worry about taking the perfect shot allowed us to experience fully the places we were seeing without any distractions.  

The road leading from Winslow to the Reservation is, once again in this northeastern corner of Arizona, just a sliver of tarmac crossing a barren land.