Category Archives: Travel

I booked airfare to Italy for the first two weeks of Spring

In 2018, I visited China and in 2019, I went a little crazy and visited England (twice), France (twice), Germany, Switzerland, Morocco, and Spain.  In 2020, I wanted to see India and Nepal but the global covid pandemic killed that plan and in the end, it wasn’t even in the card for 2021.  At one point in time, I even had airfare booked to fly from Chicago to Delhi for Oct 13, 2021.

Looking at vaccination rates and which countries allow American visitors, the only real option is Europe.  South America and Asia are out of realm of possibility for 2022.  I lost a lot of money when I had to cancel the India trip (both insurance plans had a clause where they don’t cover global pandemics).  This time around, I am trying to be cautious about when I book stuff.  I don’t want to lose everything if a new virus variant hits.  I am optimistic, though.

The plan is to fly into Rome, spend some time there, take the high-speed train to Venice, and then fly home from Venice.

Have a suggestion for stuff to do or things to see while there?  Feel free to drop a comment, below.

Checking off some of the northwestern state parks

Next weekend, I am driving up to Ashland and I want to hit a few of the harder-to-reach parks along the way.  As I said before, I set a goal of visiting every state park in Wisconsin within the next few years.  So far, I have covered Aztalan, Richard Bong State Recreation Area, Natural Bridge State Park, Kohler-Andrae State Park, and Lake Kegonsa State Park.  Of course, this would be a perfect opportunity to have my state parks app functional, but it is not ready yet.  I am doing my best to get some core functionality up this week, though.

I was thinking that Pattison State Park, Amnicon Falls State Park, and Copper Falls State Park would be worth checking off on the trip but things like Straight Lake State Park or Brunet Island State Park might be interesting targets, as well.  There is also the big question of if I should take the boat over to Madeline Island and bag Big Bay State Park, while I am in the area.

Have any suggestions?  Feel free to drop a comment, below.

Why I really like Priority Pass

You might have noticed from my recent travel posts that I have gotten really into international travel since my 2018 trip.  When I took that trip, I used LoungeBuddy to pay to get into the Air France lounge in Terminal 5.  Unfortunately, since American Express’ purchase of LoungeBuddy, they have pulled support for both of the Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5 lounges.  Fortunately Priority Pass still support both of the Terminal 5 lounges.

If you look at their listing of membership plans, you might think that you would have to travel a lot to justify the service.

I would never pay $299/yr for the service.  Fortunately you don’t need to.  The Chase Sapphire Reserve card that I talked about in a previous post offers it as an added benefit.  With it, you and a friend can get into any Priority Pass lounge for free!

So, why do I like airport lounges?

  • Free food
  • Free beverage (including alcohol)
  • Good internet
  • Often a quiet, peaceful space with good views

If you like to travel, you really should look into this.

Mistake fares: A frugal traveler’s friend

In another post in my “frugal traveler” series, I wanted to talk about “mistake fares”.  Mistake fares are what happens when an airline accidentally puts the wrong price on a flight.  More often than not, if you book one of these mistakenly cheap flights they will cancel your booking and refund your money. Every now and then, they actually honor the cheap price, though.

So, how do you find these fares?  A really good resource is Secret Flying.

These fares do not tend to be live for long so, you are better off booking now and figuring out how to use it later.  Personally, I am watching for something from North America to Asia, preferably in Business Class (I’ve never done that before), and in the second half of the year.  I don’t know if I’ll find that but that is half the fun.

How to Find Cheap Airfare

As you might know, I really enjoy traveling.  I also really enjoy finding a good deal on travel.  There are a few good resources for finding cheap airfare.

Notification Services

Scott’s Cheap Flights

I discovered Scott’s after I booked my 2018 China trip.  They have a team of people who look for airfare deals.  Scott’s has both paid and free accounts.  The folks with paid accounts get the deals first and the people with the free accounts get the deals later.  The paid accounts cost $49/yr which is a lot of money but if it saves you $500 on a ticket, it’s worth the investment.

FareDrop

I started using FareDrop last summer after it launched.  At $47.88/yr, it is similarly priced to Scott’s but it has some filters that Scott’s doesn’t have and it is uses some sort of automated magic for finding the deals.  I’m not sure yet if it is better than Scott’s but it seems to be sending me some good deals.

Search Services

Google Flights

Google Flights lets you search for the cheapest airfare between two airports by showing you the cheapest price for every day, for two months at a time.  You can page through the calendar and find the abnormally low prices.

When I flew to London last January, this is how I found my super cheap airfare.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner is another flight search engine.  It has really good coverage with the various airlines and ticket agencies and allows you to limit the results based upon when you need to leave, duration, etc.

Momondo

Momondo is very similar to Skyscanner.  It searches all the things to help you find not only the cheapest flight but the cheapest way to buy it.

Much like Skyscanner, you can filter the results however you want.

Credit Card Points

I signed up for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card roughly a year ago for the travel benefits.  When I signed up for it, there was a new member benefit of ~$750 worth of travel points.  In addition to that, you get $300/yr worth of credit towards travel, a priority pass membership, and 3x points on travel and dining.  When I signed up for it, the card had an annual fee of $450 but this month, they increased it to $550/yr.  Is it still worth it at $550/yr?  I’m not sure but I have 11 months remaining to decide.

How to best use these tools

I have a paid FareDrop account, a free Scott’s Cheap Flights account, and the CSR card.  I keep a list of travel goals and occasionally check the various airfare search services for deals.  You can get the best prices if you can find a deal on a specific flight and then book it on the credit card’s website.  Doing that, you can (at least partially) pay for it using points.

 

Have a question, comment, etc?  Feel free to drop a comment, below.  This post is part of my occasional travel hacking series.  Let me know if there is a particular topic that you want to see me cover.

Repositioning Cruises: A frugal traveler’s friend

I have been looking at the idea of a repositioning cruise for a while now.  A repositioning cruise is a cruise where the embarkation port is different than the disembarkation port.  Some repositioning cruises are short but most are long.  Cruise lines reposition their ships between seasons (since people don’t really want to take a cruise in the dead of winter).

Let’s look at an options off of CruiseDirect’s listing of repositioning cruises out of Rome.  The first result is a 20 night cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Buenos Aires.

Ten of those days are at sea but the cruise starts at $28/night and includes your on-board meals and all of the normal shows and activities.

Since you are going from one part of the world to another with all of your food and lodging covered and paying less that you would for a hotel room, why not do it?  These cruises tend to book up early since they are such a good value.  You need to plan out 8-12 months if not further.  You also need to be alright with a very long cruise where you are at sea a lot.

Personally, I am just waiting for the right repositioning cruise to become available.