Shopping for Flights

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Still on the travel theme because I’m in the process of planning our summer vacation to Japan, Thailand and Cambodia. Even when I’m not planning a vacation, I still “window shop” for vacations because I like to know the normal cost of things; this helps me recognize a good deal when I see one. This definitely applies to the cost of flights. Here are some of the things I’ve learned about shopping for flights online.

It’s pretty common knowledge that the season and the day of the week you’re traveling have a big impact on the price of the flight. If possible, try to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday are the high demand days to fly. If I need to fly on those days, I try to use airmiles because the number of miles needed to fly is only based on the season. If you’re looking to travel over Christmas, try flying on Christmas day.

What I didn’t know was the day of the week that you book the flights can also effect the price. Lately I’ve been checking flight prices every day, and it looks like it’s more expensive to book flights on the weekend. They go down during the week and up on the weekends.

My favourite websites for flight shopping depends on what I’m looking for. If I’m looking to fly within North America, I like to start with Fly, http://www.fly.com/ca/  On the top, check out the Fare Calendars. This is a great way to see how the price fluctuates depending on the day. My other favourite comparison sites for all flight shopping are Kayak http://www.ca.kayak.com/?ispredir=true , FlightHub (who consistently had the lowest price for our upcoming multi-city trip) http://www.flighthub.com/ and Trip Advisor http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ . Check multiple sites, they are not all the same.

For booking flights, use Flight Network http://www.flightnetwork.ca because they have a lowest price guarantee, which will give you a credit if the price drops on your flights. If you’re booking for multiple people, this could really pay off. Otherwise, I always check directly with the airline because I figure it would be easier if things went wrong to be booked directly with the airlines.

When booking, know your insurance coverage! I once made a $5000 mistake because I didn’t know what trip interruption insurance was and incidentally didn’t have any when I needed it. I have gone with a credit card that has an annual fee, but provides travel and health insurance coverage. There are lots of insurance providers, so shop around, but read the details and understand what is covered and what isn’t.

My last tidbit is what they call travel hacking – how to travel for free by maximizing rewards programs. Here is a great post by a blogger I follow, Nomadic Matt ,http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/travel-hacking-guide/  I was a loyal air miles collector for years but have recently switched to a new program because I am tired of the flights not being available and having to pay the taxes and fees. Now there are a number of bank associated programs that let you use your reward points for all of the cost. Now we put everything on our credit card, in the hopes of taking a big chunk off of our next vacation.

Any additional tips and tricks or comments are always appreciated – I’m learning about travel as I go. Happy travels!

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Road Tripping

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I think we have mastered the road trip. As a family we have traveled from Alberta to Vancouver Island, the west coast down to Los Angeles, across Canada to Moncton, New Brunswick, down to Arizona and across to San Diego, and the monster of all road trips – down to Miami (actually the Everglades). We loved all of these road trips, but do not have the urge to drive to the east coast ever again. It’s a lot of driving!

We did bring camping gear on the first couple of trips, but the vast majority of nights were in spent in a nice warm bed in a hotel.

Rent a car. Why put all that mileage and wear and tear on your own car? Check the rules to make sure you can take the car as far as you’re going. I found Avis was the only company that gives unlimited mileage and allows you to take the car across the border. We usually rent a standard or full size car. I make sure I call the day before and request a car with rear cup holders and a usb connection. (A lesson we learned the hard way).

A GPS is worth it’s weight in gold! We don’t book anything in advance. We pick a direction and go. The first trip we got in the car and said where should we go? How about Seattle? Ok! And off we went. The GPS will take you on the shortest route which sometimes results in quieter roads and even going through residential neighbourhoods. Use your common sense. Sometimes I decide to stay on a major highway because I know it’s the one I need. Just ignore the gps when it tells you to turn and it will recalculate the route.

If you want to plan a route or just check out how far things are, use google maps and get directions. You can just type in cities and it will show you the route and the amount of time. This is where I figured out what was feasible.

Back to no plan. When we get to a city, or decide we’re ready to stop, we search for a fast food restaurant or a coffee shop with free wifi (you know who  they are) on the gps and go there. Use the free wifi to find a hotel. I use hotwire, expedia, and tripadvisor. Customer recommendation on tripadvisor should be at least 80%. I search by rating and go down until I find the first one in my price range. Book the hotel, have a coffee, put the address in the gps and go there. We have never been stranded.

We vacation attention deficit style, and find that 3 nights in a city is enough for us, but we’re not in to sitting around the pool, relaxing, or visiting a lot of museums or art galleries. At night I use tripadvisor to find the things and activities we’re interested in. In big cities with tourist areas, we just wander around.

Traveling in the US is a fair bit cheaper than Canada. Hotels are more abundant and cheaper. The changing landscape in the US makes for a nice varied experience. We have done Seattle, Canon Beach, San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon in a 3 week trip.

My blog post is almost as epic as our road trips. The pic at the top was driving between Phoenix and San Diego. If anyone reading has any questions, feel free to ask!

Not Sure Where This Will Go

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I have been thinking about starting a new blog for a while, but I have waffled because I tend to be all over the place and blogs should be focused on a topic. My hope is that if I just start writing, a theme will become apparent or people may just want to see what direction I’m going in today.

I am a wife, mom, and entrepreneur. I love travel, tattoos, animals, and home decor. I wouldn’t say I’m a conspiracy theorist, but I believe that people need to look at the source and understand what people have to gain by decisions being made. Look for the spin doctoring and bias in what is being reported. The internet has given us unprecedented access to information. Thankfully we are no longer at the mercy of mainstream media! But the downside is the information overload. At times I stop following current events because the amount of corruption and greed makes me want to stop the planet and get off, or at least move to an island away from all of this. I call it conscious ignorance; where I choose to ignore things, not read stories on certain topics etc. I know people abuse animals. It breaks my heart. I support animal rescue agencies and all of my dogs are rescues. I don’t need to see pictures and read stories of animal abuse. If there is something productive I can do, I am willing to do it, but reading stories and seeing pictures and videos just causes me stress.

My current obsession is travel. Business is good right now, so we have decided to go on an awesome trip to Japan and Thailand, with a side trip to Cambodia (Siem Reap – Angkor Wat). I spend a lot of time researching and planning the trip. We have done some incredible road trips over the last few years. I’ll make my first official blogpost (after this introduction) on seeing Canada and the US by car.

Thanks for reading! Comments or post suggestions are appreciated.