BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Top Travel Planning Guide: Save Time and Money Without Skimping

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Did you return from your last trip to a scary credit card bill? Are you holding off on booking your dream trip due to the cost? Do you have safety concerns about traveling abroad?

If any of this resonates, you are in the perfect place because you are getting the ultimate travel planning resource - front row access to my New York Times and Travel & Adventure Show talks:

   - Expecting the Unexpected - Planning Ahead for When Disaster Strikes
   - 99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping.
Watch this video to see the first 5 minutes:

          

To see my full talk, sign up for Travel Tips at breakthetravelbarrier.com (see screenshot below). Within 24 hours, you will get an email with the presentation:

                    

If you missed the highlights of my U.S. tour on my Facebook or Twitter pages, here they are with video of my New York times Travel Show panel talk:

Chicago
My first trip of the year was to the windy city which was also the first stop of my U.S. tour. When staying in hotels, I prioritize chains that include Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast in the base fare. These tend to be 3-star hotels like the Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn Express, Home2Suites by Hilton, and Embassy Suites (which is where I stayed in Chicago) gets bonus points for having an open bar and free snacks every evening from 5:30 - 7:30pm.

This was my first talk of the tour, so I stopped by the travel show a day early to do a test run:


                                 

I took advantage of the unseasonably warn mid-January weather to explore the city, using Uber to get from my airport area hotel to the Bean:
                             


Our Uber driver took extra time to show us his favorite sights. We had lunch at 
Gino's East which is legendary for deep dish pizza, then we rode the ferris wheel on the Navy Pier, and took in this amazing view from atop the John Hancock Center:



Manhattan
I landed in New York City a few days early to enjoy the city, and arrived to find this New York Times announcement about my speaking engagement and book signing.

It's no coincidence that travel shows take place in mid-winter. Lucky for me, New York was also having unseasonably warm, and I took full advantage to jog in Central Park:



I also walked to the Lincoln Center to see Romeo and Juliette - en francais:




To cut  my accommodation costs, my friend and Marriott Vacation Club owner Travel Coach Chris referred me to a Marriott ownership presentation that I attended in return for discounted accommodations. The property was under renovation, so after my three nights there, I was ready to move to the Marriott Marquis which is usually beyond my budget, but is the New York Times Travel Show's partner hotel. Here is the priceless view from my room:



The big day! As I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center, the size and scale of everything was imposing:
  
 

Here we are for our panel discussion 'Disaster Prevention - Planning Ahead for When Disaster Strikes.' From left to right in the picture below are:

- Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country in the world (Cassandra De Pecol has since claimed to have beat that record doing it by the age of 27).
- Kelly Walton with the Center for Disease Control.
- Karen Christensen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Overseas Citizen Services.
- To the far right, fortunate to be in the company of these amazing people is me! :D




Click any question to see me answer it:

1. What do you recommend to those traveling on a budget? And what would you say to those who feel they cannot afford travel insurance?

2. Tell us a story of an unexpected disaster you had while abroad.

3. What do travelers commonly overlook when planning a trip?

4. What is your top travel safety tip?

After our panel talk, I was whisked away to my book signing where I was humbled to find a line of people waiting for me with a copy of my book already in hand.

Although I have been to New York City half a dozen times, I had never been up the Empire State Building. So after my book signing, we went up to watch the sunset. When we got to the top, we ran into non-other than King Kong himself!:


                                                    

San Francisco Bay Area
As mild as the east coast winter was, it cannot compare to California's sunny skies and palm trees. Little did I know, the day I landed in San Jose was the first sunny day in more than two weeks. The night before my appearance, I strolled over to the Santa Clara Convention Center and snapped this picture with Levis Stadium in the background:



I set a day aside for a day trip to a Redwood forests, and when I arrived at the entrance to Castle Rock State Park, I couldn't believe the park entrance was barricaded, and that I was handed this leaflet:



So I continued driving West on highway 17 to Santa Cruz, and was again stunned to see the east bound lanes closed due to a landslide. When I finally got to the coast, I literally melted as I sat on the beach watching surfers in the distance before snapping a picture of this sunset:


Las Vegas
I had 6 days to kill between my Bay area and Los Angeles travel appearances, so I flew to Las Vegas for some rest and relaxation (yes really!). I got 3 FREE nights at the Hilton Vacation Club for attending a timeshare sales presentation. The way it worked is that I paid $200 up front, which was credited back to my account after attending the presentation. This was the second ownership presentation in three weeks, but I have become accustomed to how they work. Here's my video on how to survive a timeshare sales pitch.

I spent my last evening in Vegas strolling the strip when I spontaneously went up the Eifel Tower and captured this stunning 360 degree panoramic video of the strip:


Los Angeles
The clear desert sky had me all forget about California's endless rain, that is until I landed in it at LAX. I had a commitment in Santa Barabara during my visit, and my drive there was thrown into a hiatus when a landslide came down on the 101 Freeway northbound as I was driving there. Here is a picture I took during the hour I spent stuck in traffic:



Despite the setback, I was determined to make it, and the kind folks at the Ventura Visitors Information Center showed me a back road to get from Ventura to Santa Barbara via Lake Casitas in the mountains. It was not without it's challenges, but 5 hours after leaving Encino, I made it to Santa Barbara (usually a 1.5 hour drive) and took this picture adjacent to the waterfront:




Show Time!
 The next day, I was back in Los Angeles, and it was a thrill to speak at the Travel and Adventure Show where I was the last speaker of the day. Here are the first 5 minutes of '99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping':

          

To see the full presentation, sign up for Travel Tips at breakthetravelbarrier.com (see screenshot below). Within 24 hours, you will get an email with a link to the presentation:

                     

The Los Angeles Convention Center is attached to the Staples Center, and as my book signing wrapped up, an L.A. Kings game was starting. By the time I made it to the box office, the first period was nearly over, and I got a $133 ticket 15 rows from the ice for just $66. Here is a picture I took from my seat:




Philadelphia
The city of brotherly love was the last stop of my speaking tour where I was took the stage twice, moderating a Travel Planning and Safety panel discussion in addition to my '99 tips' talk.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Orlando Rivera, who handles expedited passport requests at the Philadelphia passport office, and Henry Hand who has worked at a number of embassies around the world. Both men are a wealth of knowledge on everything travel safety, how to manage your passport, and about what resources are available to you when encountering a crisis abroad. They have incredibly interesting stories, and were a ton of fun to speak with.
Click Here to read a Philadelphia Sun article about our panel discussion.

After the travel show, we did what every visitor to Philadelphia needs to do, and that was head over to Spataros in Reading Terminal Station for Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches:




Then it was time to head home. I love how the train connects directly from the beautiful 30th Street Station picture below) to PHD ($8 one-way):



These 5 travel shows attracted more than 100K travelers combined. In every city, people came to me to share how I was their favorite speaker, and that the savvy tips, tricks, steals and deals I divulge are invaluable. 

Once you see
'99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping', it will be the single biggest influence on your ability to save money traveling, and I'm sure it will save you a bundle on your upcoming trips.

To watch it, sign up to my Travel Tips newsletter at
breakthetravelbarrier.com. Within 24 hours, you will get an email with a link to the presentation:



*PS: Your family and friends will love you even more than they already do once you share this with them.


WANT MORE?
 Get my FREE GUIDE 'Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight' at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com 


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He is the author of 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
stopdreamingstarttraveling.com.




Beat the System when Booking Travel Online

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The most daunting part of booking a trip online is the overwhelming number of options to choose from. Truth is, it's hard to know where to turn to find the best fares, and once you finally find a good deal, you may later return to your computer to find the price has since increased. This can happen due to a number of reasons:

1. Low fares are restricted to a set number of bookings, and if they all get booked between the time you run your search to the time you return to your computer, your price is going to jump.

2. Anything a website knows about you can be used to assume your purchasing power and intentions. Websites often have macros that manipulate your search results based on your demographics. For example:

·     If you logon to the website, it will know everything you have entered and done on that site.

·     If cookies are enabled on your PC, the website can see your search history on their site.

·     Websites can see what operating system you are using. Some may assume users of certain operating systems are be willing to pay more (or less) than others and could manipulate prices according to those assumptions.

Any demographic based price adjustments are likely to be in small dollar amounts, but if you are determined to conduct your search in stealth mode, I recommend not logging onto the website prior to running your search, delete cookies on your PC, and run your search from two computers with different operating systems.

CLICK HERE to hear what Kevin O'Leary from Shark Tank and I have to say about this on Toronto News Talk 1010.

                                                              

Out-Negotiate the Priceline Negotiator
Bidding websites like Priceline allow you to bid how much you are willing to pay for a hotel room. The way these websites work is they require your credit card information before you submit your bid, and if it is accepted, your card is automatically charged a non-refundable booking. What you don't know is that if you bid more than the base rate, Priceline splits the difference 50/50 with the hotel.

There is a secret way to get around this. Instead of using your credit card, use a pre-paid Visa card with a small balance (i.e. $2). If your bid is accepted, you will get a pop-up window saying your credit card could not be charged (as it has insufficient funds). You can then lower your bid, and keep lowering it until it is finally rejected. You now know the lowest acceptable bid and can book your room using your credit card at that base fare and not a penny more.


                       

Best Time to Book Flights for Best Fares

I truly believe there are too many moving parts to pin down a one-size fits all best time to book travel online. Luckily, there are incredibly powerful tools you can use that crunch historical data related to the specific flight you want to take and can show you the best price you can get now, whether the price is likely to rise or drop, when and by how much.

You can do this using a free App called
Hopper, and you can also use Kayak's Airfare Predictor. Bear in mind, as with financial investments, past performance is not necessarily reflective of future returns, but it's always good to have historical data on-hand when making your decision.

What if a Better Fare Arises After I Book? 

·    For flights, airlines allow you to cancel reservations within 24 hours of booking. Once that grace period ends, high change fees tend to offset any cost savings you would get from changing your original flight. 

·    Hotel rooms booked through a travel agent or directly with a hotel tend to have better terms, often allowing you to cancel with no penalty as late as 6pm on check-in day. Anytime you find a good fare, try to book it under these terms to lock-in that rate. If something better comes along, you can simply cancel your existing reservation and rebook at the lower fare.

·    Some websites constantly search for better fares after you book, and alert you when they find lower fares for an identical itinerary. Tingo.com (for hotels) and Autoslash.com (for car rentals) do this and allow you to cancel your existing reservation and rebook at the lower fare.

Last year, 22-year old college student Aktarer Zaman made international headlines after launching skiplagged.com, a website that shows you how to fly cheaper by booking indirect flights that connect through your destination city where you can simply hop-off the plane. If you try this:

·     Carry on all your luggage as checked-bags will go on to the final destination. 

·    Book a one-way flight because anytime you miss a leg of a flight, all subsequent legs are automatically cancelled and are ineligible for refund or credit.

I first learned about this in 2013 when my friend Adam showed me he could fly cheaper to Houston by booking a flight to New Orleans connecting in Houston and hopping off, than it would cost to book a flight destined to Houston.

Are the savings worth the time it takes it takes to do these things?  
Everything boils down to time vs. money. If you can afford to take a trip, you might not feel the time spent is worth the possible savings. But if it makes the difference between being able to afford a trip or not going, it's well worth the effort.

Regardless of whether I save $500, $5 or nothing at all, I am willing to try any strategy that can save me money regardless of affordability. Often those who can afford a trip are the ones who overpay. In fact, knowing HOW to save money is more powerful that HOW MUCH you may save on one specific trip, as you can apply the principles for every trip.



CLICK HERE to hear me talk about all this and more on CBC.

Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at stopdreamingstarttraveling.com    
                           
                               
FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com

Ways to Save on a Weekend Escape

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When's the last time a trip cost less than you expected?
This travel spending survey says 68% of travelers overspend when on vacation. If you're like most people, you likely don't get to travel as much as you'd like to. And when you finally do break away for a quick escape, you justify overspending using the logic you deserve it, and that you won't let a dollar deprive your long overdue holiday. 

TRUTH IS you don't need to spend a fortune to have a great vacation, and here are some quick and easy ways you can save money on a weekend road trip. 

                                                                
CLICK HERE to hear me discuss ways to cut the cost of a weekend road trip on CBC.


Ways to Save on a Weekend Escape
                                                             
To find the best price for gas at nearby gas stations,
Gas Buddy is a GPS integrated app that lists all nearby gas stations with prices by fuel grade and directions from your current location.

If you are a Costco member, just about every Costco store sells discount coupons redeemable at nearby restaurants, hotels, spas and attractions in the form of $100 pre-paid gift cards you can purchase for $80, and also in bundles of 3 for the price of 2. You won't always find these discounts on the store's website as they are local deals, so you can call a store in your destination city to find out what discount coupons they have, or simply stop into a store once you arrive.

If you subscribe to either Groupon or Living Social, two weeks before your trip, change your hometown in your account to the destination you will be visiting to get emails with discount coupons that target locals. These deals target locals and tourists are often unaware of them.

For 2-for-1 coupons and upward of 40% OFF activities, restaurants, golf, spas, hotels and excursions in most major U.S. cities, travelzoo.com has more than 1,600 discount coupons neatly organized by city. On their homepage, simply type the name of the city you will be visiting in the search field, then browse all the discount coupons specific to that destination. I did this prior to visiting New York City and scored 2-for-1 tickets to the Lion King on Broadway.

To find inexpensive things to do, before your trip, run a google search using the name of the city you will be visiting with the words 'events newsletter.' When your google search returns all the local events newsletters, sign-up to those that interest you. This is a clever way to learn about free and inexpensive events most tourists do not know of. I did this before traveling to Phoenix, and it's how I learned of a Major League Baseball Cactus League festival taking place in old town Scottsdale. The festival was free to attend, and I would have never known about it had I not signed up to that newsletter.

If you are looking for a last-minute flight, air traffic are prices are heavier on long-weekends, so being flexible is important to getting a good deal. I find great flight deals by following a handful of newsletters and social media pages that scour thousands of online deals and share the crème-de-la-crème for you to cherry pick from. They consistently impress me with great deals, and I list them here.

The most common mistake travelers make on a weekend escape is trying to do too much by cramming as much as you can into the little time that you have.  Yes I get that you want to make the most of your weekend escape, but don't discount the value of rest and relation.

CLICK HERE to hear me discuss ways to cut the cost of a weekend road trip on CBC.


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at stopdreamingstarttaveling.com

FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com                  

Dream Honeymoons that Don't Break the Bank

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If you are getting married,
a survey of 2,000 newlyweds suggests you may be more excited about your honeymoon than the wedding itself!

  • 67% look forward to the honeymoon MORE than the wedding.
  • 84% would skimp on their wedding if it meant a fancier honeymoon

CNN Money found the average wedding costs $28K. When you consider many newlyweds are early in their careers where salaries aren’t as high as they one day will be, it’s no surprise many feel they may need to scale back on their honeymoon.

Truth is... you don’t need to toss your budget out the window to have a dream honeymoon, nor do you need to skimp on your wedding to make it economical.

CLICK HERE to see me on Breakfast TV discussing ways to have a Dream Honeymoon that doesn’t break the bank, or read on for extra details below:

                                           


Agreeing on a Destination
A fun way to narrow your list of honeymoon destinations is to have your
fiancé and yourself try
this Honeymoon & Romantic Survey and share your results. The survey suggests honeymoon destinations that align to your travel type.

Registries
Wedding registries were traditionally used to help newlyweds settle into their new home. Today, couples live together long before they get married, and already have pots, pans, toasters and blenders.

Instead, use your registry to fund your honeymoon. 
Honeyfund.com for example is a crowdfunding platform specializing in honeymoons and you might have seen this website on Shark Tank where Shark Kevin O’Leary invested in the company.                                


W
hat's great about Honey Fund is that it enables you to extend your reach beyond your wedding party to everyone in your social network. Their biggest success story comes from a Chicago couple who funded a full year trip-around-the-world for their honeymoon.

There is no charge to setup a basic crowdfunding profile, but you can add some bells and whistles to your profile for a small fee. Honey Fund retains a small percentage of the donations made a service fee which is how they make their money. (Of course, if Kevin O’Leary is investing, they must be making money).

In Canada, you can setup a honeymoon registry with 
FlightCentre.ca you can use toward a Flight Centre vacation (Click here for registry details). People can donate to your registry online, by phone, and at any Flight Centre store:

 

Inexpensive 5-Star Resorts
When it comes to destinations, this Price of Travel survey ranked the top 100+ cities with the least expensive 5-star resorts, and ranked Bali, Indonesia at the top of the list. With lavish 5-star resorts available for as little at $24/night U.S. Bali is a place where you can have 5-star accommodations on a 2-star budget.

Consider Low Currency Countries
Whatever you want to get out of your honeymoon, look for destinations that offer those things in low currency countries.

Let’s say you want to go to the tropics, much of the Caribbean is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Alternatively, South East Asia has just as amazing tropical islands and counties there have the lowest valued currencies of any place you will visit in the world. In Vietnam, the U.S. dollar will earn you 15K Vietnamese Dong which has miles of white sandy beaches and rock formations similar to those you will find in Thailand.

For more ways to stretch your travel dollar in low currency countries, 
CLICK HERE to see me share my favorite Inexpensive Alternatives to Top U.S. Travel Destinations on Breakfast TV.

Leverage your Wedding Costs to Fund your Honeymoon
I often preach you can multiply your savings by using leverage. So what can newlyweds leverage? The cost of the wedding of course! Some online retailers offer big time travel points (as many as 15 points per dollar spent) to lure you from brick-and-mortar stores. You can buy almost anything you need for a wedding online from rings, dresses, invitations, photo albums and even flowers.

To see which online stores have the best promotions, you can browse point promotions at
EVreward.com:

                                                                

 This is how I learned that a few times a year, shop.ca offers 15 Aeroplan points per dollar spent:
                              

 
By purchasing 10K of wedding expenses during this promotion, you will earn 150K points, enough for two economy round trip tickets anywhere in the world. Shop.ca does not announce these promotions in advance, so the best way to keep current is to sign up to their newsletter, and you will get an email notifying you of every promotion.

Credit Card Travel Benefits
All travel is booked online so you have to have a credit card. Since major travel operators all partner with credit cards that offer travel benefits, you can use these benefits offset your honeymoon expenses.

My favorite credit card benefit for honeymooners is the Companion Pass that entitles you to bring a guest with you on one a round-trip flight every year. Terms and conditions vary by card, but the companion pass generally requires you to pay a fixed rate to redeem it, it usually only applies to economy fares, and does not cover surcharges or taxes.

Cards with Companion Pass Benefits:
  • The Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve cards (U.S.) have a hefty $195 annual fee, but come with a plethora of travel benefits including a free annual companion pass, free checked bag, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.
  • Alaska Airlines has credit cards with Visa (U.S.) and MBNA (Canada) come with an annual companion pass you can redeem for $121.
  • Westjet RBC World Elite Master Card (Canada): Companion fare varies from $99 in Canada and Continental U.S. to $399 to for London.
  • Lufthansa Premier Miles & More Barclaycard Mastercard (U.S): comes with an annual companion pass benefit for round-trip flights crossing the Atlantic. A weekend surcharge fee may apply. CLICK HERE for full details.
                                   

For more information about credit card travel benefits, CLICK HERE and scroll down to ‘Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses.’

Indulge Selectively
Take a moment to think about what you are willing to compromise, so you don’t need to skimp on what you want most. In other words, pinch your budget where it doesn’t hurt, so that you don’t need to pinch it where it does.

Finally – Don’t forget to mention it’s your honeymoon! People tend to soften up when they know it’s your honeymoon, and you might just return to your room to find a complimentary bottle of bubbly and chocolates.


CLICK HERE to see me on Breakfast TV in Montreal discussing ways to have a Dream Honey Moon that Doesn’t Break the Bank: 

                                      

Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows.

He is also the author of amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
stopdreamingstarttraveling.com


FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight' at breakthetravelbarrier.com.

What Airlines Do With Lost Luggage

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Ever lost your luggage?
 Whether your suitcase failed to make its way to the carousel, or you left your sunglasses in the seat pocket, before you write them off as lost, there's one last place to check. You might be surprised to learn there is a place where all airlines in the United States send lost and unclaimed baggage and items left on planes.

Find out what happens to all lost luggage that goes unclaimed:



How it Works...
Laws require that airlines spend 90 days trying to reunite lost and unclaimed baggage with their owner. This does not apply to carry on bags and items left on board, as airlines are not responsible for unchecked items. You will be relieved to learn that 99.5% of lost bags are successfully reunited with their owner. In fact, 90% of them are returned within 48 hours, meaning the more time goes by, the less likely you are to get your luggage back.

Once 90 days pass, airlines generally come to a financial settlement with the customer. Once a settlement has been reached, bags found after that technically belong to the airline, but they often still try to return them. In these cases, owners sometimes deny owning them either because they have illegal (and incriminating) goods packed, or they sometimes overstate the value of their luggage during their settlement.


So Where Does Lost Airline Luggage Go?
Airlines are not in the business of managing lost luggage, which is where the Unclaimed Baggage Center saw an amazing opportunity. They signed exclusive contracts with all major U.S. airlines to purchase all their unclaimed luggage and abandoned carry on items.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is a super sized 40,000 sqft warehouse located in Scottsboro, Alabama, located 45 minutes east of the charming town of Huntsville (aka the Rocket City). It is one of Alabama's top tourist attractions, drawing over 1 million visitors annually.

What Do They Do With All This Lost Luggage?
Every day at 2:30pm, the Unclaimed Baggage Center puts on a demonstration where they open suitcases and show how they sort all items into one of three piles:

  • Garbage
  • Donate
  • To be cleaned

The best items make their way into the cleaning pile, which are put up for sale once cleaned. Electronics are also erased per privacy protection regulations, so don't worry about someone walking out with your long lost iPhone with access to your social media and bank accounts. 

What Can I Expect to Find?

Don't confuse the Unclaimed Baggage Center with a second hand store. Unlike thrift stores that sell worn looking clothing and dated items that people voluntarily parted with, the merchandise in the Unclaimed Baggage Center were people's best clothes for their vacation or business trip and involuntarily parted from them. You'll find designer clothes, luxury footwear, cameras, iPods, books (including bibles - possibly taken from hotels?), toys, musical instruments and of course, suitcases.

Most Plentiful Items: Electronic accessories (namely chargers).

Fastest Selling Items: Smartphones and tablets.

Hidden Jems: If you watched the video, Kayla from the Unclaimed Baggage Center spoke about treasures stocked at their store. These include lost art, jewelry (including wedding bands) and wedding dresses.

A Few Things to Know
Prices range between 20-80% below retail, averaging 40% off MSRP. The store does not sell merchandise online, so you have to visit the store in person to buy things. It is located at 509 West Willow Street in Scottsboro, AL., and their website is unclaimedbaggage.com

     *PS: Share this with anyone you know who's lost their luggage while flying.

WANT MORE? Sign up to our newsletter at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com for all this and more:
 - FREE GUIDE: Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight
 - 99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping

If you've ever lost your luggage, share your story below.


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He's been on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. Russell has appeared at the New York Times Travel Show, the Travel & Adventure Show, and is the author of 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
stopdreamingstarttraveling.com.


Top Travel Scams and How to Protect Yourself

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Have you ever been scammed while traveling?
It's happened to me more than once. After a trip to London, I returned home to a credit card statement showing someone, somehow, charged $1,400 for a flight from Singapore to Kuala Lampur in Australian currency. I have no idea how the culprits got my credit card information (although I suspect it might have happened when I bought a few trinkets in a gift shop), and the credit card company never did tell me if they caught the thieves.

The good thing about using credit cards while traveling is you aren't personally on the hook for fraudulent transactions charged to your card. In my case, the credit card company had me sign an affidavit attesting that I didn't make that purchase, the charge was waived from my credit card, and that was the last I heard of it.  

It isn't a stretch to say that millions of travelers will be scammed this year. The sorts of scams you should look out for vary depending on where you go, but there is one thing all travel scams have in common - they are designed to get your money.

As a traveler, you are easy prey to scammers for a number of reasons: 
  • You tend to be more liberal with your wallet. If you get overcharged, you are more likely to go along with it than you would at home in the name of "I'm not going to let a few dollars ruin my vacation."
  • You likely let your guard down when traveling. Let's face it, who's looking out for scammers when touching down in paradise?
  • In many underdeveloped countries, the average international tourist is rich by local standards.
  • Tourist traps are treasure troves for scammers as they bring a pipeline of unsuspecting travelers who, once scammed, leave and are replaced with more vulnerable tourists the next day.
As you plan your next trip, here is a list of travel scams to look out for, where to look for travel scams prevalent at your travel destination, and how to protect yourself.

CLICK HERE to hear me discuss this on Calgary 770 News Talk Radio (or read on for details).

Demanding Money After the Fact
Scammers are increasingly clever at masking their pressure tactics as generosity until you accept their offer of a lame trinket or to take a picture with you. During a stroll along the beach in Boracay, I came across an impressive sand castle with lit candles built into it, and the moment I snapped a picture, a kid came from out of nowhere aggressively demanding money on the grounds that I took a picture of his castle. I refused to give him anything but my friend gave him some money.

Overcharging Taxis
During that same trip to the Philippines, I almost fell for another scam where my taxi drivers almost routinely suggested we turn the meter off and set a flat rate. I might have gone along had my local friend not been with me. Apparently they do this so they can overcharge you, and my friend insisted they drive with the meter on or we would be getting out of the taxi.

I wasn't so lucky in the French Riviera where my taxi driver took me from the Nice airport along the Promenade des Anglais (my hotel was the other way). He went to such great length to show me the strip and was such a good speaker I almost didn't mind when pretended he misunderstood which hotel I asked him to take me to. I knew he was playing me, but he was so nice that I caved and paid him the full fare. I now refer to him as the 'Nice Nice Scammer.'

*On the subject of getting around, I never use pedi cab drivers (bicycles pulled by a runner) as they are overpriced, and friends of mine encountered a situation where they were told after the fact the price they were quoted was "per person".

Bike Rental Scams
The following scenario is unlikely to happen to you, but it is known that some bike rental vendors in touristy areas have sent someone to follow the cyclist who knows the combination of the lock provided with the bike, and when it is unattended, they steal the bike back, leaving you to have to forfeit your deposit for not returning it.


Credit Card Scams
Don't let vendors handle your credit card beyond your line of sight. (Same applies with cash, once they take the bills you give them beyond your line of sight, do not allow them to return that same bill to you on the grounds that it is counterfeit. In this scenario, the chances are they switched your legitimate note with a counterfeit bill.

Don't let vendors copy your credit card with old school carbon copiers as that gives them a permanent written record of your credit card information.

As tempting as it may be, resist the temptation to run a tab, and pay for food and drinks as you order them. This way you can keep your billing straight and save yourself from having your bill padded with extra charges.

Pickpockets
For years I underestimated how skilled and sophisticated pickpocketers are. In Barcelona for example, pickpocketing is like a completive sport amongst scammers who can empty your pockets without you noticing anything is missing. In many underdeveloped countries, kids will brazenly grab your phone or other valuables right out of your hand on the bet they can outrun you. 

A friend shared a story with me where his father went to the beach in Barcelona after a business meeting as he had a few hours to kill prior to his flight, and when a stranger started a conversation with him, an accomplice snuck up from behind, grabbing his suitcase and running with it.

A scarier common scenario in Africa is the 'smash and grab' where thieves smash your car window while at a red light and grab anything they can. Advisories warn you should avoid getting boxed into areas where you are stopped and cannot drive, and to gradually slow down long before arriving at a red light, so that the light turns green before you come to a standstill.

Street Games
Don't play them for money - ever.


Hi-Tech Scams
As technology advances, so do the means scammers use to steal our money:

  • Tap technology (officially known as Radio Frequency Identification or RFID) gave rise to credit card skimming devices that can steal your credit card information without coming into contact with it. If you are in a crowded subway or in the standing room pit area of a concert, your credit card information can unknowingly get stolen unless your cards are protected with RFID blocking technology. Wallets are increasingly sold with RFID blocking material in them, and SCOTTeVEST sells a range of jackets and vests with RFID blocking technology built into them.
  • The last few years have seen an alarming increase in high profile hacks. As a traveler, hackers can monitor your online activity when you connect to unsecure Wi-Fi connections. Hackers also create legitimate looking Wi-Fi network names baiting you into thinking they are legitimate. To secure your online activity on unsecure networks, get VPN or Easysurf installed on your mobile device, and activate it when connecting to Wi-Fi. Any time you connect to a companies Wi-Fi network, for example at a café or hotel, ask an employee to confirm their Wi-Fi network name so that you know the network you are logging onto is legitimate.

While you are away burglars at home may be as happy about your trip as you are. If you park at the airport, thieves can access your home by breaking into your car at the airport, and stealing your garage door opener and your registration - which has your address. This happened to me and words cannot convey the unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach as I drove home not knowing what I was going to arrive to. Lucky for me, I live in a condo, and although the thieves had access to the parking garage, they could not access my condo. But had I lived in a single family dwelling, the ending would have been much worse.

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from the Most Common Travel Scams

1. Before your trip,
go to the website of your Embassy in the country you will be visiting. It will provide city specific information about things to look out for that tend to fall under the radar of national travel advisories. You can also do a Google search with the name of the exact locations you will be visiting and the word 'scams'.

2. Talk to locals about places to avoid and things to watch out for. While in Chicago, my Uber driver was a retired police officer, and he told me more about what happens in the parts of the city I was visiting than any other source could ever provide.

3. Don't tempt opportunists: Leave valuables at home or at least out of sight. When in underdeveloped countries it includes your cell phone.

4. Travel with two credit cards and keep them separate. This way, if you lose one, you won't find yourself in a panic.

5. Keep copies of your passport and drivers license online.

6. Conceal your valuables in your front or inside pockets (or better yet, in your safe or at home). If you have a bag, wear it on your front side where you can see it and defend it.

7. When sleeping in hostels, trains, buses or campgrounds, secure your luggage so strangers cannot make off with it. You can buy locks that work like bicycle locks for your luggage.

8. Many travel stores sell slash proof luggage and purses so thieves cannot cut their way into your bags. 

9. When taking taxis, stick to licensed cabs, official taxi lines and insist on using the meter. When embarking, give the impression you know the area. Keep your luggage in hand so that if things go awry, you can toss the driver notes for payment and exit with luggage in hand.

10. Use your own locks to secure devices with a combination code you set yourself.


CLICK HERE to hear me talk about top travel scams, what to watch out for and how to protect yourself.

     *PS: Keep those you love from getting scammed by sharing this with them.


WANT MORE? Sign up to our newsletter at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com for all this and more:
 - FREE GUIDE: Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight
 - 99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping



Have you ever been scammed? Share your story below.


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He's been on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. Russell has appeared at the New York Times Travel Show, the Travel & Adventure Show, and is the author of 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
stopdreamingstarttraveling.com.

Join Us at the Travel and Adventure Show

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If you have big travel plans this year
you aren't alone. Even Oprah declared in The Oprah Magazine that she vows to travel more this year. If you haven't yet decided where you will be traveling this year, there is no better place to dream, plan, and book your next vacation than at the Travel & Adventure Show, the #1 series of travel shows in the United States.

If cost is keeping you from taking your dream trip, of if you've returned from your vacation to a scary credit card statement, I will be presenting '99 Ways to Cut your Travel Costs - Without Skimping' at the Philadelphia Travel & Adventure show March 25 and 26 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.


     - Click here for details of my March 25 appearances
     - Click here for details of my March 26 presentation

                   
      
Most speakers offer 10-12 strategies during a talk, and you might be wondering how I can possibly pack 99 tips into 45 minutes. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but I am giddy at what you take away from this session. Immediately following my talk, I will be holding book signing for my amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending less.'

My talks in Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area drew a full houses and everyone left with a handout of my 99 tips.


               

While you're there, take advantage of hundreds of on-site destinations, group travel operators and tourist boards. Meet the biggest celebrity names in travel, take advantage of on-the-spot travel deals, and learn how to easier, safer and smarter. 

               


CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS. If you cannot make it, sign up to my newsletter at breakthetravelbarrier.com to get video clips of my talk and copies of the free attendee handouts which I will share via newsletter once my tour wraps up.

    
Hope to see you at the Travel and Adventure Show!


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less’ available at stopdreamingstarttraveling.com.

FREE GUIDE: Download ‘Beat the Best Online Fare – Every Time, Every Flight’ at breakthetravelbarrier.com.

Find the BEST Cyber Monday Travel Deals

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Mondays are tough and this week is no exception.
With upwards of 47 million Americans expected to travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, Monday will be one of the busiest and most expensive days of the year to fly. Ironically, it is also Cyber Monday, which is the Black Friday of online shopping and you will find some of the best online travel deals of the year.
                             
According to
Huge Cyber Monday Travel Deals, last Cyber Monday was the biggest spending day online in U.S. history with upwards of $3 billion in online sales. Click here to see me talk about last year's Cyber Monday on Breakfast Television.

If you’ve been holding off on a trip due to cost or are planning to travel this winter, Monday may be the day to pull the trigger.

Where to Start 
Ok, so the Internet is a big place and it’s hard to know where to look! Fortunately, there are websites that act as billboards showcasing the best online Cyber Monday deals. They are:

  • Cybertraveldeals.com organizes cyber Monday travel deals by country. Most deals are for accommodations and range from 20 - 50% off.
      
  • Cybermonday.com has a Travel section with deals broken down by flights, accommodations, car rentals, cruises and vacation packages.
      


    Power Hour

    An emerging trend is the ‘Power Hour’ super-sale where companies drop prices even further to offer killer deals for one hour on Cyber Monday. This year's Power Hour deals have yet to be announced, but last year's biggest one by far was 90% OFF hotel rooms book using Expedia's app with the exact hotels on sale rotating every hour. 

    Top Picks
    My favorite Cyber Monday deals announced to date include:

    • According to Budget Travel, Fiji Airways is offering up to HALF OFF roundtrip flights between Fiji and either LA, San Francisco or Honolulu.
    • For a last minute escape, Atlantis Bahamas is offering up to 55% OFF nightly rates for stays checking out no later than December 23, 2016.
    • Expedia is expected to match last year's 90% OFF deals on select hotels. Make sure to visit their website Monday for specifics along with terms and conditions.
    • Royal Caribbean is offering 50% OFF guests, up to $300 onboard credits and 50% reduced deposits on select trips and cabins.
    • AMEX Travel is offering up to 50% OFF select trips paid using your AMEX card and taken between January 9 and February 9 2017. Click here to browse deals.
    • This Telegraph article shows 50% OFF 2 night stays in a historic castle near Edinburgh in addition to half a dozen other sales in the range of 50 - 67% OFF.
    • The Boston Globe reports Wyndham is offering up to 40% OFF rooms at select properties in Charleston, S.C., Orlando and San Diego. 
    • 30% OFF stays at any of 14 Hilton hotels in Kauai, Maui and Oahu for stays between January 1 and June 30 next year.

    Leverage, Leverage, Leverage
    With so many amazing deals to choose from, you can book all your vacations for the upcoming year on Cyber Monday and save a bundle.

    A nifty  way to multiply your savings is leverage deals. For example, Vail Resorts has properties throughout the Western U.S. and is offering up to 45% off accommodations booked through
    snow.com/cybermonday. By leveraging this deal with liftopia.com which sells lift tickets at wholesale price, you can literally shred both the slopes and cost of your vacation.

    Make Every Day Cyber Monday
    You don’t have to wait for Cyber Monday to earn major travel rewards online. In an effort to lure shoppers away from brick and mortar stores, online stores and shopping portals offer big time incentives in the form of rewards points. You can earn upwards of 5, 10 even 15 points per dollar spent on purchases. To see which online stores have the best deals, visit 
    evreward.com and browse to see which stores offer the juiciest incentives.

    Last but not least, if you have a favorite travel website, keep an eye on it this Monday as chances are good you will find a great deal displayed on their homepage.

    Keep in Mind
    The steepest discounts are often offered by high end travel operators, making Monday a great opportunity to book 5-star accommodations on a 3-star budget.



        Here's to Scoring Some Great Cyber Monday Travel Deals!


    Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less’ available at stopdreamingstarttraveling.com.

    FREE GUIDE: Download ‘Beat the Best Online Fare – Every Time, Every Flight’ at breakthetravelbarrier.com.

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