BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Economical Winter Escapes

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Still paying off your summer vacation?
 Holding off on booking a winter escape due to the cost? If so read on because you are in the right place.

Truth is, your last trip likely cost you five times more than it needed to. That's because travel is an industry that charges five times the local cost of living. For example, an average 3-star hotel goes for $160/night, compared to a one-bedroom apartment in the same area that rents out for $900/month (or $30/night). If you stay in that hotel, you are paying five times more than the local does who lives there. The same applies when you eating out three times a day while traveling, as it adds up to five times your at-home grocery bill. 


CLICK HERE for my CBC interview on finding winter travel deals.


Overwater Bungalows                                  
Think overwater bungalows are beyond your travel budget? Rates at the AVANI Sepang Gold Coast resort in Kuala Lampur are as low as $102 CDN/night ($80 U.S.):





All-Inclusive Resorts                                
Seeking the tropics? PriceofTravel.com ranked the 17 cheapest all-inclusive resort towns in the Caribbean, and found Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic to be the cheapest. For details on all 17 destinations click here



Cruise Deals

To quickly find amazing cruise deals
cruisesheet.com scours the best online cruise deals and posts the best ones on their website. I also recommend cruisecritic.com which 
is the most comprehensive online resource for 'everything cruises' including tips, reviews, ship descriptions, sailing routes and destination information.


My top money saving cruise tips
are laid out in the article 'Cruising on a Budget - How to Find the Best Deals & Make the Most of your Next Vacation' which is sure to save you money and help you get the most out of your next cruise. This is the most in-depth  cruising article I've contributed to with fellow contributors Colleen McDaniel (Cruise Critic), and Tanner Callais of Cruizely.com.




Best Day to Book Winter Travel
                                    
Cyber Monday stands out above others for great winter travel deals. It falls on the Monday following U.S. thanksgiving, and i the online equivalent of Black Friday. This is HUGE for travel because all travel is booked online. My favorite Cyber Monday deals include 50% off at Atlantis Bahamas and 90% OFF hotels booked on Expedia's app. 

To browse my favorite Cyber Monday Travel Deals Click Here. Y
ou should also visit your favorite travel websites and those of any hotels/resorts that interest you as they may post Cyber Monday deals on their homepage. 


Cheap Destinations with Great Winter Weather                            

If your vacation dates are set, and you are up in the air on where to go, I met Roger Wade of PriceofTravel.com who was a fellow speaker at TBEX - a conference for travel bloggers. Roger specializes in making lists of cheapest travel options, and he broke down the cheapest destinations with great weather by month. Simply click the article for the month you plan to travel, and shortlist the destinations that interest you most:


Discount Airlines                              
A new website making an impression with amazing flight deals is Insanelycheapflights.com which boasts jaw dropping deals on their homepage. The website has has a search feature you can use to find the best fares specific to your desired route.

In the U.S., I love Southwest for it's combination of inexpensive flights and being the last 'big' airline to not charge checked bag fees.

Visiting Europe or Iceland? WOW air is an Icelandic discount airline selling one-way flights between Europe and the United States/Canada from $99 - $150 (tax included) with a free stopover option in Reykjavik. You can fly to 24 European cities from either Boston, New York City, DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto or Montreal.

Speaking of Canada (one of the most expensive countries to fly in), 
Flair Airlines (formerly GoNewLeaf) is Canada's first ultra-low fare airline. But there is a caveat:
  • You cannot book flights as far out as with major carriers.
  • Routes have limited fly days and generally only have one flight to chose from per route per day.
  • Checked bag fees are higher than with major carriers. 
  • Overhead bin storage costs range from $31 to $92. Bags that fit under the seat are free.

Gojumpon.com allows you to bid what you are willing to pay to fly on empty seats on Flair Airlines. This is feasible if you are flexible and have time constraints because the way it works is that if your bid is accepted, you are only notified 48 hours prior to the flight's departure time.


CLICK HERE for my CBC interview on finding winter 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, 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

Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards in Canada 2018

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If you've been using the same travel rewards credit card for years
, odds are you can get better value from another one. A creditcards.com survey found 21 million people never change credit cards, and 32 million more have been using the same credit card for 10 or more years. In most cases, without a thought as to whether other cards may have benefits that better suit their needs.

Credit card companies offer big time incentives to get their cards into your hands offering everything from free flights and hotel nights, to elite status, airport lounge access, companion flight passes, free checked-bags, insurance coverage, waived fees and more. 

In the ever-changing world of credit card travel rewards, one of the newer benefits is an annual credit you can apply to any of a number of travel incidental charges to your credit card. If you've been blindly loyal to your current card, it's unlikely that you've assessed whether this flexible benefit could better meet your needs. 

Although credit card sign-up bonuses in Canada are not as lucrative as those in the U.S., you can still stockpile more than a dozen round trip flights and a few free hotel nights from the sign-up bonuses offered by the credit cards listed below. As a Canadian, I earn a handful of free trips each year using this strategy alone, and I explain how ridiculously easy it is to do in this video:




Choosing a Card

With so many travel credit cards to choose from, here's an easy way to narrow which cards offer the best bang for your card:

  1. Pick three travel benefits that are of most value to you.
  2. Shortlist cards that offer all three benefits (Just a few cards will offer all three)

To quickly do this, the following list of my favourite travel credit cards for Canadians shows each card's key benefits (Insurance benefits are excluded from the chart for simplicity as the many details cannot easily fit). To review a card's insurance benefits, click 'Apply' beneath that card's picture to view them on their website:

FLIGHT REWARDS - CANADIAN RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
Alaska Airlines
No $75 25K No Yes 1 annually for $121 No No
AMEX Business Gold Rewards
Yes 30K Must spend 5K in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Cobalt
No Up to 40K No No No No
AMEX Gold Rewards
No 25K Must spend $1,500 in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Platinum
No $699 50K Must spend 3K in 3mths $200 yearly travel credit No No Yes
AMEX Scotia Bank Gold
Yes 25K Must spend $1K in 3mths No No No No
BMO Air Miles World Elite
Yes 3000 Air Miles No Yes No Yes Priority Pass
BMO World Elite
Yes 20K No No No Yes Priority Pass
RBC British Airways Infinite
No $165 $50K spend 5K in 2mths & keep for 1yr No Yes Must charge 30K in 1yr No No
TD 1st Class Travel Infinite
Yes 50K Must spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
TD Aeroplan Infinite
No $120 15K given on 1st charge Yes AC Rewards Flight Only 1/yr AC Rewards Flight Only No Once Annually on Air Canada Rewards Flight Only
Westjet RBC World Elite
No $99 $250 flight credit Yes Yes 1 annual guest pass for $99 No No

HOTEL REWARDS - CANADIAN RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest
No $120 20K Must spend $1,500 in 3 mths No No No No
Best Western Rewards
No annual fee 20K Must use card once No No no No

Managing your Cards

Some cards offer point multipliers on purchases made from specific vendors in addition to charges for fuel, restaurants and travel purchases. If you have multiple cards (and I recommend you do, and that you keep them in different places in case you lose one), you should know before you make any purchase which card will yield the most points for that specific purchase.

To fast track your points earnings, charge everything you can to your credit cards to earn points per dollar spend as long as you can afford to pay your credit card balance in full each month. If not, any interest you pay will more than offset the value of any points you earn.  You can even double dip by charging purchases to vendors that offer points (like Air Miles) for purchases.

Sign-up Bonuses

To collect a sign-up bonus, you generally have to charge a pre-set amount to your credit card within a certain timeframe. This is called 'minimum spend'. Terms vary by card which require on average $3,000 in charges in the first three billing cycles. Business and platinum cards offer bigger sign-up bonuses and have higher minimum spend thresholds. Here are some tips to help you meet your minimum spend requirements:

  1. Don't apply for another card until you have met your current card's minimum spend requirement.
  2. Charge everything to your credit card as long as you can pay the balance in full each month. *A secret way to charge rent, tuition or income tax payments to your credit card is to use the PayTM app which links to your credit card. It has a $1,500/day payment cap.
  3. If you travel for work, charge all work-related travel expenses to your credit card, and have your employer reimburse you for those expenses to collect points for dollars spent on business travel.

Annual Fees

Most travel credit cards worth having charge an annual fee. Some cards waive this fee for the first year to lure you to sign-up, but a little known way to avoid paying annual fee on subsequent years is to call customer service shortly before your card's anniversary date, and say you want to cancel your card. Agents almost always try to keep you by offering to waive the annual fee or offer free points as an incentive to stay. 



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    

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2018

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Still using THAT card?
Odds are you're leaving points on the table.

According to CreditCards.com, 31 million Americans haven't changed credit cards in more than a decade - two thirds of them still use their first credit card. If that describes you, you're missing out on a bonanza of free flights, complimentary travel incidentals, VIP benefits and perks big banks dole out to entice you to sign-up to their credit cards. The latest up-and-coming benefit; an annual travel incidental credit you can apply against any incidentals fees charged to your card. 

Sign-up bonuses aren't as generous as they once were, but the sign-up incentives alone offered by the credit cards in the chart below add up to 28 free round-trip flights and a dozen free hotel stays. Every year, I earn a few free trips this way, and in the following video, I share how I did this to pull off a trip for taxes only:


                  


FINDING THE BEST CARD FOR YOU

To quickly find which credit cards offer the best overall value to you:

  1. Decide which benefits are most valuable to you.
  2. Filter the following list of cards down to those that offer the best combination of those benefits. (You must be a U.S. resident for the cards below. If you are Canadian click here for cards that apply to you).
Due to space restrictions in the chart, insurance benefits were not inserted. But you can review any card's insurance benefits by clicking 'APPLY' and reading the insurance benefits on their homepage:

FLIGHT REWARDS - U.S. RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite
Yes 60K Must spend 3K in 3mths Yes on AA domestic flights No Yes No
Alaska Airlines Signature
No $75 30K Yes Annual pass from $121 Yes No
AMEX Delta SkyMiles Platinum
No $195 10K Must spend 25K/yr Yes Yes $75 max Yes Yes $29
AMEX Gold Delta Skymiles
Yes 30K Must spend 1K in 3mths Yes No No Delta Skyclub access discount
AMEX Platinum
No $550 60K Must spend 5K in 3mths $200/yr travel credit + $15mth Uber credit No No No
AMEX Premier Rewards Gold
Yes 50K Must spend $2K in 3mths $100/yr credit for airline fees No Yes No
Barclay Arrival+
Yes 40K Must spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
BoA Premium Rewards
No $95 50K Must spend 3k in 3mths $100 annual travel credit No Yes No
British Airways Signature
No $95 75K Spend 3K in 3mths + 10K/1yr No Yes Must spend 30K in 1/yr Yes No
Capital One Venture
Yes 50K Must spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Chase Ink Business Preferred
No $95 80K Must spend 5K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Yes 50K Must spend 4K in 3mths No No Yes No
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
No $99 40K Must spend 1K in 3mths FREE to check bags 1yr unltd. after 110Kpts or 100flights /yr Yes No
United Mileage Plus Explorer
Yes 50K Must spend $3K in 3mths Yes No Yes No
United MileagePlus Club
No $450 50K Must spend 3K in 3mths Yes No Yes Yes

HOTEL REWARDS - U.S. RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
AMEX Hilton Honors
No annual fee 50K Must spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Hilton Honors Surpass
$95 ($75 till 01-18-18) 75K Must spend 3K in 3mths No No Yes No
AMEX SPG
Yes 25K Must spend 3K in 3mths No No Yes + FREE premium internet No
Chase Hyatt
Yes 40K Must spend 2K in 3mths + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No Yes No
Choice Privileges Signature
Yes 32K + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No No
Marriott Rewards Premier
No $85 80K must spend 3K in 3mths + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No No
Ritz- Carlton Rewards
No $450 2 FREE ngts must spend 4K in 3mths $300 annual travel credit $100 OFF multi flier bookings Yes Yes

MAXIMIZE YOUR POINTS

You should also factor how many points your card earns for everyday purchases. Most cards offer bonus points for purchases made at certain stores in addition to bonus points (or point multipliers) for purchases at select restaurants, with certain travel operators and for gas.

To accelerate your points earnings:
  • Use your credit card for all everyday purchases so long as you pay off your balance each billing cycle. Otherwise, the interest you pay on outstanding balances will erode the value of points you earn. *A secret way to charge rent, tuition and income tax payments to your credit card is to pay those bills with a Plastiq account linked to your credit card.
  • Sign-up to two or more cards. I recommend traveling with two credit cards (especially when traveling alone). Leave one in your bags as a spare in case anything happens to your primary card.

To collect your sign-up bonus, you are usually required to first charge a pre-defined dollar value to your card within a set number of billing cycles. This is referred to as minimum spend, and the minimum spend requirement varies by card. Most cards that come with an annual fee require to to spend $3,000 within three months of activating your card. Prestige and business cards tend to offer more enticing sign-up bonuses, but they come with higher annual fees and higher minimum spend requirements.


AVOID FEES

Any credit card with generous benefits comes with an annual fee. Some cards waive this fee for your first year upon subscribing, but you might not know how to have this fee waived when it comes due for renewal on your card's anniversary:
  1. Call your credit card company and ask them to cancel your card.
  2. They'll try to keep you from canceling by offering to either waive your renewal fee or give you points for keeping your card active.
You should make this call every year before your card comes due for renewal - you'll be amazed how often it works!
 

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    


Unwritten Rules of Travel Etiquette

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Crowded airports, long lines and crammed planes are part of the travel experience. If airlines added the following travel etiquette tips to their pre-departure safety presentation, it could a long way in making the travel experience great again (or at least a bit less tedious). With many trips starting at the airport, that's where we'll start with unwritten rules of flying etiquette.

                                                             
CLICK HERE to hear me discuss travel etiquette on CBC or continue reading for my key points.
                                                           

When embarking:
If you block the aisle for more than 5 seconds and people are waiting behind you, you should move into a row to let people pass.

Don't put things that fit under the seat into overhead bins until everyone has boarded. I wouldn't be surprised if airlines make this a policy one day. We've all found ourselves to be the last to board with a carry on bag that doesn't fit under the seat, only to find the overhead bids are filled with small items that have to be shuffled around to make room for our bag.

Keep the cabin odor neutral, so no strong perfume or food with a strong odor.
This ABC News article explains how Air Canada disallowed a passenger from flying due to strong body odor that 'overwhelmed' other passengers. According to the article, the airline offered the person a seat on the same flight the following day so long as the situation was rectified.

Once on Board: 
When meals are served, take the lead and offer to the person behind you to move your seat up. After doing this once, I noticed a few people around me offered to do the same. Yes - courtesy can be contagious!

When disembarking:
Let those seated in front of you out first unless they clearly are not ready to disembark.

When arriving at the carousel to claim your checked luggage, imagine how easy it would be to claim your bag if everyone stood 5 feet away from the carousel.

If you have unruly kids on your flight and are uncomfortable raising the issue directly with their parents, simply bring it up with a flight attendant.   

If you are flying with your kids, its common to give the kids tablets with games and movies to keep them occupied. Just make sure they either have earbuds or that the devices are on mute. On a recent flight to Minneapolis, I noticed a flight attendant instructing parents to turn a kid's tablet on mute as she said 'others nearby don't want to listen to that.'

If you fall sick on flight day,
this survey by National Foundation for Infections Diseases found two-of-three Americans would still fly knowing they had the flu. If that doesn't make you queasy, I can vouch this is exactly how I caught my last bought of the flu.

The reality is that strict airline terms often pressure you to fly sick. If you ever find yourself in this situation, please consider wearing a hygienic mask on the plan (available at any pharmacy). If the plane isn't full, mention to the flight attendant you aren't feeling well and ask if you can be seated further away from others.

When the person next to you falls asleep and slouches onto you, keep in mind this innocent intrusion of space can happen to anyone, so it's important to handle it as you would want it to be done if you were the infringer. Next time someone dozes on your shoulder, simply wake the person and apologize for waking him/her only that they had slouched onto you.

When visiting scenic areas,
it fascinates me how I've sometimes found everyone taking in the view through their phone and no one looking at it with their own eyes!  When you are taking pictures or filming, abide by the 'Pokémon Go' warning by keeping aware of your surroundings, and be careful not to turn into anyone.

If people are waiting behind you, give yourself your fair share of time to take in the view, yet be considerate to those waiting behind you. The first few minutes of soaking in a spectacular view are the most dramatic. After that, the incremental benefit of looking at it longer is less and less the longer you stay.


                                                      

Odds are you've seen pictures posted online of people demonstrating poor travel etiquette. As tempting as it may be to do this, it is a form of 21st century bullying, and if the person catches you recording them, it will embarrass that person at the very least (and may embarrass you too), or worse it could escalate into an ugly confrontation.

With so much to remember, a simple rule of thumb that will steer your clear of any travel 'faux-pas,' is to abide by the same policies you do in the workplace, while also showing the same courtesy you would at church. 


CLICK HERE to hear me discuss travel etiquette 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                               

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.