On the road (Travel Hacks)


Part One:

Most of what I write about is intimately personal. My life experiences and diverse stories about intimacy, faith, and mental health. Yet, the common thread throughout my writing is the importance of people, empathy, and human relationships. In 2017, with racial tensions, a refugee crisis, and cultural appropriation constantly in the news, I think it’s more important than ever to gain a new perspective. 

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."  - Mark Twain

Over the years I’ve been able to travel to forty countries on five continents, visiting major cities and rural towns. These adventures have shaped who I am, cultivated empathy in my soul, and brought new perspectives into my life. Along the way, I’ve discovered international travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some samples of deals I've found, or booked for friends in the last year:

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Las Vegas: $48 RT on American Airlines (ATL - LAS) 

London: $305 on Virgin Atlantic (ATL-LHR)

Dublin: $278 on Air France (DCA-DUB)

Amsterdam: $395 RT on KLM / Delta (MSP-AMS)

Sydney: $361 on Qantas (SFO-SYD)

Milan: $398 on Emirates (JFK-MXP)

Sao Paolo: $275 on Delta (DTW-GRU)

Hong Kong: $348 on American (ATL-HKG)

In the last two weeks, I've booked tickets to Tel Aviv, Israel for $203 RT on Air Canada and Tokyo for Skymiles and $58. Here are some of my strategies:

  1. Frequent Travel Programs: This is traveling 101. Whenever you get on a plane, sleep in a hotel, or rent a car, make sure you are earning points for your travel. It can be advantageous to know which alliance your airline is in and stay as loyal as you can to one. The main three are:
    1. SkyTeam: (Delta, KLM, Air France, Korean Air, etc)
    2. Star Alliance: (Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, etc) 
    3. One World: (American, British Airways, Iberia, etc) 
  2. Leverage Social Media: This is my favorite way to find deals. Even if you’re not a big social media user, you can create a free Twitter account just for this purpose. I have the following accounts set to alert me whenever there is a new post. When deals are posted, you have limited time to act. Here are my four favorite accounts to follow, again - it’s super easy to setup alerts for alerts when they tweet! If you don't want to setup Twitter, each of them have their own sites and Facebook pages as well:
    1. @tpg_alerts
    2. @theflightdeal
    3. @faredealalert
    4. @dansdeals
  3. Credit Cards: I’ll elaborate on this strategy at a later date. I briefly mention it here because it can be a good way to earn points quickly. However, there are other ways to travel for cheap. 
  4. Ebates: E-bates is something you can embed in your browser and earn cash-back when you shop online. They send you quarterly checks or direct deposit. It’s not always a lot, but 1-3% back here and there can add up. Especially on airfare, hotel, and rental cars. Sign up and learn more here: https://www.ebates.com/r/CONKLI260?eeid=28187
  5. Priceline: The “Name Your Price” function is great for rental cars, hotels, and flights if you have some flexibility. You’ll also earn 10% cash back on your travel using the above free eBates program. 
  6. USAA: USAA is totally free to join and contrary to popular belief doesn’t require you to be in the military. Once you sign up you can receive up to 30% off your rental car rentals. The big one though is there’s NO UNDERAGE DRIVER FEES! I’ve been renting cars since I was 18 and haven’t once paid the ridiculous $25/day underage fee. 
  7. Hopper: This is my favorite iPhone travel app. You’re able to set a range of dates and places you’d like to go and Hopper will monitor the prices for you and send you a notification when it predicts prices are at their lowest. 

I hope as you go explore you'll discover as Stevenson did, "there are no foreign lands, it is the traveler who is foreign." May you return with more empathy, stories, and self-awareness than when you left! 

Look for "Part Two" later this week! 

Bon voyage, 

- JM