An epic Vegas bachelor party… On a budget.


Years ago, my brother-in-law was getting married. (We’ll call him Kenny, and we’ll call his fiancé Kelly.) I was his best man and he wanted to have his bachelor party in Vegas.

When he gave me the list of friends he wanted to invite he said “These guys are all in grad school and most of them are on REALLY tight budgets.”

Dude…

How are we supposed to have a bachelor party in Vegas on a tight budget? Cover charges for one night of club-hopping alone was going to break the bank for most of these guys.

OK… Challenge accepted. Let’s roll our sleeves up & get this figured out.

Two of us had a ton of points, so a couple free flights and a couple free rooms added money to the dance club-hopping budget.  But still, $20 to $25 cover charges and $10 to $15 drinks can add up fast when you’re on a tight budget.

A few guys were within driving distance so they said they’d bring a couple cases of beer. Pre-drinks for 10 guys will save another few hundred bucks. Not exactly living the dream, but hey – you gotta do what you gotta do when many in the group are on a beer budget but have champagne taste.

Then, during the planning stages, LIGHTNING STRUCK!

We realized we were going to be there during Mardi Gras. Granted, we weren’t going to New Orleans, but what the hell – we could have a little fun with some mardi gras beads. We hopped on ebay and found about 500 sets of beads from China for under fifty bucks.

Knowing people in Vegas would get arrested for public displays of boobs, we came up with a different plan.  We had Kenny wear a t-shirt that had had a bunch of checklist items custom printed on it with a list of things people could do to “earn” a set of beads.

Things people could do to earn beads included:

  • Yelling “I love Kenny!” (at which time he was obligated to yell “I love Kelly!”)
  • Buying drinks.
  • Asking Kenny to dance (and he HAD to say yes.)
  • etc.

About 400 of the beads were regular beads that cost less than a nickel a piece.  100 of them were “special” beads. They were extra large, and were things like beer extra-large hearts, dice, a pair of aces, etc. They cost 5 to 10 times times as much as the normal beads at a whopping $.25 to $.50 each.

Little did we know how much those beads would change the course of our night.

People. Ate. It. Up.

Saturday morning, we realized the beads were so cheap they stained our shirts, but we didn’t care. We wore them out Saturday night too.

By the second night, people were greeting us as we walked into clubs yelling “I love Kenny!” People were buying drinks, they were making Kenny feel like a king, we were ALL dancing non-stop.  Not just the girls either. Big, buff dudes were greeting us with “I love Kenny!!” in the middle of a crowded dance club!

THEN there were the “special” beads…

We made sure Kenny was the only one of us who had the special beads. He only had a couple at a time, and people almost always asked “What do I have to do to get a set of THOSE beads?” Kenny named the terms at first and it was initially stuff like dancing with him.

BUT we quickly realized that people REALLY wanted those beads and were offering to do things we wouldn’t have even imagined.  I think our record was someone offering to buy us a round of drinks.  The guy easily dropped $100 buying us all drinks so he could get his girlfriend a set of coveted heart beads…

Fifty-Freakin-Cent-Heart Beads.  (Out of respect for them, we waited until we left that club before pulling another set of heart beads out. 😉

It was better than we ever imagined, and we felt like celebrities all weekend. Not bad for a bunch of grad-school dorks (and an even dorkier over-the-hill brother in law walking around with a backpack full of beads.)

The moral of the story?

Travel memories hold a special place in your heart, and stick with you forever.  That trip was one of the most tight-budgeted trips I’ve ever been on, and it was over a decade ago. But those memories still seem like yesterday, and will forever bring a smile to my face.

An unexpected ending:

Bleary-eyed and hung over Sunday afternoon, we said our goodbyes at the airport before heading to our respective terminals. As Kenny and I got on the tram to head to our terminal two girls came running up beating on the window yelling:

“I LOVE KENNY!”

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If you’d like help creating more surprisingly affordable travel memories of your own, become a JGOOT premium subscriber.
(*Beads not included) 
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My Mom & Dad’s Anniversary in Greece

Nothing like bumping an airline employee from the plane

Every once in a while, I get an email or Facebook message from an irate Airline employee saying they’re in the industry and THERE IS NO WAY the mistake fares I am posting are legit.  (That’s them yelling. Not me.)

Ummmm…

  1. How do they know? They fly standby for free and rarely even pay attention to flight costs.
  2. They’re probably just frustrated when people traveling “The JGOOT Way” can get on the plane for $29 with a higher priority than them, and if the flight is sold out – they get sent-a-walkin until they can find standby room on another plane.

The JGOOT Way is simple

(and it NEVER gets old – no matter how many $10 to $50 flights you get on)

  1. Look every day (whether you’re planning a trip or not).
  2. Find and book mistake fares that are 50% to 90% off whenever you have flexibility on when/where you want to go. (They pop up every day, and are usually far in advance. You just have to be diligent about looking for them and be ready to pounce when you find them.)
  3. Use points for all other flights that are more expensive than a price you’re willing to pay.

Either way – you’ll be virtually guaranteed a seat on the sold-out plane while the airline employee flying standby will have to wait for another flight. (Sound like a big hassle? It’s not NEARLY as big a hassle as what you put yourself through every time you need to travel and can’t find an affordable flight. Give it a try here for free.

 

 

“It’s not safe to travel”

After objection #1 (“Your deals seem too good to be true“), and objection #2 (“I don’t have the funds to travel right now“), third most common objection I hear regarding travel is : “It’s not safe to travel outside the U.S.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

Other than a handful of politically unstable countries, the majority of places around the world are just as safe (if not more safe) than right here in the U.S. As long as you have a little bit of self-awareness when it comes to not making yourself a target – travel outside the US is no less safe than any big city in the US.

Nas daily – one of my favorite travel vlogs (Video Blogs) has multiple videos on the subject. Nas has even left laptops, bikes & purses out for people to take in various countries, and items that wouldn’t last 2 minutes at most big cities in the U.S. can sit there untaken for hours.

If you do want to travel more, I recommend the following 3 things:

  1. Set money aside for travel. (It takes FAR less than you think with proper planning, but without setting aside a travel budget – travel will continue to take a back seat to things like broken furnaces, braces for the kids, etc. Next thing you know, you’ll be looking back on your life – wishing you had traveled more.
  2. Follow different travel bloggers to stay inspired and informed.
  3. If you’re really concerned about your safety, take a self defense course. You’d be surprised at how little you need to know to drastically increase your odds of A) not being a target, and B) protecting yourself from the other 99.9% of attackers who have no training at all.  If you don’t want to attend a class in your town, there are plenty of great resources online. Click this link (or this one) for a couple great ones that cost less than a month’s membership at a brick-and-mortar martial arts studio.

Happy travels!

–Joel

 

Why are travel agents so unreliable?

First off, not all travel agents are unreliable, but

  1. The good agents only handle calls from new prospects after they are done serving their existing client base. If they’re really good, that might be a long time.
  2. The bad agents… Well, that’s self-explanatory.

As far as the unreliable agents, I can definitely tell you why you’re not getting calls back in a timely fashion. 9 out of 10 times, here’s is the typical interaction travel agents have to deal with when dealing with new customers.

  1. Customer has their sights set on [Insert City Here].
  2. Customer needs to go on a specific dates and has little to no flexibility on those dates.
  3. Customer searches online and is shocked that they can’t find flights for less than $600.
  4. Customer calls travel agent thinking agent can find better.
  5. Agent spends significant time finding $550 fares (because they’re good, but they’re not miracle workers).
  6. Customer decides $550 is too expensive so they decide not to go and don’t return the agent’s call ever again.

When that happens 9 out of 10 times, travel agents are forced to deal with the most realistic callers first, and everyone else later (if ever). It’s not the best system, but considering the high volumes of people who only call agents with unrealistic expectations – I can’t say I blame them.

By the way – I’m not a travel agent. I find the cheapest 1% of trips on the internet, and share them with my subscribers. As a premium subscriber – you can book those trips directly online without the use of a travel agent (and without commissions).

If you’re uncomfortable booking trips online, I recommend researching on Google or Yelp to find a reputable agent near you.  Any good agent should be able to book any trip you find on my website for you if you simply give them the appropriate details. (Be aware that most agents will probably have to charge an additional fee because the majority of fares I find do not pay commissions.)

Questions? Please feel free to comment below.

Closed for MLK weekend

I hope you’re enjoying your 3-day weekend!

In honor of practicing what I preach, I’m going to take the next few days off to recharge my batteries here in Turks & Caicos.

I’ll “see” you again on Wednesday.

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My Annual Shopping Spree at Dillard’s

For the past 7 or 8 years I’ve gone shopping on Jan 1 at Dillard’s, and I usually buy the majority of my clothes for the year during that one sale.

I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of Dillard’s from a Jan 1 sale with less than 15 items of clothing (usually 20 or 25), and I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than an average of $20 per item that would normally have cost $60 to $100.

Even better, because they have so many name-brands to choose from, I can be 10 times more discerning than any other time of the year when shopping for clothing.

  • $60 Levi’s jeans for $20? Not when I can get $150 Armanis for $28
  • Dress shirts I buy range from $12 to $26 and I only buy brands people don’t bat an eye at paying $75 to $150 for any other day of the year.
  • I rarely even bother giving my kids clothes for Christmas any more because I know I won’t find a better deal than what I find for them on Jan 1st.

As I was walking out of the store feeling like Santa with a huge bag of goodies slung over my shoulder, I realized something…

Finding a good deal on vacations is a lot like shopping.  

Sure, you can “wait until you’re ready” to search for flights to Cabo like everyone else does, and you can pay what everyone thinks is a good price.

Or…

  • If you can be flexible on where you want to go,
    • you could find flights and an all-inclusive resort for the exact same price as what procrastinating travelers pay (if not less).
    • you could fly to Belize or Aruba AND stay for 7 nights for even less than what most people pay for a flight alone to Cabo.
    • Depending on how long you’ve got for a vacation, you could spend even less for flights and lodging for a couple weeks in Europe or Asia.
  • Much like buying summer clothes during winter sales, if you plan vacation time around when you find an amazing deal (vs expecting to find an amazing deal to a specific place at a specific time) – you can save mind-boggling volumes of money. (That only works if you plan ahead though.)
  • Decide to try a new credit card once a year in return for 50,000 to 100,000 frequent flyer points, and the game changes even more.

Make the following 3 things a priority and I promise — you’ll save more on your next vacation than you ever thought possible.

  1. Watch for deals every day. (Don’t have a system for finding deals every day, and don’t want to pay for my premium service that does it for you? Here is a blog post about how to do it yourself for free.)
  2. Don’t look for trips that fit your vacation schedule. (That’s a sucker’s bet, and you’ll lose more times than not.) Instead, find trips that are 75% to 98% less than you were expecting to pay and adjust your vacation schedule to take advantage of them.
  3. Be flexible on when & where you’re willing to go. (Sometimes, this can be as simple as going from Thursday to Thursday instead of Saturday to Saturday.)

(Extra credit): Throw your old point-earning card in a drawer, get a new credit card that will give you bonus miles worth $1000 to $4000 just for spending 20 minutes switching to their card, and save your newfound miles for a rainy day. You never know when those miles will come in handy, but there will come a day that you really need them, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t have them. (You know what they say about planting a tree…)