The 60 second method to finding amazing travel deals

Remember that scene from Karate Kid where the culmination of all of Daniel’s “karate training” painting fences, waxing cars, and sanding floors comes together?

Click on the video clip below and watch Daniel’s face as he instantly goes from exhausted, discouraged and pissed – to seeing a whole new world of possibility.

 

Daniel’s breakthrough is like travel

Just like Mr Miyagi had Daniel do a bunch of stuff he didn’t think would help at all with Karate… I’m about to tell you the most powerful thing you can do to find a mind-bogglingly cheap trip:

Look every day. Even when you’re not planning a trip.

Let’s first talk about how most people book a trip.

  • They decide to book two or three months before a trip. They spend hours hunting down the optimal times/dates, and sometimes they get an OK deal.
  • Sometimes, they give up and have to repeat the procedure several other nights.
  • Eventually they either settle on something that seems like the best deal they can get, or they don’t go at all.

“The old fashioned way” is impossible…

Looking for a travel deal “the old fashioned way” might get an OK deal with enough work. But getting an exceptionally good deal is simply not possible except by random luck.

The exceptionally good deals only last days or hours, and came and went while the average traveler wasn’t even looking. The result? The average traveler ends up settling for mediocre deals or not traveling as often – never even knowing they could have paid 50% to 90% less.

The JGOOT Way: “Give me 60 seconds a day & I’ll show you the world”

Whether subscribed to my free or paid service, you get 4 to 6 trip alerts a day – all from your home airport. Every one of them are the best travel deals I could find on the internet for that day.
    • Whether you’re planning a trip or not, take 60 seconds a day and read the emails I send you with an open mind.
    • Rather than thinking “This trip doesn’t fit my schedule.”
    • Try thinking “Could I slightly adjust my schedule (or slightly adjust the dates) to take advantage of this ridiculously affordable trip?”

Most days, the trips either won’t interest you, or they won’t fit your schedule and that’s fine. You’re only out 60 seconds.

But some days…

You’ll see a trip that’s so affordable you won’t even have to think about whether it’s in the budget. You’ll know that going any other time would cost two to ten times as much, and if you adjust your vacation schedule just a little – it won’t impact your budget nearly as much as finding that exact same trip “the old fashioned way”. (It won’t take as much time either.)

I promise

Whether you use my service, or set up dozens of free Google fare watches and watch fares yourself…

If you simply take a minute a day to look at trip possibilities for 7 days in a row – you’ll begin to see a whole new world of affordable travel that are physically impossible to find “the old fashioned way”.

Not receiving my free trip alerts? Click here.
Already getting my trip alerts, but want to save time and hassle? Click here.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I’m honored. Would you mind helping me get word out about “The JGOOT Way” of travel and sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, etc? Thanks!

Formula for a cheap vacation AND free babysitters

Need a quick getaway without the kids, but don’t have family in town to help watch them?

This little trick will take 3 or 4 months of advance planning, but it is sure to:

  1. Find a dirt-cheap vacation to a place you didn’t think you could afford.
  2. Find free babysitters you can trust while relaxing on the beach.
  3. Get you lots of brownie points from family who will be elated at your generosity of flying them into town to spend quality time with your kids.

Step 1: Download this quick-start guide that will show you how to get 50,000 to 100,000 frequent flyer points in the next 30 to 60 days.

Step 2: Once you have earned your points, keep a close eye on the 50% to 90% off mistake fares you get through JustGetOutOfTown.com

Step 3: When you see a fare that fits your schedule (and budget), look up how many points it will take to fly Grandma & Grandpa (or the friend/relative of your choice) into town during your trip, and fly them out for a visit. (By using points you can easily pick dates that work around the cheap vacation you found, and since those flights will only cost $10 to $50 – it’s cheaper than ANY babysitter in town.)

Step 4: Grab the mistake fare and Just Get Out Of Town!

OR… If the mistake fare is REALLY good, save your miles for a rainy day and take grandma & grandpa with you.

Nikki Sandschaper - Happy JGOOT Subscriber

As a travel-obsessed parent and a teacher, I am thrilled that I can search for deals during school breaks!  We found such a great deal to Cabo over the Winter holidays that we took the grandparents too! Thank you!”
Nikki Sandschaper

Since becoming a JGOOT premium subscriber Nikki and her family have been to Florida, Mexico, Europe, and most recently – Asia.  Check out her inspiring travels on her Facebook page.

Tips from an expert: Taking better vacation photos

Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Nearly a decade ago, I got to go on a photo-walk with renowned photographer – Trey Ratcliff.  (Click here to see some of his work.)

I’m not a professional photographer, but ever since applying things I learned from Trey – I’ve been asked to shoot weddings, events, and births of babies – all because of personal vacation photos I occasionally post to Facebook.  More importantly – the photos I bring home from vacations become heirlooms that my family and I get to keep forever.

If you want to bring home more memorable photos whenever you travel, I highly recommend any of Trey’s training materials.

He has:

Again – here is a collection of some of his amazing work.

 

My $480 chicken bus tour through Belize

A few years ago, my wife, kids and I went on a cruise, and after hours of debate and discussion, we all agreed on doing the “Jungle river tour along with a 90 minute guided tour of the countryside” when we dropped anchor in Belize.  It was pricey at $120 each, but it had something for both adults and kids – so we bit the bullet.

In a nutshell, the cruise line bought a couple dozen “tour company” t-shirts, gave them to a bunch of villagers who had never been out of their tiny town of 100 people, and bought a couple chicken busses. They then instructed the villagers to “Make some crap up to tell the tourists we’re going to send your way to pass the time on the 90 minute ride on the chicken bus we’re going to cram them into.
Seriously – I think the tour guides had bets on how much crap they could get away with making up.  Although I’d have been fascinated to hear about life in the village they lived in, they felt the need to embellish the most mundane, worthless information possible – just to fill the time on the 90 minute squeaky-as-hell bus ride.
  • And this is the gas station used not only by people who live in the community, but ALSO by people traveling through the town.” 
  • And do you see those tall trees with big green balls on them? Those are our country’s national tree – the coconut tree!” (Umm… No. Their national tree is the Mahogany (which is also one of the country’s main exports.)
  • “Our national language is Creole. So for example – instead of saying “Yes”, we say “Ya’mon”. Dude… That’s just wrong and I’m pretty sure you’re insulting the heritage of people from at least 4 different countries.
  • It reminded me of my first speech class when I had to speak for exactly five minutes and I ran out of material after one and a half.
  • Most painful “guided tour” ever.
Anticipation was building as we got close to the “Jungle river”, and as we pulled up – we saw a big stack of inner-tubes. Not even real inner-tubes. I’m talking about flimsy wal-mart inner tubes that could only be stable to float in by tying at least 8 together. Seriously? The “River” was a nasty-ass muddy creek about 4 feet deep, my kids are strapped between us and zinc-nosed tourists who insisted on telling bad jokes the whole time, and the guide we were required to be tied to managed to find every sharp eye-endangering branch possible for us to float through.  On top of that, the cruise line’s insurance required that they have employees along side the river every couple hundred yards. But they ran out of company shirts, and they refused to talk or smile. So instead of feeling safe and protected, it was just creepy. It felt more like the grubby t-shirt, cheap sunglass wearing thugs were there just to make sure we floated into the trap they had set for us around the bend – where we would be kidnapped and held for ransom.
Well, at least we had the “authentic Belizean lunch” to look forward to.  At the end of the ride, we were given juice boxes, and bean & cheese burritos in saran wrap. “Umm. My wife is gluten-free. Have you got anything she can eat without permanently damaging her intestines?” They gave us an extra bag of Cheetos, and shuffled us back onto the chicken bus for our ride home.
 
The best part of the day was when we discovered there would be no stories on the 90 minute ride back and we got to take a nap. (That, and finding out that what they were being paid was triple what most of them were earning before they started working as contractors for the cruise line, but come-on [cruise-line-omitted-to-keep-from-getting-sued]… Spend a few hundred bucks on a copywriter to give them SOMETHING to talk about.)
The moral of the story – Excursions can be fun, but whenever possible – do your homework in advance and talk to people who have actually been there.  If taking a cruise, make sure they’ve been docking at that port for quite a while, so you know they’ve had a chance to work out all of the kinks and adequately train the people running the excursions.
Got any funny travel stories? Feel free to tell me about it in the comments below.

50% to 90% off “Butt in seat fares”. Why they happen & how to find them.

Every airline in existence uses sophisticated computer algorithms that determine how to get the highest price possible for every seat on their planes. 99% of the time, they do a really effective job of extracting every dollar possible out of every seat on their plane.

However… About once every 300 or 400 flights – they get it wrong and under-sell seats – and that can cost them tens of thousands of dollars in cancelled/rescheduled flights. To avoid that problem, they need to get a handful of butts in a handful of seats… and they need to do it in a hurry.

This isn’t just for last-minute flights either.  To avoid cancelling as many flights as possible, they start error-correction as early as 9 months in advance.

Some people call these “mistake fares” but it’s never a mistake when this happens. In fact, it’s very deliberate. (I prefer to call them “Butt in seat” fares because the airlines will reward you handsomely for putting your butt in their otherwise un-sold seat.)

It works something like this:

  • 9 months before a flight, if the flight is not at least 20% booked, the airline will slash prices drastically in order to sell at least 20% of their seats.  As soon as they fill those seats, prices go back to normal.  If they don’t fill those seats, they cancel the flight, go through the expensive process of rescheduling existing passengers and crew, and again – prices go back to normal.
  • 6 months (+/-) before the flight, they go through the same process if they’re not at least 40% booked.
  • 3 months out? Same thing if they’re not 60% sold.
  • Then again  2 months out, 1 month out, 2 weeks out…
  • You get the idea.

They can’t advertise these sales because they usually only have a handful of seats at that price.  Instead, they just quietly slash prices, knowing some lucky traveler will stumble across that fare and snatch it up.

  • These opportunities present themselves every day from every airport in the country, and can be anywhere from a week in advance to 9 months in advance.
  • Sometimes it means getting a $300 flight for $30 or $40 and visiting friends and family even when you weren’t planning on it.
  • Other times, it means getting a $1200 flight for $200 to $500, and taking that vacation you’ve been putting off for years.
  • With the tiniest bit of flexibility, it can mean traveling two or three times as often on the same budget as one trip “the normal way”.

Unfortunately, airlines refuse to pay commissions on those types of flights – so there is no incentive for traditional travel sites or travel agents to find those opportunities for you other than you stumbling across them when searching for your trip.

If you want to find trips like this, you’ve got 3 options:

  1. Rely on luck of the draw and hope to stumble across something whenever you plan a trip. (Every once in a while, you’ll get lucky (and the more locations you’re willing to search for, the luckier you’ll get.)
  2. Set up free fare watches through a site like Google Flights or Airfare Watchdog from your home airport, watch every day, and when one of those locations has a drop in fare – snatch it up. (Again – the more locations you watch, the better your odds.)

Sound like a lot of work?  It’s not hard at all.  Tedious… But not hard. Either of the above options will take 10 to 15 hours of research a month (depending mostly on how many destinations you keep an eye on.)

Option 3: Subscribe to a trip alert service that is not on commission (because most of these fares don’t pay a commission), and focuses solely on finding those types of fares.

When something jumps out at you, it’s usually far enough in advance that you can plan around it, and you’ll find yourself traveling more often – for less money.

To see if I offer a trip alert service in your home airport, click here.

Happy travels!

–Joel

 

 

The most important ingredient when making Pho

One of my best friends of over 40 years is an amazing cook. He taught me to make authentic Vietnamese Pho and this weekend, we fixed a big old pot for a bunch of friends.

Instead of my normal process of taking 4 or 6 hours to cook the broth over medium heat, I decided I’d try to get more flavor by lowering the heat & cooking it overnight.

Best. Pho. Ever! It turns out the most important ingredient when making a good pot of pho is time.  Low & slow baby. Low and slow.

 The recipe is pretty simple: 

  • 4 to 5 lbs beef bones (if you’ve got an awesome hunting friend like me – Elk/Venison bones are even better.)
  • 2 tbsp ground cardamom
  • Handful of star anise
  • 12-15 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • Put all of the above in about 2-3 gallons of water and simmer on medium-low for a minimum of 4 hours. (Although low for 12-24 hours will get a better result)
  • After several hours, adjust ingredients to taste, and continue to simmer.
  • When done, strain broth. Add rice noodles and protein of your choice.
  • Garnishes include Vietnamese basil, bean sprouts, limes, siracha sauce, or plum sauce to taste.

Want to pay the best price ever for your next vacation? Hunt for it the same way; Low & Slow.

  • Rather than deciding to squeeze a vacation into a pre-determined amount of time, decide to look start looking for a trip some time 6 to 9 months from now. By planning long ahead, you can figure vacation time out AFTER you find the right deal.
  • Pick 10 destinations you’d want to go to and set up a fare-watch for each of those destinations.
  • Check out prices every morning, but don’t plan on booking anything for at least a couple weeks.
  • You’ll see a couple places that are tempting, but trust me – When you look with discipline, you’ll realize amazing deals are out there all the time.

By having the patience to plan well ahead, and the discipline to look daily for the deals that are out there for the taking, you’d be shocked at how much less you’ll have to pay for a vacation to a place you never even thought you could afford.

Of course if that sounds like too much work, you could always just let JGOOT take care of it all for you.
JustGetOutOfTown.com/upgrade

Let the vacation find you…

It takes a village

CA residents get free companion pass through end of 2019

I just found out that Southwest recently had a sale and California residents can not only get 40,000 free miles for spending $1000 on a Southwest credit card, but on top of that…

California residents qualify for a free companion pass with very first purchase and that pass will be good for unlimited use through the end of 2019.

It took a lot more work for me to get my companion pass (110,000 miles), but since November, I’ve already used it to fly my wife alongside me for free for 3 pretty expensive flights.  (OK, not free… $11.20 after taxes.)

Technically, the sale is over, but I’ve got several cards with Chase, and they’ve always been very generous when I call in and ask if they’d be willing to extend their recent promotion. (Another reason they’re my favorite credit card company.)

If you sign up by clicking this link I’ll get some free points from Southwest & I appreciate the support.

Denver to Roatan: My Best Trip Ever. $854 including 7 nights

First off – Roatan is never cheap to get to. Flights alone are usually over $800 (Trust me- I’ve been watching for years.)

Years ago, I had a “buddy pass” from a very generous pilot friend & decided to head out of town when my kids were on vacation with their Mom.  Since I had to fly standby, I pretty much took a carry-on backpack & my laptop (so I didn’t have to count it as “vacation” 😉

  • My 7am choice: Rio de Janiero. Could have gone, but flights back were over-sold. Didn’t want to get stranded there.
  • 8:30 – Belize. Damn… Missed it by 2 passengers.
  • I’m now sprinting the other side of the airport to the Honduras gate to see if I’d make it onto a 9am flight… Bingo. I’m going to Roatan Island, Honduras.  Having done minimal research – I had no idea what I’d do so I posted a quick FB post saying I needed suggestions for where I was going and had a dozen tips from friends by the time I landed (and an introduction to a local who met me for happy hour & showed me around.)

I ended up staying in West Bay, and decided to get SCUBA certified. Best. Trip. Ever.

I took my family back a year later & Michelle & the kids did one of their open water certification dives with the same Dive Company (See photo below).  It was like a family reunion.

If you EVER have a chance to get to Roatan, I can’t recommend it enough. (I also can’t recommend Roatan Divers enough. Friendly, extremely safe, and they gave us the VIP treatment from the second our ship landed in Roatan – to when we left. Ask for Karl or Saaya, and request Alejandro as your instructor.

I could go on for pages, but enough sentimental blabbering… Here you go.

PS – Fellow Roatan fans – please add your comments below!
Denver to Coxen Hole, Honduras
Nights: 7
Departure: Mon, Jun 12
Return: Mon, Jun 19

Click on any underlined links for more details.
Round Trip flight: $693     (Compare historical fares)
Flight plus basic hotel: $854
Flight plus 4-star hotel/resort: Click for more details
Don’t like Hotel/Resort Prices? Check out AirBnB or VRBO.
On an even tighter budget? Check out Hostels.com or Hostel World.
Above dates not quite right for you? Try a flexible search.
All Inclusive Options (if any)
One years later:

Roatan Dive Shop - West Bay Roatan

*Wondering what a reverse-search is? Click here.
*All prices are subject to change & hotel prices assume double occupancy. Adjust accordingly for more or less travelers.
*Always be sure to verify that lodging dates coincide with air travel dates.
*Caveat Emptor: Just Get Out Of Town is not a Travel Agency. We simply refer you to vacations we feel represent good deals, and allow you to further research them on your own.
*Questions about JustGetOutOfTown.com? Click Here.)

Tips for getting Passports In Denver

A subscriber private-messaged me with a request for tips on getting passports in Denver so I thought I’d share here.

Everything about the government is slow, and they heavily encourage everything to be done via old-fashioned mail, but (For a $60 per passport fee) there is a Denver office you can visit if you A) schedule an appointment long enough in advance, or B) need to get a passport in a hurry.

There isn’t much of an advantage to “scenario A” if you’re not traveling in the immediate future since all they do is mail in your application for you (and charge you $60 whether or not you need it in a hurry). If you want some hand-holding to make sure you filled everything out correctly, you can visit the Colorado Passport Agency.  ($60 per passport is some expensive hand-holding in my opinion.)

If you have proof of international travel (confirmed airline tickets), you can schedule an appointment. (Or if you’re feeling lucky, just walk in.  Michelle and I took a last minute trip and our appointment wasn’t until the day before we booked our tickets. I read that you can walk in and tell them you’ll wait for a no-show.  When we went with hat-in-hand, the friendly security guard told us they were slow that day and let us right in.)

Here is a link to the Colorado Passport Agency.

PS – Don’t forget that a lot of countries turn people away whose passports expire within the next 6 months. Be sure to keep that in mind when you book your next trip! (That’s why we had to pay for expedited renewal of our Passports.)

PSS – Photo courtesy of my lovely wife Michelle – who took this pic of us putting our Denver Happy Hour Passports to use at “The Source” before putting our real passports to use in Aruba.

 

Making the most of JGOOT

To make sure you get as much as possible out of JGOOT – try these two helpful tips:

  1. When you visit the website, the first thing you should do is enter your email. Then, each morning, I’ll send you a daily digest of every deal I found the day before.  No more risk of missing a single travel deal because of it being buried among all of your other friends’ posts (you popular devil. 😉
  2. Since the daily email is just a random potpourri of trips – most of which might not be at the right time, or to the right place, I also have organized the hundreds of trips I’ve found so far for your convenience.

For example:

Don’t just rely on the above links though… There are dozens of ways you can search for the trips that will interest you most. (In fact, if there is a category you think is missing, let us know. We’ll see about adding it.)

To make the most of JGOOT (Just Get Out Of Town) – watch these very short videos.

Again – I’m sorry if I’ve done a poor job of letting you know that this is more than just a Facebook group posting random trips. It’s SOOO much more than that. My only hope is that one of these trips inspires you to Just. Get. Out. Of. Town.

Other questions? Feel free to add a comment to this page.
…or on our Facebook group.
…or on Twitter.
…or on Pinterest.
…or on Instagram.
…or subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Or my absolute favorite:  Send me a postcard (or email me a pic) from one of the trips you go on.

Joel McDonald
8200 S. Quebec St. Suite A3-137
Centennial, CO 80112
joel@justgetoutoftown.com

I think United missed the memo…

What United employees did is horrific – there is no denying it. But what is most interesting to me is the $1000 ceiling they hit before requiring passengers to get off the plane. (Seriously United?  In what possible scenario did you imagine forcibly removing a passenger from a plane because of YOUR screw up would not cost at least 100 times more than giving vouchers away to volunteers willing to get off the plane??? Sure – it’s easy to say in hindsight, but I’m baffled that this hasn’t come up before and that incrementally raising the offer for “volunteers” isn’t more common.

My thoughts:

  • The people who screwed up should be immediately fired (including the CEO). There is no excuse for deciding a paying customer should lose what he/she paid for without properly compensating them for the screw up. Even if they felt justified because it was employees who were going to miss another flight, there is still no excuse for using physical force.
  • Slight over-bookings are a necessary part of business for any airline. Diplomatically handling those over-bookings when they gamble and lose is the key.
  • I don’t care if an airline has to raise voucher prices to $2000 or $3000 – if they strategically and incrementally raise voucher offers, there will ALWAYS be someone who will take them up on it.
  • Considering the 95% of the time the airline profits by over-booking with no-one the wiser, I think they can afford a small loss the other 5% of the time.
  • The massive impact this will have on United is sad. It was a screw-up by a handful of individuals, not a company policy.  I know a ton of people are saying they will never fly United again. I’m looking forward to getting some way cheaper flights from them as they so desperately scrounge to keep market share.
  •  United is going to suffer greatly in the short-term, but we as consumers will benefit through better prices. A LOT better prices.
  • In the long run, I believe United will be better off for it because NO ONE is going to make this mistake ever again.  (Even if they have to double the average price of vouchers to make sure people voluntarily get off a plane.)

Here is what the masses on Twitter & Facebook are saying.

My $.02

Could I ask you for a favor?

Hey fellow Coloradans,

So this little side project of mine is going pretty well & I really appreciate all of the feedback!

If you don’t mind, could I ask a favor of you? Whenever you see a deal I put up that you like, could you share it on your FB or Twitter page for your friends to see? The more people I know are taking advantage of these trips (or just contemplating the idea), the happier I am to continue doing this.

Thanks so much. Below are a couple examples of how to share, re-tweet (if you’re on twitter), and if you’re feeling really helpful – how to add friends to our Facebook Group.

And for those of you on Twitter, I’m @JustGetOutofDen. Any time you see fares worthy of re-tweets, I’d be much obliged. 🙂

 

 

 

 

PS –  if you’re REALLY feeling like helping out, you can add your Colorado friends to the group.  (Just Colorado friends though.)  Here’s a graphic of the “add members” feature on the Facebook Group.