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
[email protected]

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.

 

 

 

 

Cost Saving Tips for Travel

Nothing new worth sharing today, so I thought I’d share a few tips to help you find the best deals possible whenever traveling.

  1. Don’t limit your destinations.  The biggest mistake people can make when traveling is to aim to go to a specific place.  If you want to go to a warm beach, there are hundreds of options. Just want to get away? Thousands of options – all of which are great destinations.  By being open to going surfing in Costa Rica, Hawaii, Brazil or Mexico, you could spend 1/2, if not 1/4 as much as if you said “I want to go to Hawaii”.
  2. Try to travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  Depending on how long you stay, your flight can be 40% to 80% of your costs. Cutting those costs can either keep more money in your pocket, or free up cash for more fun excursions. Either way – it’s worth a little effort to try and find the optimal days to travel.  The cheapest days to travel are almost always Tues-Thurs, however most people leave for vacation on a Friday, and return on a Friday through Sunday the next week. Those combinations of days (Traveling on Fri-Sun) are the most expensive days to fly.
  3. Don’t limit yourself to specific times for travel.  My wife is a teacher – which is GREAT for finding deals in the summer.  The rest of the year – not so much because vacation days are frowned upon, and her days off mid-school year are typically when everyone else is traveling. (Spring Break, Winter Break, Thanksgiving, etc.)  During those times, we typically stay close to home because international fares are almost always higher than normal. (We just grabbed a GREAT quick trip to Vegas over spring break.)  Rather than deciding to take a vacation week a certain time of the year, give yourself some “flex time”, and when you see a trip a month (or three, or five) in advance, grab it & schedule your vacation for then. The more “flex time” you leave open for travel, the better the deal you will find.

Combine the 3 tips above and you can get amazingly cheap deals!

That’s all for today. Hopefully I’ll have some more good deals for you tomorrow (or who knows – maybe even later today.)

A (very) personal note from our founder

It was a sad day in April of 2009.

In 2006, we built the house of our dreams. By 2009, we lost everything including my company, my house, my life savings, and eventually my first marriage.

After a long period of feeling sorry for myself, I did a software update on my computer and an old screensaver started playing.

I saw hundreds of pictures of me & my kids visiting family and places all around the world.

It was then that I realized something;  The bank may have emptied my bank accounts and I may have had to start over financially, but no one could ever take those memories away.  

From then on, instead of working ridiculous hours and missing out on life in the process – I doubled-down on my vacation budget.

Fast forward 7 years: Now, I am happily re-married to an amazing woman who shares my passion for travel, my kids have two very healthy households, and regardless of my job status or income, I’ll never give up visiting friends, family, and new places all around the world.

The more trips I take, the happier I feel.  The happier I feel, the less I worry about what I don’t have. The less I worry, the easier work is. The easier work is…

You get the picture.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because every time I come back from a trip, I constantly hear from friends & family about how wonderful it will be when they have the time and money to travel more.

  1. I can’t do anything about the time you decide to make for travel.
  2. I can, however, share cheap fares I find that are so enticing – that you might stop making excuses for not vacationing – and decide to just get out of town yourself.

Sincerely,

Joel McDonald
Curing workaholism one affordable trip at a time