This site is not for you if…

Actual screenshot of a text from a subscriber

Actual screenshot of a text from a subscriber

Yesterday, I got a text from one of my subscribers, Brooke Merkle, while she was on vacation.  When CBS News profiled her less than a year ago, she had taken her family on 3 JGOOT-inspired trips and was going on her fourth trip to Hawaii. She’s now gone on ten trips that she found with the help of her $100 per year JGOOT subscription. TEN TRIPS at an average savings of $350 per person, per trip.

Granted, Brooke is a teacher, and she gets out of town more than most of us she and her husband travel just about every time their kids have a school break…

BUT…

Brooke’s schedules aren’t the primary reason they are traveling more than they used to.

  • The reason Brooke’s family is now traveling more is that they no longer occasionally look for a vacation, painting themselves into a corner asking something like “What will it cost to go to Cabo for Spring Break?” (For a family of four, that can easily be a $5000 to $10,000 question.)
  • Instead, they now watch for deals every day with a slightly different question in mind; “What exceptional travel deals that fit my schedule in the next several months can I take advantage of?” (Which can easily be a $500 to $2500 question. Yes… For a family of four, and yes – during peak times like weekends & holidays when everyone is out of school.)

This site is not for you if…

  • If you tend to wait until a month before a trip, and you have a very specific timeline to work with.
  • It’s also not for you if you’ve got your sights set on a specific place at a specific time every time you travel.

You don’t need my services in either of the above scenarios.  You have two choices:

  1. You can keep looking the way you always have, find exactly what you’re looking for on Travelocity or Expedia, and pay the prices they’re charging.
  2. Or you can read this free report at least 3 months before you expect to take a trip (preferably 6 or 8 months in advance).

Either way, you don’t need a JGOOT subscription. The fares I share on JGOOT have about a zero chance of helping you if you have little to no flexibility on when/where you want to travel. If that’s the case for you, I don’t advise wasting another minute on my site.

Although The JGOOT Way WILL allow you to take a family of four on vacation for the same price as what 90% of other travelers pay per person…

…it simply won’t work if you aren’t willing to make some slight adjustments to take advantage of the deals that are there for the taking day in and day out.

  • Sometimes, that might mean snatching up a trip to Belize, Aruba, or Thailand instead of Cabo (Yes, when you travel The JGOOT Way – you can vacation in Thailand for the same freakin price as what most people pay to go to Cabo.)
  • Other times, that might mean vacationing the second week of July instead of the third week…
  • Maybe it means taking the kids on a Thanksgiving trip instead of Winter Break because the same destination is 1/3 the cost
  • Or maybe taking an extra day off of school/work to save $2500 on airfare.

Bottom line:

If you want to start spending less than what 90% of travelers spend on travel – you have to stop thinking like them.

Little adjustments to how you travel can mean massive savings.

Is JGOOT the best site for you to save big on your next trip?

I don’t know.

Although my premium trip alert service is stupid-cheap, and you’re more at risk of missing out on an amazing deal that saves you thousands – than the twenty bucks you’ll save by putting off upgrading another couple months…

…There is no sense in even trying it out if you aren’t willing to change the way you approach finding travel deals. If that’s the case, feel free to continue to receive my free trip alerts and check out the free tips on my blog &  Youtube Channel until you’re convinced that “The JGOOT Way” will save you tons of money on your travels. If you don’t agree with my way of finding travel deals, feel free to use the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of any email you receive.

Happy travels!

–Joel

[UPDATE: Upon returning from her 11th trip (a $450 first-class round-trip flight to the Dominican Republic) Brooke responded to an announcement that I was hiring. Now, she works on the JGOOT team, and has taken  12  13 JGOOT – inspired trips! Click here to read a letter from Brooke.]

Exploiting the airline industry’s “Achilles Heel”

Whether dealing with discount airlines, or one of the big three – all airlines use extremely expensive software and algorithms to extract every dollar possible out of every seat on every one of their planes.

But much like Achilles’ heel, even the millions of dollars airlines put into predicting how much customers will pay for a seat on their planes, they don’t always get it right.

About .1% of the time, the airlines get their “supply and demand” charts wrong and they find themselves in a bind. As early as 10 months before a flight, if they don’t have at least 15% of their seats booked, they realize they’re not on-pace to fill enough seats on the plane.

The way they fix that problem and get to their 15% target? They drastically slash prices on a handful of seats. Since staying on pace to fill as many seats as possible is EXTREMELY important to the airlines, these price slashes have to be enough to get someone’s attention so they can fill those seats in a hurry.

You never know when or where those price-cuts will happen, but one thing is for sure… They disappear FAST, and as soon as they do, the airlines go back to charging what they know passengers will pay.

Want to spend less than everyone else on the same plane as you?

Watch every day and look for the .1% of seats in planes that are 70% to 90% below normal prices.

Not when you get around to it…

Not 1 or 2 months before you’re ready to plan a trip…

Every. Day.

Unbelievably good deals to destinations all around the world are out there every day, and all you have to do is watch for them.

Don’t want to look every day?

That’s fine, but Murphy’s law says that perfect trip 6 months from now will pop up in the next week or two, and when you get around to planning for it in 3 or 4 months – you’ll probably pay double to triple than what you could have paid if you watched for that trip every day.

Don’t think .1% gives you enough options to choose from?

Think about this:

  • If the average international airport flies to 700 destinations around the world…
  • If they have an average of 4 flights to those destinations per day…
  • If there are 365 days in the year…
  • If there are an average of 250 seats on those planes…
  • That gives you 204,000,000 options to choose from. (700 * 4 * 365 * 250)
  • If you only took flights that were among the cheapest .1% of those 204,000,000 choices, you’d have 204,000 options to choose from (per year).
  • With that many options it’s virtually impossible not to find something that can work with your schedule.
  • Besides, how many trips do you need to take a year?

Is “The JGOOT Way” perfect?

No. 

Will “The JGOOT Way” get you to exactly where you want to go, when you want to get there?

Absolutely not. 

Will it allow you to take an annual vacation or two to amazing destinations at a price YOU are willing to pay (vs what the airlines (and hotels) are charging everyone else who doesn’t know any better?)

Hell yes.

Want someone else to look every day so you don’t have to? Try my trip alert service for a buck.

 

 

 

 

“It’s five minutes of dreaming and fun” – Robert Horvick

Below is a recording of a conversation I had with JGOOT premium subscriber Robert Horvick after he left these kind words on our Facebook page.

Robert & his wife live in Raleigh, NC. Since joining my trip-alert service, they’ve only travelled domestically, but they’ve taken 3 trips and saved $600 to $800 so far.

They watch for trips every day but even when none of the trips interest them or work with their schedule, he describes opening his daily trip alerts as “Five minutes of dreaming and fun.”

Don’t have 30 minutes to watch the whole video? A list of highlights is below.

  • Intro: “We got married young and travel was limited to road trips. Now that kids are older…”
  • 1:05: $97 Delta direct afternoon flight Raleigh to Austin that we’ve paid $350 for multiple times in the past.
  • 3:30: $63 mid-day direct Raleigh flight to Minneapolis (not-last minute. Months ahead.)
  • 4:50: Plans for Paris next Summer
  • 5:30: Using points as a backup plan
  • 7:10: Orlando/Disney flight that added two days to their vacation for the same cost
  • 8:45: WAY cheaper to get a great deal on a flight and a bad deal on a cruise, than a great deal on a cruise and a bad deal on a flight.
  • 11:00: Opening JGOOT emails is like scratching a lottery ticket. Even when you don’t win, it’s five minutes of dreaming and fun.
  • 14:10: How we saved $600 to $800 in the 6 months since we subscribed.
  • 15:20: It’s as fun to dream while sitting at home as it is to be traveling when you are able to get out
  • 15:50: The benefits of building travel plans around deals vs Planning to travel, and hoping to find a deal
  • 17:45: Co-worker paying $3000 flights to Shanghai vs $600 including 7 nights.
  • 18:35: Getting your butt on the plane for cheap, and then getting a business class upgrade for less than the cost of lunch.
  • 22:20: How we get these trips at the price advertised.
  • 25:30: How we used to travel vs how we travel now.
  • 29:20: Recap of the two strategies behind “The JGOOT Way” of travel.
  • 31:30: Robert’s final suggestion to get the most out of your JGOOT trip-alerts

Like the Gideons give Bibles to Hotels

Sean and Janelle of Toward Awakening Travel were kind enough to invite me to talk about the concept of remnant travel at their monthly meetup in Denver.

Here is a recording of that interview, and here is a copy of the quick-start guide I gave to attendees. (I give it away like the Gideons give Bibles to hotels.)

It could be worse

Photo Credit: https://www.123rf.com/profile_snowing

For the past several days, my wife has been laying out clothes and texting/coordinating with her girlfriends finalizing what they’re going to wear on their annual girl’s trip. (Last year it was Miami. This year… Mexico.)

Last night, she spent 2 hours trying to figure out what to take out of her bags without sacrificing any shoes. (Because we all know a woman can’t do without at least 8 pairs of shoes on a 4 day trip to a beach, right? 👠 👠 )

Tonight, my daughter and I pack for a daddy/daughter dive trip that we leave for in the morning. (Four months ago, I snagged $47 flights and we’re staying at an all-inclusive resort that that will cost less than what most people pay for their bar tab.)

We already have our first two dives booked with the best rated dive shop in town thanks to a travel discount card I’m testing out, and our biggest debate (after we verified the card works is whether we use the rest of the card on our second day for snorkeling with whale sharks, or more scuba diving.)

#ItCouldBeWorse

Just a few years ago, debates like this wouldn’t even have been an option in the McDonald house.

Not long ago, I was so busy being busy – I didn’t have time to think about getting out of town and unplugging every couple months – let alone still have room in the budget for fancy excursions.

Now, I not only insist on 6 or 8 “unplug and relax” trips per year, but I make it a daily mission to evangelize about how much more affordable travel can actually be with just a couple simple changes.

I can’t do anything about how busy you tell yourself you are, but I DO know how to find trips that are so ridiculously affordable – that “cost” is no longer an excuse.

The most important thing…

is that you stop telling yourself you’ll start looking for your next trip “when you’re ready.”

That’s what 99% of travelers tell themselves – and that’s why they pay an arm and a leg, they don’t travel as much as they’d like to,  or worst of all – that day never comes.

If you want to start paying less than what 99% of travelers pay, you have to stop traveling like them. The best way to do that is to look for deals every day – whether you’re planning a trip or not.

When you find that perfect trip that is 4 to 8 months from now and 80% less than you were expecting to pay, you’ll be surprised at how flexible your schedule actually is. The months before the trip, you’ll continue to check prices and pat yourself on the back for booking months earlier because they’ll be 3x to 5x higher. Even better, when you board the plane, you’ll be quietly snickering to yourself at what you KNOW everyone else paid for that same flight.

More “it could be worse” problems:

Michelle and her girlfriends have already gone through 1/4 of their 400 pounds of runway-worthy outfits. They’re now heading out for a fancy sunset dinner on the beach, hoping to avoid the Paparazzi who may mistake them for celebrities because of the outfits they painstakingly debated and coordinated via 1762 group texts & pictures over the past 6 months.  (She just alerted me they can see whales breaching from their balcony too! #LivinTheDream)

Meanwhile, my daughter and I are all packed.  In the morning, we’ll hop on our $47 direct flight to Cabo, and we’ll we’ll kick off “Daddy Daughter Weekend” by seeing whose Spanish is better when ordering dinner at the resort’s ocean-front steakhouse. (Although she’s only taken a semester of Spanish, my money is on her. My 3 years of Spanish has about 30 years of rust on it.)

Hasta mas tarde

–Joel “It could be worse” McDonald

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Want to make flight & hotel costs so insignificant – you can’t help but travel more often, stay at 4 & 5 star hotels, and fly in business/first class (for less than what most people spend on basic economy flights & budget MOTELS?

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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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Ummmmm… Hell no.

[TL;DR? Watch a video at the bottom of this post instead.]

I bargained with my sophomore son and told him if he took a free ACT practice test on Friday, he could take a friend snowboarding today.

I was going to go boarding today too, but it was NEGATIVE TEN DEGREES outside, and was only going to get up to a high of 2.  Ummmm… Hell no.

Unlike the out-of-state visitors who all paid thousands of dollars to ski in Colorado during the second-most crowded week of the year – One of the nice things about living just over an hour from the slopes is that you can occasionally say “no thanks” if conditions aren’t absolutely perfect.

Instead, you can grab your laptop, a hot coffee, and work by a warm fire while your kids freeze their butts off on the slopes.

Wanna know a secret?

Traveling for pennies on the dollar works the exact same way.  Unlike the suckers who decide to look for a travel deal every once in a blue moon and settle on somewhere in Mexico (again) because that’s the only destination where they could find a flight for under $400, you can be a lot more picky about the trips you take and the prices you pay.

  • Mexico? Not unless it’s under $150.
  • Europe?  Not unless we can spend less than $400 per person AND get a week of lodging included.
  • What? $29 flights to my Alma Mater for a big game? Let’s grab some friends & go!

But there is a catch…

Since the majority of those fares only last days (if not hours), you HAVE to watch for them every day.

The best way to do that for free?  Airfare Watchdog. Simply enter as many destinations as you want to go to, and they’ll send you the best price they can find to that destination. Every day.

99% of the time, you’ll say “no thanks” and go on with your day.  But about 1 in 100 times the fare will be so low – you’ll think “Ummm… OK!!!” – and you’ll snatch the fare up knowing it will likely be the cheapest seat on the plane.  (The best part? These trips are often months in advance so you can easily work your schedule around them.)

Try it & see for yourself. For your convenience, here’s a link to their free site.

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Have more than a few places you’d be willing to travel to for the right price?
Every trip we send to our subscribers is at “Ummmm… OK!!!” prices that are virtually guaranteed to be the cheapest seats on the plane.

Right now, you can check out my premium trip-alert service for 30 days, for a dollar.
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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” comes together?

Everything he knew about Karate was what he taught himself in a textbook. After weeks painting fences, waxing on/waxing off, and sanding floors – Daniel had no idea that what Mr Miyagi was teaching him was a far more efficient way to become a master of Karate.

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.

Most most people book vacations like Daniel taught himself Karate. (The “Textbook Way”)

  • 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 settle on something that seems like the best deal they can get (not even knowing they missed a flight that was half the cost a few weeks earlier)
  • or worse – they give up chalking travel up as “too expensive” and they put their vacation off yet another year.

Now let’s talk about “The Miyagi Way” of travel (also known as “The JGOOT Way”)

Forget about how you’ve always planned a trip.

Start looking for the best travel deals every day – whether or not you’re planning a trip.

Most days, what you find won’t work and you’ll wonder why you’re bothering to look every day.

But every once in a while – you’ll find a deal that interests you. 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?”

Before you know it – you’ll find deals so unimaginably good – you can’t help but book them.

Sometimes it will be a $20 to $50 flight across the country to visit a best friend.

Other times, it will be a bucket-list destination that is 1/4 the cost of what you were expecting to pay.

Whatever the case – even though very few of the trips you take were trips you planned in advance – you’ll start traveling more often, traveling in better seats, staying at better resorts, and you’ll wonder why you always told yourself travel was so expensive.

All because you started planning trips around deals instead of expecting to find deals that fit your plans on the rare occasions that you look for them.

PS:

If you’re a happy subscriber reading this – I’m probably preaching to the choir. Thanks for your patronage!  You can help inspire others by sharing the latest deals you’ve booked in our Facebook Group JGOOT Village.

If you’re a subscriber still wondering if our service is a fit for you –  Try opening your alerts daily and watch the magic happen.

If you’re not a subscriber, feel free to give our service a try free for 30 days. (Just make sure to open the email we’ll send you each morning. Not doing so would be like joining a Karate class, but never attending because you don’t anticipate getting in a fight any time soon.)

 

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.

 

A $29 lesson about communication in relationships

When my wife and I had been dating 8 or 9 months, we were pretty serious (but not THAT serious.)

We’ve both lived in Colorado for over 20 years, and she was from Fort Wayne – a little town a couple hours North of Indianapolis. I hadn’t been there yet.

Anyway… One day I texted her at work and said “Hey – If you can get a Friday off some time next month, what do you say we go back to Indiana?

Man, did the rumors start flying!!!

Friends from Colorado were wondering what the ring was going to look like…

Friends from Indiana were setting up gatherings…

My (now) Father in-law set up a couple different “perfect opportunities” for the anticipated conversation…

No engagement happened that weekend, nor did an “asking for her hand” conversation. That happened later, but it was still a great weekend! (Let’s just say I’m still learning about communication with my wife. 😉

In hindsight, I probably should have said “Hey Michelle. If you can take a Friday off next month, I found $29 flights to Indy. Since they’re normally about $350, we should grab them & you can show me your home-town!

Frontier still has those kinds of crazy-low flash-sales all the time. They usually only last a few days, but if you keep an eye out for them (or, ahem, know someone who keeps an eye out for them) – taking advantage of them can almost certainly guarantee great stories you’ll carry with you the rest of your life.

The moral of the story:

If you watch for deals every day (vs just a handful of days a year when planning a trip), you’re 20 to 50 times more likely to find an amazing price on a trip you can’t resist but Just Get Out Of Town.

Here are a few places to set up searches:

  • Sign up for Frontier, Southwest, Jet Blue & Spirit, United, American Airline & Delta trip alerts from your home airport.
  • Airfarewatchdog.com (set up a search for as many destinations as possible. (Don’t forget cities you have friends you’d visit.)
  • Bookmark Kayak.com/explore and visit them at least daily. (Seriously – this is an amazing resource. Prices change hourly and you never know what amazing deals you’ll find.)

Don’t want to go to all of that trouble?

For as little as $8 per month, we watch all of the above daily, cherrypick the best 3 to 5 trips we find, and let you know about them so you can book them yourself at maximum savings.

Click here to check our premium trip-alert service out risk-free for 30 days.

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.
In a nutshell, although we’ve technically been to Belize – we’re not really counting it, and look forward to going back with a better planned-out itinerary.
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

 

 

Let the vacation find you…