Book VIP – Scam or legitimate company?

Actual Screenshot of Facebook ad from Book VIP

[Disclaimer: The JGOOT Way of travel does not condone timeshare ownership OR strategies that Book VIP uses to get vacation discounts. This is simply a review of an alternative method to getting great deals on vacations.]

BookVIP.com is a discount vacation reseller that is able to offer significantly discounted vacations at all-inclusive resorts. The catch? You have to be willing to sit through a timeshare presentation at that resort. 

If you visit their site, most of their trips appear to be too good to be true (and when you Google them online, you’ll find a lot of complaints about them).  HOWEVER, in your research, you’ll also find that they’re an A+ rated company with the Better Business Bureau.

How can a company with so many complaints about them be an A+ rated company with the BBB?

Easy. The BBB knows that they have 10+ times as many happy customers as grumpy ones. Although they don’t censor complaints, they don’t count a complaint against the business if the complainant is about something that was disclosed in the terms of service, or if they see that the business owner remedied the situation being complained about.

Book VIP certainly isn’t for everyone, but for the person who is willing to make a couple sacrifices in order to save 60 to 90% (AND actually reads their terms of service) it can be a great way of finding a bargain vacation.

In a nutshell, Book VIP gets a bad wrap because of all of the people who don’t read the fine-print and complain about them. However…

  • If you dig deep enough, you’ll see that their positive feedback out-numbers complaints from people who didn’t follow the rules by 10 to 1.
  • As long as you read that fine print (including strictly enforced age & income requirements and MANDATORY timeshare presentations that cause you to give up a half-day of valuable vacation time), it can be a really good deal. Especially for people who might not otherwise have enough in their budget for such luxury accommodations.

I used to link to Book VIP resorts with my trip alerts because I do believe if you read their fine print (and are OK with it) – it can be a great way of getting luxury accommodations you might not otherwise have in your budget.  I’ve removed that info, but could be swayed and convinced to put it back up if enough people want that information.

My biggest complaint about BOOK VIP? Their $2 an hour call center out of the Philippines who barely speaks enough english to be able to help you. (But my recommendation is:

  1. When buying ANYTHING online, just remember: Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware)
  2. Read the fine print about what is required of you to get the discount being offered.
  3. After you decide you are comfortable with their requirements, do your research on your own for the resort you are thinking of staying at on TripAdvisor.com (I do the same when booking hotels through Expedia or Travelocity because they usually have 10 to 20 times as many reviews.)

If you do the above three things, you can decide if it’s a fit for you. Then – book directly online without the painful experience of talking on the phone with them, and have a great experience.)

If you have a strong opinion about Book VIP, I’d love to discuss it in the comments below.

Seriously???

I’m in a few Facebook travel groups, and one of them in particular is an especially active one. The average post gets over 20 replies, but one in particular got over 100 replies in the first hour, and is up to over 350 comments.

The post was “How do you guys travel so much?”  and all of the replies had one common theme; “You have to make travel a priority.

Although I agree that the first step in traveling more is making it a priority, I couldn’t disagree more with HOW these people were making travel a priority.  I can’t tell you how many responses utterly shocked me:

 

Other shocking responses:

  • Eat Ramen every day, and put the savings towards a travel fund.
  • Sell your car, take the bus and apply what you save on payments and insurance towards travel.

Seriously???  If you’re needing to take the bus, work a second job, or eat crappy food just so you can afford to travel – you’re doing it all wrong.

Why not just find a way to spend less on travel?  

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Want a reliable system that can allow you to travel for as little as five cents on the dollar every time you travel?
Try “The JGOOT Way” out for 30 days for a dollar.
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From one of the greats

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Wayne Gretzky is among the greatest hockey players in history.

When asked what he attributes to his success he quoted a simple lesson his Dad gave him: “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.

Want to spend so little, your friends don’t even believe you when you tell them what you paid for your vacation?  

Stop “chasing the puck” by trying to go to a specific place at a specific time. Instead, find the 1% of trips that are 75% to 90% below market value, and go there.

They’re out there every day. But if you’re not watching for them – they’ll pass right by and someone else will get them.

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Want to use a service that will tell you where the puck will be every single day?
Try our fare-finder service for a dollar.
We’ll share the most affordable 1% of trips on the internet.
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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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Your “Travel More” New Year Resolution

Happy New Year!  Have you got 5 minutes?

Let’s get you started on your first step toward actually getting to your dream destination affordably this year, shall we?

  • Step 1: Think of a destination that is on your bucket list
  • Step 2: Go to a site called AirfareWatchdog.com, and search for their “fare alerts” feature.
  • Step 3: Enter your home airport and your dream destination. (If there is more than one airport to that destination, go ahead and enter all of them.)

From now on, AirfareWatchdog will email you the best prices they find to the destination you entered.

Don’t worry – I’m sure your alerts will be expensive at first, but have faith – they always go down. Always.

You just have to be watching for when they do (and guess what; If you followed steps 1-3 above, now you are! All you have to do is take about 10 seconds to check the subject line of what they send every day.

Remember – you’re not just looking for a good deal. You’re waiting for a deal so amazing – you think it’s a mistake.

More later…

PS – For extra credit, enter 4 to 6 bucket list destinations. After all, the more destinations you watch, the better your odds of finding something!

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Don’t want to weed through a bunch of emails every day to find the best deals?
We analyze over 700 destinations per day from your home airport, and only send you the best 4 or 5 deals we found.
That way, you can review the best deals on the internet over your morning coffee.
Try it out for a buck!
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Reach out and touch someone

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In the late 70’s – long-distance calling was extremely expensive ($.10 to $.25 per minute), rates were very confusing, and most people only called for really special occasions. So AT&T launched a campaign about how their new calling plans allowed you to “reach out and touch someone” for $.02 to $.10 per minute and forever changed how people treated long-distance calling.

Now, nearly 50 years later, at $.10 to $.25 per mile, most people think flying is too expensive, meaning traveling across the country to visit a friend or loved one “just to say hi” is reserved for special occasions only.

Just like AT&T revolutionized the way people stayed in touch 50 years ago, “The JGOOT Way” is changing the way friends & family stay in touch today.

Every week, I share a few dozen different flights with my premium subscribers that are between $.02 and $.05 per mile.  That’s about 1/4 of what most people pay to fly, 1/10th of what most people pay to drive, and believe it or not – a better value than what you would pay when using frequent flyer points. (Here is an article describing that math.)

As a JGOOT premium subscriber, any time you see a trip alert in a city where you know someone, you can either:

  • Have one-click access to the flights I found so you can go visit them
  • Use my “reverse search” link & fly them out come visit you.
  • (Fares I find in the Domestic US are rarely over $100, and as low as $29 round-trip, so there is rarely an excuse for not “reaching out and touching someone” you care about.

Don’t want to pay $.26 per day to have me find those deals for you? No problem. Here is a post on how you can regularly find $.02 to $.05 per mile flights yourself for free.

Just for fun, here are a couple more AT&T commercials:

“I wish I could travel like you”

Every time my wife & I get together with friends, they comment on our most recent Facebook travel pictures saying “I wish I could travel like you.”

The funny thing is…
if you want to travel like me, all you have to do is… Travel like me.
  • When you travel like me, you spend an average of 85% less than what everyone else is paying for the exact same trips.
  • And when you spend 85% less than everyone else on the same plane as you, you tend to travel more.
It’s that simple.

Here is how you can take an entire family on trips that cost less than what most people pay for just one person:

  1. For vacations, watch every day for deals that are months in advance.  Don’t just look for “good deals”… Keep an eye on hundreds of destinations, watching exclusively for AMAZING “needle in haystack” deals that are too good to pass up. They’re out there every day – you just have to watch for them.  When you find one that’s 60% to 90% less than what you’d normally pay, book it well in advance and plan your schedule around it.   Trips my subscribers and I have taken include $110 flights to Cabo, $192 flights to Aruba, $154 flights to Cancun… $325 to London, $290 to Spain, and so on. (Those are all round-trip prices, BTW.)
  2. I also keep an eye out every day for cheap fares where I have friends/family who I like to visit. I’ve booked $29 weekend flights to Indianapolis (where my wife grew up), $39 flights to L.A to visit friends, $84 flights to visit my brother’s family in Raleigh… When I found $50 flights where my friends Peter & Tania lived, I invited them to visit us for a ski weekend. The list goes on.  None of these trips are trips I would have planned. But when you can take a long weekend visiting friends/family for those prices… Why not? 
  3. https://www.123rf.com/profile_albund

    Photo Credit: Allan Stewart. 123rf.com/profile_albund

    Finally – As a last resort – I always keep a stash of at least 100,000 frequent flyer points for scenarios when I CAN’T find a cheap trip that fits my schedule.

    • For example:
    • When my wife wanted to go to Hawaii, but my cheap ass refused to pay $1326 PER PERSON just to get there??? Points to the rescue. We went for $22 each.
    • When friends from Indianapolis snatched up a JGOOT deal to Turks & Caicos & invited us, we’d have normally had to say “no” because flights from Denver were over twice that. ($650). But we dipped into my stash of points, joined them for $96, and started a multi-family “friendcation” tradition that is now 3 vacations strong.
    • When we had to fly to a friends’ Dad’s funeral and couldn’t find tickets less than $450 each, we used points and went for $11.

So there you have it.

If you want to travel like me, all you need to do is… Travel like me.

My blog and my Facebook Page are open books on how you can find travel deals yourself for free.
Don’t have the time to sort through hundreds of fares per day to find a needle in a haystack? As a premium JGOOT subscriber you can:
  • leave the haystack behind, and have the “needles” delivered on a silver platter every day. (With “needles” being unbelievably good travel deals that have been cherrypicked from thousands of regular priced trips.)
  • I’ll share a far more comprehensive guide than this one, webinars on how to easily collect 100,000 frequent flyer points in the next 60 days, and…
  • You’ll also have private access to my member-only group where you can ask questions & get answers from other premium subscribers who are regularly traveling for a fraction of what 98% of travelers are accustomed to paying “the traditional way”.

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!

Travelocity did to Travel Agents what Wal-Mart did to Mom & Pop Stores

Copyright: 123rf.com - https://www.123rf.com/profile_highwaystarz

Copyright: 123rf.com – https://www.123rf.com/profile_highwaystarz

Let’s talk about travel agent commissions.

  • Travel agents get 0% to help you book a domestic flight. (But they usually help in hopes that they can book your hotel & car too.)
  • They get between 4% and 8% to book an international flight.
  • They get 5% or so to book a rental car for you
  • They get 10% to 20% to book a hotel or cruise (That’s where the money usually is.)

NOW let’s talk about mistake fares…

  • Whether an actual mistake, or intentional fare dump to get 4 or 6 butts in seats to keep from cancelling an under-sold flight – travel agents get paid ZERO commissions on mistake fares.
  • On top of that, sites like Travelocity and Expedia HEAVILY discount hotel commissions when you bundle air and hotel together (including when you pay next-to-nothing) for the flight. (Sometimes, so much so – that you can get air PLUS hotel for less than the cost of the flight alone.)

The result?

Although travel agents can offer great assistance with “normal” trips – they cant compete when it comes to mistake fares unless they charge an additional fee to you.

Don’t get me wrong – Travel agents still provide plenty of value in the right circumstances (Just like Mom & Pop store owners offer way more value than the minimum-wage Wal-Mart employee when you need to pick out the right baseball glove.)

But when it comes to prices… Even if a travel agent rebated their entire commission back to you – they still couldn’t come close to the price you can find by booking a mistake fare on a major travel site.

So you’ve got three choices:

  1. Pay a pretty penny for the convenience of finding a flight that goes to the exact place, at the exact time you’re looking for.
  2. Have a little flexibility and use a free system to find the mistake fares that happen every day from your home airport…
  3. Have a little flexibility and use a paid service that focuses exclusively on mistake fares. (Just don’t plan on them doing it for free – because they’re not going to get a dime when you eventually book a trip.)

With enough patience & flexibility – both choices 2 and 3 will have you traveling for 50% to 90% less than option 1. (And not some bullshit department store “Mark it up so we can say it’s marked down 50% to 90%…” crap…

Put a little energy into finding mistake fares, schedule trips around them when you find them and you will ACTUALLY pay 50% to 90% less than what most people on the exact same trip as you are paying.

Here is an article on how to find mistake fares on a daily basis – for free.

Traveling affordably (with no math involved)

In case you didn’t know it. I’m a numbers guy. My co-author and I wrote a book about cracking Google’s algorithm with paid advertising (Google AdWords for Dummies), and after that, Google hired us to write two books for them to give to their advertisers.  Now, I use algorithms to find mistake fares the same way.

But rather than writing a book about how to calculate the value of a flight – I do that math behind the scenes with every trip I share on JGOOT.

I analyze over 20,000 flight options per day, and rule out the 99.9% that are too expensive.  In a nutshell, if you can’t find it on JGOOT.com, that’s because I already analyzed the dates you’re thinking of – and ruled them out as “too expensive to pay cash for”.

My advice?

  • Use this site to watch for ridiculously affordable trips that you can work your schedule around whenever possible. (Which should be about 1/2 the time.)
  • Don’t waste time searching for a good fare for “need to go to a specific place at a specific time” trips. They will almost always be too expensive and you’d be FAR better off just paying with points.
  • Don’t have points? You should. Download this free quick-start guide & I’ll show you how.

* Wondering why I bother with mistake fares if I can travel on points for practically nothing?  Here is the math on why just about every fare I publish on JGOOT is a better deal than paying with points.  

 

 

 

That feeling when you’re driving and you see a radar gun pointing at you

Have you ever been driving down the highway and have your heart skip a beat when you see a police car on the side of the road with a radar gun pointing at you? Fortunately, I just got a new car that has a pretty cool sign recognition technology that keeps track of that for me at all times.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m a safe driver, but it sure is nice to know my car is “watching” for the speed limit, even when I’m not.  Now, whenever I see a cop with a radar gun pointing right at me, I’m a lot more relaxed because I know the exact speed limit  (not just 10 miles before I started zoning out on a long-stretch of highway and stopped paying attention.)

What does this have to do with travel?  Even if you’re good at finding OK deals whenever you want to take a trip – If you don’t have a system in place to watch fares FOR YOU every day, day in and day out – you’re going to miss a lot of amazing deals that will have come-and-gone by the time you get around to looking for them.

Here are three options.

  1. Flexible on when you want to go? Airfare watchdog is great, and you’ll get alerts for the best prices possible for as many destinations as you want to watch.  (Don’t forget to watch domestic flights where you have friends & family too. $29 and $49 round-trip flights across the country happen all the time, and it’s pretty cool when you get to call a long-lost friend or family member and say – “Hey – I just found $39 round-trip flights from your city to mine. Want to come out & go to the big game?”)
  2. Have specific times you need to go? You’ll end up paying slightly more when you don’t have flexibility on departure and return dates, but mistake fares still happen during peak travel times, so watching every day will pay off.  Either Google flights or Kayak.com are GREAT for setting up fare watches for specific dates.  The more destinations you watch – the more likely you’ll find not just a good deal – but an unbelievably good deal. You’ll be surprised at how often you’re looking at your calendar to see if you could make a $224 flight to Paris work, or whether or not you could fly your parents out for a visit for $29.
  3. If watching 2o to 100 fare alerts a day to find a deal sounds like too much work, I have a paid service that finds the best 1% of travel deals on the internet every day – so you don’t have to.
    • I watch 500 to 1000 destinations per day from your home airport, my team and I share the best deal we find in the following categories:
      • Domestic, Caribbean/Mexico, South America/Europe, Asia/Australia/Africa.
    • I also include business class fare discounts, one-click lodging options on Travelocity, Expedia, VRBO, AirBnB & Hostels.com, and one-click access to prices for 1, 2, 3 or 4 travelers.
    • It’s like having your very own personal assistant who will save you countless hours of research – for 26 cents per day. Click here for more details.

Just remember to watch every day.

No matter what method you choose – be patient and remember that finding these kinds of deals is a marathon, not a sprint.  Actively watching every day will out-perform “looking when you’re ready” every time. I assure you – you’ll be traveling sooner than you thought, spending less than you thought, and going to cooler places than you ever planned on.

Happy travels!

PS – Speaking of police cars, if you drive one for a living – don’t forget that you (along with other first responders, teachers and non-profit employees) are eligible for a FREE lifetime premium subscription. Click here for more info.

Free pair of shoes from Nordstrom’s! What would you choose???

Let’s say you got a coupon from Nordstrom’s good for any pair of shoes in their store.

You’ve been needing a new pair of running shoes… Maybe you should use it for that.

Ummmmm. NO! The coupon said ANY pair of shoes!

  • Pay cash for the $80 sneakers
  • Use your coupon for the $2200 Jimmy Choos

Use the same philosophy for traveling and you’ll NEVER pay for an expensive flight again.

  • Only pay cash for mistake fares that are 50% to 90% off.
  • Keep a stockpile of points for everything more expensive than that.

But unless you want a “George Costanza Wallet” full of credit cards, you have to be wise about how you spend your valuable frequent flyer points. Just because you have 50,000 frequent flyer points, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a good deal by using them to fly to Hawaii.

  • When flights are $850 or $1000 a piece – by all means – pay the $22 in taxes and use those points!
  • But when you can regularly find mistake fares for $280, you’d actually be a lot better off paying cash for the flight and saving your points for a more expensive trip some other time.

Huh? How is $280 a better deal than $22?

No matter what frequent flyer program you’re with, your points can usually be converted to cash in one form or another for a minimum of a penny per point. That means that 50,000 points is worth at least $500 in cash (and if used wisely, those points can be worth as much as $3000). Using $500 worth of points on a fare you could pay $280 for would be a huge waste. (Just like using a “free pair of running shoes” certificate would be a waste on some $80 running shoes.)

In a nutshell:

  1. Always be on the lookout for mistake fares that might fit your schedule and never pay cash for a flight that is more than 50% below normal normal prices (preferably 90% off).
  2. Always keep an emergency stash of at least 50,000 frequent flyer points and use them for ALL flights that aren’t at least 50% off. (In other words, if it’s not on JGOOT.com – you should probably pay with points.)

You’ll travel more, you’ll spend less, and you’ll spend WAY less time trying to find good deals when good deals aren’t available via traditional methods.

Don’t have frequent flyer points? Click here & discover how to get 50,000 to 100,000 points in the next couple months (and learn how to calculate what a “good” price for a fare is no matter where in the world you’re flying.)

“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

 

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