Tag - travel tips

How to Avoid Extra Airline Costs



If you are a cost-conscious flyer, getting a good deal shouldn’t be just about finding a competitively priced ticket. You need to be on the lookout for savings throughout your trip. If you aren’t careful, you can easily wipe out whatever you save on your ticket deal by getting taken for every airline extra there is.

Each year, the airline industry comes up with dozens of new. While half of them are usually baggage-related, the rest are for services – ticket changes, seat selection, priority boarding, in-flight entertainment, food and beverage service and so on.

Here are a few tips on how you can keep the airlines from nickel and diming your savings away.

Learn about your airline’s policies ahead of time

The best way to stay clear of airline fees is to look up resources like Travel Nerd to find out what each airline charges for. Visiting airline websites for information may not be a good idea – they don’t usually list all their fees in one place. Both JetBlue and Southwest are perennial good deals because they don’t charge baggage fees. You can save $20 on each bag simply by picking these airlines.

If you do travel on an airline that charges you for your bags, you need to read up what the airline’s size and weight restrictions are and make sure that your bags pass. If you get a discount for paying your baggage fees online, you should do so. Spirit Airlines, for instance, has a rule where they charge you $45 for a carry-on if you pay online and $100 for the same carry-on if you pay at the airport.

Take your own food and entertainment with you

Airlines can charge excessively for any snacks that you buy in-flight. On Frontier Airlines, for instance, a bag of peanut M&Ms costs $2.99 and a can of Pepsi costs $1.99. You can easily save a few dollars bringing your own food with you.

Charging for in-flight entertainment isn’t new. Airlines have always asked for $5 for the use of airline headphones to listen to the in-flight movie by. They still charge a similar amount if you want to tune in. If you need to use in-flight Wi-Fi to access the Internet for entertainment, you have to pay even more. To save on such expenses, you only need to board your flight well-prepared. You can gather all the informative, educational, and entertainment videos you want at home and download them to your iPad or laptop with software like the YTD Video Downloader.

Finally, be careful planning your trip

No matter how hard you work trying to get the lowest-priced tickets and preparing your in-flight entertainment while still at home, your savings can get wiped out in an instant if you change your ticket. Many airlines charge as much as $150 to change or cancel a ticket. You need to plan carefully if you are to avoid this kind of situation.Remember to respect IP when using downloaded content:

California’s Golden Region: Day Trips from Oakland

The Bay Area is not only one of the most beautiful parts of California, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of America. The area to the east of San Francisco Bay is commonly known as East Bay, and Oakland is the largest city in the region, with 400,000 residents and a host of amazing parks, lakes, and historical architecture. But one of the most exciting things about living in Oakland is its close proximity to a wide variety of amazing day trip locations. The number of things you can see or do with just a short journey on the BART trains or an hour or two in the car is pretty fantastic. Here are some options for your next weekend road trip.

Big Sur

Big Sur

Big Sur

The gorgeous coastal town of Big Sur lies 140 miles south of Oakland. A popular location for vacation homes, weddings, and honeymoons, you’ll find beaches and mountain climbing, plus plenty of other recreational activities and spectacular coastal scenery. State parks like Limekiln and Pfeiffer offer access to cliffs and hiking trails. The town also features the Esalen Institute, a famous holistic spa and center where you can get a massage or take a class on natural healing.

Napa Valley

One of the most famous regions for wine production in the world lies a mere 38 miles north of Oakland, with over 300 wineries and an endless stretch of vineyards to explore. But wine tasting isn’t the only thing you can do in Napa. There are a variety of gourmet restaurants, Napa river cruises, and even hot air balloon flights. Take cooking or wine-making classes at the Culinary Institute of America or the Napa Valley Wine Academy or take advantage of the town’s shops, spas, and golf courses.

Santa Cruz

The sleepy Bay Area city of Santa Cruz is just 67 miles south of Oakland, and it offers plenty to attract tourists of all ages. While it offers its own scenic coastlines and beautiful hiking trails and beaches, it also has urban amenities that are worth exploring. The Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art and History, and Surfing Museum attract millions of visitors, and there are dude ranches and live theatre. One not-to-be-missed attraction is the Mystery Spot, an optical illusion tilted location where the laws of physics and gravity don’t apply.

Carmel by the Sea

    Carmel Mission (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California)

Carmel Mission (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California)

Carmel is a prime destination for Bohemian San Francisco residents looking to get away, and it’s only 115 miles south of Oakland. It offers a historic mission and some amazing live theatre options. The Pacific Repertory Theater, the only live theater group in Monterey County, operates out of four venues all in the Carmel region. Of course, the main attractions are still the beaches, parks, and gardens, even if there are more eclectic alternatives. Try Smallsea, a museum of miniatures that recreates an Edwardian town from the early 20th century.

If you’re looking for a big city instead of a small town, you can always head to San Francisco or San Jose. Berkeley and Monterey are also within easy reach, because Oakland is right in the heart of the East Bay region. Though Oakland is a great place to live and work and you’ll probably never be bored there, it’s important to remember that you’re within easy reach of every spot in an incredible area of the country. As a resident, you should plan to take advantage of it all.

8 Tech Savvy Travel Tips

underwater smartphone housing

underwater smartphone housing

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean that you need to leave your high-tech lifestyle behind. Consumer electronics are more portable and powerful than ever before, and you can easily access your same books, movies, and other media from a variety of devices.

1. Universal Power Plug Adapter

Instead of buying an adapter plug to convert one type of outlet to another, you can purchase universal power adapters that work with multiple plug standards. Some models can even convert voltages, and with a single adapter, you’ll save valuable bag space.

2. Underwater Smartphone Housing

Do you love scuba diving or snorkeling? You won’t want to leave home without an underwater smartphone case. Dry bags keep water away from your sensitive electronics while specially designed hard cases let you shoot photos and video clips up to 20 feet underwater. By securing your phone with elastic bands around your arm, you’ll never have to worry about losing it.

3. RFID Shielding

Your credit and debit cards likely use RFID chips to store sensitive information. Unfortunately, thieves can easily scan your credit cards from up to 15 feet away, and you won’t have any idea that your financial information has just been stolen until you end up with a mysterious $10,000 purchase from another country. You can protect your credit cards with a specialized case like the new Flipside Wallet, which blocks all RFID signals.

4. Low-Cost 4G Wireless Internet

When you travel to another state or country, it can be next to impossible to get reliable Internet service. Cable, fiber optic, and DSL Provider connections are spotty at best, but many travelers today are opting for mobile 4G hotspots instead. Your speeds will largely depend on your distance from the nearest cell tower, but you should be able to enjoy speeds between 1 and 10 Mbps unless you’re camping out in the woods.

5. DVR Internet Access

How do you watch your favorite movies and TV shows while out of town? You simply connect your DVR to the Internet. Some TV providers like DirecTV make it easy to stream DVR content to any Internet-connected device, but others require a bit more work. If your DVR can’t connect to the Internet, transfer the movies and TV episodes onto your home computer instead. Apple and Microsoft both provide robust media streaming capabilities.

6. VPN Connections

A virtual private network is the easiest way to log into your home computer while traveling. Install remote desktop software on your home computer, and you’ll be able to browse your hard drives for important files and access software. Most new versions of Windows include remote desktop functionality.

7. Portable Drive Enclosures

The newest smartphones provide up to 64 GB of storage, but that’s hardly enough to shoot hours of HD video. Most external hard drives are expensive, bulky, and provide limited storage. For additional storage and faster transfer speeds, consider picking up an external enclosure like the Vantec NexStar HX4R, which can hold up to four separate 3.5-inch SATA III drives in a RAID configuration.

8. Ebooks

Physical books aren’t quite extinct, but they’re about to become little more than novelties. With an iPad or Kindle, you can store an entire library’s worth of books in a single tablet. You can also watch movies on the plane, listen to music, browse the Internet, and play games. If you haven’t made the switch yet, you can pick up a solid entry-level tablet for about $200.

The Unofficial Guide To Packing For A Scuba Tour

Scuba diving

Scuba diving

Are you preparing to pack for your very first scuba tour? Have you been on scuba tours before, but just want to double-check your packing list to make sure it includes everything you need? This guide is for you! We’ll cover some of the most important and most oft forgotten items necessary to get the most out of your scuba trip.

Equipment Essentials

Scuba diving is an equipment-heavy sport. You will need a wetsuit, tank, regulator, snorkel, mask, various gauges and clips, and the list goes on. We highly suggest that beginners start with a newbie-friendly tour company – scuba tour companies often provide all of the necessities, everything a diver could need. Tourist destinations often have more options. We can recommend a few Oahu scuba diving tours that provide absolutely everything a new diver could need.

If you are taking your first tour with an experienced friend instead of a tour company, make sure to have a professional review your equipment choices and check them for function.

Regardless of what the tour company provides, you should always bring your own mask. Masks are extremely difficult to size because every face is different. Buy your mask well ahead of time and try it out in a demonstration pool to protect against leaks. A leaky mask will ruin your scuba experience. If you do choose to rent this piece, show up early to ensure you are able to give it the pool test.

You may also want to bring your own gloves and booties if you feel uncomfortable using rentals. If you think you will go scuba diving often, start saving for your own wetsuit ASAP. Rentals often have a distinctive smell and the fit is never perfect. Saving up for your own wetsuit is a great idea for ocean enthusiasts. The next most important piece to save up for would be the BCD (buoyancy compensation device) simply because familiarity is highly desired. The regulator would be the next major recommended purchase.

Scuba diving

Scuba diving

Do not forget to ask your tour company about any safety devices they recommend or require! Dive knifes, compasses, safety sausages, diving whistles, visibility ribbons, and signal mirrors are common choices. Sometimes tour companies only have a limited supply of these items and assign one per team, but it’s always preferable and safer to have your own.

 What To Put In Your Beach Bag

Some of the most important take-along items never make it onto official packing lists. This would be your beach bag – those personal items that make the beach experience more enjoyable. Sunscreen and sunglasses are two of the more obvious items, but do not forget your burn salve, lip balm, and hair detangling conditioner for comfort after the expedition.

As far as apparel is concerned, you may want to pack light on everyday clothes and heavy on beach-appropriate wear. Extra swimsuits and extra towels will help to ensure that you are able to enjoy a little dryness between excursions. Sandals and sarongs or beach shorts will help you get into beach-side attractions that do now allow swimsuits.

A dive log and journal can help you record important details about your trip along with contact information for the people you meet and rent equipment from. You may want to keep your “official” documents with your journals sealed safely in a waterproof case. Include your passport, identification, permits, certifications, tickets, reservation confirmations, health insurance card, etc. Leave a copy of your emergency contact information at the hotel, tour office, and keep a copy with your journal and official docs.

Pay extra attention to special health-related items. If you are bringing prescription medications, bring along a copy of your prescriptions. If you wear contacts, bring along an extra pair along with your cleaning solution. If you require any special medical devices or mobility aids, call rental sources at your destination to ensure there is a replacement if anything you need breaks.

Get excited! Start planning early. Make your list and check it two, three, or as many times as you need to gain peace of mind. Ask your friends and scuba-experienced family members for suggestions. Call your tour company ahead of time and confirm that your list looks appropriate. A well-planned scuba trip is a successful scuba trip!

Travelers and Hygiene: What To Do When There is No Rest Stop in Sight

Pennsylvania Turnpike

Pennsylvania Turnpike

Traveling is a dirty business. Whether you’re on the road trip stuck in the cramped quarters of your car or driving open the road in an 18-wheeler, it can be near impossible to stay fresh and clean. You don’t have to worry about finding the next rest stop to perform basic hygiene rituals. Here’s how to get clean without leaving your vehicle:

1.Hand Sanitizer

While it’s always recommended to use soap and hot water to clean your hands, hand sanitizer will do in a pinch. There are a variety of alcohol-based sanitizers on the market that can be easily tossed into a hygiene kit. If you want something that won’t leave you smelling too girly, look for Purell. If, on the other hand, you are a girl and want something that leaves a lingering fragrance, Bath & Body Works carries yummy-smelling scents.


No sink, no worries. Colgate makes a refreshing product called “Wisps” for your teeth. These mini-toothbrushes require to water and, best of all, no spitting. Simply brush your teeth and swallow. You may be loath to swallow a mouthful of toothpaste, but Wisps deliver a teeth-cleaning liquid that is much easier going down.



If you aren’t so sure that you can stomach the thought of swallowing bacteria from your teeth, consider a product like Listerine PocketMist. Alternatively, you can eat a Granny Smith apple or swipe a slice of lemon across your teeth.

3.Face Wipes

If you’re traveling during the warmer months, you’re going to get sticky and sweaty. Basis is a natural company that offers facial cleansing cloths. These cloths come in a handy carrying case, don’t require any water, and wipe the day’s dirt away with little effort. Don’t forget to put sunblock on your face after you’ve wiped it clean.

4.Baby Wipes

Let’s face it: Sticky, grimy skin is not fun to deal with, especially if you’re in close quarters with other people. When you can’t make it to a shower to give yourself a complete scrub down, baby wipes are the next best thing. Two or three baby wipes can remove dirt and odor from your body. As an added bonus, baby wipes are fantastic for removing spilled foods and beverages from clothing and upholstery.

5.Powder and Deodorant
What's Inside Your Bag?

What’s Inside Your Bag?

You can find travel-size deodorants and powders in the aisle of any big box store. Deodorant can keep your pits fresh and clean. Dusting yourself with powder, after you’ve cleaned up, is a great way to stay cool. Sprinkle powder liberally over every part of your body and rub it in just slightly. You’ll be amazed at how fresh you feel, no matter how long you’re forced to stay in the vehicle.

Don’t spend your road trip looking for the next bathroom. When you pack a hygiene kit, you won’t have to stop as often or wait to get clean. A plastic shoebox or fabric lunch tote makes excellent carriers for your hygiene supplies. Put your kit together today and you’ll stay fresh as a daisy on your next long haul.

Five Mistakes First-time World Travelers Make

Travel the world

Travel the world

Five Mistakes First-time World Travelers Make

Your first international vacation can be one of the most exciting events of your life. You’ve probably saved up money for a while, and you probably have lots of ideas about things you’d like to see and do that you’ve always dreamed of. Every year, 900 million Americans journey overseas, and if you’re planning to be one of them this summer, it’s important to know a few of the most common pitfalls for first-time world travelers that could make your trip a lot harder than it has to be. Whether you’re staying at a nice hotel or backpacking to a hostel, traveling through Europe or island-hopping in the South Seas, there are some universal tips that apply to everyone. When you’re leaving the country for the first time, it can be hard to know what to expect. These are the mistakes you don’t want to make.

1. Not Planning Ahead.

Never make plans to travel to another country without knowing something about the local customs, because no matter where you go, they’re guaranteed to be at least a little different from the U.S. Grab a couple travel books and read up on your destination, especially if you’re going somewhere where you don’t know the language. Practicing a few key words or phrases in their native tongue will make people more open to helping you – and you’re probably going to need them to. You should also plan for being away from home by making sure someone is picking up your mail and keeping an eye on your house. Burglaries can occur because a house is left too obviously vacant by someone on a long vacation. Inform your bank you’ll be leaving the country so they don’t flag your account for identity theft, and even talk to them about money exchange so you’ll have some cash on you when you get there.

2. Foregoing Travel Insurance

Many people think of travel insurance as something frivolous, but nothing could be further from the truth. Going abroad is both scary and expensive, and there legitimate chances for accidents, illness, injury, crime, and emergency trip interruptions, especially if you are gone a long time or visiting multiple countries. Travel is an investment, and you don’t want to lose out for any reason, but you have to shop smart for insurance, too. As soon as you know when you’re traveling, you should look for an insurance package, and be honest about your trip details and any pre-existing medical conditions. Read your policy thoroughly and know what the exclusions are and whether it only covers trip cancellation for certain reasons. If you need coverage for auto rentals or other specialized areas, make sure you know they’re included.

3. Overpacking

You’re constantly moving when you travel abroad, and it’s more than likely you will spend half your trip walking or riding public transportation, especially if you want to save money. So it makes no sense to bring the largest, heaviest luggage you can find and weigh it down with too much stuff. You don’t need as many clothes or belongings as you think you do. You’ll be able to pick up any necessities you need along the way, and you’ll probably pick up plenty of souvenirs whether you plan on shopping or not. If you leave some extra room for purchases, you won’t regret it. You’ll also be glad when you’re not pushing, pulling, dragging, or loading giant bags every time you need to transition somewhere. It’s also way easier than you imagine to exceed weight requirements on flights, which vary from airline to airline and can cost you too much in overweight luggage fees.

4. Choosing the Wrong Companions

According to the U.S. Travel Association, only about 11 percent of travelers go it alone, and yet statistically lone travelers often have the most enriching experience. If you’ve been planning a trip with your friends for a while now and you have the same goals in mind for traveling but are willing to let each other explore their own interests, you won’t have a problem. But when it gets down to the wire and you invite someone to travel with you simply because you don’t want to go alone, it can actually hinder your enjoyment. If they’re not as passionate or invested in your plans as you are, they could end up bringing you down or complaining. And at the very least, they might have wildly different ideas of where to stay, what to do, and how much money to spend. If your traveling companion isn’t on the same page as you, it’s much better to leave them at home.

5. Being Short on Cash

You may be used to relying heavily on credit and debit cards at home, but it’s much easier to carry enough cash on you when you’re going into unfamiliar territories. You could find yourself in places where your cards don’t work, unable to find an ATM machine, or in need of money for tips or vendors. You can also seriously deplete your finances with ATM fees which may be higher from your bank in foreign countries and come from the ATM itself, too. The best plan is to exchange money at your own bank and bring along the right cash from the beginning. There’s no way to know how much you’ll spend and it will probably be more than you imagine, so be lenient on yourself when it comes to withdrawals but budget when you need to.

It might be impossible to really prepare for traveling the world until you’ve done it, but thinking ahead will definitely make all the difference. Flights might be stressful, hotels might be small, and weather might be uncooperative, but chances are you’re going to remember this trip for the rest of your life. And if you do it right, it will only be for good reasons.

their taxes. But once you get a handle on what you can write off and how, you might find that there are many rewards during tax season for small business, and deducting the cost of driving is one of the biggest. It’s good to know the government can give you the help you need when you’re trying to make your mark on the market.


Tips For Traveling By Auto

    Badwater_Road photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org


It is always fun to go on a road trip. I have some tips and tricks that just might make it a little more comfortable and fun.

Tip #1: Always be prepared

This means making sure you have plenty of water, both for drinking and for the radiator. Make sure you have spare belts, hoses and fluids for your vehicle.
Keep a repair manual for your specific vehicle, in the vehicle at all times. Keep a well stocked first-aid kit in your vehicle. Keep at least 1 flashlight and fresh batteries. Keep energy bars, or something similar, with you while you travel. These come in handy if you break down and have to walk for help.

Tip#2: Vehicle maintenance

Never hit the road without checking your fluids, hoses, belts, tires and looking for any signs of leaks. If your belts look frayed, change them. At the very least, carry extras with you. Avoid driving long distances on worn or “bald” tires. A worn tire can blow and cause an accident. Make sure your vehicle has been serviced by a professional at regular intervals.

Tip#3: Map it

Always plan your route. This may not sound spontaneous or fun, but it can sure benefit you in an emergency. Planning out your route can also save you time as opposed to “winging it” and trying to figure out which exits, highways and interstates to take as you go along.  It is always a smart idea to have an alternate route planned out in case of road construction or adverse weather conditions.

Tip#4: Research

Get online and research the route and area you are going to be traveling through. You can find discounts and coupons for everything from you hotel accommodations to restaurants. This can save you time as well as money while on the road and after you reach your destination. Print out the coupons and take them with you. If using a coupon while calling to make reservations for rooms, give the coupon code.

Tip#5: Tell someone where you are going

This is so important, let someone know which route you are going to be traveling and what will be your ultimate destination. Figure out a check in time or date that you will contact this person to let them know everything is okay. If you do not call to check in, then they will know something happened. If something does goes wrong, like an accident, people will know where to begin looking for you. This simple act just might save your life in the event something terrible happen along the way.

Tip#6: Miscellaneous

Take a few blankets and pillows for comfort sleeping while on the road (obviously not the driver). Alternate drivers when traveling in a group. This way, everyone gets the chance to relax while on a long trip.

The best tip I can give is to plan ahead and to drive safely. Enjoy your next road trip!

How to Look Less Like a Tourist

Tourists in Paris

Tourists in Paris, France

A healthy dose of common sense is important when traveling, especially when visiting large cities. Here are ways to blend in and look more like a local than a tourist.

Even if you aren’t entirely sure of what you’re doing when you travel, there are ways to convince the people around you that you are, thus making yourself less of a target for pickpockets, or anyone else who might be interested in taking advantage of the fact that you’re a tourist.

Keep Your Head Up

If you’re lost or unsure in a large city, it’s best to feign confidence. Be discreet about not knowing exactly where you’re going. In other words, don’t have your map out and say loudly to your travel companions, “Okay, I think we maybe need to take THIS street now, and then….” All too often, tourists make themselves conspicuous (and can appear obnoxious) by making it obvious that they have no idea where they are going. If possible, review your map before you travel so that you’ve got a rough sketch in your head.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Directions…Just Be Cool About It

If you need to ask for directions, try not to look too panicked or nervous; composure will keep you from attracting attention. (Though in some big cities, people aren’t fazed by anything, so your behavior really won’t matter. They may just pass you off as being a bit crazy.) Be polite and keep it brief; don’t tell the directions-giver a life story about how you got to the point of being lost (unless, of course, he or she asks).

Ditch the Hip Pouch

It may seem practical, but it screams naïve tourist. Unless you want to get robbed, leave the hip pouch at home and don’t even think about wearing your camera around your neck. Keep a bag with you that has zippers, and keep those zippers in front of your body rather than at the back.

Split Your Cash Up

If you’re carrying a decent amount of cash, keep it in different places: a tighter-fitting front pocket (never the back), a handbag or backpack, or an inside jacket pocket. That way if somebody does rob you, they won’t get everything. The passport or money pouches you can wear around your neck should, if you choose to wear one, be under your jacket with the strap completely hidden from view. Why? A thief can always sneak up behind you and, with one quick move of the scissors or pocket knife, cut the strap and pick it up off the ground. If it’s the summertime, it’s best to avoid wearing one altogether, because there aren’t too many ways to hide it.

Other Tips

Popular travel destinations are full of tourist traps. Sometimes, stuff claimed to be “authentic” really isn’t. Also, with tour guides, ticket sellers, and so forth, make sure they have a name tag, uniform, or some other type of ID that proves they are legitimate. Some people hang around famous sites just to rip off unsuspecting visitors. Keep your eyes peeled and your wallet closed. If you stay on your guard at all times, you lower your chances of falling victim to someone who just wants your money.