Wish you could travel the world but don’t see how you could afford it? Meet Ben Schlappig, 25. Since he was 13, Ben has been doing just that. Traveling around the world. Wherever he likes. For free.
A bored, bright teenager, Schlappig figured out how to work the airline travel system, manipulating rewards programs and airline-affiliated credit card incentives and discovering in the process a game he could win. By the time he was 16, he had so mastered the game that he became the first person to cross the Pacific six times in one trip.He loved the high so much he dedicated himself to it full-time. After graduating from University of Florida with a degree in marketing (he traveled the entire time), he decided to start a business to help others do just what he does. The business is called PointsPro and its motto is simple: Make Your Dream Trip a Reality.
Schlappig flies first class and only stays in luxury hotels, all of which he pays for with points. And he does it constantly. A recent Rolling Stone story followed Schlappig around and mentioned that he flew to seven cities around the world in seven days.
He doesn’t stop, except to sleep for the night at one of his luxury hotels, enjoy a session in a high-price spa, and then it’s back to the airport for his next flight. Schlappig doesn’t see what he does as fraud; he just knows how the system works, and he works it. Hard.
He earns points with credit cards, and little-known tricks in the frequent flyer programs. He usually flies about four to six hours a day, and is a well-known figure in this small circle of enthusiasts in the game known as The Hobby. Fans greet him wherever he goes, and he receives a lot of attention — and free champagne — from those who are in the know.
He chronicles his ongoing world traversing adventures via his blog, One Mile at a Time. He has no permanent residence, living exclusively in hotels (he doesn’t pay for them either), and has logged 400,000 miles in the past year.
- The 11 Craziest Elite Airline Perks (wisebread.com)
- 6 ways to fly first class, for free (rss.cnn.com)
- “The Hobby” is an underground club of travellers who “hack” airlines to fly around the world for free (theplaidzebra.com)
When you purchased your airline ticket last week, you probably knew you paid some fees. But did you know about these?
The Domestic Flight Segment tax, the Excise Tax of Kerosene (jet fuel), the September 11th Security fee, and, my personal favorite, the Domestic Passenger Ticket tax (where you’re being taxed because you live in the US and are traveling within the US).
Congress decided it might have an opportunity to boost its approval ratings by reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding (which expired September 30, and was extended for six months) in such a way that both our traveling experience and the airports we travel through might be improved.
Here’s the problem: airlines rely on an outdated IRS-instituted fee structure. That structure excludes from taxation some services like checked bags and change fees (that we all end up paying), allowing airlines to skirt the prescribed taxes by exploiting these loopholes. Those incidental fees added up to $3.4 billion in bag fees and $2.3 billion in reservation change fees way back in 2010.
Congress was also examining how it could reallocate funding so that airports could improve their facilities. Airport lobbyists have been challenging Congress to raise the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (bet you didn’t know you paid that one) from $4.50 to $8.50. The current funding for the 2012 Federal Modernization Reform Act expires September 30, and there hasn’t been a discussion about or adjustment to these fees since 2000.
Airlines are claiming that passengers have already paid enough fees imposed by the government, while trying to divert attention from the fees passengers are really frustrated about paying, like the bag fee and change fee, not mention the often overlooked pet travel fee and the last-minute seat upgrade.
Congress’ re-examining the way airlines hike their prices without increasing the ticket price could result in changes that create happier travelers. But they haven’t been able to agree on matters of graver concern than this, so is there much hope of true change that could result in more money in our wallets?
In our last blog post, we talked about hotel hacks you can use while you’re on the road. With a little ingenuity and a few of the complimentary items most hotels offer, you can have a semi-civilized existence if you need food, a shave, to shine your shoes, or to even remove unwanted odors.
Another travel hacks video from Dave Hax tells us how to pack and travel with just a few simple items to make packing easier and our time on a plane or train more comfortable. Here are a few things we learned.
- If your shoes get dirty while you’re sightseeing, use the hotel shower cap to cover the soles. If you suffer from SFS (smelly feet syndrome), help yourself (please!) to the teabags in the hotel room and use them as shoe deodorizers.
- Don’t want to bring your laptop protector but need something to protect your computer inside your suitcase? Fold your hoodie around it and you’re good to go! Your hoodie can also be used as a makeshift pillow. Provided you’re not already using it as your laptop protector.
- If you’ve never learned how the Marines fold their clothes to make the most use of their duffel space, read our post on making a skivvy roll. It’s genius, and it helps you count pairs of underwear, socks, and t-shirts easily.
- If you don’t want to watch the in-flight movie, and don’t want a crick in your neck from hunching over your phone, pack a sandwich bag in your carry-on. Place the phone inside the bag and use the tray table clip to hold the bag at viewing level. Then, poke a small hole in the bag for your headphones. If you don’t have a bag, you can fold your sunglasses and use them as a stand.
- If you have a hard time remembering your room number, take a photo with your phone when you arrive.
- If your phone battery is running low and you don’t have a lot of time to charge it, put the phone in “flight mode” and it will charge faster.
- For all you McGyver fans out there, a clean, empty lip balm tube can be used to hide rolled-up bills when you’re going out.
With these tips, your next trip can be cleaner, more efficient, more enjoyable, and adequately charged. What other hacks do you use when you travel? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.
Nobody wants to bring more than necessary when they travel. It’s especially important issue when going overseas. When considering what to pack and what to leave at home, we found a clever video on hotel hacks filled with examples of how to use items in your hotel room, to save space, weight, and help you get by in a pinch. (You can watch it below.)
Granted, the video and ideas were made in Europe, but most hotels have the same amenities around the world, which means they’ll work almost anywhere.
- Pack with resealable bags. If you want to keep your clean clothes smelling clean and contain the “aroma” of your other clothes, pack your clothes, or separate outfits, in resealable bags. The video also suggests tossing your smelly jeans into a bag and putting them in the freezer to alleviate the smell. According to Levi CEO Chip Bergh, you should never wash your jeans, so the video’s idea of freezing them in the hotel refrigerator overnight to tame their “aroma” could have some merit.
- Use body lotion to polish your shoes. The maid service may not be happy with your use of the washcloth as an applicator, but it’s better than leaving one with real shoe polish on it.
- The television in your room will most likely have a built-in USB port on the side or back. Since it’s challenging sometimes to find a conveniently located electrical outlet for a charger, use the USB port to charge your phone or tablet.
- The drinking glass neatly arranged by the ice bucket for those mini bar purchases can be used as a speaker for your phone (sans beverage, of course), creating an amplifier for your phone. Never sleep through your alarm again, but be careful not to knock the glass over in your morning stupor.
- If you don’t take our advice with suggestion #1, then you may have some. . . unpleasantness wafting from your suitcase. Unwrap one of the complimentary hand soaps and drop it in your suitcase. The scent may do something to mask the smell.
- Did you step in the puddle by the shower and now find yourself with wet socks? Simply stick the hair dryer into the sock, turn it on, and a few minutes later — et, voila. — dry socks.
- If you order room service and want to save the leftovers, use a new shower cap to cover your plate. The food will eventually spoil, but this will extend the life. Don’t forget, a new shower cap.
- Some European hotels provide an electric kettle for making tea. If you’re traveling on a budget, you can swing by a convenience store for some supplies, and just eat in your room: use the kettle to boil eggs, and make instant oatmeal, ramen, and rice. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse the appliance. American hotels use a coffee maker, but the water may not get hot enough to boil eggs or rice.
What are some hotel hacks you’ve used in the past? Share them with us and give us a few hints for our next road trip. Leave them in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.
Personal hygiene aside, traveling can be a smelly affair. The taxi smells, the airport smells, the restaurant smells, the airplane smells, and all of that can make you smell. Not the best way to make a good impression or to feel your best while you’re away from home.
Sometimes you need a little perfume or cologne to cover up the travel odors. But what’s the best way to travel with your favorite fragrance?
There are several options. You can pack your full-size bottles in your checked bags. Several Travelpro models have a wet pocket specifically designed with this in mind. If there’s a spill, you haven’t gotten it all over your clothes and shoes.
You can also purchase a smaller size that meets the TSA’s 3.4 ounce requirement, and put it in your 3-1-1 bag.
Ask for some complimentary samples when you purchase cologne or perfume at a department store. One traveler we know even created a special compact roll-on version of her favorite cologne out of a roll-on dispenser purchased just for this purpose. It was smaller than 3.4 ounces, and it was enough to last several trips.
Duty-free purchases are allowed in your carry-on, regardless of the size, but unless you check your baggage on the return flight, you’ll run into the same dilemma you had before you left home. So if you want to buy fancy airport perfume, do it on your return trip.
You might also consider choosing a less expensive option that you designate just for travel. Many retailers offer scented body sprays in travel sizes that could serve this purpose.
How do you travel with your favorite scents? Let us hear from you in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page.
You’ve been thinking about going to Montreal or New Hampshire in a few weeks to see the fall colors. When you start your search process, you notice that Google is offering to not only help you book your flight, but your hotel as well.
The ubiquitous tech giant is now dipping its proverbial big toe even deeper into the travel booking pool with its new initiative, “Book on Google”. And it has some of the other booking websites a little nervous.Google is currently conducting a beta launch in North America with 20,000 hotels that allows travelers to remain in its own navigation system from initial search to completed booking. Google’s partner? Sabre, the biggest global distribution system in the world used by more than 350,000 travel agents to access accommodation information.
The new “Book on Google” is the next generation of Google Hotel Ads, a search engine that searches other search engines and compiles the results for available hotels. What “Book on Google” provides that Google Hotel Ads doesn’t is direct booking all the way through to payment on mobile devices from Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ platforms.
The hotels share the commission with Google and Sabre. This program complements Google Flight, which resulted from the purchase of ITA software, a flight information company, in 2015.
So now you can book a flight and find a place to lay your head without ever leaving Google. What’s next? Google room service, please.
Would you book with Google, or have you already done so? Let us know what you think in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
- Google Expands Hotel Ads To Smaller Hotels (seroundtable.com)
- Google Hotel Ads makes it easier for more hotels to participate (adwords.blogspot.com)
If you’re a smoker and you’re trying to figure out how to travel so that you and your cigarettes arrive at the same destination, here’s the latest from TSA about what smokers can and cannot bring with them.
According to the TSA website, you can put two, full standard disposable or Zippo lighters in your checked suitcase, but they must be packaged in DOT approved packaging. The TSA site isn’t specific about what this packaging is, so if you want clarification, call before you fly. Torch and micro-lighters (fancy cigar lighters) are prohibited from checked baggage.In your carry-on luggage, you can bring one disposable or Zippo lighters. One matchbook of safety matches is also allowed. Micro- and torch lighters are not allowed, and neither are single strike-anywhere matches.
With the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, TSA has said they can be brought in either checked or carry-on luggage, but the accompanying e-juice must comply to the same regulations as all other carry-on liquids. Just in case you thought otherwise, e-cigarettes may not be used on any flights. Those fumes will set off the bathroom smoke alarms just like regular cigarettes.
While we’re not necessarily advocates of smoking, we recognize that people will want to be able to take their smoking materials with them. There was no real explanation as to how many cigars or cigarettes you could bring, but you’ll want to take care not to smash them as you pack your suitcase. Of course, you can always purchase your smoking materials when you arrive at your destination and avoid the problems altogether.
Have you run into any problems bringing your smoking materials onto a plane? How did you handle those situations? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Sweepstakes runs October 1 through October 31, 2015
Boca Raton, Fla., – Oct. 1, 2015 – Atlantic® luggage, part of the Travelpro® family of brands and a market leader in affordable, lightweight luggage since 1919, is proud to announce its “Win a Trip For Four to Yellowstone National Park, Sweepstakes.”
Ideal for families who like to travel and have a scenic adventure, the Atlantic sweepstakes is offering the chance for a grand prize winner and three guests to win a fabulous trip to Yellowstone National Park. The winner will receive a trip certificate that includes roundtrip airfare for four (4); three (3) nights in a 3-star Cabin at Yellowstone National Park; Four (4) 1-day passes with admission to Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center attractions; $500 cash spending money; and four (4) Atlantic carry-on sized suitcases.
“Atlantic Luggage is designed to make travel easier for the entire family. Known for its affordable, durable, lightweight luggage, Atlantic has pioneered great luggage since 1919,” said Scott Applebee, Vice President of Marketing for the Travelpro and the Atlantic Luggage brands. “We are pleased to offer a grand prize winner and three guests the opportunity to visit spectacular Yellowstone National Park, the leading family fun and scenic destination.”
The Grand Prize Package includes:
- Round-trip economy airfare for four (4)
- Three (3) nights in a 3-star cabin at Yellowstone National Park
- Four (4) 1-day passes with admission to Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
- $500 cash spending money
- Four (4) Atlantic carry-on sized suitcases
The sweepstakes begins October 1 and ends October 31h, 2015. To enter or view the official sweepstakes rules please visit: http://www.atlanticluggage.com/fall-sweepstakes-2015/ No purchase or payment is necessary to enter or win.
About Atlantic Luggage
Since 1919, the Atlantic® brand has been synonymous with affordable, value-added and lightweight luggage. As a market leader in the lightweight luggage segment, from cleverly designed uprights and spinners to trendy and smart garment bags and totes, all Atlantic-branded luggage comprises superior quality and durability. Whether for business or recreation, travel is more pleasurable with Atlantic luggage, part of the Travelpro® family of products. Please visit the Atlantic Luggage website for a full list of the latest products and retail locations.
For over 25 years, Travelpro International has prided itself on design innovation and durability in crafting the highest quality luggage for travelers worldwide. Since transforming the ease of modern day travel with The Original Rollaboard wheeled luggage, Travelpro has been the brand of choice for flight crews and frequent travelers on every continent. The company is dedicated to building a lifelong relationship with its customers by consistently meeting and exceeding their expectations. Travelpro was honored to once again be voted as the “World’s Best Luggage” by Premier Traveler Magazine in 2014.
The TSA is making some big changes to the PreCheck system, the program that lets pre-qualified travelers breeze through airport security because they’ve already been vetted by the TSA. The TSA has a goal to increase the number of PreCheck-qualified travelers, as a way to reduce the bottlenecks at security checkpoints.
The PreCheck program saves times for travelers, of course, but it also saves time for the TSA agents, allowing them to focus on finding real threats.According to a TravelWeekly.com article, there are now 4.6 million travelers authorized through the program; TSA would like to increase that to 25 million.
Their plan is to increase marketing the program and pushing it more aggressively.
They also plan to limit the role airlines play in the PreCheck process. Previously, airlines had been able to submit travelers to be approved through PreCheck, usually members of their frequent flyer program. This was done on a somewhat random basis and you could never predict if you would be approved or not. That will no longer be the case. Travelers will need to actually apply in order to qualify for PreCheck.
What this means for infrequent travelers is that many of them didn’t realize they could actually apply for the program through the TSA and get approved on an ongoing basis to be able to use PreCheck regularly. It seems like a no-brainer. If you can save time at the airport, why not do it? We encourage everyone to apply.
Are you in PreCheck? What has been your experience? Share your stories in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.
Rollaboard owners rejoice! Boeing is trying to solve the ongoing carry-on luggage problem by adding bigger overhead bins.
According to a new Travel Pulse article, the new bins, called “space bins,” will carry more luggage than the previous bins. This will hopefully ease the stress and strain put on travelers and flight attendants as more people try to sneak larger bags onto flights.
The new bins will also be easier to load and see into, which is helpful since more than one traveler has been hit on the head by people removing heavy bags they didn’t quite realize they couldn’t carry.
One drawback is that it will decrease head space a bit.
It will be interesting to see how Virgin Airlines reacts to the news, given they recently said the interior plane space is actually the most valuable space. They were discussing charging for carry-on bags, and allowing free checked bags. Will this move be a revenue generator for them?
From Boeing’s perspective, they’re likely responding to requests from the airlines, who are hearing from customers. Right now, the airlines want to continue to charge for checked bags and allow carry-ons. Those passengers looking to save some money will be better able to maneuver their carry-ons and fit them into the new large bins.
Meanwhile, we’ve also been hearing some airlines are considering reducing the allowed carry-on sizes to accommodate more passengers using their carry-ons. However, Delta has said they plan to allow carry-on sizes to remain the same as they have been in the past.
We like the idea of the bigger bins. If you could turn your carry-on bag sideways (which is what Boeing is suggesting), you can fit six bags into the space instead of four. The loss of headroom does not seem like a great loss, especially since we’ll all be sitting. We’ll see if that continues to be the case or if headroom will be subject to shrinkage like everything else on the plane.
What are some of your ideas for getting more (or fewer) carry-on bags into the plane? Leave your ideas in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.
Photo credit: Boeing Media Room