Best Webcams to Help the Travel Blues

10682401_10154874875175447_966663718082813593_o
What are travel blues? When I get back from a trip and know it will be awhile until my next one I get sad and antsy until I get to start planning the next adventure. One thing that helps my travel blues are webcams. On good webcams for a moment I can feel like I am in another country having another adventure. Here are a couple of my favorite webcams:

1. Kruger National Park – This webcam is in the famous South African wildlife park, Kruger National Park. It’s a thrill to check and see if you can spot any elephants, zebras, or other fun safari animals.

2. Jokulsarlon – No that’s not a typo. This is a beautiful glacier lagoon. The mountains behind it are stunning and the giant pieces of ice make the scene even more beautiful.

3. Santorini – This destination is known for it’s sunsets and vast views. That’s why watching this webcam can be a dream.

4. Princeville, Hawaii – Tropical dreaming? Then this webcam is for you. Look at the lush mountains of Kauai as the surf rolls in at this stunning beach.

5. Budapest – This cam sits over the water looking at the city. If you hit the time right you will get a gorgeous sunset over the buildings.

Do you have a favorite webcam? Share them with me!

Advertisements

Hotel vs. Airbnb

1919132_267068400446_3456168_n

Shared economy is all the rage lately. With companies like Uber, Airbnb, VRBO, Lyft, Homeaway and so much more the travel industry is really changing. Today I want to share the major differences between using Airbnb(or similar entities) vs. staying at a hotel.

  1. Cultural Immersion – If you are someone who wants to blend in to the destination you are traveling to Airbnb is for you. Most likely you will have a kitchen and will need to go to the local grocery store and stop by the local coffee shop. You really live like a local when staying at an Airbnb. If you are a traveler who is more in need of a front desk person to assist you and answer your questions you may want to go with a hotel.
  2. Flexibility – This can be a case by case basis but for the most part hotels are more flexible. Most hotels have a 24/7 front desk where you can check in any time and get help at any time. When renting from Airbnb, while there are exceptions, you will have to arrange how to get in to your rented home and often times you are at the mercy of your host.
  3. Amenities – If you are looking for an onsite bar, room-service, concierge, continental breakfast, and more a hotel is probably the choice for you. If you are looking for a specific amount of rooms or must have a private hot tub Airbnb might be the way to go. Also, take note that Airbnb does not generally have cleaning services.
  4. Price – While both hotels and Airbnb heavily depend on location and amenities there are some differences. Airbnb will most likely save you money in the food department if you are willing to cook. Most Airbnbs have a kitchen allowing you to make some of your own meals. You do however need to be careful when browsing for a place to stay. Most of the shared homes website show one price and after you click to reserve they add on cleaning fees, taxes, and misc. fees. While hotels do this sometimes as well I’ve found the home shares to be much bigger differences.

How To Get And Use Airline Miles

airplane

You hear about miles all the time. I know before I used them I thought they were a waste. It seemed like it took forever to get enough miles to go anywhere decent and the process was confusing. Well now that I have used miles for a few years I understand a lot more about them and see the value in them.  Here is my guide on how to get and use airline miles.

  1. Research credit cards – Gaining miles is all about the credit card. Research each of the different cards and look for the one giving the best sign-up reward. Usually the best deals are sign up and get 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in three months. If you don’t see any cards giving away 50,000 miles sit back and wait because they will put that offer out again soon. My personal favorite miles card is the United MileagePlus card. It’s flexible, I haven’t found a place where it won’t get me, free baggage, and I got 50,000 miles when I signed up.
  2.  Use that credit card for everything – Once you have a credit card use it for everything. I use my credit card for every purchase I have. I also PAY IT OFF WEEKLY. Most cards require you to spend for example $3,000 in 3 months in order to receive the sign-up miles. This is easy when you use your credit card to buy everything. Rent or mortgage alone will take care of that. This also helps rack up those miles.
  3. Use all benefits of the credit card – Don’t forget to look in to the other benefits with your miles card. For instance most have a reward where if you book any travel with that card you get to check one bag free. Some cards give you access to their clubs once a year and who knows what else you might find.
  4. Research cost(in miles) of flights – Once you have the card look at how many miles it takes to get somewhere you’d like to go. This way you know how many miles you need to save up.
  5. Purchasing flights using miles – Once you have a place and an idea of where you want to go purchase(in miles) your flights ASAP. The miles rarely if ever drop on flights. Instead they disappear when that plane is full. Be flexible and look at a calendar view. Many times the price(in miles) drops a lot if you leave a day or to earlier or later and same with return.
  6. What to do if you don’t have enough miles for an upcoming trip – If you would like to purchase a trip but don’t have enough miles consider buying more. If you are just under it may be worth it to purchase that last little bit. If you are significantly under then consider using your miles for a one way flight and purchasing(with money) your flight back.

Hope this helps! If I am missing any tips you know of please share.

Holiday Airport Travel Tips

christmas_colour_lights

It’s already begun… the airports are mad houses. Traveling this time of year can be extremely stressful. Here are my tips for making sure you have a good airport experience during this busy season.

  1. Arrive at the airport 1 to 1.5 hours before your flight boards. Give yourself enough time in case security is backed up, which during the holidays is almost always. My mom always told me it’s better to be an airport stroller than an airport runner.
  2. As soon as you get through security go to your gate in case it’s a far walk and to make sure there are no gate changes. After having seen it take time to grab a snack or shop, but make sure to do that after having seen your gate!
  3. Be at your gate when the boarding process starts. You want to be there so you can board when your group is called to get space for your carry on and again to make sure there are no last minute changes.
  4. Be nice to the workers. Chances are they’re bummed they’re having to work during the holidays. They also have to deal with a lot of crappy customers. Be kind when addressing an issue.

What are your tips for traveling during the holidays?

Beach Vacation Packing Tips

11666178_10155685765350447_8623056202698739467_n

Who doesn’t love a beach vacation? No matter what beach you’re headed to there are a few things you can pack to make your trip even better. Below are my beach musts with links to the items I use or similar.

  1. Waterproof pouch – This is especially important if you are traveling alone or as a couple. When you go to the beach no matter where you are a lot of the time you don’t want to leave your valuables on the beach while you swim. Using a waterproof pouch you can either bring it with you while you swim or bury it in the sand(always put a marker over the spot) to keep your valuables hidden and safe, but still accessible.
  2. Pack-able snorkeling gear – If you’re like me snorkeling is necessary when going to the beach. I try and snorkel at every beach I go to so renting isn’t usually feasible. Instead I have a snorkeling kit that doesn’t take too much space in my luggage. The only thing I am not a huge fan of are the half sized fins. I just don’t feel like they give you much more power than your bare feet.
  3. Snacks – Many beach destinations, especially islands, have a high price tag on food. I like to pack granola bars and other easy on the go snacks to bring. This way when we head to the beach we can throw a couple things in our bag and not worry about hunger shortening our time in the sand.
  4. Travel Towel – If you are trying to pack light a travel towel is a great accessory. They’re small and don’t take up much room in the suitcase and they dry really fast.
  5. Sarong – If you do go with the travel towel option I suggest you also bring a sarong to sit on the sand with. The travel towel is small and will dry you off well but as far as laying in the sand won’t do much good. Sarongs are really light material and pack far better than a beach towel. You can lay these out and have good protection from the sand but not a heavy wet dirty towel to have to deal with. Of course you can also wear it for a bathing suit cover up.
  6. GoPro – I love my GoPro especially for underwater footage. I’ve been able to get great shots of sea life as well as my husband and I swimming through the ocean. If you are a diver and want to take it deep make sure to get a red lens filter to get the perfect shot. GoPro’s are also best at the beach because you don’t have to worry about sand ruining them. Just make sure to keep it in it’s waterproof case. DCIM104GOPRO

TSA Pre-Check update

  
A few months ago I explained how I got TSA Pre-Check and promised an update, so here it is:

Since obtaining my Known Travel Number(KTN) in July I have flown on 12 flights. TSA Pre-Check has been completely worth it! Several times it has cut down my wait in the security line by 10 minutes or more. Being able to keep your shoes on, liquids in your bag, and a light jacket on makes going through security a lot less stressful. 

 When I was flying out of Austin I was concerned by the fact they had no specific line for TSA Pre-Check. Why did I pay $85 of I couldn’t use it everywhere I went. Luckily when I showed my pass to TSA they handed me a card. I still went through the line with everyone else but I got to keep my shoes on and all the other small rules I get to ignore. 
The $85 might seem steep, but it lasts 5 years. If you fly several times a year I would seriously consider it. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are traveling with someone they cannot come with you in the Pre-Check line unless they have it as well. They are very strict about this. You also have to make sure in order to use your Pre-Check status that your KTN has been entered when you purchase your ticket. Or you can enter it into your airline account information to have it automatically be added when you purchase a ticket.

Overall, I love TSA Pre-Check and highly recommend it!

Have any questions? Ask in the comments!

Upcoming Trip Advice

Sunset in Oia, Santorini. Here is my version of the sunset shot in Oia. This is a blend of 3 shots, 1.3 to 20 seconds, processed as follows: 1) Reduce noice on all 3 raws. 2) Create HRD in Photomatix 3) Blend using Exposure Fusion, sliders set to produce the most natural looking image while still showing some detail in the very dark areas. 4) PS smart sharpen. 5) PS burn the bottom 6) Nik Brilliance and warming 7) Nik Indian summer to warm th elights, masked to not affect the rest. 8) Nik sunlight, brushed over the buildings to add more light 9) Nik Glamour Glow to remove detail in the dark areas. 10) Detailed curves lightening pn windmills. 11) Dodge buildings that were too dark.

Tomorrow is my golden birthday where I am turning the big 2-5 on August 25th. Since I was young I have been looking forward to this. While most people have no idea what I am talking about when I say I am celebrating my golden birthday I have been quick to inform them. I love birthdays!

Anyways to make this one extra special I planned a trip for Ryan and I. We are going to London, Athens, Meteora, Paros, Santorini, and Paris. I am looking for any last minute tips or advice especially dealing with Greece’s economic crises. We head out this Friday and I couldn’t be more excited!

TSA Precheck

8390430118_35bb3ce0dd_z

I’ve been debating for awhile now if I should go through the steps to get a known traveler number(KTN) in order to be a part of TSA Precheck. For those of you who don’t know what that is, if you’re flying from the US these airports participate in TSA Precheck. You get to go through a much shorter/faster security line. You don’t have to take off your shoes and you go through the old school scanners instead of the big new ones. Well I finally did it. I was worried the process would be difficult and frustrating, but it was really easy!

First you pre-enroll and for some reason I had a hard time finding the link so I’ve provided it here for you. You answer all the questions and then schedule a time to drop in one of their 300 locations to finish the screening process.

After I finished that I went to my appointment. I had prepared for an experience similar to going through security or going to the DMV. Cold workers who didn’t care about customer service. I was completely wrong! The location I went to was extremely nice and got me in on time. It took a total of 10 minuets to finish everything up and pay. There is a $85.00 fee per person which is a little hefty but I figure it will be worth it.

Once finished they hand you a receipt with a website to check your status. I did all of this last Wednesday and today(Monday) I went to check the statues and I had been approved and given my KTN! I was shocked since they had told me it can take up to 30 days.

I have to say the process was extremely easy. I have several flights coming up and I will let you know if it’s worth it!

The Basics of Flying Standby

4676723312_93f4bcc191_o

There are not many things I feel comfortable calling myself an expert in, but flying standby is an exception. I have grown up having a dad who flies for a major airline and because of that I have flown standby well over 100 times. Although you can’t fly standby without a connection to someone in the airline I recently had friends who had a terrible experience and were upset that no one had given them the information they needed. For them and for all those out there who are considering it, given the opportunity, this is for you.

When you fly standby aka non-rev you are not guaranteed a seat. You are going in hopes that there will be an empty seat on the airplane for you to sit. With this you could be sitting anywhere. Last row or first class. Unless the airplane is really empty you will not receive your ticket until everyone is boarding or has boarded.

If anything goes wrong, for example the airplane is overweight, you will be the first one they pull off. If someone doesn’t show up and you get their seat but then that person runs up to the gate last minute, you will get pulled off.

It is important to check in immediately, but that doesn’t put you at the top of the list. There are several priorities. The airline my Dad works for(and most airlines are similar) it was broken down like this:
D1 – Employee of the airline
D2 – Immediate family of employee of the airline
D3 – Friend/non-immediate family

D1s no matter when they check in will get priority over D2s and D3s. Same goes for D2s will always get priority over D3s. The reason you still want to check in as soon as you can is because if you are a D3 and a bunch of other D3s list for your flight you will get a seat before them if you are the first to check in.

When you don’t get on the flight don’t panic. Let the gate agent(if they haven’t announced it already) that you would like to be rolled over to the next flight. If there seem to be a lot of standby who didn’t get on start thinking of connection options. For instance, I often fly to Chicago from Seattle and that flight can get full. I can look into connecting cities if the flights look full all day. I will consider flying to Denver or Dallas or SLC or if I’m desperate even NYC to then catch another plane to Chicago. You can get creative with this. Sometimes it can save you a lot of waiting and disappointment if you just get on another flight to get you to your final destination.

I hope that helps you on your next standby adventure! I will be doing more posts with other standby information in the future.

Travel Planning with Pinterest

pinterest-logo-icon1

Pinterest has been a powerful internet tool that has only popped up in 2010. As an avid lover of Pinterest I have started using it to plan my adventures and here’s how.

1. Organizing potential lodging options. There are so many options on places to stay. When I travel I like to book ahead or at least have an idea of where I would like to stay. Making a board for a specific trip to hold lodging ideas has been a help. I make lodging boards private and I like to make one for each destination. This way if I find an option on Tripadvisor, one on airbnb.com, and one on Booking I can have them all in one spot. Then when I’m ready to book I can go to my board and pick from one of the planned out lodging options.

2. Creating a travel bucket list.

Capture

Creating a traveling bucket list is very popular on Pinterest. Just be realistic. Make sure the places you re-pin are places you really want to go instead of just a cool picture of some place you never plan on traveling to. Every year when I start planning my next big trip I always check out my traveling bucket list for inspiration on where to go next.

*You have to be careful many photos are over edited. And some are even fake. Make sure to do some research on any amazing photos you find to make sure it’s not just a fake photo.Here‘s a link of some common fake photos.

**Once I’ve traveled to a country I move the pins from Traveling Bucket List to Places I’ve Loved to keep things organized.

3. Making sure I’m not missing anything on my upcoming trip. This is a big one for me. Nothing is worse than traveling half way around the world to some country and then getting home and seeing a gorgeous picture of something you missed in that country. Wherever I’m going I search for that country and look for gorgeous pictures of locations I must see while there. I used this a lot for my trip to Vietnam and would have missed Sapa and possibly the Marble Mountains without using Pinterest.