Saturday, January 14, 2017

Up, Up, And Away

Okay! You've done your research and decided you want to fly to London Heathrow from Seattle, WA in March of 2017. You start looking for flights. You know you want a non stop cause you want to be there as fast as the plane can get you there. Checking the normal sites like Expedia, Hopper, & Skyscanner, you see the prices vary from $800 per person to the sky's the limit. You want the best deal, so let me tell you about what we did to get a pretty decent deal on our flights.
We opened a British Airways Credit Card a year prior to booking our flights. We basically ran every single bill we could through it to earn over 100,000 Avios. Since they are bills we have to pay normally, why not?
Avios are the same as miles with other cards. With this card, you earn 1 Avio for every $1 spent. We earned our extra rewards as well, such as a bonus 50,000 Avios when spending $3000 in the first 3 months and a "free travel together" ticket for spending over $30,000 in the first year that is good for up to 2 years. Travel together is a ticket where when you purchase one ticket, you get the second for "free" when you book the same flight and seating. The reason I say "free", is that unfortunately, you still get to pay British Airways super high taxes and fees for the ticket. More on that in a bit though.

So lets show an example of how I saved $600+ on our tickets. Right now, if you look at their website, for the same dates I chose, you see this result:

                                                                                                                              A total of over $1900 for both flights. When I originally booked about a year ago, it was over $2400. By using avios points to pay for my flight and using our travel together ticket, we got the flights themselves for FREE. We do still have to pay taxes and fee, however. That totaled about $1300. Now, I know what you are thinking...that's still kinda high! I agree, if you are just looking for the cheapest flight possible with layovers and odd times. Lets look at that next.
Please keep in mind, that I booked us on a direct flight, no layovers, with more ideal times to arrive and leave. No late night departures, or 3AM arrivals.
I took a peek at Expedia, putting in the same criteria and filtered by cheapest flights.  I've also used some of my other favs, such as Hopper, and SkyScanner with similar results. Here's what I got for cheapest:


Not only is it $300 more, it also has a 2 hour layover in San Francisco. I don't know about you all, but I tend to avoid layovers if it can be helped. I want to get to my destination quickly!
I know credit cards aren't everyone's favorite thing, but in this case it helped us get the flight we wanted with no layovers, for at the very least $300 or more in savings. The Avios can also be used for hotels and rental cars, with rental cars being a really good value. I'll speak more on that on another post.
Last, lets talk about taxes and fees. British charged me $680 per person, so that's about what it was per person per flight. When I compare to other carriers, they tend to be higher on British. I wish I could say why. Maybe their food will be better? One can hope.
Let me know your thoughts! Do you use a travel rewards card you love?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Shark Bait

In my first blog post, I said I'd be posting some flashbacks, throwbacks, waybacks, whatever you prefer to call them about our previous adventures! Since its officially #TBT, here's the first one! Its from when we were on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and as a gift to my daughter, granted her wish to swim with sharks. :O Honestly, although I signed all 3 of us up for that experience, I was terrified! All sorts of scenarios played out in my head. For example, if I accidentally stuck my hand out, would one feel compelled to remove it for me? However, I gathered what courage I had and went.  Team No Fear, Emily and Keith, were never more ready for this adventure in the seas. Just so you all know, I am the worrier, the shy one, the scared one. They are Team No Fear and all that implies. I like to think I keep them from doing anything TOOOOO crazy or dangerous basically a superhero without a cape, not that I just add the boring Mom element. :)
Lets get to it! I booked our swim with Hawaii Shark Encounters in Haliewa, Hawaii. For those of you that are familiar with the epic surfing that happens in the North Shore, this is that area. If you check out their blog here: Hawaii Shark Encounters Blog They have some awesome information about sharks, why they attack and why the actual chances are extremely low.  (As a side note: No, I am not being paid or asked to review them.) I would highly recommend them! They were super friendly, knowledgeable, and made the whole experience very easy and comfortable. When we arrived, after about a 45 min drive from Waikiki,  we found their boat easily in the Haliewa Boat Harbor.

Sadly, in our enthusiasm, we forgot to take a picture of the boat to share. Its a smaller boat and held us, the two men taking us on the tour, and about 7 other swimmers. The only things we had to bring were swimwear, towels and maybe a jacket to stay warm. It was 8AM and about 75 degrees when we went out. The video that's next will speak for the rest of the experience. It was amazing and the sharks are beautiful creatures. Surprisingly, once I was in the cage, I felt no fear. Only a deep curiosity. Enjoy and let me know if you have questions. Have you ever swam with sharks?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Memory Maker

Some people believe that spending time behind a camera, sharing pictures of your location, your experiences, and the people you are with takes away from being in the moment. That ideally, you may leave the camera, or cell phone behind. Although I do believe you should be in the moment, enjoying everything around you with all your senses, seeing the colors, feeling the weather, smelling the flowers, hearing the sounds of life around you, I also believe preserving those moments so that you can relive them again later and share them with your loved ones or those who are interested, is just as valuable if not more so. When we die, we only take our memories. Having a tangible way to relive those moments is so incredibly important to me.
On that note, I'm spending today learning my memory makers for our upcoming trip! The Canon Rebel T5 (DSLR), Ricoh Theta 360° cam, and the Olympus Tough. (I added the links, cause I know some of my peeps like to check out tech specs). If anyone wants examples pics, cause they are in the market for a new toy, let me know and I can share some with you!

To this end, I've spent some time today watching the Canon Australia YouTube Channel for my own education. Not only do I get to listen to a fabulous accent, #winning,  I also get to learn the fundamentals of my camera; which I have not elected to do in the last year. I've been a bit of a Auto Setting, point & click gal. I recently received a wide angle lense for better landscape photography. I haven't used it much yet, as I don't really understand it. Thus the reason for todays lessons. The Canon will provide the best overall quality pictures for landscapes such as Cliffs of Moher, buildings or monuments such as Edinburgh Castle, or a day of street art hunting in London. 
The 360° cam is pretty easy to use and learn. Just stand or sit in the middle of what you want to have a 360° pic of and click! I love it, its exactly my type of technology. :) I cant wait to use it in busy city centers or in beautiful gardens. It also very small and portable, making it awesome to take quick pics inside of restaurants or museums. 
And last, the Tough. The Tough is a action camera. Basically a good quality point and shoot with a 5x optical zoom in armor. We have used it underwater when swimming with the sharks off the coast of Oahu, when snorkeling, and some landscape pics. Its a great little point and click and also easy to carry around if we decide we don't want to lug around the Canon and all its parts everywhere for a day. Its also waterproof, which may come in handy in rainy London, freezeproof, and shockproof. It really is...tough. I think we have our bases more then covered! Between cell phones and cameras and the lovely invention of cloud storage, we will have all the pics and videos any person could ask for! 
What type of memory makers do you travel with? Any recommendations for me?