Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vacation vs. Stay-cation

Every time I see a headline about how to save money on a vacation I always click on it because I am intrigued. But once I click on the article I am usually disappointed because it’s always about “Stay-cations”. I’m sorry but I think this is biggest load of BS ever! You’re telling me that your kids are going to be okay with staying at home and doing stuff they could do EVERY day versus going someplace new and amazing. Here is my break down on the costs differences between a real vacation and a “stay-cation”. While figuring cost I did not include gas, food or souvenirs. I didn’t include them because it can really very, are you going to be strict and not buy any souvenirs for your kids or are you going to buy whatever they want? Are you going to eat at the theme park where a meal can easily cost $15 for one person or are you going to make everyone eat beforehand? Many variables so I left them out.

Locations: San Antonio, TX vs. Kauai, HI
I picked these locations because I grew up in San Antonio (and it has lots to offer and see) and my next vacation is to Kauai so I am becoming familiar with the island.

Length: 10 days

People: 4 (2 adults and 2 kids, ages 14 and 10)

Using the company we booked, Pleasant Holiday, you can get 4 round trip flights, economy car, and hotel for $5047.00! Now I think that is a deal! Kauai is full of free things to do and see. You don’t have to spend a dime on a tour and you’ll still feel fulfilled in seeing the island. There are numerous beaches, trails, festivals and farmers markets to explore. 

San Antonio
For San Antonio I picked 10 attractions (one for each day). Without the sport event you’re looking at $1013.78 and adding on a sporting event you’re looking at anywhere from $1057.78 - $1247.58. And of course, don’t forget to stop and see the Alamo for FREE!
Sea World - $210 including parking (kids here are ages 3-9)
Schlitterbahn - $205.06 including parking (you are allowed to bring your own food and drinks in)
Six Flags - $213.23 including parking
Ripley’s Believe it Or Not & Wax Museum - $70.96 including parking (across from the Alamo)
Witte Museum - $37 (includes HEB science tree house)
Buckhorn Museum - $78.07
San Antonio Zoo - $43 (REALLY nice zoo!)
Sports Event (I couldn’t think of a 10th option but SA has many sports teams and here are some estimate prices).
Spurs - $233.80 (Men’s basketball)
Missions - $44 (Minor league baseball)
Rampage - $140 (Ice hockey)
Stars - $208 (Women’s basketball)

Obviously staying at home would be cheaper but you have to compare the experiences. 
In SA you can see this…

Or in Hawaii you can see this…

Or this...

Or this...

It’s your choice!

Happy Travels!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

America’s Worst Airports to Catch a Connecting Flight

When I travel I get into what I call “airplane mode” I walk probably 10x faster then I normally do and people can’t seem to get out of my way fast enough! I also prefer to get to the airport about 3 hours in advance. I want to leave PLEANTY of time to find parking and get to the airport via bus from the parking lot. And then of course we have to check our bags and go through all the check points. I don’t care if I am sitting for 2 hours waiting for my flight; I am there and ready to go!

I found this article online about the top 10 worst airports in the US for connecting flights. I noticed that many of them were in the Northeast and perhaps some of these delays are due to weather but regardless; keep these airports in mind when you are traveling and need to make a connecting flight. The original article was written by Daniel Bukszpan.
10. Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport

The airport is located in Broward County, FL and is about 20 miles north of Miami. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that 78.88% of flights landed are actually on time. So if you were in that 21.12% that was on a late flight you were running through the airport at warp speed to catch your flight. Not to worry, 19.74% of flights don’t take off on time either.

9. Washington Dulles International Airport

Dulles airport is about 25 miles west of Washington DC and in 2011 it served over 23 million passengers. 21.39% of incoming flights that year were late and 20.19% of flights had late departures.

8. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

This other Washington DC airport served far less passengers then Dulles; 4.2 million less. Even with less traffic, 22.28% of incoming flights were late and 17.59% left late.

7. Philadelphia International Airport

In 2010 it serviced almost 31 million passengers and is the 12th busiest airport in the world. Being so busy is going to cause some delays; 23.84% of incoming flights did not arrive on time and 21.1% of flights were late taking off.

6. O’Hare International Airport

In 2011, 24.52% of arriving flights were not on time and 25.6% of flights taking off were delayed. However, from 2004 – 2007 O’Hare was voted Best Airport in North America by Global Traveler magazine.

5. John F. Kennedy International Airport

24.66% of incoming flights arrived late and 22.49% of departing flights left late. Also, JFK’s Terminal 3 has been called the worst single airport terminal in America…ouch!

4. Logan International Airport

Logan International is the largest airport serving New England so naturally it will have some delays in 2011 they served 29 million passengers and 26.35% of incoming flights were late and 21.11% of departing flights left late.

3. LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia, Kennedy, and Newark make up the largest airport system in the US (all airports are on this list). 27.82% of incoming flights to LaGuardia were late and 22.49% departing flights left late.

2. San Francisco International Airport

The only airport on the list that is on the West Coast, 28.62% of incoming flights arrived late and 23.72% of all outbound flights left late.

1. Newark Liberty International Airport

With a massive 33.28% of arriving flights being late and 27.03% of departing flights leaving late Newark comes in 1st for the worst airport for connecting flights.

When I was flying back from Norway we had to turn around for an emergency landing of course making us late to arrive and we landed just as our connecting flight was taking off. But we got food and hotel vouchers and it wasn’t all bad…now if we had to sleep on a cot I would be singing a different tune I’m sure.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On the Fly

There is a new show on TLC called On the Fly and it gives viewers a behind the scenes look of what Southwest Airlines personnel day to day work is like. Personally, I like the show because I like yelling at the dumb dumbs on the TV. The things people complain about truly amaze me; especially when they are expecting to get somewhere.

One thing that people never seem to understand is a "maintenance delay". On almost every episode there is someone complaining that they missed their connecting flight because their last flight had a maintenance delay… Well, wouldn’t you rather them fix the problem and you be late then have the possibility that you could be dead because something on the plane failed??!?! Come on people! They are looking out for your safety! On the last show a guy was delayed 6 hours and he was given a $50 voucher for food at the airport. I think that’s pretty good, at least he got something. But he just kept complaining about how that wasn’t sufficient enough and he couldn’t believe he had to wait 6 hours! If you are running that late check another airline and see if they can get you there sooner.

Another one that my husband and I seem to disagree on is when passengers are wearing something that is offensive (usually cuss words or profanity). Now, I'm not going to get offended if someone is wearing something like that but I can see where people with children would find it offensive. Also, typically when someone finds that sort of stuff inappropriate they choose not have it in or around their life but then all of a sudden they are being forced to be on a plane with someone who is wearing their "life choices" literally on their sleeve. And the people that make a fuss about taking it off… are you really going to let a little thing like that be the reason you don’t get to your final destination on time? If so, you are dumb!

There is also weather delays; snow, lightning, heavy winds, all things that can keep you from your final destination. If you are traveling to an expensive vacation and you didn’t get travel insurance that’s your problem. Travel insurance is one of the best things you can get and something I will always get when we travel for a vacation; you're protecting your investment. Your travel insurance will cover missed connecting flights and weather delays and will compensate you if you need to stay overnight and can't get to your luggage. We typically pay about $100 per person per trip for our insurance. One couple on the show was flying to Florida in the morning to catch their cruise that was leaving at 5:30pm… (WOW, don’t you think you're cutting it close?!?!?). Their flight to Florida was delayed a few hours and they were in jeopardy of missing their cruise. If you're traveling for an event or are catching a cruise/tour I would advise always traveling the day before to be on the safe side.

Now here is a frustrating one that I actually would complain about if it happened to me; the airline overbooking your flight. I understand from a business stand point why they do it but it is very frustrating to the customers. They will overbook a flight in an attempt to cut losses/make profits from passengers that don’t show up. It's something that they do and all I can say is check in on time and get their early to make sure you have a seat and they can see when you checked in.

Happy Travels!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to Plan a Vacation: Part 2

Click here to read How to Plan a Vacation: Part 1

After I have figured out all that we want to do and see I start to research places to eat!

Step 3: I really use to help me out here. People post pictures of their food so I am able to see portion size and presentation. It also helps me find the local restaurants and diners; we like to stay away from the hotel's money pits and restaurants are one of them! While planning our last trip I ran across this awesome café called Hawaiian Style Café and it was so good and inexpensive we went back twice! Those are the places I love and it gets us away from the tourist traps (even though all the locals look at us a roll their eyes…they totally know we're tourist). I am really hoping we can find a few places like Hawaiian Style Café on this next trip.

I make a list of the restaurants we want to go to and some that look interesting as backups and other options. I write down their addresses and phone numbers so I have them with me and I'm not searching on the phone last minute for an address or number. I also do this for other things such as farmers markets and art galleries. 

When I plan vacations I plan WAY in advance, like 8-6 months in advance (sometimes as far out as the airlines will let me!). So step 4 doesn’t really come until about 3 months before departure.

Step 4: Time to commit and pay! When the 3 month mark comes around is when I usually start to make down payments on all the activities we'll be doing and getting them all officially scheduled. Three months is far enough out that things shouldn’t be booked up yet and it's still close enough for them to actually accept your reservation. I secretly want to book everything right way and get it all paid for but I wait. Another reason why it's good to wait on this is because you may end up having to cancel (I hope not but you never know) and you'll either A) have to call all those place to get a refund or B) you don’t get your money back at all (boo!).

And don’t forget to make reservations for the nicer restaurants you plan on going to. You want to make sure you get a spot to watch the sunset and the stars!

When it's all said and done it looks something like this!

Happy Travels! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

How to Plan a Vacation: Part 1

So I have been rattling my brain for the past few weeks wondering what to talk about on the blog. I haven’t seen any good articles I am just dying to talk about so I figured I would fill you in on how I plan a vacation from start to finish.

WARNING: You might think it’s a little on the extreme side :P

Step 1: I start by making an excel spreadsheet with how many days we'll be on vacation and insert the times from 6AM to 9PM.

Once this is done I simply start Google-ing the activities we want to do while we're on vacation. I'll look up things such as, "snorkeling in Kauai", "kayaking in Kauai" and a slew of companies come up. I write them all down and start pulling up their websites and pricing them. Then I start to research what others have to say about the company; I use both and to see what people are saying. When reading these reviews I take a lot into consideration, first, how often does this person review? If they have only made a few reviews and they are all negative then they are most likely complainers and are only giving out bad reviews (you can look at their other reviews to see their reviewing patterns). Second, are they complaining about the weather? Surprisingly a lot of people complain about the weather. Hello! People cannot control the weather! One review I read about a boat ride to the Napali coast in Kauai said that it was the worst ride of their life and the water was so rough and they got sea sick and blah, blah, blah. It really sounds like a you problem and not the company's problem. The company clearly states on their website that the waters are rough and if you get sea sick that’s not really their problem is it?!

Step 2: Once I have all the companies I am going to be booking with I start to map it out on the schedule to see where things can go based on schedule restrictions by us or the tours. As you can see below I have a color coding system I use as well. Tours at are 100% a must (green) vs. tours that we are thinking about (red) vs. free activities (blue), when we're traveling (orange) and what restaurants we're interested in (purple). And the red text indicates the location on the island.

Visit the blog next week to see step 3 and 4 and how I pick what restaurants to go to!

Read Part 2 here!

Happy Travels!

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