Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights

So you want to go on a vacation? But you might not have a lot of vacation time or a huge budget? No worries, we have you covered! Other than people asking where our next trip is to, the second most asked question is where and how we book all of our flights to travel everywhere we do. These are our top tips for booking cheap flights! Learn how we travel as much as we do while both having full-time jobs and a busy schedule!

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

#1: Sit Down With a Calendar

 

Not the first tip you were expecting? It may seem unusual, but this is one of the most important!

Most people start off by hearing about or seeing pictures of a particular destination and all of a sudden that’s where they just have to go on their next vacation. In this situation, you will likely struggle to find cheap flights. If you have a set location and set date in mind and no flexibility, you're are at the mercy of the flight deal gods.

While you can certainly get a good deal by booking a vacation with a set destination and date in mind or booking last-minute deals, your chances of finding cheap flights are higher a couple of months in advance. Take the time at the beginning of the year/quarter and sit down with a calendar. Map out the weekends you would like to travel and pick weekends where you want to stay in town. Also think about your already known travel plans such as seeing family for the holidays, weddings you're invited to, etc. The end result is a set number of dates when you know you would like to get away so that when a flight deal comes along there is no wondering of when to go. You will already have a few dates in mind (and discussed with your significant other) and can get straight to the booking process.

 

#2: Sit Down With a Map

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Okay, so now you have a few weekends and perhaps a week or two when you are planning to travel. But where in the world should you go!? You might have a bucket list, a list of 'saved' places on your social media accounts, or a few places your friends visited that you'd love to go to as well. If you're looking for more inspiration, you can peruse our Pinterest travel boards which include our collection of travel inspiration around the world. Make sure you discuss your favourite destinations with your significant other/family/friends so that when a flight deal comes along, you don't have any convincing to do!

For example, our goal while living in Chicago has been to see all 50 states – that means in 2019, our travel list includes the final states we have left (read about some of our 2019 travel goals in this post here).

So now that you have a list of where you want to go and when you are able to go there – bring on the flight deals!

 

#3 Set Flight Alerts

 

With a list of potential dates and destinations, you can now use the power of Google Flights to set flight alerts for your most-wanted trips. Setting up a flight alert is super easy and only takes a few minutes. This is how you set up a Google Flights alert to find cheap flights:

  1. Create a search with your trip date and location on Google Flights.
  2. Select the 'Track Prices' option below and enter your email.
  3. Wait for an email from Google Flights notifying you when the flights drop or increase in price.

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

This is what a flight tracking email could look like:

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

You can even use multiple origin and destination airports in your Google Flights search. For example, if you wanted to go to Hawaii or the Caribbean but didn’t care which island, you could choose multiple islands in one search.  Or you can search for an entire region such as 'Europe' and Google Flights will provide you with prices for each city.

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Once you set your flight tracker, you will get notified when prices drop and you can immediately book your cheap flights. Google Flights also includes 'Tips' based on your search and will let you know if the current price is high or low relative to historical prices.

We always set flight alerts far in advance for our inflexible trips, such as heading home to families over the holidays to make sure we find cheap flights.

 

 
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#4 Sign Up for Flight Deals

 

In addition to tracking flight prices on Google Flights, there are incredible flight deals almost every day which let you fly around the world for way less than you think. The only problem is that you likely only hear about the deal once the cheap flights are gone!  Luckily for you and us, there are people who make it their mission to inform us of the latest and best flight deals. We highly recommend following @TheFlightDeal on Twitter so that you get an instant notification when a flight deal is posted. We also highly recommend signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights who will send you an email with your personalized flight deal. You select the region you live in for where you want the flight deals to originate from and then sit back and keep an eye on your inbox for the next great cheap flight to come along!

 

#5 Book the Cheap Flight!

 

So you finally get this email or Twitter alert with an incredible flight deal for one of the destinations you were hoping to go to! Now what?

A good flight deal typically only lasts for about an hour up to a day or two, so you’ve got to move very quickly! Give your significant other/family/friends/travel partner a quick call to confirm the trip and if you have time, take a look at visa requirements and approximate hotel prices to get an idea of the overall cost of the trip.

Once everything is ready to go, head to Google Flights and pull up the flight you received the alert for. For instance, if you got an alert for flights between Chicago and Newark in March, type in Chicago and Newark as your origin and destination in Google Flights, together with your travel dates. The flight options will show up and your flight deal should be part of these options. Clicking on the link in Google Flights will take you directly to the airline's website where you can book the flight.

 

Ready For Take-Off!

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Before you hit that purchase button, be sure to check the carry-on and checked luggage restrictions and fees as those can both make or break your flight experience.

Now all you have to do is get ready for take-off!

There is a great sense of ‘winning’ or beating the system when you manage to snag an awesome flight deal! And also, don’t worry if you miss out on a deal as there will always be another one.

If you want to learn more on the tips and tricks we use to save money on flights and hotels for our travels, sign up to our mailing list below to receive our free Top 10 Money-Saving Travel Tips!

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

This might not surprise you, but I love flying! It’s not just the thought about going someplace which is new and exciting, but the actual in-flight experience as well. Being on a plane is one of the only times I’m not expected to work or be online so it’s a time when I can relax completely. If you are like most people, you probably feel the complete opposite and dread flying. I want to share some tips with you on how you can make flying more relaxing and how to not feel as stiff and tense when you get off the plane. (You can read about my tips on how to get over jet lag here.)

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

A lot of people have high muscle tension after flying, especially after long-haul flights, and have swollen legs and feet. Part of the reason for stiffness is dehydration and the consumption of too much sodium (airplane food is filled with tons of salt and sugar because your taste buds can’t taste flavors as well due to the altitude and pressure). However, the biggest issue is that we tend to sit in our tight seats for hours without moving.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

Wearing comfortable clothing while flying makes a big difference. Joriki has the most comfortable leggings I have ever worn and they are perfect for long-haul flights. You can combine them with a light top and sweater in case it gets cold.

 

Shop My Look

 

       

 

This Sumba Warrior outfit by Joriki was gifted to me. I truly believe in their mission of giving back with every purchase and can highly recommend their apparel. You can get 10% off your purchase using my discount code 'beingbettina'.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

While it’s not always easy to get up and stretch in the hallway and the back of the plane (after all, we wouldn’t want to pause that movie or wake up the person next to us) there are easy and useful stretches you can do in your seat. And if you do these after the flight attendants dim the cabin light, you won’t even get any awkward stares!

 

I’m not a yoga instructor and am not offering any physical advice. This post is aimed at providing ideas on how to stretch during a flight. Please make sure you don’t strain yourself when trying these poses.

 

In Flight Yoga Stretch and Breathing

 

To start, interlock your hands and lift your arms straight up stretching your upper body, shoulders, and chest. Focus on your breathing – inhale and exhale slowly, counting to 7 for each inhale and exhale.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

 

In Flight Yoga Foot Point and Flex

 

To get the blood in your feet flowing, sit upright with your feet on the floor. Lift one leg up slightly and point your foot. Keep this position for a few seconds and then flex your foot, making sure you spread the toes wide apart. Point and flex a few times and put your leg back down. Repeat this stretch with the other leg.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

 

In Flight Yoga Knee Hug

 

This might be more difficult for people who are very tall and struggle with the confined space on a plane. I also suggest removing your shoes and putting on socks if you are not wearing any out of respect for your seat neighbours.

Place both heels on the edge of your seat, hug your knees with both arms and pull them towards you. Hold this position for a few seconds while breathing slowly, then release.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

 

In Flight Yoga Shoulder Stretch

 

This works best if you have a blanket you can roll up to a “blanket burrito”.

Sit up straight with both feet on the ground. Roll up your blanket and place it vertically against the backrest of your seat. Lean against the blanket so that it aligns with your spine and keep your arms at rest. Breath in and squeeze your shoulders upwards and backward. Exhale slowly and bring your shoulders down.

You can repeat this pose a few times but make sure you don’t strain yourself when squeezing your shoulders.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

 

In Flight Yoga Spinal Twist

 

By far my favorite in flight yoga pose is the seated spinal twist. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor and slide forward on your seat so that you have space between your back and the backrest. Place the right hand on the seat with the fingers pointing backward. There might not always be enough space to do so, in which case you can make a fist instead. Grab the right corner of the seat cushion with your left hand, or if that’s not possible, place your left hand on the outer side of your right knee. Straighten the spine and twist to the right, looking over the right shoulder.

Do the same on the opposite side.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

 

In Flight Yoga Forward Bend

 

If you’re able to get up and move to the back of the plane, there is usually a little bit of space to stretch. I like doing simple forward bends standing up or sitting down, depending on how clean the floors are on the plane. To do a forward bend, sit on the floor (or stand) with your legs straight. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, reaching for your toes with both your hands. Inhale and stretch further as you exhale.

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

How To Relax on a Plane with These In Flight Yoga Poses

 

I don’t do yoga nearly as often as I should, but I find that these 6 stretches help me release muscle tension during the flight.

 

How do you fly? Do you usually get up and walk around during your flight or do you remain in your seat?

 


 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

With my family living in Switzerland, Kyle's family living in Vancouver, Canada, and us living in Chicago, we travel through time zones a lot and have experienced our fair share of jet lag. I want to share with you my best tips on how to get over jet lag quickly after travelling across multiple time zones.

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

What is Jet Lag?

 

Jet lag is a phenomenon which can occur when your personal biological 24-hour clock is altered which often happens after fast long-distance East-West travel. This means any time you fly through several time zones to get from North America to Europe, from Europe to Asia, or any other East-West/West-East combination you could think of, your body thinks it is in the time zone you started in and first needs to adjust to the new time zone.

The most common Jet Lag symptoms are poor sleep, insomnia, or the complete opposite - being tired in the middle of the day which can reduce the ability to focus, cause headaches, etc.

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

The first time I flew to Canada's West Coast from Switzerland, it took me almost a week to recover from the 9 hour time zone change. I was constantly tired during the day and could not stay up past 6pm. In the morning, however, I was wide awake at 4am and could not sleep for another minute. By the time I was adjusted to the new time zone, I was leaving to go back home again. Everyone experiences jet lag differently. I know people who barely notice a difference and others who are like me and need days to recover. There are a few tips I picked up over the last couple of years which helped me - and can help you - to get back into your normal rhythm faster.

 

My Best In-Flight Tips

 

  • Hydrate: When traveling by plane, most people get dehydrated which has to do with the dry air in flight. Humidity on planes varies but is usually below 20% which resembles humidity levels in the desert. Drinking lots of water is key! A rule of thumb is to drink 8oz (250ml) of water for every hour you're in the air. I bring a refillable water bottle with me and fill it up right before I get on the plane. In addition, every time the flight attendant walks past with water, I grab a glass.
  • Avoid caffeine: Try to avoid caffeine or reduce caffeine if possible. Coffee can promote dehydration and can also disturb your sleep rhythm.
  • Avoid alcohol: Similar to the point above, alcohol can worsen dehydration and can increase the terrible feeling you have when getting off a plane. Try to avoid it if possible. After all, we already don't feel the freshest when getting off a long-haul flight so there is no need to add a hangover to the mix. To be completely honest though, Kyle and I don't always subscribe to this rule as we find it hard to resist the free booze. 🙂

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

    • Flying Eastbound: When flying East to Europe, flights often arrive in the morning. To make sure I can take advantage of the entire day, I try to get some sleep on the plane. Now this can be difficult, especially when flying Economy as space is very limited and it's not very comfortable. I bring my own travel pillow and sleep mask and try to book a window seat so that I won't have to get up every time the person next to me needs to go to the washroom. I also find that Advil PM helps me sleep on the plane. (I am not offering any medical advice and please talk to a medical professional before using Advil PM.)
  • Flying Westbound: When flying West to North America, flights often arrive in the afternoon or evening and you will feel the need to sleep on the plane as it is much later in the day where you started the trip. I usually try to stay awake as long as possible to get my body into the new rhythm quickly.

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

 

How to Get Over Jet Lag When You Get Home

 

Once you arrive at your destination or are back home, adjusting to the new time zone right away will help you recover from jet lag the fastest. This means not staying up too late and getting up at a reasonable hour in the morning even if you have to force yourself, and eating meals at standard meal times to get your body adjusted quickly.

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

After a flight Eastbound to Europe, I often find myself wide awake in the middle of the night and not wanting to get up in the morning. These are my best tips to get some rest after an Eastbound flight.

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

  • Use an Eyemask: Not being able to sleep because there are no blinds or the curtains don't darken the room enough is very frustrating. I always bring my eyemask so that it's dark no matter what my environment looks like. I personally love this silk eyemask which is nice against my skin and doesn't bend my eyelashes in the wrong direction. Plus it comes with a really cute eyemask pouch.

 

  • Use Earplugs: Similar to above, you don't know whether your destination is going to be noisy. To avoid any risk, I bring earplugs to help me fall asleep.
  • Get Som Sleep: Som Sleep is a miracle drink that helps you fall asleep within 30 minutes of drinking it. It includes melatonin which is the sleep hormone naturally occurring in our bodies, and other relaxing ingredients. I enjoy the sugar-free version which is sweetened with Stevia Leaf Extract. In the past, I have tried using melatonin supplements to recover from jet lag but I find that Som Sleep works much better due to the combination of ingredients. You can find the zero sugar drink here:

 

 

  • Get Seranaded to Sleep: Last but not least, Kyle and I often put on Sleep Music Delta Waves on youtube when going to bed. I have hardly ever heard the end of the 45-minute song which attests to how well it works!

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

Following a Westbound flight, I tend to be sleepy in the early afternoon and wide awake in the wee hours of the morning.

  • Stay up as late as possible: The best way for me to adjust is to really force myself to stay up until 9pm or as late as possible on the first day. You might want to go to bed earlier but waiting until a later hour helps ensure that you don’t naturally wake up at 4am.
  • Exercise in the evening: I find that exercising in the evening helps me stay up later after a Westbound flight. Even an evening walk around the neighbourhood helps.

 

How To Get Over Jet Lag

 

Remember that all our bodies are different. Some people might adjust quickly to new time zones, while others take a few days. I find that the more I travel, the easier it is to adjust my biological clock. How do you get over jet lag? Do you have any secret tips? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you, Som Sleep for letting us test your Zero Sugar drink to get over jet lag. All opinions expressed here are my own and I do not recommend products which I didn’t test or am not happy with.


 

Fly To New Zealand On A Budget

Our trip to New Zealand in late May was somewhat surprisingly the first time that we had traveled to the Southern hemisphere! Obviously, New Zealand is a long way away from Chicago and most people certainly thought we were crazy travelling that far for just four full days on the ground (they are not wrong!). Once again, how we booked this trip has a bit of a story, not unlike how we booked our Easter trip earlier in the year (read about our Easter trip here).

 

Introduction: New Zealand 2018

 

How We Booked Our Flights to New Zealand

 

Back in late November we were enjoying a relaxing morning in our hotel room in Kuala Lumpur (read about our Malaysia experience here), and as I was scrolling my news feed on my phone, I came across a great flight deal from @TheFlightDeal that had just been posted for Air New Zealand economy class from San Francisco to Auckland for just under $400USD per person round trip. Economy class flights from North America to Australia or New Zealand are generally well over $1,000USD. So this deal was more than 50% off and too good to pass up!

 

Introduction: New Zealand 2018

 

I jumped for my laptop and began searching for fares and dates that we could work into our schedule. We already had our week-long trip for Easter planned in late March and weren’t able to easily take another week or two off a few months later to travel to New Zealand, so we settled for a four day trip over Memorial Day in late May. We decided to book the flight from San Francisco to Auckland before the fare disappeared shortly after. Fun fact, we already had Southwest flights booked for the May long Weekend but cancelled them in order to take this opportunity.

 

Introduction: New Zealand 2018

 

Now obviously, we don’t live in San Francisco, so we needed a way to get there. That is where our Southwest Companion Pass once again came in handy (you can read about the Companion Pass here) and we booked an early morning flight from Chicago to San Francisco to catch our 9:45PM flight from San Francisco. We booked our return flight to give us a few hours buffer between arriving in San Francisco, clearing customs and immigration, switching terminals, going back through a security checkpoint, and catching our final flight home.

 

This is what we ended up flying:

 

Introduction: New Zealand 2018

 

The Flight Experience with Air New Zealand

 

Our grand plan of spending the Friday working from the lounge in San Francisco was slightly foiled by poor weather conditions that day, which caused our Chicago to San Francisco flight to be delayed by over two and half hours. We were really glad that we had booked a very long connection, given that it would be unprotected and we didn’t have any wiggle room in our New Zealand itinerary if we missed our flight. Once we did arrive in San Francisco, our lounge plan was further put to waste as we were too early for Air New Zealand to check us into our flight. We needed to check our bags and get our boarding passes, so we had to sit and work land-side for a few hours.

 

Introduction: New Zealand 2018

 

The prospect of flying 12 hours in economy class is generally not appealing to anyone, and we were a bit apprehensive of how we’d feel when arriving in Auckland at 5:30AM, two days later. Our worries were unnecessary though, as Air New Zealand long-haul economy is actually a fairly pleasant place to spend some serious time. First of all, the onboard IFE (Inflight Entertainment system) was one of the best we have ever seen. The selection of movies, TV shows, documentaries, and music was extremely comprehensive. While we didn’t partake in a movie marathon, Air New Zealand conveniently had the full series of movies for Harry Potter, Star Wars, and of course, Lord of the Rings. Just as good as the movie selection was the bottomless New Zealand wines available!

 

Introduction: New Zealand 2018

 

(Full disclosure: Because Bettina was feeling under the weather, we didn't end up taking any pictures of our flight experience. You will just need to trust us when we say it was pretty great!)

 

We were very pleasantly surprised by our flight there, and we arrived fairly well-rested as we were both able to get about 6-8 hours of sleep (Advil PM always does the trick!). Even though we each watched over 3 movies, there were so many more that we wanted to watch, we were already looking forward to the flight home!

Have you flown Air New Zealand before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

 


 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

Since moving to Chicago in May 2015 we have done a fair amount of exploring the United States.  So much so that we have now visited 38 out of 50 states, or 76%. If you don’t have an easy way to track where you’ve been, we can highly recommend the #beenapp (App Store,  Google Play). It lets you easily track with US states you have been to as well as which countries in the world, and provides a map and percentage complete.

 

Been App - How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

The Southwest Companion Pass Explained

 

One of the reasons why we have been able to travel to so many states in such a short period of time (while still working full time!) and at a reasonable cost is the Southwest Companion Pass.  This is easily one of the most rewarding and lucrative perks out there. Essentially what it allows you to do is bring along a designated friend or family member every time you fly Southwest for just the cost of taxes and fees (generally $5.60 for US domestic flights). There is no restriction on how many times you can use the pass and you can use it everywhere Southwest flies. In other words, every time you fly somewhere on Southwest, you can bring your friend or family member and save 50% on your travel cost!

 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

Bettina earned the Southwest Companion Pass in January of 2017, and once you earn the pass it is valid for the rest of the year that you earned the pass, and the entire following year. By earning it in January, we will receive almost two full years of having her companion (me) travel for just the cost of taxes and fees. Over the past year and a half we have used the Southwest Companion Pass for 22 different flights (counting each one way as a flight, regardless of connections (if any)) and we have a further 6 more flights booked for the remainder of the year before our Southwest Companion Pass expires on December 31, 2018.

 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

We flew to Cancun, Boston, Cayman Islands, and many other places. And we even used the Pass for our one-day trip to Connecticut on Kyle's birthday.

 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

There are restrictions on how many times you can change your designated friend or family member, but otherwise it is very easy to use and can be used when purchasing Southwest flights with your credit card as well as when redeeming Rapid Rewards points. You can add your companion to your original booking immediately or up to the day of travel, provided there are still available seats on the flight.

 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

The one thing you do have to keep track of though is whether or not you already have added the companion to the original booking.  Don’t be like us when we flew to Boston to begin our East Coast Canada road trip. We had booked the original tickets for Bettina a few weeks in advance, but had forgotten to book the companion pass until 3 days before departure. Turns out when we went to add me as the companion, the flight was already sold out! We were pretty much out of luck at this point and the only way to continue to use the Companion Pass would be to switch to a different flight. Luckily for us, there were last minute fares on a different airline that we were able to book.

 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

 

The big question is how can you get the Southwest Companion Pass? You need to earn 110,000 qualifying points or fly 100 one-way flights on Southwest in a calendar year. While the Companion Pass is valuable, that is a lot of flying and would take a considerable amount of time and money. The key is to leverage qualifying points earning through the Rapid Rewards credit card, Southwest Dining and Shopping partners, and of course flying on Southwest. It’s not as easy to earn as it was back in 2017 when we earned ours. Previously they allowed transfers of hotel points to count as qualifying activity, which is no longer the case.

 

How to Save 50% in Flight Cost with the Southwest Companion Pass

 

That being said, with a bit of planning and dedication to earning the Companion Pass, you can still reap the benefits of having your companion fly with you for (almost) free.

 

Where would you fly to with a Southwest Companion Pass?


 

Easter 2018: Introduction

This year we spent Easter going back to familial roots, and enjoying entirely too much wine and food along the way. How we planned this trip is a pretty good example of the unconventional way we go about our travelling. I would like to say that we were making our life-long dreams come true with a romantic weekend in Venice (which is partially true), though in reality this trip was a spur of the moment booking - seven months in advance.

 

 

Allow me to explain.

It all started when I was groggily waking up one weekend in late August and was mindlessly scrolling through my news feed on my phone. I came across a flight deal on @TheFlightDeal that had just been posted for Air Canada business class from select cities in the US to select cities in Europe starting at around $1,000USD roundtrip. That is business class at near economy prices, and too good of a deal to pass up. I quite literally jumped out of bed to grab my laptop and begin the search to see if the deal was still live (deals like this one disappear very quickly as everyone wants to take advantage of it) and if I could find an itinerary that we could fit into our schedule. Unfortunately, there were no deals out of Chicago, but they were plentiful out of Boston. We weren’t really planning to book any long trips that morning, but the thing is when you find a deal this good you have to book it fast. We settled on booking flights for late March, which would coincide with Easter where we could potentially meet up with Bettina’s family while in Europe. I began my search around those dates and found a few itineraries that might work to Amsterdam, Rome, and a few other cities in Europe. All options were restricted by having to leave on a Tuesday, and with a minimum 7 day stay in Europe. Once we found flights that worked I typed all of our information in as quickly as I could and we were able to successfully book business class from Boston to Amsterdam, return, with a short layover in Toronto both ways. At $1,020 each for a lieflat seat and as much as we could eat and drink, we were not complaining.

It wasn’t until a few months later that we solidified the rest of the trip and coordinated with Bettina’s family. We were going to meet them in Venice for two days before driving to the Dolomite mountain range, which is about 2 hours north, to spend Easter relaxing in the town where Bettina’s mom spent every summer of her childhood. As we were arriving in Europe a few days before they were able to meet us in Italy, we decided to add on a short side-trip to Belgium, which believe it or not, Bettina had never been to. We were able to secure pretty good flight prices this far in advance flying from Brussels to Venice and returning to Amsterdam.

We still had one problem to solve though. How would we possibly get to Boston? Given that it’s a U.S. destination and a major city, it was the perfect use of our Southwest Companion Pass. We again were able to get a reasonable price on flights by booking far in advance. We also planned to head there a few days before our international flights and tagged on a New England road trip for good measure. Here is what our final itinerary looked like:

 

 

Late in January, we received an update from Air Canada. Updates usually mean the flight itinerary changed and we were worried this change would disrupt our complicated trip. The good news was our flights from Toronto to Amsterdam had been updated from an older Airbus A330 to their brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The bad news: Our originally booked flights had been cancelled and the auto-booked itinerary was completely messed up and illogical. With a call to Air Canada to resolve, we learned that our originally scheduled flight from Toronto to Amsterdam was cancelled on Tuesday, but we could alternatively fly the same itinerary, just one day earlier. An extra day in Europe for no charge? Yes please!

What we ended up flying:

 

 

Not for the faint hearted if you don’t enjoy flying – but that’s not a problem for us. As our return connection in Boston was unprotected (i.e. two separate tickets on two separate airlines – if the first flight is delayed and you miss the second, you don’t get reimbursed for your flight or rescheduled, tough luck) we had booked a fairly comfortable 4 hours buffer. However, Southwest decided to add a little fun to the mix in late February by rescheduling their last flight of the day from Boston to Chicago two hours earlier, and giving us just 2 hours to make our unprotected connection, at the mercy of weather delays, normal delays, running time between terminals, and security lines. Despite 45 minutes of weather delays on the actual flight day, we made our connection without issue! If we were travelling with checked luggage, it might have been another story, but we always try to travel with carry-ons only (see Bettina’s post here on making it work).

In March, a few weeks before the trip, when people inevitably began asking us where our next trip was it was a bit difficult to decide how to respond. “Venice” was the go-to answer. Sometimes that’s just easier to say, and also helps to avoid the looks we get when saying “Boston, Burlington, Portland, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Venice, and the Dolomites.”

 

 

 

 

 

We felt like we really lucked out being able to book these flights! We were not only looking forward to the destination but the entire journey as well. Bettina usually dreads the flight back home, however she can’t wait to get on the plane if our flight home is in business class.


 

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10 Days with Hand Luggage Only

There are many benefits to travelling with hand luggage only. Ask Kyle and he won’t stop talking for at least 20 minutes. 🙂 There’s no need to carry a heavy bag, less risk of your items being damaged or stolen, no risk of the airline losing your bag, or someone else walking away with your bag from baggage claim. The best of all benefits is that you are flexible in case of flight delays or cancellations. It has happened to Kyle before that his flight got cancelled and he was able to get on the next flight right away which wouldn’t have been possible if they had to locate his checked luggage first. For a girly girl like me though, hand luggage only is a real struggle. My approach to packing is taking all of my favourite seasonal items with me so that I have a wide selection of outfits at my destination. This allows me not to think about what I will be wearing but just wear what I feel like. - Not this time!

 

Navy, light blue, and black flats and purses assembly

 

We’re embarking on a 10 day trip to New England and Europe and decided to only bring hand luggage because we have some very tight unprotected flight connections, where checking luggage isn't possible. I thought I would share with you the difficult task of packing as many different outfits in a tiny carry-on suitcase as possible.

The key to packing light and small is bringing some items you can wear in a variety of different combinations. I'm sticking to a navy, light blue, and white colour theme with the odd black items which will make it easy to combine everything with each other. I’m packing 3 pairs of jeans, white, black, and navy, (all from H&M) because it’s likely going to be a bit cold still and jeans are super easy to combine.

 

White, navy, and black jeans assembly to be packed

 

A space-saving alternative to jeans are skirts and tights. Both can easily be folded very small and hardly take up any space. And an added bonus is they are cute!

 

Navy, light blue, and black flats and purses assembly for packing

 

With tops, I still like to go crazy as they don’t take a lot of space and I need some backups in case of spillage. (For those who don’t know me, my best accidents involve white shirts and balsamic vinegar!) The navy and white striped shirt is from Zara.

 

Assembly of black, white, striped, and light blue tops for packing

 

Shop Basic Outfits

Jackets and coats are probably the most difficult things to pack given that they are heavy and take up a lot of space. However, for a trip to Europe in March, they are absolutely necessary. I usually wear my heaviest coat on the plane and pack my lighter ones. This time, I’m bringing 3 completely different jackets for each type of weather: cold and wet, cool and sunny, warm and sunny. I've had my navy jackets for years but the white one is one of my favourite items from Zara this season (check it out here).

 

Three jackets for March travel in Europe

 

Last but definitely not least, shoes, purses, and accessories! Given that we will be doing a lot of walking, I’m bringing flats only. (I know, shocking since I usually wear heels 24/7!) Flats almost don’t take up any space, are easy to stack in the suitcase, and help when you walk all day long on cobbled streets which is certainly how we travel. Of course, I need to bring matching purses to complete the outfit, +1 travel purse for on the plane to hold all my plane essentials (a discussion for another day).

 

Navy, light blue, and black flats and purses assembly for packing

 

Shop Shoes and Purses

The light blue flats are on sale for $25 right now, shop here! I found the Michael Kors flats on sale at Macy's and they have the black ones on sale here.

 

Clothes neatly packed in an open carry-on suitcase

 

Surprisingly, it all fits! And in case I find an odd item abroad, I will ask Kyle nicely to add it to his hand luggage. (Full disclosure: My light blue clutch found its way into Kyle's luggage as we were worried it would get too squished in mine.)

 

Bettina all packed waiting for a cab

 

What are your packing tips? Would you be interested in reading about how to pack liquids for a 10-day hand luggage only trip? Leave a comment below!


 

What about these ones?


 

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Asia 2017: Introduction

For the longest time, we wanted to explore Southeast Asia and so for the past two years, we have taken an extended trip to the other side of the planet.  In 2017, we chose Malaysia as our primary destination, though we made a few (aka a lot of) stops along the way to keep things interesting. Most people think we are crazy for some of the itineraries we plan, and they would be partially correct, however, it’s our way of seeing as many places as possible given that we both have full-time jobs. We wanted to provide a bit of insight on how this one came to be and how we booked it!

 

Kyle and Bettina in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

 

To start things off, we were fortunate to have a 7 day Marriott Category 1-5 Certificate to use. Trying to maximize value for these free nights, we scoured the world looking for the best Category 5 hotels we could find which still had award night availability for the dates we were looking for. We had found a few good options in Southeast Asia and were particularly smitten with the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur, but first needed to be sure we could actually get there first, before booking. Since flights to Asia are on the long side from Chicago, we try to fly business class when we can. We had just enough Alaska Mileage Plan miles to make the journey there and back, obtained through a combination of credit card sign-ups, Bettina spending too much on shopping, and purchasing some miles just for this trip.

 

In-flight view of snowy countryside out of the Hainan Airlines plane window.

 

We both like trying new airlines, and so the goal was to fly a different carrier there and back. We easily found award availability (meaning flights we could book using miles) leaving Chicago through Beijing on Hainan, but there was nothing available directly to Kuala Lumpur. For those who are not familiar with the miles and points redemption world, finding flights you can redeem your points or miles for on specific dates and to specific destinations can be quite difficult. The seat availability is usually very limited and for holiday periods, you want to make sure you book way in advance. (Think booking in January or February for a Thanksgiving trip.) So when we couldn’t find what we were looking for, we had to change it up! There was availability to Phuket, Thailand, which is kind of close enough, so we booked it! Oh, and we scheduled a 23 hour 10 minute layover in Beijing for good measure.

 

Hainan Airlines plane at the gate at Chicago O'Hare.

 

The way to Kuala Lumpur was more or less booked, now to get home. Availability was particularly scant the day we wanted to leave, with only a rather dreadful looking 3-stopover route available. However, by leaving a day earlier and with a bit of ingenuity on the flight times we could make something of it. We could fly from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo overnight, spend 12 hours and 5 minutes in Tokyo, then fly to Vancouver, spend 3 hours 21 minutes, then Seattle for an additional 3 hours before finally arriving back in Chicago. In short, 31 hours, 4 countries, 2 overnight flights, and 1 long way home to end the trip. Of course, these stopovers were carefully planned so that we could enjoy a sushi lunch with friends in Tokyo, catch up with family over coffee in Vancouver, and fill our faces in the lounge in Seattle.

 

In summary, this is what we ended up booking:

 

Summary of flights booked from Chicago to Beijing, Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Vancouver, Seattle, and back to Chicago.

 

For those who think that pictures speak louder than words, this is what our trip looked like.

 

Travel route on a world map, from Chicago to Beijing, Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Vancouver, Seattle, back to Chicago.

 

With the flights booked and our hotel reserved in Kuala Lumpur, we set off getting the rest of the trip sorted. This was one of the rare incidences where we really only had flights and hotels booked prior to the trip, with no idea what we were going to do to fill the days. This may be a normal occurrence for some, but we generally like to have some idea of what to expect and what to do before arriving. We had an amazing time and look forward to sharing what we did in each location on this trip over the coming weeks!

 

Luggage tag from Kuala Lumpur to Chicago O'hare with 3 layovers.

 

Look out for the following posts from this trip:


 

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