Category Archives: Travel

Thanks to AAA Travel, We Are Heading to Jamaica!

I am a pretty frugal guy so when it comes to travel, I like to shop for it myself. However, over the past few months, I just couldn’t focus on planning for our honeymoon (which is in July). We knew for sure that we wanted to go someplace tropical and that was about it. When looking for places to go, I always had questions running through my mind like these:

  • Is the local neighborhood safe?
  • Is it all inclusive or do we have to pay for food?
  • If we have to pay for food, how expensive is it?
  • Where do we need to fly out of and do we have long layovers?
  • Do they allow kids at the resort?
  • Etc., Etc., Etc

See how that can make someone like myself go INSANE! To help thwart off the straitjacket, we decided to go to a travel agent and couldn’t be happier.

Our Decision to Use AAA

As soon as I received my drivers license at 16, I joined AAA. It was a pretty easy decision for me as my grandparents were members for over 50 years (they now receive a free membership because of that) and my mother has been with them for quite a few years as well. However, when I moved to Texas for graduate school, I let my membership expire and I have not renewed.

When we were looking for a travel agent, I really could not find anything in the area that looked reputable. All of the local companies websites looked like they used a computer running Windows MS DOS to set it up. They also probably worked out their home which I wasn’t completely comfortable with. I then thought about my AAA days and remembered that they offer travel services so we decided to give them a try. The greatest part about them was that you do not have to be a member to use their services!

Our Travel Agent

When we got to AAA, we were immediately greeted by the receptionist. She told us that it would be about a 15 minute wait (there were only two agents) and we said that we didn’t mind. When the agent, let’s call her Pam, became available, she was was very professional and asked us the typical questions. What was nice about using Pam’s services was that she had been to most of the places we were looking at! She told us the places to avoid (ironically the ones we were looking at) and where the best deals were at. Of course, the best deals right now are in Mexico. We kindly said no thanks to that! Oink, Oink!

Overall, the experience was great and we are glad that we went. We ended up going with an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica that also has a “clothing optional” beach. Don’t worry, you won’t catch me there! 😉 She also helped us with the flight and got us a non-stop out of Baltimore. I would have never been able to do all of this on my own (without spending HOURS). The resort allows us to drink, eat, etc. as much as our hearts desire. The All-inclusive part just relieves the stress of having to watch every penny you spend on those things.

We didn’t make a decision while there (she didn’t pressure us at all) so we could go home and check stuff out on the web. I ended up searching for a lower price for the resort and could not find one. That was the deciding factor right there and I called back and booked. We even got a free one year membership to AAA out of it!

Have any of you had a similar experience with a travel agent? You like booking travel yourself? Tell us your story!

Addicted to Cheap Airfares?

Well, are you? I know I am! In a recent article by MarketWatch, it mentions that our constant craving for a deal is ruining the airline industry. I happen to agree with them on this one. Compared with several years ago, we are paying rather cheap prices for flying.

I am a little too young to remember this but the article talks about the old airline People Express. The had $99 coast-to-coast flights back in the early 80’s. Back then that was thought as extremely cheap. Today, it is not impossible to get a coast-to-coast flight for around $200 (using Southwest’s Ding fares). Accounting for inflation, the $99 flight back in the 80’s should cost about $500 today. Why are the prices so low today?

Deregulation has opened up the business for extreme competition and has driven the prices way down. As you may know, this extreme competition is seriously hurting the airline industry. Will all the airlines eventually join together as one in order to stay around?

The only airline that seems immune is Southwest Airlines (which is what I fly). This is because they hedge their fuel prices and are still paying prices from a few years ago. It won’t last forever and I imagine they will be in trouble in years to come. As I mentioned in a previous post, airlines are also adding more fees to stay afloat. As soon as these fees were mentioned, people cried in outrage. Why should we be outraged when we are already paying historically low prices?

What would you do if the ALL of the airlines decided to raise their prices by 100%? It may come to this if they all start losing large amounts of money.

Would you be happy with ticket prices that fluctuated with the price of fuel? Prices go up when fuel goes up and prices go down when fuel goes down.

Related articles by Your Money Relationship:

Baggage Fees Keeping You Grounded?

If you’re like me, you don’t really like spending extra money on things that were previously free. Last month, several airlines instituted additional fees on checked baggage. American Airlines charges $15 for the first checked bag and then $25 for each additional bag. United’s policy is very similar. Many other airlines still allow at least one checked bag for free and then charge after that.

I typically fly Southwest which allows you to check two bags for free. However, I am attending a conference in Boston (which Southwest doesn’t fly directly into) and had to book a flight with American Airlines. Since they have this new fee schedule it made me think of some ways to avoid it. SmartMoney has a great article on ways to avoid paying baggage fees and I will list some of them as well as some I thought of.

Wear Your Suit
I usually carry a garment bag for my suit so that it stays nice. It’s a hard bag to carry on since it doesn’t fit very nice in the overhead compartments. I am only at my conference for a few days so I can get away with packing all of my regular clothes in a carry on bag but I still need my suit. If I wear my suit on the plane, I can save myself the hassle of checking a garment bag and I can avoid the $15 bag fee. I may be uncomfortable on the plane wearing a suit all day but at least I didn’t have to give my money to American.

Embrace the Middle Seat
The middle seat usually has more space underneath for a purse or a duffel bag that can be squished easily. This will give you more room for your stuff, but you still have the dreaded middle seat. If you’ve ever flown Southwest before you know that the middle seats are the last to go and you desperately try and avoid eye contact so no one sits beside you.

Carry-On
This is kind of a given. In order to avoid the check baggage fees, just don’t check any bags. Make sure that your carry-on bag is within the size limitations. Go to a site called One Bag to learn how to get all of your goodies into a nice tight spot.

Pack Light
When you are packing for your next overnight trip, remember that the hotel will have things like a hair dryer, shampoo, etc. Most hotels will even give you toothpaste. This will lighten your load significantly.

If you have any other suggestions or tips that you have about packing light for a trip, just post a comment for all of us to read!