Friday, 10 February 2017

Are the Airlines Losing Millions to This "Cheap Flights" Loophole?

Guest Post By James Pankaew
On her husband’s 40th birthday, Summer Hull took her and her husband on an around the world trip. Starting in Houston, they visited Amsterdam, Istanbul, Maldives, and Singapore. They flew business class and paid almost nothing in flights.
Brad Wilson took his wife, four year old daughter and one year old son to Disneyland. The flights for four family members, plus the cost of luxury hotels, would have normally been over $5,000. He paid just $1.10.
David Weliver took his family of four from Portland to Texas for a wedding. In cash, those flights would have cost at least $2,000. They flew for free.
These are just some of the many Americans who are figuring out the airlines’ systems and using it to get free flights.
People Have Been Outsmarting the System for Decades
There have always been those who’ve figured out loopholes that let them get discounted flights.
For years, savvy travelers have known about strategies like:
  • Buying flights on the foreign version of a website to get lower prices (for instance, Mexico’s instead of
  • Booking flights at peak travel times, then deliberately getting bumped to a later flight in exchange for free flight vouchers.
  • Booking a 2-leg flight and skipping on the second leg. Instead of booking from San Francisco to Atlanta, book from San Francisco to Nashville with a connection in Atlanta. Get off the plane at Atlanta and save $200.
These loopholes - and many others - have allowed smart travelers to save hundreds on their flights over the years.
However ...
While Older Strategies Can Save You Hundreds, New Strategies Yield Practically Free Flights
“We want people to be able to use these strategies not to fly for free but to control your experience,” says Glen Hauenstein, president of Delta Airlines. Yet that is exactly what passengers all over the country are doing.
People like Summer, Brad and David aren’t unique. Thousands of Americans from all walks of life have figured out how to leverage loopholes in the airline industry to book “nearly free” flights.
And while the airlines would love to shut down these strategies, their contracts with key partners prevent them from doing so. Although they can’t shut down these tactics entirely, airline executives like Delta’s Glen Hauenstein have made an effort to make it more difficult to take advantage of these loopholes.
Fortunately, a travel writer has created a video detailing the step by step process anyone can use to book virtually free travel using these strategies.
How “Free” is “Nearly Free?"
While these strategies can get your actual airfare waived, you’ll still need to pay for:
  • Taxes billed by the airports,
  • Fuel surcharges (needed to fly the plane,)
  • Taxes levied by local governments
In total, these costs usually come out to between $5 to $25. Naturally, compared to the normal ticket price of $400 (domestic) or $1,200 (international,) these taxes and fuel charges are a steal.
In other words, using these strategies, you’ll be able to book flights like:
  • New York to Spain for $17
  • San Francisco to Peru for $5.25
  • Miami to Thailand for $12
  • Austin to Los Angeles for $6
To learn more about how you can use these strategies to book “nearly free” travel for yourself and your loved ones, just watch this short video.


Monday, 2 January 2017

Passing time in Marbella

I've been a bit quiet for the last couple of weeks. I'd like to say that there's a good reason for this but honestly, I just don't like the 'festive' period. However, New Year means new motivation so I'm back!

Statues complete with typical Spanish graffiti

After my short visit to Marbella (I still need to tell you about my crazy AirBnB experience) I arrived at the InHouse hostel in Marbella where I've been hiding for the last two weeks. This is another HelpX host and the work is basically being a night porter. I start at 10 pm, do an hour or so of ironing, hang around watching tv or looking at facebook till about 2 am so that I can help any guests or do any late check-ins. After that, it's off to bed and the land of nod in the hope that no one rings the bell.

I have daytimes free and there's another volunteer so we take turns doing 3 or 4 nights each. With a small allowance for food and a kitchen in the hostel, it's really not a bad deal. There are plenty of interesting guests around to speak to and I had a very pleasant time bringing in the New Year on the roof terrace with some wine and a small group of friendly guests.

View from the terrace of InHouse Hostel

I've been working very hard on my Spanish spending at least 2-3 hours on the computer every day, talking with guests and going once a week to a language exchange at a local bar. This is a great weekly event which I found on and is more than just an excuse to have a few drinks. It's organised by a local Spanish guy and is attended each week by a mix of Spanish, British and other nationalities. We speak in a mix of Spanish and English so everyone gets a go at sounding like a dafty!

My Spanish is definitely improving. When I first arrived at InHouse hostel I couldn't understand a single word that the cleaner, a local Marbella girl, was saying. She talks very fast Andaluz which is the notoriously difficult to understand local dialect of Andalucia. Two weeks in and I'm slowly starting to make some sense of her verbal gunfire! I've got another month here so if I can understand a bit more of what she's saying by the end of January then I'll feel like I've succeeded.

Lady waterskiing in Marbella

Other highlights over the last couple of weeks have included a karaoke bar (no, I didn't sing), excessive meat consumption at an Argentinian restaurant (vegetable for the rest of the month), finally breaking the ancient iPhone and getting a new handset with a Spanish number (so shiny) and I've grown a beard (every travelling male has to go through this phase, right? Also, it's fashionable at the moment). With all the free time that I will have while here, I plan to visit the surrounding villages, head into the mountains, spend a day in Gibralter and perhaps head back to Malaga for a couple of nights to visit some of the places that I missed while I was there.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Centre Pompidou Malaga

The Centre Pomidou Malaga, located in Malaga's Cubo area, is an offshoot of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It hosts a selection of works by 20th and 21st century artists from across the world arranged in five sections titles 'Metamorphoses', 'Self Portraits', 'The Man Without a Face', 'The Political Body' and 'Body in Pieces'. The exhibitions are powerful, thought-provoking and, at times, a little bit controversial.

There are some very unusual and interesting pieces in this gallery. Some made me stop to think and some just confused me. Perhaps I'm not the one to judge since I am no art critic. On the other hand, art should be for everyone to appreciate and to make their own conclusions. So, with that in mind, I think there were perhaps only 2 or 3 pieces that I would choose to have in my own home. Not that I have a home while I'm travelling long term but maybe one day!

I took my time looking around the permanent exhibitions and it only took me 45 minutes. I feel like €7 was a bit expensive for the amount there was to see but I did enjoy it. I would probably allow up to 1 hour to see both the permanent and temporary exhibitions which currently costs €9 for both.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Onward to new adventures!

Being useful at Finca La Maroma
As my time at Finca La Maroma comes to an end I look back on it with mixed feelings. We've managed to get a lot of useful things done for the owners, and they've looked after us extremely well, but I've found that the peace and quiet of the mountains has allowed me a bit too much time to think my thoughts. Mostly this has been positive; thoughts about where to go, what to write about and how to learn more Spanish. However, some days have been more difficult as I've found myself dwelling on what was, what is and what will be.

But enough of that!

I have my next helpx host at a small hostal (not a hostel - I'll explain that another time) in Marbella starting on Saturday but first I've got three nights off in Málaga. I started to make a list of the things I want to do whilst there:

  • Catedral de Málaga - apparently one must visit cathedrals even if they all look the same
  • Mercado Atarazanas - to buy food because it doesn't feel proper to go to the supermarket
  • Alcazba - a castle because coming from Scotland I've not seen enough castles
  • Museo Picasso Málaga - I think he may have been born there... in a museum?
  • Centre Pompidou Málaga - worked for Paris didn't it?
  • Castillo de Gibralfaro - again with the castles
  • Tapas at La Cosmopolita - when in Rome, do Roman stuff. When in Spain, eat tapas and drink wine!
  • A language exchange - I saw it advertised on Couchsurfing with the promise of more wine
That should keep me pretty busy but do let me know if you think I've missed something important. 

A new line of though has been forming in the last few days (something about all this peace and quiet) which is to somehow get involved with Cruz Roja Española (Spanish Red Cross). I worked and volunteered with the British Red Cross for three years and with planning to be in the country for at least a year I'm sure I could make some contribution here as a volunteer and it would be great for improving my Spanish. It also occurs to me that there is potential for something a bit bigger; there are currently 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, with more being formed. Now wouldn't that be an interesting and unique way to see the world?

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Travel blog of the week

I thought there were hundreds of travel blogs out there but according to one very comprehensive list, there are over 7000 - that they know of!

Recently I've been reading and studying lots of travel blogs to get inspiration for places to visit and to get ideas for my own blog. I've got a long way to go to catch up with some of the well-established ones but it's very motivating to see what is possible. 

One of my favourites this week, or perhaps even of the last few months, is Nomadic Matt's Travel Site -

Matt's been at the blogging thing since 2008 and is now a published author. He has a lot of great advice on his site to help other aspiring bloggers. inspiring tales about his travels and his photography is absolutely stunning. I'll definitely be coming back to his blog again and again.

What do you think makes a great travel blog? Got any favourites? 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Granada's Secret Sacromonte

When most people consider a visit to the Spanish city of Granada their biggest concern is getting tickets for Alhambra. Of course, they have good reason for this as, built in 1333, it made the list of twenty-one finalists for the New 7 Wonders of the World. It is a beautiful and breathtaking place to visit but Granada has some other gems that you don't want to miss.

One of these is Sacromonte, high on the hill outside the city walls and with possibly the best views of the city and Alhambra. It is best known for the cave houses, whitewashed homes which are built into the side of the hill, and is home to the Granadian gypsies that settled there after the Christian conquest of the city in 1492. Today it is occupied by a mix of gypsies, hippies and people just passing through.

The local authorities have largely left the area untouched which means there is little in the way of facilities such as running water and electricity. There are no rents to pay and no planning permission required. Anyone that can find an empty cave or space of land is free to occupy that land and make a home for themselves.

When walking through the area during the day you will find it to be quiet and peaceful as a lot of the residents will be in the city trying to sell their handcrafted goods and busking with their traditional music and flamenco dancing. Come back in the evening and it is a bit more lively with the warming sight of open fires, the smells of cooking, the sounds of music and a welcoming atmosphere of friendliness.

One of the best ways of finding out about the history of the area and really understanding the culture is to take a walking tour. There is only one company (Walk In Granada) that does tours to Sacromonte and even they don't go there every day. This is not due to lack of demand but because this is an area where people live and it would be intrusive to have large groups of people traipsing through several times a day.

So, when you visit Granada and you've been to Alhambra, don't forget to also check out Sacromonte  for the best views and to see a different side of the city and its culture.

P.S. When you do go I'd love to have some pictures to use on the blog post. For some reason, I have lost the ones I took from that day. Gutted! Your help would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Where am I now?

After a fantastic three weeks in Órgiva I am now with my fourth helpx host (second in Spain). Finca La Maroma is a luxury gay guest house less than one hour drive from Malaga. It is owned and operated by a lovely couple - Mark (from England) and Tom (from America) - and is also shared by their very boisterous young dogs, Otis and Homer.

Finca La Maroma

The finca (think holiday home in a rural setting) is named after the mountain which it sits below. La Maroma is the highest mountain of Sierra de Tejeda at an altitude of 2069m. The finca sits at 416m so the climate is very comfortable. In the November sun it is about 15-20 Celsius but quite chilly in the evenings. However, in the summer it is 25-30 Celsius and still warm in the evenings. Lovely!

The mountain of La Maroma
It is currently closed for winter so myself and another volunteer from New Zealand are enjoying the luxurious apartments for the next three weeks while we help with general maintenance, tidying and preparing the grounds for next year. We've been here three nights now and so far the tasks have included moving wood from a felled tree, clearing some very overgrown squash vines, weeding around the orange tree, sweeping up the decks and cleaning the pool.

One of today's tasks involved clearing out some rubbish from a shed, loading it into a trailer with the household recycling and driving the 4km to Sedella, the nearest village,m to dispose of it at the landfill site. Sedella is a sleepy little village of about 400 residents with a couple of shops, couple of bars and one restaurant which the locals never go to. It's not uncommon to see herds of goats being walked through the main street.

Goats in Sedella
Tom is a fantastic cook and the food so far has been excellent - as an example, last night's meal was beef bourguignon and it was delicious! Both of our hosts have been very thoughtful in making sure that we are comfortable in our rooms and have everything we need. They really are a great example of what helpx is about - a fair exchange of work by helpers for comfortable accommodation, good food and friendly conversation from hosts.

Oh, and did I mention the cats? They don't actually own any cats but there are about five that hang around, get fed and are well looked after. The friendliest of the bunch is Shadow who likes to follow you around when you take the dogs out or just get in the way when you're working outdoors.

I'm here until the 17th December so I'm sure there will be more to tell you before I depart for my next host which is a hostal (guesthouse) in Marbella.