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Archive for January 2015

Why timing can be everything

We had an interesting setup these past few days. You see, the boyfriend just got offered a job elsewhere, but there's a catch. These are the terms:
- a huge increase in his salary
- 10 less vacation days from his current job (which eventually got re-negotiated to 15 vacation days)
- most of our vacations planned for 2014 will be cancelled (the other company wanted him to start early)
- Longer hour days, probably

When faced with that situation, what would you choose? 

Most people want to get the additional money, the offer was indeed amazing, I have to say. But my point was:
1) Working in an American company can suck - they don't value as much vacation time as other companies (European companies are good, they offer a lot of time off). 10 working days for vacation every single year? Are you kidding me? My family lives on the other side of the world (the Philippines), and his extended family lives in Europe. 10 days off is not enough to visit both families! Granted, in the end they offered him 15 but see point 2)
2) Cancelling 4 vacations just sucks -- and is very disappointing. One month before the vacation and it's going to be cancelled!

In the end, he chose to stay in his current company. While the pay is lower, the flexibility is good. There is a work life balance, but the loss of the other opportunity looms like a cloud. I wanted to just let him go and do what he wants but he refused. I'm too much of an outlier and a non-conformist, but apparently that's a good thing? For most, what he chose was just unfathomable - WHY? But for me, well, if I were in his shoes, I'd go running for the hills. I would not compromise my travel time for work time. Never. Then again, it is his choice, not mine.

It hit me that the American companies just don't value vacation time. I never thought it would be real but it was.

If this happened at some other time, when the travel wasn't there, then maybe it would have been a different story. But for now, no. The excitement and all the planning has been intangible in value. The cancellation of everything? Sure, that can be offset with the money, but then again we don't really need a lot of money anyway, for me what matters most are experiences. I sure hope there will be other, better opportunities out there. I just don't want him to be disappointed in the long run.

As they say, as one door closes, a window opens. I just hope we see that window soon. 

How Do I Travel for Free?

Travel Hacking - loosely defined within the US as to travel very cheaply through the use of points and miles. So, you may be wondering how I get to travel to these destinations for not a lot of money.

You have to note that:
 1) I have a 9-5 job, just like most people in the world, and I make a substantial living off it. No, I'm not rich, but I try to spend my money wisely and pinch every penny (I am a couponer and a travel hacker)
2) I am currently based in the USA. While some of these tips may not directly affect the countries you live in, you can always try to find variations of it in your country. It may not be as generous as the ones we enjoy in the US, but a little bit goes a long way, nonetheless.
3) And no, this does not include sponsored trips. I did not reach out to any companies, nothing. Everything is mostly organized by me and my boyfriend, using points and miles.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana

And, back to the story:
So, when I went back home to Manila from Jacksonville, FL (I promised my mum I'll go back home at least once a year), one thing that stopped me was the airfare. Living in a not so hub airport in Florida can suck - it can drive airfares up by around $300+ (13,500 Philippine Pesos) just by flying from JAX to another airport hub. So, to make it simple, the retail price of a plane ticket JAX-MNL and vice versa is roughly around $1300-$1400, but I cut down my flight expenses to $56 & 80,000 United points round trip. Here's how:

1) Credit Card signup bonuses -  In the US, before they give you credit cards, you need to have a credit score. My boyfriend had a higher credit score than I did so he signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (at the time there was a 40,000 bonus for a $3,000 spend in 3 months) and added me as an authorized user. That rocked up my credit score higher and we reached the spending requirement and got the 40,000 points. Yay! For those wondering how we reached the spending requirement, it was easy: rent payments. The apartment we live in accepts credit cards for rent payments and it's an easy $1275 + water & trash every month.

2) Mistake fares - did you know that the fares you see are manually inputted by people? Well, that or some serious IT screw up would happen that would drop a 0 in the original fare or upload a different number altogether in the published rate. Mistake fares are mistakes. Once you see one, book it!! You may earn frequent flyer miles for those trips flown too. While hotel mistake fares also happen, it does not happen as often as airlines. If it does & you also happen to go to that destination at the dates you need, then book it! If these companies cancel your tickets then at least you tried, right? Mostly they do, anyway.

3) Promo fares - offering low deals on flights. Some low cost carriers like Cebu pacific or AirAsia have crazy 0 base fares and you just pay for taxes and fees. Most of my solo trips to Asia 1-2 years ago was only $60 or less roundtrip on budget carriers. You can also

4) Sign up for loyalty programs - Every major hotel chain or airline has points (except for some budget carriers). When you do fly and pay money for it (even mistake fares), you can get miles which you can keep & use for other trips. Every little bit helps, right? Sometimes signing up itself gives you bonus points!

5) Credit card category bonuses - In the US, you can get as many as 5x the points for every $1 spent on certain rotating categories every month, maximum of $1500. This enables us to bulk up our reserve stash of transferable points or cash back (cash back is definitely useful. I use the Discover cash back that we earn for CVS gift cards, a store we go to a lot for deals. It may not be travel related but at least we save on household & grocery expense, and as I said, every little bit counts)

And that, is you I travel for free (well, mostly). If you have any questions, you can email me at the contact form on the side. You can also read more about where we are going this 2015 for cheap in this post.

It's 2015 - Welcome Friends, Followers, Lurkers to my Site

It's 2015 already and wow, time quickly flies! First off, I just want to welcome you guys who happened to stumble upon my humble website - if you have the time, please comment below where you happened to find my site from (either from Million Mile Secrets, Two Monkeys Travel, or just plain Google)

This year, I plan to post more content on my sort of neglected blog, and focus more on travel and books (and a bit of beauty on the side, maybe) - and with this, let me put a few changes to the blog starting this year:

1) I have a new writer on the block - Yay! It's not just me blabbering on about my adventures because well, for the past (nearly) 15 months, I have been traveling with an amazing amazing guy named Peter. And yes, for anyone wondering, he is my boyfriend - nepotism at its finest. He'll help out with some of the trip reviews around here (because I am lazy like that). I met him at work and we've been together for quite some time now. That's him on the left, and we're posing with our World Cup Tickets on the day that we arrived in Rio (and watching that same match in the afternoon - cos you know, we're crazy like that).

2) I'm focusing more on weekend travels - Me and Peter work full time so we only have a few days per year to travel for long stretches. Read our Weekend Warrior Series to get a full breakdown of what we've been up to during the weekend & how much we've spent.

3) We're very much into travel hacking- Want to find out how me and Peter can travel a lot, ride in legacy carriers like AA, British Airways, United & the like without paying much for airfare and hotels? Read our 2015 Travel for Cheap List and that will detail where we're going, how much we're paying out of pocket, and how many points we used up.
I'm going to try to post a brief how-to on travel hacking, in case you were interested... oh, and how to get a Schengen visa.

4) We've started quests - After reading Chris Guillebeau's "The Happiness of Pursuit", Peter and I started on a few quests. Notably: go to all the 50 States of the US.I'm not sure how many Filipinos & Slovaks (Peter is a Slovak turned American) have done it, but we'll try!

I'm trying to do other bits and bobs on the site too so welcome and I really appreciate you taking the time to visit my site :)

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