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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Saving On Airfare 101

No matter where you go, airfare can be a big chunk of your vacation budget. If you know what you’re doing, it can be a smaller one than expected, even during the more expensive times of the year. Of course, planning your trip in the off-season can save you big time. Now that people are getting back to flying, I thought you might need another crash course on getting affordable airfare. Here are my best tips on how to save on airfare:

Now that people are getting back to flying, I thought you might need another crash course on getting affordable airfare.

Book/Look on Tuesday or Wednesday

Airlines set their prices for the week on Tuesdays, this means that if you're going to find a sale on your chosen destination, this is the likely day to find it. Know that once an airline posts a sale rate, other airlines may jump on the bandwagon to lower their prices on those same routes as well, in order to gain your business. Now, that doesn't mean they will, but it's probable. Sale wars last until Thursday and then prices begin to rise again, as airlines want to take advantage of travelers who don't check prices until the weekend.

Know that sale seats are often limited so if you wait, you may not get a seat at the rock bottom prices offered. Generally, I don't find deals on the weekend, but that's not entirely a hard rule either. Sunday seems to be the new Tuesday, as I've discovered and booked a few cheap flights on that day. My tip: keep checking all week until you find a flight that fits your budget.

Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday

The majority of people are trying to fly so they get the full weekend into their schedule. This means Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday are the most popular days to fly. It enables people to get a full three days out of their vacation and the airlines do their best to make the most money on these days. 

Aim to fly on less desirable days. We often fly Saturday to Saturday or Wednesday to Wednesday, because we get a price break and the added benefit of a less crowded airport. Security lines are shorter, there's always a seat at the gate, and sometimes the planes aren't entirely full either.

Like everything else, there's an exception to this rule, which may depend on the popularity of the route/destination on any given day, so you'll have to do a bit of research to see if your destination fits into this criteria. I've gotten a great deal on a flight to Vegas arriving on a Monday and leaving on a Friday, but then again, it was in February, and that's a downtime for tourists.

Fly in the morning

Ugh, nobody wants to get up before the sun rises, especially to lug a bag with them and endure the airport nonsense. I love the airport, but I'm not a morning person, so I am not the most fun person to deal with early, unless you just ignore me and play on your phone or read a book or something. My husband knows this. Fortunately, I'm a bit more people-y when I'm headed on vacation. I'm willing to get up while it's still dark to head to the airport, because I know I've saved money and I'll probably get to my destination at a reasonable time and not miss a whole day of stuff.

You might hate it, and your family might hate having to take you, but if you could save a significant chunk of money, wouldn't you do it? You can call an Uber. You can sleep on the plane (bring ear plugs and an eye mask). You can indulge in the biggest coffee Starbucks can legally sell you. However you deal with it, think of what you can spend that extra money on. A bonus is that when you get there, you have a lot less chance of your flight being delayed, because you're on one of the first flights of the day.

Make a flight with several bookings

Don't limit yourself to those round-trip options given when you search. Instead, book your legs separately, possibly on different airlines, to save as much as possible. Make sure if you have any connections, that you have enough time in between flights. It might be annoying to do this extra work, but once it's booked, all you have to do is print your boarding passes (or download/screenshot it on your phone) and figure out how to get from gate to gate.

I booked a flight this way, because I had enough miles for one way (see below) and I also had an airline credit to spend. I got the flights that fit my trip, on airlines I actually wanted to fly, and I paid less than $20 for the entire round-trip flight. If you can save hundreds of dollars by booking flights separately, why not do it?

Search for a single seat

As I said above, sale seats (and often rewards seats) are limited, so you might be screwing yourself by searching for multiple seats at once. If you look for everyone at once and don't find anything cheaper, then search for seats one at a time. Here's why: If there are two sale seats available for $97, but you are searching for three, you aren't even going to see this option. Instead, you'll see the next price tier that has enough seats to satisfy your search. If there are only two, you can snag those at the sale price and then pay the higher price for the third seat, not the higher price for all three. You can choose your seats after booking, so you can all sit together, so don't worry about this at the time.

Set up airfare alerts

Know when your desired trip goes on sale! Set up airfare alerts on our preferred airlines and get notified right away when those route's rates drop! 

Let an aggregate site do the searching for you

Set up airfare alerts on aggregate sites, too. But when you search, make sure to check your favorite aggregates, because you can see a bunch of airlines all on one page and make a more informed decisions. Sites like Webjet can help you find cheap flights every day, by finding the best deals across the board and putting them in front of you. Not only that, but you can book a package deal too, weather that includes a car rental and a hotel or just one or the other. You don't even have to purchase airfare through them to book the other services. Score! 

Use your air miles

Anytime you book a flight, a hotel, or a car rental, make sure you put your frequent flyer number in that box they provide for you. I don't always fly the same airlines, but I will always put in my American Airlines' number if they let me. With them being partners with Alaska, they flight just about anywhere I want. We use Eric's Alaska card to book most of our flights, which gives us more miles and a cheap companion fare each year, so when I fly again during the year, I check my mileage total to see if I have a free flight coming. 

On a previous trip to Vegas, I found I didn't have enough miles to book a full free flight, but I did have enough for a one-way trip, so I booked that trip on the American site for an Alaskan flight. Then I went to Alaska and booked my return flight using the credit I received on my last flight when I got stuck on the tarmac for almost an hour coming home from LAX. 

You only pay taxes and fees when you book using these methods. The new rate is $6, so both flights cost me a total of $12 + the slight extra I paid for the rate over my credit, which still came under $20 in the end.

Is there a magic formula?

The answer isn't simple, because there is, but there also isn't. The window to find the best rate on a certain flight is 5-7 weeks out for domestic and 3 months for international, but that doesn't mean those are the only times to find deals. I've found awesome rates 3 weeks before a flight, but also several months out for a domestic flight. 

Set your budget and keep looking until you find something that works for you. Worried that you're going to miss out on a better deal? Use a service like Hopper to predict rates for you to learn when to pull the trigger. It can help you pay up to 40% less. 

Right now, when so much is up in the air, a lot of people are also trip-stacking: planning multiple trips at the same time in case one falls through. Maybe you've booked a trip to Greece, but are wary that your flight will get cancelled or Covid restrictions might change, so maybe you'll also book a hotel at the coast and/or plan a road trip as back-ups. Plan to be disappointed, but also hope for the best.

What are some of your best tips on getting cheaper airfare?

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Meow Wolf's Area15 In Las Vegas

Meow Wolf is a phenomenon. An art company that creates interactive immersive art projects, that has opened a veritable art complex right off the I-15. Area15 is a collection of big art, experiences, food, drink, and shopping. I have been following their social media for years waiting for their Las Vegas museum to open and it didn't disappoint.

Meow Wolf is a phenomenon. An art company that creates interactive immersive art projects, that has opened a veritable art complex right off the I-15.

Though we were there for Omega Mart, our ticket came with entry to Area15, too. The grounds are chock full of huge art and you basically walk through a sculpture garden to get there. In fact, you walk right through this arch by Davis McCarty called Pulse Portal. You can see all the gorgeous colors it creates in the sun.

I'm sorry if, like my mom, you are sick of seeing this t-shirt in my pictures. I did bring other shirts with me and also wore them, but you'll be seeing this one for at least one more post. 

Many of the pieces are welded metal, like this dragon called El Scorcho (ha!), created by Ivan McClean. The detail is wonderful and the size is pretty imposing, making you wonder how large he would be if you were blessed with an entire dragon body.

Next is one of Tyler Fuqua's fallen robots. You've, no doubt, seen his brother Mechan X downtown, either in person or in pictures. This one is Mechan 9 and is dedicated to other robots, including Iron Giant, C-3P0, and Optimus Prime.

Omah the owl is a newly acquired piece from Alchmey Arts based out of Portland, Oregon. 

If you're looking for something a little romantic, then you'll find this very tall silver couple by Michael Benisty entitled In Every Lifetime I Will Find You. Are they naked? Just barefoot? Aliens? Whatever the answer, this piece is pretty powerful and stands 25 feet tall. 

Just before heading inside, you see this apocalyptic Las Vegas sign. Did I mention all this art is also for sale? So, if you're in need of a holographic geometric archway, or a huge rusted robot, or an infinity room in a small shipping container, and you have the money, you can totally own it.

Look at this door! All sides of the warehouse space is gorgeous and different. This made you feel like you were going somewhere exclusive, and even inside you got the same feeling, even though it was teeming with people. 

After entering into a short hallway that resembled the airlock of a space ship, the doors slide open and you're blasted by thumping music and this fantastic skull that pulses in time to the music. Not literally, but the artwork on it is ever-changing. 

This piece is entitled Shogyo Mujo by Bartkresa Studio and Josh Harker. You can watch a short video on YouTube. I wish I had taken one, but I was so enamored by things I didn't even think about it. This is not the place to go if you easily succumb to sensory overload.

Every inch of wall is covered in signs or art or a doorway into an eatery, shop, or other experience. This bar in the middle of the large warehouse space is covered by a light-up tree. To the side you can see part of The Sanctuary, a piece brought from a previous Burning Man that creates a lovely seating area, made with sustainably-sourced bamboo and dreamed up by Balinese artists from Ibuku Design Studio.

The mural above this one and this one are both larger than life and colorful and gorgeous. Though completely different, they totally work in the space, and I honestly can't wait to return to see more of it.

Admission to Area15 is free, but you must have a ticket to get in, which you can do on their website. If you want to see more pics that I took on this trip, you can see them on Instagram or you can stay tuned for Saturday's post, where I try to explain Omega Mart.

Do you prefer unconventional art or going to a traditional museum?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Free Art in Las Vegas

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know my road trip was full of free art, including street art, building murals, and large sculptures across the city. In the last decade or so, Sin City has become a real mecca of amazing artists from around the world. The annual Life is Beautiful festival is a 3-day event that mashes awesome music, art, and food together, and one day I hope to attend.

In the last decade or so, Sin City has become a real mecca of amazing artists from around the world, and I soaked it all up on my road trip.

The aim of Life is Beautiful is to unite people around artistic experiences, and even though we've never actually gone, we get to soak up the art that sticks around. If you head downtown, you'll find Fremont Street, and the blocks surrounding it packed with murals and sculptures, all of which are more impactful for being surrounded by the desert and city landscape than I feel they would be in a museum, and many are much larger than would even fit into a traditional museum.

I think this is why I love free, public art so much. I don't have to hang out in a museum and I have the chance to see more of a city by walking around. By going downtown, we found some new shops, one of which enabled me to support a 13 year old Black girl who started her own business at the age of 8. I also finally got a try a coffee shop that's been on my list for the last 3 trips. The drinks and food were delicious, and I can see why they are so popular. 

Not all, but a lot of the metal sculptures downtown have been rehomed from Burning Man. My favorite is The Mantis, by Kirk Jellum that greets people at the entrance to the Container Park. It comes alive at nighttime, and if you missed it, here's my short video from a previous trip. Make sure you turn up your sound. 

You may have also saw this piece in my past posts, but this is the first time I've seen it in the daytime. Big Rig Jig was made from two actual semis by Mike Ross and moved to Las Vegas as part of the 2016 Life is Beautiful festival. It's cool in photos, but really impressive in person. 

Pieces have transitioned over the years, so no two visits to Vegas are the same. Here are some of my other favorites. And if you think this must be an exhaustive list, you would be wrong. There are so many pieces everywhere you look, and I truly can't wait to return to explore some more.

Container murals by Snipt

I can't seem to find the artist for this one, but I'll update when I do.

Black Girl Magic by Criola

Next, I'll be talking about OmegaMart and Area15, but until then, remember...

Ricardo Gonzalez from It's A Living

Do you have a favorite city for art, public or otherwise?

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Snapshots of a Road Trip - Part 2

Our road trip was a big success and we had a great time, even with as much time as we spent in the car. There's so much to see and do if you know where to look. I did a lot of research in the weeks leading up to our trip to know where I wanted to stop and see notable things. We would have done more out-of-the-way things if we had more time, but we only gave ourselves a day to drive to Reno, then to drive to Vegas, and the same on the way back. 

Our Reno - Las Vegas road trip was a big success and we had a great time. There's so much to see and do if you know where to look.

Here are some of the things we saw/did that I'll probably talk more about in future posts, because at least a few of these are worth the detour to check out.

Just me chilling at  a good rest stop. We stopped at different ones on the way back and I particularly liked this one that didn't have real parking, but had some big rocks as features in between the picnic tables in the picnic corral. I don't know what they call it, but that's what I called it, since they were in a fenced in circle, then the road was on the outside, then the restrooms and a gas station on the perimeter.

4 miles from our route was a free museum. Goldwell Open-Air Museum is a great place to stretch your legs and see some out-of-the-box sculptures.  

One of the coolest things you'll see anywhere is this Last Supper 1984 by Albert Szukalski. He creates his works with "ghosts", which is really impactful. There are two other of his ghosts here that are much smaller than this focal point, but you should stop for the variety in the handful of pieces on the grounds. 

There's also this metal boxes installation. It changes from all different angles. From The Last Supper, it looked like doorways, closer up it looked like a square, and closer still, you saw all of it and it's contrasting colors. It made some great photo ops.

There's clearly a lot of desert in Nevada, and I'd love to spend a little more time Beatty, besides the awesome nut and candy shop. Apparently, it's the gateway to Death Valley...and also their sign is cool.

On my last road trip through the area, I missed stopping in Goldfield both ways, because on the way there it was super late and on the way back it was super early. It's very small, but cute...though I'm not sure what they want me to do when I'm staying awhile, because their sign is keeping me in suspense.

Right outside of Goldfield is the International Car Forest, which I've been wanting to visit for a long time. The guy who started it acquired cars and then buried them in the ground. Artists have come and put their artwork on large portions and other people have added their own flavor, making each car unique and cool in its own way. 

There was a full-size bus, and also what appeared to be a delivery van that you could open the back of and see all the graffiti inside. All of it was amazing. There's even a little welcome shack that accepts donations and has a guest book you can sign.

We passed by and over a lot of bodies of water, but none were so pretty as this marina. The clouds gave it a surreal quality and the colors were so bold, you'd swear that they were fake. This is exactly how it showed up on my phone camera.

This town wasn't anything special, but their local football(?) team was geese that they called honkers and this sign made me giggle so hard on our way through the first time that I was determined to get a picture on the way back. They also had a bar called Jock's. Right on the edge of town was a fantastic restaurant with fresh-made food that served us the biggest drinks we've ever had (that you can see at the end of this post.

I don't know what this was, but there were a lot of empty buildings and remnants of buildings. I thought this one had some good character. I'd love to know what it was in the past.

Walter Lake is a beautiful area that I've stopped at in the past. Sportsmans Beach has these awesome camping spots for RVs with these cool covered picnic tables to shelter you from the wind and rain. It's right off the highway, but it's really quiet and overlooks the lake and even has public restrooms.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for more posts on what happened in between the road, including OmegaMart, The Museum of Dream Space, and all the amazing art we saw around Vegas and Reno.

What's been your favorite road trip and what made it special for you?

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Snapshots of a Road Trip

We're currently on a road trip, going from Portland to Reno to Las Vegas and back. Considering we didn't feel comfortable on a plane just yet, this seemed like the best way to still take a vacation and also still feel safe, since we could control who we would be around and remove ourselves from situations that felt too close to others. I love a good road trip, and we haven't been on one together for quite a long time, that was further than the next state over. 

We're currently on a road trip, going from Portland to Reno to Las Vegas and back. Here are just a few pics from our drive.

As you probably know by now, we are timeshare owners, and we use it whenever possible on trips. Luckily, we were able to get rooms in both Reno and Vegas and only had to figure out where we would eat and what else we wanted to do. If you've been following me for some time, then you have seen that we go to Vegas at least once a year. Often, I go twice, and one year I went three times before the end of July, and that is on top of our other regular big trip of the year. We have family here, but the city changes so often that it's hardly ever the same trip twice.

All the bags on the left are just empty reusable grocery bags that I probably could have left at home.

I'll be recapping my trip and telling you all about the new things we did (including the Museum of Dream Space, OmegaMart, Reno's Riverwalk District, and awesome food), but right now I wanted to share some photos of the road tripping part, which will also be followed up with some tips when I return. Mask mandates are in effect in both Oregon and Nevada (though you won't see that many in between the bigger cities), so we felt pretty good about getting out and doing some stuff among people. 

I'm a sucker for a cool rest area, because I love seeing historical markers (like the one below) or just fun maps, like this one. If there are brochures, vending machines, good bathrooms, or little shops, that's even better. It's also just nice to look at stuff while you're stretching your legs.

Road trips are a great excuse to try local restaurants, cafes and coffee shops! The coffee wasn't the best, but the food made up for it.

I also like rest areas that seem too creepy to stop at alone, because I guess I'm weird. 
That one had clean restrooms and a lot of parking, plus this crazy place across the street where a guy was basically selling cold drinks, ice, and random other stuff like a mini thrift store. It's unfortunate I didn't need an old coffee maker or vintage shot glasses.

I'll never not stop at a cool looking cemetery. This one had people who were buried over 100 years ago, some from the 50s and even newly deceased people in a grassy part. You could see how some familes were buried together, some people didn't even have headstones, just little metal signs stuck in the ground, and how many children had died between 1918 and 1955.

I wished I had a little trinket to put on this guy's plot as well. His family seemed to really care a lot and he had fresh fake flowers and other military things brought fairly recently. We righted some other people's flowers that had fallen over, and I put this jar back on the ledge, because there's no reason that the dead can't have nice plots. Also, I just felt like if I was coming to visit people I didn't know, I should do something nice for them besides admire their headstones.

Every time I drive this route, I stop for gas at Eddie's World. It has a giant candy store with clean bathrooms, plus it's also the last gas for quite a while. Check out some of their aisles:

Anyhow, that's my road trip so far. You can see more of my trip while I'm on it if you follow me on Instagram, but I'll definitely be bringing more of it to you, including tips for having a successful and budget-friendly trip. I hope you're all staying safe and healthy.

Where are your favorite places to stop on a road trip or to go on a road trip?

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