Getting the BEST Deal on Airfare


Here’s a trick question…

In shopping for airfare this week I narrowed down my options to 2 airlines/tickets.  One airline had tickets for $272 ea.  The other airline would get me to my destination for $258 a piece.  So….which ticket is cheaper?

I said this was a trick question, right?

Here’s the details….

Airline “A” sells their seat (We can only  HOPE there’s an actual ‘seat’ and flight involved here and not just a ticket to be drug down the aisle….ugh!)  Anyway…They sell their seat for $272.  They offer a credit card that will give me a $100 statement credit if I purchase my ticket FROM THEM (not from a consolidator) and charge it to that card. (that’s the only reason I would get their credit card…  🙂 )    They will give me 1 free checked bag per person listed on the reservation as a benefit for using their credit card.  There is a $95 credit card fee, but they WAIVE that for the 1st year.  (I’ll cancel the card before they charge that fee next year…I’ll put a reminder on my online calendar)

Airline “B” has the tickets for $258 ea.  They, too, offer a statement credit if I purchase my airfare from them and charge to their card – Their credit is $50.  They, also, will give me 1 free checked bag per person on the reservation when I use their credit card.  HOWEVER, THEIR $95 credit card fee is NOT waived.  That charge will be on my first bill.

Now…who has the better deal?  Whose tickets are cheaper?

Airline “A”

  • 2 tickets:                    $546
  • Statement credit:   – $100
  • Free chk’d bags          -0-   (value of $50 for one way flight)
  • Total Cost                 $446

Airline “B”

  • 2 tickets                     $514
  • C.C. fee                      + $95   = $609
  • Statement credit    –  $50   = $549
  • Free chk’d bags           -0-        (value of $50 for one way flight)
  • Total Cost                 $549

pexels-photo-358319Now with the statement credit and 2 free bags, (As noted above, I’m looking at a one way flight) the $95 fee is cancelled out. If it were round trip with those 2 bags, I could possibly justify that fee. However, there’s still no way around the fact that the total cost for the ticket is $100 more….since BOTH airlines would give me free bags on a round trip ticket.

Yes…they advertise other benefits to their cards that could be advantageous for frequent travelers (bonus ‘miles’) or those who look for OTHER benefits on credit cards (interest rates, transfer rates, etc…). We, however, are not frequent flyers (yes, we travel frequently, but not always on flights)  or people who care about those other ‘benefits’.   I’m ONLY looking at IMMEDIATE benefits – cost of the ticket and free checked bags.

One More Thing That Must be Noted Here:  Evaluate your personal financial situation before applying for any credit card. Credit card applications will ‘ding’ your credit. It’s easy to recover if you are starting from a good place with your credit score, but if your credit score in ‘in trouble’…or you’re looking to apply for a mortgage soon, this may NOT be the thing for you.      

Now….I can’t leave this discussion without addressing the option of just buying the ticket without applying for the credit card.  With that, you lose the statement credit and pay the baggage fees.  Here’s how that plays out with Airline “B” (Airline “A” is obviously not going to be a good deal without the card…):

Airline “B” (without the credit card):

  • 2 tickets                        $514
  • 2 chk’d bags                   $50   (for a one-way flight;  $100 for round trip)
  • Total Cost                    $564


Bottom Line:  ALWAYS do the math…  What ‘appears’ to be cheaper at first look may not always be cheaper. I’ve even found that to be true with the airlines that don’t charge baggage fees. Of course, sometimes they ARE the better deal…but you HAVE to do the math…..


Finding the Best Deal on Airfare – Updated


Several years ago, I wrote  How to Get the Best Deal on Airfare .  While many of the tips there are still good information, time has brought about a few changes.  Thus an updated article.  🙂

What HASN’T changed?  Airfare is still determined by the Law of Supply and Demand.  What has changed is the ‘demand’….and because of that, the ‘supply’.  Interpretation:  As consumer’s have purchased more tickets (demand),  airlines have listened and added planes and flights (supply) to meet the need.   That can mean good bargains for travelers.

  1. Time It Right: The best time to purchase airfare seems to be about 7-8 weeks out (more specifically 49-54 days) up to 3 wks prior to travel.  Booking less than 21 or more than 200 days out brings some of the worst fares.aircraft-holiday-sun-tourism-99567
  2. Don’t Pay Baggage Fees If You Don’t Have To:  At this time, Delta, United and American are offering 1 free checked bag per person to their credit card holders IF the reservation is made on their website and paid for with that card.  You can apply for the credit card right before purchasing the ticket.  After approval, you then use that card number to purchase the ticket. These cards typically have an annual fee associated with them, but most (though not all)  waive it for the 1st year.  After that ‘grace period’ we always cancel the card.  I refuse to pay a fee for ANY credit card…..EVER!!   Now, the last time we called to cancel, they offered us a ‘stay with us’ deal. We met their criteria and they waived the fee a 2nd year.  They did NOT offer that option the following year.
  3. Compare Total Costs: Southwest and Jet Blue do not charge baggage fees.  That doesn’tUS dollar necessarily mean their flights are cheaper though.  Sometimes, a ticket PLUS baggage fee is still less expensive than a ticket on one of these ‘no baggage fee’ airlines…  As you’re price shopping make sure you’re comparing the TOTAL COST (ticket + bags).  Note that these airlines don’t sell reserved seats.  Instead, they sell ‘boarding groups’.  You pay to board earlier and get first choice on seats.  Though we occasionally fly with these airlines, I really prefer to have a reserved seat….just my personal opinion.
  4. More Info About those Baggage Fees:  While we’re on the subject of baggage fees, American waives the baggage fees on a number of flights from the U.S. to Brazil, Europe or Japan. Find out more about this from their website..
  5. ‘WHEN you Buy’ Matters: The best day of the week to purchase airfare used to be Tues.

    Photo Credit: Dafne Cholet CC Lic.

    However, trends are changing.  Weekends have become the ‘new Tuesday’ when buying airfare within the US or to Europe and some great bargains can be snagged on Saturdays.  Worst day to purchase (any) travel?  Fridays!  (That’s when business travelors are booking.)

  6. Fly midweek (Tues-Thurs) rather than weekends (Fri – Mon) if possible to get bargain airfares.  Websites now show fares for  +/- 3 days of your selected date making this much easier to compare.  We’ve moved our vacation dates a couple of days to take advantage of lower fares – especially when buying 4 tickets.
  7. Include a Saturday Night Stay:  You’ll find some of the best bargains on round trip tickets if you include a Saturday night in your stay.
  8. Always check surrounding airports  Sometimes if you’re willing to just drive 20-30 miles, you can save significant money.
  9. Allegiant Air MAY…..I repeat MAY…. be a good deal  Just be aware that they take the whole ‘nickel and dime’ thing to the extreme.  They charge for things the major airlines do NOT charge for – carry ons, blankets, pillows.  Now, because their flights are sooo cheap, this may still be a good deal. You just have to crunch the numbers…and again, look at the ‘total cost’ rather than just the cost of the ticket.  Consolidate your packing (including carry on bags) and bring your own lightweight cover and/or inflatable pillow.  🙂  One More Note:  You have the option to pay baggage fees when you purchase your ticket…for LESS than you will pay AT the airport the day of flight!  Estimate your luggage needs carefully (and accurately) when purchasing your ticket!  🙂

Saving even just $25/ticket -with free bags – for a family of 4 – round trip – amounts to a savings of $300.  Remember when compare shopping to figure in ALL of these (ticket, baggage fees AND any extras) to determine the best deal.

Another article that may be of interest:  Getting the BEST Deal on Airfare



Staying Healthy When Flying

Staying healthy while flying brings a whole different set of challenges.  Because you’re in an enclosed space with only recycled air for extended periods of time, exposure to illnesses, etc…  brought on board by fellow passengers is increased.  There ARE things you can do to protect yourself, but of course, none of them are fail-safe.  Just take the precautions and hope for the best. 

  1. Hand Sanitizer:  Purchase these in small (TSA approved) sizes for your carry on or purse. (We prefer to buy the small bottles ONCE then refill them for subsequent flights)
  2. Restrooms:  There’s no way around the fact that restrooms are just  congregating place for germs.  Touch as little as possible and teach your children to do the same.  Use the paper towel to open the door when you leave.
  3. Photo: Allan;  Flickr CC Lic.

    HYDRATE before, during and after a flight:  The air circulated through the aircraft cabin is dehydrating. A hydrated body flushes out toxins and impurities more effectively than a dehydrated one.  WATER is the best way to hydrate…. Bring an empty bottle through security and fill it with water at the gate.  Sodas, caffeine and alcohol work against you on this as they, too are dehydrating.  Opt for  water-rich foods (fresh fruit or salad) when possible,

  4. Items provided by the airline are cleaned but NOT after every flight.

    Photo Credit: Kent Wien;  FLickr CC Lic.

    • We bring our own pillows – I like the inflatable ones as they can be deflated when not in use.
    • Dress in layers, and bring a jacket.  It can be used as a blanket around your face.  Use the airline provided blanket for covering your lap/legs.
    • EITHER Bring your own headphones….  OR   use hand sanitizer on airline headphones before using them.
  5. To avoid deep-vein thrombosis or swelling in the legs and ankles (VERY important for diabetics or those with circulation issues):
    • Avoid tight socks – unless they’re compression socks on long flights.
    • For long flights, choose a seat at the front or rear of your section for more leg room.  Extending your legs may help with cramps or swelling (if you’re subject to that).
    • Walk around during the flight – to the bathroom or just up and down the aisle.   Coordinate your ‘excursions’ with others in the row to avoid annoying your row-mates too much.  🙂
    • Exercise the calf muscles by tapping your feet periodically during a long flight.

What About Jet Lag   Jet lag doesn’t become a problem unless you’re crossing 5 or 6+ time zones.  If you do, try these ideas to lesson the effects.

  1. Don’t try to completely change your sleep schedule in one day.  Do it gradually over several days –  up to 3-4 days if crossing a LOT of time zones.
  2. If your flight time is during a time you would normally sleep, sleep on the plane.  If it’s during a time you would normally be awake, then try to stay awake…Keep things fairly close to your schedule at home for the first 24 hours.
  3. Alcohol and caffeine affects your ability to adjust to time changes. Limit them.

Here’s wishing you a happy and HEALTHY vacation!!!  🙂


Hawaii Part 4 – Island Hopping

 Edited Feb. 2018

Island hopping (visiting more than one  Hawaiian island in a trip) will cost a little more money (unless you’re cruising).  However, for most visitors, the airfare to get to Hawaii is the most expensive part of the trip.  After that investment, you’ll probably want to see and do as much as you can on the islands – to get as much value from that airfare purchase as possible.  That means “island hopping”.

23 Hawaii G12 213

View of Maui from Mokuele Airlines

Planning transportation for island hopping can be a little over-whelming at first.  However, with just a little time and research, it will all come together and you’ll find it’s DEFINITELY worth the effort.   THEN, en route, it requires patience –as ‘bumps in the plan’ are quite possible.  But…just do the research, make a plan, then stay flexible and you should have a WONDERFUL trip.


What Are The Options for Inter-Island Travel?  :

  • By Air:  This is the most common mode of transportation for visitors and residents alike.  Most of this post will be devoted to that…in a moment…..
  • By Ferry:  Ferry service was a wonderful option ‘once upon a time’, however, it has fallen victim to EPA regulations/restrictions – and was discontinued to all but 2 islands in 2009. WORD OF CAUTION TO TRAVEL PLANNERS:   The Ferry Company’s website (Hawaii Superferry) is still up as a tribute and ‘eulogy’ to the company (There seems to be a lot of anger over it’s closing….) to remind people of what the EPA cost them. However, only in the ‘small print’ does the website say that their site is a ‘eulogy’;  their last ‘run’ was in 2008. There are schedules, prices, etc…that could lead unsuspecting readers to conclude they can show up and get on a ferry…  I understand their anger, but the website could really affect visitors’ travel plans…ugh!!  Don’t get caught up in that!!!

The ONLY operational  ferries leave from Lahaina Maui and go to the islands of  Lana’i or Molokai.  The Maui-Lana’i Expeditions ferry operates from Maui to Manele Bay Lana’i.  They also offer tour packages  – just fyi.  🙂    The Maui-Molokai Ferry operates from Maui to Kaunakakai Harbor, Molokai.

Please Note:   The channels between these islands can be pretty rough in the afternoon as the winds across the water strengthen.  Even those not typically prone to sea sickness may have problems – especially on the Maui-Molokai route.  Be prepared with sea sickness remedies or travel in the morning.

  • By Cruise Ship:  This, of course, requires the booking of a Hawaiian cruise.  🙂    I’ve never seen the islands this way, but the advantages are having inter-island transportation, accommodations, and food all planned/arranged.  That’s probably a nice way to see the islands though the disadvantage, as I see it, is the limited amount of time allowed on each island… typically only 1 day/island.   Of course, it’s all a matter of preference.  🙂

Inter-island flights


  • Some islands have more than one airport. This is pretty important when booking rental cars…and when checking fares.   🙂   On the Big Island (Hawaii),  Kona is almost always cheaper to fly in to than Hilo.  On Maui, Kahului  is typically cheaper than Kapalua and DEFINITELY more convenient than Hana.  While in the past, all flights into Hawaii from the Mainland went through Honolulu, recently, Maui’s OGG (Lahaina),  Kona (KOA) on the Big Island  and Lihui (LIH) on Kauai have become secondary hubs for major airlines flying from the Mainland. (secondary to Honolulu)

IMGP1299Inter-island Air Travel Carriers

Over the years, there have been several airlines that “hop” from island to island.  However, all but Hawaiian Air  and Mokulele Airlines have struggled to maintain a long term presense there. (i.e. they’ve gone under…)  Among those coming and going have been Allegiant Air (leaving Aug. 2016 after only 4 yrs)  Mesa Air/Go! Airlines (operating for 7 yrs until 2014),  Aloha Airlines who filed for bankruptcy in 2008 after 60 yrs flying over Hawaii and Island Air who most recently ceased operations Nov. 2017.  On our trip to the islands, we flew on 3 of these….Hawaiian Air, Go! and Mokulele.  Since Go! is no longer in business, I’ll forgo my evaluation of them (Our first flight with them went perfectly…but they cancelled our second flight with them requiring us to think and act fast in order to not miss our United flight home…).  Since they’re no longer in business, it’s a waste of time to talk any more about them… I’ll just give my ‘take’ on the two still in business – Hawaiian Air and Mokulele.  

Hawaiian Airlines This airline is the flag carrier for Hawaii and has frequent flights to all the major islands.  They are more expensive than the smaller companies, (perhaps why they’re still in business??) and their baggage fees are higher than the smaller lines ($25/bag vs. $15-17/bag).  However, their more frequent flights, larger planes and more reliable aircraft makes them the preferred airline of many.


Mokulele AirlinesMokulele Airlines

Mokuele is operared by Mesa and is  the one small airline that has managed to compete with Hawaiian Air and stay in business.  Their smaller aircraft (Cessnas) allow them to fly into the smaller airports –  Oahu (2 airports), Maui (3 airports), Molokai (2 airports), Lana’i and The Big Island (2 airports) which may be what has sustained them.  ?? At this time, Mokulele does not service Kauai…

Do NOT let the size of these aircraft deter you.   Flying with them was actually a pleasant experience for us.  Their terminal is outdoors…It’s a pre-fab building covered by an awning.  There’s a restroom, vending machines and 15 chairs for passengers as they wait for their flight.  ha!! Mokulele Airlines Kona (When we arrived, I HAD to take this picture.:) )  We knocked on the door and someone came out of the office to check us in….  We not only weighed our checked bags, but we weighed ourselves while holding our carry ons to get a total weight on the aircraft.  (NOTE:  Their policy doesn’t allow passengers over 350 lbs to fly – it’s not a ‘discrimination’ thing…it’s a weight issue on the aircraft…)  The pilot checked our boarding pass and gave us our seat number before we walked across the runway to board.  He then boarded the plane with us and went over safety procedures. Everyone gets a window seat (wonderful when flying over the islands) because there are single seats on each side of the aircraft.  When we got off the plane, we walked around to wait for our luggage, then I took a quick picture with the pilot before we rolled our luggage off the runway.  I didn’t have a problem with any of that.  It was an “experience”.   🙂

20 Hawaii G12 210

Here are some of the wonderful pics I got while flying over Maui…and into Kona:

15 Hawaii G12 205

I would fly with them again!!!



Southwest Airlines….coming soon???  Possibly….

Southwest is considering joining the list of airlines flying inter-island flights….  We’ll see how they do…Perhaps they will have a better chance than some of the smaller companies that have attempted this.  I KNOW their ‘no baggage fees’ will make them competitive…  We’ll see…


Until then…..

Don’t immediately shy away from booking on Mokulele to save some money…  As long as you’re not booking too far in advance you should be fine.  We actually really ENJOYED our flight on that little Cessna.  🙂  But….if we HAD had a problem, it would have been fairly easy to book a last minute ticket on Hawaiian Air.

Finding the Cheapest and Shortest Flights:   As I’ve said many times on this blog, explore all your options before making a decision. We flew from Oahu to Kona to Maui, then back to Oahu for our flight home– on 3 different inter-island airlines. (one of those on Mesa Go!  🙂 )   I checked fares and flight times and made the decisions that were best for us on that day…   There’s no one ‘right answer’…  You just have to find what works best for you.

Just Consider these things before making that decision…..

 My Thoughts: 

  • Don’t be afraid of Mokulele and their Cessna’s.  They ARE a savings over Hawaiian Air.  Do your research and be flexible and you can save some money.   
  • These inter-island flights don’t have to be booked MONTHS in advance…but as with anything, the price is affected by the Law of Supply and Demand – meaning, as their inventory shrinks, the rates go up. We found that booking 3-5 weeks in advance in the Spring secured fairly good rates… My assumption would be that 6-8 wks in advance would probably be best during the busier summer season.


Editor Note: On our last trip to Hawaii, ticket to and from the Islands were either round trip (from the same airport) OR one way tickets allowing you to fly into one island and home from another.  That, of course, was VERY expensive.  So…we made the choice to fly in and out of Oahu.  That meant that after completing our island hopping, we had to get back to Honolulu for our return flight…involving an interisland flight from Kona to Honolulu that last day.  The multi-city ticket now being offered negates most of the rest of what I ahve to say as it centers around do’s and don’t’s of purchasing that ticket to get ‘back’ before your return flight to Mainland.  But just in case you find yourself in a situation like we were, I’ve put this information here.  If this doesn’t interest you, scroll down to the bottom of the page for other articles in the Hawaii series.

  • If booking an inter-island flight to catch a connecting flight back to the Mainland,  either allow a LOT of time for delays/cancellations…or better yet, book with  Hawaiian Air.  Their frequent flight schedule will get you where you need to be…even if you encounter delays.  
  • If you’re booking an inter-island flight to connect for your flight back to the Mainland, allow enough time for possible delays.  OUR EXPERIENCE:  We were due to arrive in Honolulu at 6:30 on Mesa Go! Airlines then fly out at 10 pm (on United).  With the delays/cancellations we encountered and having to race to purchase a ticket on Hawaiian Air, we barely made our connection.  Had we been more “squeezed” for time, we probably would not have made it. Give yourself time to deal with unexpected situations.
  • If booking your flights this way, be aware that certain Inter-island airlines have “agreements” with the LARGE airlines (American, United, Delta, etc…)  to transfer your luggage from the smaller carrier to their aircraft FOR YOU. It’s So nice to not have to pick up bags at baggage claim, then recheck them for your flight to the Mainland…and go through security again.     

Other articles in this series

Airport Security Restrictions on Crafting/Needlework Tools

If you are planning to fly this Holiday season and want to take needlework (knitting, crochet, needlepoint, etc…) on the flight, it’s important to be aware of restrictions on these tools.

This chart gives the restrictions for flights within the US (as of this writing).  HOWEVER, keep in mind that restrictions can change at any time –  based on the alert level at airports.

…and while we’re on that subject, one more very important point:   Everything here is related to TSA and the USA.  If flying internationally, check with the specific airlines or their governing agency. Every country makes their own security policies.

Now back to TSA and the USA…

I WISH I could say that TSA agents are consistent with what they allow vs. what they confiscate.   Unfortunately,  that’s simply not the case.  It seems that there IS a ‘general rule’…then there is ‘interpretation’ of the ‘general rule’…and that interpretation can vary by airport…and possibly by the mood or temperament of the agent.

Bottom line… Always be aware that everything is at the discretion of the TSA agent. Anything you take has the potential to be confiscated.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to forgo the needlework and take a good book….  There ARE things you can do to smooth out your  journey through security; just be aware of the risks.

So, here are a few tips:

  1. Print and bring with you the guidelines from the TSA website  (    If your item(s) fits within their PRINTED acceptable guidelines, you can make a  VERY good argument to keep your needlework tools.  Have the printout easily accessible –  in  your carry or purse. If you run into a problem, VERY NICELY and RESPECTFULLY (you catch more flies with honey that vinegar….) show it to the agent. If that doesn’t work, you CAN ask to speak to a supervisor.  Just be aware that you may ‘irritate’ when doing this…which guarantees you won’t get your way…  ugh…sorry, but true.. The final decision always lies with the supervisor.  If he/she says ‘no’, those tools are NOT going on the plane. If you find yourself at this point, it’s best to just surrender them…so YOU can still get on that plane.   🙂
  2. That brings me to the next point:  Be smart!!  Don’t bring a tool (needle, scissors, etc…) that would cause GREAT grief if it were confiscated (i.e. your grandmother’s knitting needles, gold plated something-or-other, etc…) 🙂  Always bring the LEAST valuable tool you can ‘work’ with. I’ve watched as people have lost expensive things at TSA security – facial cremes, lotions, gold-plated scissors, etc… all because they either weren’t aware of the restrictions…or just forgot. What they confiscate you never see again.
  3. In the event that your tools don’t pass inspection, you STILL have a couple of options.  Knitters should ALWAYS have some method to rescue stitches when traveling – stitch holder, string or dental floss so you don’t lose your work. You can also bring a padded envelop to actually MAIL your tools back home.  (provided the airport has a post office)  Of course, if you’ve  brought ‘cheap’ tools, it MAY be more economical to just say good-bye to that needlework tool…  🙂
  4. Now lets talk about scissors.  Scissors are just a tough thing to deal with.  EVERY person who does any kind of needlework uses them…to varying degrees, but we ALL use them.  The TSA guidelines state that the blade must be shorter than 4″.

    Photo Credit: By ZooFari (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

      My suggestion is ‘the smaller the better”.  I would NOT try to make it through security with a scissor blade of 3 7/8″.  Even though it is technically within the guidelines, that’s tempting fate…   :/  Instead, take scissors with blades that are 2″!  🙂 🙂    Recently I found a great option at a craft fair – 20150505_101121 20150505_101100These scissors fold ‘into’ itself.  Unfolded, the blade fits well within the restrictions.  🙂 🙂              Other Options:  empty dental floss container – or nail clippers for cutting embroidery floss. (probably wouldn’t work well for yarn…)
  5. Circular knitting needles tend to fare better through security than straight needles.

    Photo Credit: “Circular knitting needles” by Pschemp – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

    (though both are technically permissible)  However, as luck would have it, the circulars are more expensive to replace….  It’s all a matter of personal decisions on this one.

  6. Because the restrictions are directly related to the alert level in the country, ANYTHING can change at a moment’s notice. Check the alert level the night before flying…then again before you fly back home.
  7. Of course, you always have the option of just packing those tools in your checked luggage. They should fare much better through the security checks there – thought there have been reports of passengers loosing scissors, knitting needles, etc…from CHECKED BAGS as well.  It seems that nothing is truly safe with TSA anymore.

Some would say, just leave the needle work at home and bring a good book.  That’s a difficult thing to consider for any avid needlework fanatic!!!  Flights are 4-6-9 hours of MARVELOUS needlework time. It’s hard to pass that one up!!!  🙂

So, I just opt to take the risk and get some WONDERFUL needlework done while flying. (and bring my stitch saver…)

The best you can do is:

  • Be informed of the rules and FOLLOW them as closely as you can
  • Bring a printed copy of the TSA guidelines and RESPECTFULLY use that to defend your tools if necessary
  • Be aware of the risks and come prepared to mail it or lose it….

    “Knitting needles” by Transportation Security Administration – Transporting Knitting Needles; Needlepoint Direct. Lic. under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –


Travel Tips for Flights Part 1

PHoto Credit: Dave Subelack ON FLickr CC Lic.



  • PACK LIGHT:  With baggage fees as they are, packing lightly saves money.  Consider taking fewer clothes and doing laundry on your trip…coordinate colors so your can mix and match to form multiple outfits.  Take travel size items when possible.  On a recent trip to Hawaii, we took 5 flights (including inter-island flights). Our total baggage fees/bag were $151.  I quickly saw the value of compact packing!!!
  • Cross-Pack:  When packing multiple suitcases for a family, put items for each family member in each suitcase.  Airlines handle a LOT of luggage every day and the vast majority of it gets to its destination; however, if you do happen to be one of those unlucky ones, having items for all family members in each suitcase minimizes the impact of a misdirected suitcase on your family. You may not have exactly the item you WANT, but at least every family member will have SOMETHING to wear while you wait for your missing bag to be delivered.
  • Take a photo ON YOUR PHONE of the contents of your suitcase AND your closed suitcase — before leaving home.  This will be invaluable if your luggage is lost.  Not only can it help to ID your suitcase (the airline will want to know what your suitcase looks like)  but will also help with the claim filing process if it never reappears.

    This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person's official duties.

    Photo Credit: US Navy Public domain.

  • Put a business card (name/cell no./address)  and a copy of your itinerary on top of your clothing inside EACH suitcase.  This will be the ‘last resort’ to get your bag back to you if the name tag is torn off or lost.


  • Use a ribbon/luggage strap to ID your suitcase:  This is not a new idea to most travelers, but I take it a step further.  Do NOT choose red…or yellow… or blue. Those are very popular colors….so is not very ‘distinguising’ as you try to figure out WHICH ‘black suitcase with red ribbon’ is yours.  Instead, choose an unusual color or pattern (orange & yellow polkadots, Candy canes, little black and white kittens….you get the idea)   🙂 Get unusual ribbon at fabric or craft stores or find full rolls on clearance racks.  🙂  Recently, we have begun using luggage straps – ours is NEON GREEN!  🙂  Red just doesn’t distinguish things much.  🙂
  • Bring An Extra Bag:  If you think you might make purchases that will take significant space for your return flight, take an extra folded bag/duffle in  your suitcase.  If you need that extra space, you’ll be glad you brought it.
  • Attach MORE Than One Name/Address Card to Each Bag:  When filling out airline name tags at check-in, grab TWO per bag.  It will take more time, but if one is torn off in transit, you’ll be REALLY glad you attached an extra.  Another option is to purchase a vinyl luggage tag.  One that I’ve found that I really like is at Favors by Serendipity.  They cost $2.50-$3 ea and they have a pocket to put not only your contact information but your travel itinerary as well.  If traveling, you want your luggage delivered to you at your hotel etc rather than to your front porch while you’re vacationing without your clothes.  🙂
  • Take an empty water bottle through security:   …and fill with water on the other

    side.  (liquids can’t go through security)  The pressurized air on the airplane is extremely dehydrating –and you need to be hydrating.  My preference is the Brita bottles with a filter in the lid.


  • Take a dry wash cloth (or two) in a Ziploc bag in your carry on bag.  Before landing, ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water (or cool water??) to wet the cloth and freshen up.  This is great if traveling with cheap washcloths for freshening up on flightschildren who may need a ‘clean up’ at some point during the flight.   The damp cloth goes back into the Ziplock bag, then can be rinsed out (or washed with bar soap/shampoo) in the hotel and hung to dry.  Return to the bag and it’s ready for your return flight.  Some people like moist towelletes or baby wipes for this, but I’ve always preferred actual wash cloths as they are more durable for cleaning up messes.  You can purchase cheap washcloths from Dollar Tree – 2 pack for $1.  You don’t have to bring your nice cloths from home…and these won’t get mixed up with the white washcloths at the hotel.   🙂
  • Decongestants or Saline:  This may be a controversial subject, but decongestants taken before flying (non-drowsy formulas) will help with the stuffiness produced by the dry air on the airplane….and might help if you have problems with your ears and the air pressure at take off and landing.  A less invasive idea is to use Saline mist (just salt-water).


Holiday Travel Tips (Driving or Flying)

Traveling during the holidays can possibly be the most stressful of all travel experiences.  There are so MANY travelers during that short 4-7 day time span and the complications weather can bring can be a recipe for stress.

I always say that PREPARATION is the #1 stress ‘alleviator’….and with that in mind, here’s a few tips to decrease the stress of holiday travel, whether at the airport or on your drive.

1.  Make reservations early.  Because of the high volume of travelers during a very small window of time, prices are higher.  (Law of Supply & Demand)  The earlier you make your reservation, the better deal you will probably find.  As soon as your holiday plans are finalized, make those flight or rental car reservations. Review  Finding Bargains on Rental Cars for tricks on getting the BEST rate on these. Hotel reservations for drivers should probably be made 2-3 wks in advance unless you are traveling through a very busy area.

2.  Plan flights to minimize the effects of weather (i.e. delays, cancellations, etc…).  If possible,  choose a flight with a layover in a city that gets minimal or no winter weather (Houston, Phoenix, LA, etc…)  The drawback to this  (you HAD to know there is no perfect solution)  is that if that city DOES get winter weather, they will be LESS equipped to deal with it than a northern city, but I still think your chances are better in the south.

3.  If driving, have 2 routes (or more??) mapped out.  Make your choice based on the weather forecasts.  Let someone know the route you are taking and be sure to call them if you change that route for any reason.

4. Weather apps can be very helpful when traveling, especially for drivers.  As wonderful as accuweather or 1weather may be, I actually prefer apps from local news stations en route to my destination.  The information is more ‘location specific’ and therefore (imho) more accurate.  If you don’t have a GPS that gives traffic information, you can get that info from local news station apps as well.

5. Pack your carry on with items you would need for an extended ‘stay’ in an airport.  (It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it)   Pack an extra change of clothes, toothbrush/paste, hair brush, AND some protein snacks and empty water bottles. I always take snacks in my carry on, but if traveling in winter, I bring a little more than I normally would. An inflatable pillow is a nice item to have on any long flight, but becomes INVALUABLE during a night spent in an airport.

6.  If driving, make sure there is WATER and protein snacks in your car.  WATER is probably the most important item as it is not readily available on the side of the road. 🙂  Don’t forget it!  I’m reminded of a blizzard in our area a few years ago that left travelers lined up for miles on the interstate for 36-48 hrs. because of multiple jack-knifed semis. (The local news stations sent out helicopters to view and film the sight.) Have blankets, gloves and basic tools in your car as well.  I’ve even been known to throw a roll of toilet paper into the trunk…  You may laugh, but I wonder what those people did sitting out on the interstate for 2 days in that blizzard.  🙂 🙂

7. Flying at Christmas with gifts/packages can add to airline baggage fees.  If you will have a significant number of large or bulky gifts, remember that Southwest and Jet Blue Airlines have no baggage fees.  Otherwise, you might want to compare shipping costs to baggage fees.  ONE MORE NOTE: Take all of this into consideration AS YOU’RE SHOPPING if you know you’ll be flying. (Now THERE’S an argument for gift cards!  ha)   Also remember that you will probably be flying HOME with gifts as well….and hope everyone else was thinking about this too…. haha!

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

8. Keep an optimistic attitude. Everyone is trying to do the same thing as you are.  It’s as important to every other traveler to make it home as it is for you.   The airlines are doing their best to get you to your destination – even working the holiday so you can travel.  A little kindness goes a LLLLOOONNNGGG way!!!  Arrive at the airport early.  Expect long lines and waits.  Expect crying children.  Comply with the requirements of TSA so as not to bring their attention to you, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and basically just be polite.  It will improve your outlook AND your treatment most of the time.

Yes, travel during the holidays is stressful, but you CAN take some steps to lessen the stress on you and yours.   Happy Traveling!!  🙂

Staying Healthy On Vacation


Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on”

Have you ever experienced this? It’s the 4th day of your long-anticipated vacation.  You have big plans for the day. You’re finally going on the hike you’ve been “building up” since the vacation planning began. It’s the REASON you chose this destination. As you’re loading the last of the things into the car before heading to the trailhead, a child says “I don’t feel good….” You immediately KNOW the day is NOT going to go as planned….

Staying healthy while traveling:

Vacations should be memory making events…all about fun, rest and family time. Unfortunately, high fat meals, over exposure to sun, and fun in the outdoors can sometimes leave you feeling worse than you did before you left.

What can you do to increase chances for that healthy and happy vacation you dreamt about?

Before You Leave...

  • Boost Your Immune System:  
    • Probiotics counteract the effects of fast (greasy) foods we tend to eat when traveling. Start them several days BEFORE your trip so they can build up in your digestive tract.
    • Photo Credit: Mush on Flickr CC Lic.

      Vitamin C – These come in pills or chewables, but the most effective form (imho) is powder form – added to water. (more quickly absorbed into the system) I like Emergen-C –NOW available at Walmart!  🙂

  • Increase fiber intake::  A high fiber diet keeps toxins from building up in your system – and toxins ‘stored’ in the system leads to ‘irritability’, ‘fussiness’ and in my experience, ‘whining’ in children (and adults).  Keeping everyone ‘regular’ can improve EVERYONE’S trip.  🙂
  • Bring basic meds with you:

Here’s a general list of things we bring when we travel, but I modify it based on where we’re going and who is traveling with us.

  • antacid
  • antidiarrheal
  • pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil, etc…)
  • antibiotic ointment
  • antihistamine
  • hydrocortisone creme
  • Benadryl crème
  • This is what our ‘medication’ bag looked like on a recent trip – small and compact, but contained everything we needed for that particular trip.

    sanitizing wipes

  • bandages/band aids
  • personal  prescription medications. (liquid MEDICATION of more than 3 oz. can be carried on a plane).

I purchased a travel size bottle of pain reliever years ago and have continued to re-fill it every vacation since then. I use or replace the pills in the bottle  regularly as meds DO have an expiration date, but the bottle is reused year after year.  You may notice from the pic that I combine several meds (of different colors, shapes) into 1 bottle. 


While You’re Away…

  • Stay active. This keeps your blood moving and body functioning as it should.
  • File:Fruit & vegs assortment.jpg

    Photo Credit; Oleary’s on Wikipedia; By Olearys (Frutas e Vegetais) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

    Indulge — to a point.   Pick one meal a day to splurge, but avoid continual over-indulging.  Include fresh fruit and vegetables into everyone’s DAILY diet. Adequate fiber helps with regularity (and therefore, disposition…ha)  A little bit of sugar is ‘fun’….too much leaves everyone feeling ‘blah’.
  • Protect yourself:  
    • Suncreen of SPF 30 or higher
    • EFFECTIVE insect repellant if traveling in an area where you might be exposed to ticks.  Regularly check everyone for ticks if exposure is a possibility.
  • Use Hand Sanitizer:  Purchase these in small containers and keep it easily accessible – in a purse, picnic basket, flight carry on, etc….
  • Restrooms: No matter how well they are cleaned/maintained, these are a congregating place for germs.  Touch as little as possible and teach your children to do the same.  Use the paper towel from drying your hands to open the door when you leave.  🙂

    Photo Credit: Allan on Flickr CC Lic.

    Lastly…and possibly the MOST IMPORTANT –  

  • Drink plenty of WATER: It flushes the body of toxins and impurities.




Here’s wishing you a happy and HEALTHY vacation!!!  🙂

Packing Tips to Save Space and Money

empty suitcaseIf you’re flying, it’s all about keeping baggage fees to a minimum and making your trek through the airport as stress-free as possible.

If you’re driving, it’s all about making sure everything fits in the car and there’s no undue weight to decrease gas mileage.

Most people over-pack….  Case in point, I think I spent a great deal of the time I was raising babies and toddlers over-packing the diaper bag!!! With every trip I take, I’m becoming a lighter and lighter packer.  🙂  This brings me a great sense of accomplishment!

GUIDING PRINCIPLE:  Ask Yourself:  What’s the worst thing that will happen if I don’t bring this item?  If the answer is ‘I would die or suffer unbelievable pain’, then by all means, BRING IT.  If the answer is not  ‘I would die or suffer unbelievable pain’, then consider NOT bringing it.  That formula has worked pretty well for us the last few years as I’ve tried to pare down our luggage on trips.

Here’s a few more packing tips:

  • Even when packing for a 10-12 day trip, we pack 5-6 days of clothes.  Doing laundry is NOT difficult!! (I use 2-3 machines at once and get it done in an hour)   Traveling with multiple suitcases IS difficult!!!
  • Choose a color pallet of 2 basic colors and 1-2 pieces in an accent color  (possibly 1 shirt and 1 scarf or statement necklace)  Everything goes together.  You can get by with 3-4 bottoms,  5-6 tops, a jacket  and a few accessories.  From that, you can put together multiple outfits with nothing ‘repeated’.  🙂
  • “Roll clothes” as you pack them.  I had never really believed this, even though many people said it.  THEN, I tested it!!  Amazing!!!

    Photo Credit: Diane Cordell CC Lic.

    Rolling clothes really does take less room in the suitcase. CAUTION:  Don’t do this with clothes that wrinkle easily.  In fact, unless you have a very good reason to take that easily wrinkled item, it’s probably best left at home!! (imho)  In our suitcases, some things are rolled, others aren’t…it conserves a little space.

  • Use the straps in your suitcase to compress items.
  • If flying, weigh your bag before leaving home. Luggage scales aren’t that expensive, but you don’t have to have one.  Use your bathroom scale. Weigh yourself…then hold the suitcase and weigh again. Subtract the two numbers and you’ll have the weight of the bag. When we’re doing this, I keep the suitcase under 47#  to allow for differences in scales.



  • Pack shampoo, lotion, etc… in travel size bottles. Though you can purchase travel sizes of many products, I prefer to purchase travel size bottles from The Dollar Tree and fill them with my own ‘favorites’…or use the sample bottles that come in thetravel size bottles mail or are in hotel rooms.  It’s cheaper…and I get the products I want!  The bottles can then be reused on future vacations.   If you’re concerned about spillage or leaking, make a “bottle stopper” by placing a small piece of plastic (from a plastic shopping bag) inside the lid before closing it….OR simply put the bottles in a Ziploc bag (or do both).  You will probably have acquired a plastic bag at some point in your trip that can be used to ‘seal’ the bottles for your return trip.
  • A TicTac box will hold many different things…from bobby pins to stud earring to ???   Keep a few throughout the year, rinse them out and put them with your travel things.  When you begin packing, you WILL find uses for them.  If you don’t, throw them away then…   I always find a use for them.   🙂
  • Shoes: Because everyone in our family is tall and has feet on the bigger side, we MUST ‘restrict’ the number of  shoes each person brings. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is  1 pair good walking shoes (sneakers), 1 pair good walking sandals and 1 pair flip flops/water shoes for a beach destination or hiking shoes for a ‘hiking’ vacation per person. Even with this restriction, we’re still taking TWELVE pair of adult size shoes!! At least this formula keeps things from getting FAR out of hand and enables us to do most anything we want on a vacation with proper shoes.
  • Pack shoes along the outside edges of the suitcase to provide protection to more delicate items on the interior of the case (especially if flying).  Place delicate or breakable souvenirs INSIDE shoes for added protection.  Never put anything delicate or breakable along the edges or on the top or bottom….nestle them in the interior.
  • Don’t waste the space inside those shoes – Pack items like socks or underwear in there.
  • Place the heaviest items (typically shoes or toiletry bags) at the BOTTOM of the case.  This puts the weight at the bottom eliminating that ‘topple’ syndrome.
  • If we plan to do laundry, we always take laundry soap – to avoid paying the inflated prices at the laundromat.  I HIGHLY recommend the Pods/individual packets of soap.  Powdered soap need to be packed very securely (in a Ziploc bag THEN in a  plastic Rubbermaid, Glad or Dollar Tree version container because of the strong chemical smell. That smell permeates everything in the suitcase. We don’t mind our clothes smelling like laundry soap (haha) but on one vacation we arrived with our microwave popcorn, granola bars, Altoids, gum, etc   almost inedible because they absorbed the chemical smell and ‘tasted’ like soap. When the soap is contained, there’s no scent.

Photo Credit: Mandy Jansen on Flickr CC Lic.

The Main Point here is to pack light and pack tight. It saves you money. It saves you time.  It saves your back!  🙂


Packing to Fly with Children (0-5 yrs)

Traveling with children is a whole different experience than traveling with adults or teens.  It requires a fine tuned skill set.  *sigh*  🙂


While infants on vacations may be rare, there ARE times when we may need to take an infant on a flight…visiting family, holidays, relocating, funerals, etc….   If you find yourself in that situation, here are a few tips:

  • On a recent flight to Hawaii, there was a baby on our flights both going and returning from the islands.  On BOTH flights, within just a few minutes of taking off, the babies began a high-pitched scream. The ‘noise’ didn’t bother me, but the painful cries broke my heart!  I KNEW what was happening.  Their ears weren’t popping and they were in pain.  The intensity of the screams made it obvious. (A mom knows the pain cry)

    Photo Credit: Kona Gallagher on Flickr CC lic.

    NOTE TO PARENTS:  Babies needs to swallow during altitude changes in order to help with air pressure/ear popping.  Without it, they may be in a lot of pain.  (As with adults, I think it’s an individualized thing) While a pacifier may get them to suckle, there’s no guarantee they’ll swallow.  That requires a bottle…  A “Little Tip” here…If you board the aircraft with your baby slightly hungry, it increases the chances he/she will actively swallow during take off. Obviously, you know your child better than anyone so make your decision based on your own knowledge. Just be aware of the need to swallow to make the ears pop….and PLEASE, help your infant with this!!!

  • It has been suggested on several blogs or articles making their way around Facebook that parents with infants bring along ‘treat bags’ for the other passengers.  The idea behind this is that fellow travelers will be more tolerant of your baby’s cries if they have a candy bar in hand.  I have been amazed at the amount of controversy this practice has garnered online…though I shouldn’t have been. EV.ER.Y.Thing. garners controversy online….ha!  However, I mention it as something to consider…  It could cost a LOT if you make up 10-20 of these bags…and honestly, that’s how many passengers will be within earshot of a crying baby. If you feel this is a good idea for you, then by all means do it…but also, do what you can to alleviate your baby’s pain…  That will make it easier to keep him/her calm and happy.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about medications to alleviate congestion –which contributes to problems with air pressure/ear popping. This is a controversial topic, but I mention it for your consideration….
  • Use the clips that are meant to clip onto clothing and hold the baby’s pacifier, to also hold teething toys.  This keeps them from being dropped under the airplane seat or while you’re walking through the airport.
  • Discovery Toys Boomerings are phenomenal!!! Though other companies make similar links, the Discovery Toys Boomerings are more durable, imho.  🙂  These can be connected in various lengths to hold
    Product Details

    Photo Credit: Discovery Toys and Amazon

    several toys and will keep items from getting lost on your trek through the airport or on the plane.  (No, I am NOT a Discovery Toys consultant AND I am not being reimbursed to ‘advertise’ for them….this is truly my opinion.)   I share this because I LOVED them and used them for MANY things when my children were young.

  • Snacks/Bottles:  Of course, bring these, but be cautious of over-using them as it will increase the number of diaper changes you will need to do.  I mention this because I’ve seen parents who use food and drink as “calmers”….That will work against you in the long run.
  • Getting through security is always going to be a challenge with a baby. TSA liquid restrictions are ‘less’ for infant formula or medicines.  You are allowed to bring a “reasonable” amount through security.  (Check the TSA website for more detailed information)
  • Packing the diaper bag:  Make the diaper bag a “bag of bags” using Ziploc bags to separate items….a Ziploc bag for snacks, a bag for toys, a bag of a change of clothes, bag for 2-3 diaper changes…   It’s easier to grab a small Ziploc bag when you need a toy or a snack —or are heading to change a diaper rather than having to tote the entire diaper bag…or rummage through it for individual items then carry them loose.


  • Security:  Children and Airport Security will give ideas on File:2007 report child plane.jpghow to prepare your child for going through security.  This is EXTREMELY important when maneuvering through security with toddlers or preschoolers who don’t yet understand what is going on and what is being required of them.  It becomes exponentially more important if you have 2 (or 3)  young ones with you.
  • Snacks/Drinks:  Of course, you’ll need some of these, but be cautious about “over-using” them. (i.e. using food/drink as “calmers”)  It will just increase the number of diapers or trips to the “tiny” airplane bathroom you will have to make.
  • Toys:  A few toys are a good idea, but good judgement certainly has a place here.  I’ve seen parents who bring the child’s entire toy chest on the plane.  They’re just making the trip more stressful for themselves.  By all means, make the experience of the flight an exciting experience for your child.  There’s so many interesting things to see.  Of course, gone are the days when children could go up to the cockpit for a visit with the captain…but still, there are interesting things to see while there.  Make sure the child has a window seat and talk about what they’re seeing.   Computer games or favorite dvd’s can provide several hours of entertainment when the ‘newness’ of the plane wears off. (Don’t forget the earphones) Bring a favorite book – the one they ask you to read over and over at home.  You can get hours of reading and only carry 1 book.  🙂  Of course, a few well-chosen toys, crayons, or colored pencils and paper/coloring book are a good idea; just choose wisely.  My governing thought:  As many activities with as few items and weight as possible.
  • If your child is like mine, they attend countless birthday parties where they are given goodie bags.  Store some of those items throughout the year (crayons, stickers, plastic toys)  for the flight. They’re small and you won’t Toys at the Dollar Storecare that much if they get lost.  DON’T bring that treasured toy unless activity, coloring and puzzle booksYOU want to take responsibility for keeping up with it!  Of course, another option for cheap lightweight toys is the dollar store.


  • Make a “tent” for naps or play time by clipping one end of an airline blanket under the top of the folded-up tray and the other end under the headrest.  This is not only great for nap time, but makes an excellent “play area”….most kids LOVE “tents”.  🙂
  • Some recommend moist towellettes for freshening up or cleaning messes on a flight.  I actually do two different things. First, I bring antibacterial wipes for those times when germs are a concern (taking a child to the restroom where it’s very tight quarters and they have a tendency to touch everything! ha)  For cleaning up the messes children can make or for freshening up after a long flight, I prefer to bring a dry washcloth (in a Ziploc bag). Ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water, then wet the cloth for use.   Wet washcloths are much more effective in cleaning up messes.  When you arrive at your hotel, rinse or wash it out with soap or shampoo and hang to dry.  Return it to your plastic bag when dry and it’s ready for your return flight.
  • Plan layovers to allow your child to walk off energy.  Long or non-stop flights might be ok for adults or teens, but not for small children. They NEED to get off the plane, walk around, go to a regular sized restroom, and get something REAL and substantial to eat.  Some airports are putting in children’s areas with play equipment.  Kayak  (app and website) has information on what is available at airports.

FOOD ON THE FLIGHT:  The airlines offer lunch boxes, but they are WAY over-priced for what they contain – which is typically pre-packaged items. You can purchase your own (on sale!) for much less.  These items pack very easily in a carry on or diaper bag.

snacks for travel

snacks for travel

Meal Suggestion: Take sandwiches then wash and freeze some grapes and put them in a freezer  bag. When placed in the sack with a sandwich(es), they’ll keep sandwiches cold. (Ice can’t go through security – it’s considered a ‘liquid’, but frozen grapes are OK.)  They’re actually quite delicious as they begin to thaw, but are still a little “icy” in the center.  After we did this on a flight, my kids starting asking for frozen grapes at home.  🙂

PHoto Credit:

Photo Credit: Sabrina S. CC Lic.

Candied ginger is a preventative remedy for motion sickness if you prefer to avoid medications.


Recommended by a Doctor: Using a little saline mist spray before boarding will keep your nose  from drying out and over producing moisture (a cause of the stuffiness after a long flight).  If your children will ‘allow’ you to give this to them, it’s a GREAT idea.  Saline is not a medication…it’s just “salt water” so is perfectly safe for children.  🙂

Happy Flying!!  🙂