All posts by he.she.oui@gmail.com

Four Airline Hacks For Travelers On A Budget

?: Jorge Díaz/Flickr

About three weeks ago I traveled on WOW Air for the first time. The price was about as unbelievable as the soul crushing reviews continuously pouring in on  consumer reporting sites. If this wasn’t a quick trip to meet my globe trotting husband in Amsterdam, maybe I would’ve reconsidered or perhaps flown something safe and trusted. But, like I said, the price was unreal and I could already hear the EDM beats pumping at the late-night Dutch disco techs…I had to press on.

WOW Air is similar to many other pay and play airlines that offer stark discounts in their base fares while placing the onus on patrons to pay for the additional luxuries they deem necessary. United Airlines, Norwegian and so many others are introducing these base level seats for passengers looking to save a few dollars.

No, this is not the air travel of yesteryear where you could enjoy exotic dinners, fresh brewed morning coffee and an endless supply of complementary pillows, blankets and peanuts. I know, I miss those days, too.

With these four simple hacks you’re ensured to fly comfortably and affordably even while sitting  in the cheap seats.

 

Get Down and Dirty with Duty Free

?: Tino Rossini/Flickr

Purchasing alcohol on planes has always been pricy, but in the last couple of years the fees on your favorite cocktails have skyrocketed. On WOW Air, wine and spirits ranged from $9.00 – $15.00. The only beer option was an Icelandic brand called Gull that I wasn’t familiar with. Not outrageous, but if you’re planning on starting your vacation party early, those little bottles can quickly add up.

Stop by the duty free shop for a bottle of premium liquor or a chilled bottle of wine with a twist off cap (like the $19 bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay I opted for). WOW Air says they don’t allow patrons to open duty free items on the plane, but the stewardess happily offered me a plastic cup so that I could discreetly pour my delicious, buttery chard into!

 

Watch your Sizes

?: Nicole Hanusek/Flickr

Most airlines offering these a-la-carte fares have MANY restrictions, but the most consistent across the board are bag sizes. On WOW and United you could only bring a small personal item (i.e. a purse or a briefcase) for free. A tiny bag might cut it for a weekend getaway, but could be harder to pull off for a two week international holiday. From my research I’ve found that it’s always cheaper to buy a carry-on or checked bag at the time of your airline ticket purchase. If you wait, additional fees will be added to your costs, so plan ahead. Also, drag out that dusty bodyweight scale and weigh your bags before your get to the airport. If you go over the dimensions or weight, you will most definitely be looking at a stiff bill at the check-in counter.

Take a Meal To Go

On my last trip to LAX, I had the most disappointing caprese salad I’ve ever experienced in my life. My Italian friends would’ve been livid, especially since the appetizer-sized simple salad cost over $15.00. On my trip to Amsterdam, I refused to make that same mistake again. I ordered a sandwich from one of my favorite shops on the way and asked them to hold the condiments. After a quick trip to the grocery store for individually packaged trail mix and a delectable fine cheese snack pack, I was ready for the eight hour journey to our stop in Reykjavik! Remember: you want something that’s going to travel well and that won’t go bad over the duration of your journey.

(CAUTION FOR WOW AIR FLIERS: The airport in Reykjavik is a hub for WOW so you will most likely stop through there. If you plan on getting food or cocktails, check the prices carefully. Reykjavik is EXTREMELY expensive with a pre-made sandwich costing me $20 USD. )

One new service I am anxious to try on my trip to Paris next month is   Loungebuddy. It’s an app that allows you to pay a nominal fee for entry into airport lounges all over the world. Some lounges offer free meals, while others serve up complementary signature cocktails. If you’re in a foreign country without a chance to stop for a snack, this might be the next best thing!

 

If You Can’t Beat ’em Buy ’em

?: Gary Bembridge/Flickr

As much as you might try, some perks you’re just going to have to pay for. I opted to buy an aisle seat and purchased a carry-on bag for each leg of my flight. Though it cost me an additional $200 on my fare, it was worth it! Anything from extra legroom to entertainment is up for auction these days and the earlier you buy the better…prices go up and options become scarce the closer you are to your travel date.

See Amsterdam Like A Local…By Bike!

?: Diego Portela/Flickr

Cycling is more than a form of exercise in Dutch cities, it’s a way of life and has been since the late 1800’s. Still the most popular form of transportation, if you want to see Amsterdam like a local, you’re going to need a bike!

My Black Bike Rental locked across from the Anne Frank House

Bike Rentals

Many hotels have bikes for rent daily, but in the summer months, the rentals go quick! Make this your mission as soon as you check-in, especially if the weather is nice as the hotel rentals are limited and in high demand.

There are several other rental locations…our go to is Black Bikes. I made it a point to write a shining review on TripAdvisor and YELP because the young guy, Tycho is super helpful.  For around 17 Euro (less if you book more than one day at a time), you can hit the streets in a superb bike. Pay a little more for a basket (which I should’ve done) to cart those bottles of wine and packages of gouda you pick up at Albert Cuyp Market!

?: Lauri Väin/Flickr

Bike Safety

The locals bike all year round, rain or shine and you won’t see many helmets, not even on children! Bike locks are another matter as most bikes have at least two locks, a rear lock to render the back wheel motionless and another to hook through the front wheel and frame of the bike. Properly locking your bike is IMPERATIVE. We were sitting at a restaurant enjoying a beer right next to our bikes and a group of guys tried to stealthily steal ours. But, we’re former New Yorkers…no one pulls the wool over our eyes! ? You can lock your bike to bridges, sign posts and bike racks, but make sure to lock up even if you’re making a quick stop.

?: Mariano Mantel/Flickr

 

Getting Around Town

Bike lanes and lights will help you learn the traffic patterns, but how do you get from point A to point B? Although Google Maps offers a bike option, the GPS function isn’t 100% accurate. I prefer an excellent app called Citymapper. Able to navigate the bike paths at your own pace (there’s a ‘quiet’ option for those who want to take a slower, easier route), this app got me from the Van Gogh Museum to the Anne Frank House with ease, even when I was unfamiliar with the general landscape of the city. Also useful for navigating the trams and trains, this app is a must for traversing public transportation in Amsterdam!

Me at Dam Square

Now, stretch out those quads and saddle up for an amazing ride!

 

Tartines of grandeur at Pitchoun Bakery & Cafe

 

The Los Angeles food scene never ceases to amaze me. Like with most cities, a dynamic and diverse population begets unique and delicious culinary delicacies from all over the world. That is definitely true of L.A. and, specifically D.T.L.A where you can get just about anything your heart desires in a couple of jam-packed miles. Case and point– around the corner from one of my favorite French Cafes Madame Monseuir and one of my favorite fine dining experiences Bottega Louie stands Pitchoun Bakery & Cafe

Though Pitchoun has fantastic French pastries, we decided to sample from the extensive menu of tartines or open-faced sandwiches topped with your choice of meat and vegetables that are very common in France.

Colorful, crisp and bursting with flavor, Pitchoun’s tartines overflow with bright and fresh ingredients. The Pesto with grilled chicken, asparagus and fresh basil was light yet complex with a salty, acidic bite from the sun dried tomatoes washed away by the cool asparagus.

 

A stark contrast to the Sunshine tartine with paper thin prosciutto and crispy fig bread that rivaled some of the best ham and crusty bread we’d fight over in Italy.

And, speaking of bread, of course I couldn’t leave without a sweet and chewy French baguette of my very own!