Call Us Now in Canada & US
1.888.805.0061

Secrets to Experiencing First Class Comfort in Economy Class

With the holidays upon us, we’re all going to be logging some serious flight time in the coming weeks. Here are some tips to help you elevate your flight experience from just bearable to first class comfort.

Top 5 Tips for getting comfortable on a long flight:

plane
Photo source: Flickr

1. Check your seat in advance.

This really is my #1 tip to anyone. ALL of the time.

There’s nothing worse that been sandwiched in between people, in the middle seat, during a long flight. Seatguru.com is where I check out the seating configurations of a plane (in advance of booking), as you are often able to at least make a seat request at time of booking (even if you may not yet be able to confirm it). I’ve snagged some stellar seats this way that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about, such as the window seat (33A or 33K) behind the emergency exits on Lufthansa’s 737-400. Those seats are the best economy seat on that plan because there isn’t anyone in front of you and you can get up from that seat anytime without having to bother your neighbours. They’re almost roomier than most of the business class seats on the plane, and for an economy seat price. Finds like that make checking out seatguru.com well worth the time. Ticket agents won’t tell you about these seats as they may not even know about all of them.

2. Organize a flight comfort kit.

When you fly first class, you get a care kit very similar to this. So, I always have the following 5 items on the ready in my special flight kit so that I can always experience these first class comforts:
-  a small, carry on blanket. You can sometimes arrange these from airlines, or pick a compact blanket up at most travel/luggage stores.  It can get darn cold on some flights.
-  a good travel pillow. My travel pillow is made by Obusform, the company that makes real pillows and mattresses. With a good pillow, it’s much easier to get comfortable enough to get some rest.
- an eye maskThis does wonders for helping me sleep during the hours I need to be resting, regardless of how bright the cabin happens to be at that time.
- a pair of comfortable slip-on shoes or slippers. It’s more comfortable to take your shoes of during a flight, but for those moments when you want to get up and walk around, it’s great to have an easy slip-on pair of shoes (especially when heading to the bathroom).
- hand cream and lip salve. The dry, recycled air sucks the moisture right out of your skin, and I feel that almost instantly on my hands and lips. Dry hands and chapped lips are the worst. So, this is a must have item for me on any plane ride.

3. Bring your glasses.

Contact lenses were not designed for airplane air. The dry cabin air makes contacts dry and uncomfortable. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of your contacts dried onto you eyeballs, and there’s nothing classy about that experience. So, I take my contacts out almost as soon as I get on the plane, or wear my glasses when I board the flight. And you’ll want to take your contacts out if you plan on catching any shut-eye anyway.

4.  Bring your iPad or tablet, preloaded with games or movies.

Domestic flights in the US rarely have seat-back entertainment. So, unless you have a good book to read, the flight can get boring rather quickly. Fortunately, virtually every Air Canada domestic flight has free seatback entertainment, even the short haul ones, but this is definitely not the industry standard. Many planes that do have seatback entertainment charge for the luxury of using them. So, come prepared with your own device and you won’t have to pay any more fees to better enjoy your flight.

5.  Invest in noise cancelling headphones.

While these can be somewhat on the pricier side, if you fly a lot and value your peace and quiet to feel relaxed, then these are absolutely worth the investment. Some would venture to say they’re worth their weight in gold. When you’re wearing these headphones, it’ll be so quiet, you’ll almost feel you’ve been sealed off from the rest of the plane in your own first class private suite a la Air Emirates style. And around the holidays, you may be able to find some great Christmas shopping deals on them too. (They may even be the perfect gift for the frequent traveler on your Christmas list!)

Follow these tips, and I’m sure you’ll experience your flight with much more class and comfort this holiday season! 

Happy Flying! 

5 Slick Tips for Getting The Cheapest Flight Deals

Anyone who wants to find the cheapest fare needs to have a grasp of these fundamentals.

airfareblogpic


Be flexible

This may sound cliché, but it is indeed the cold hard truth. Unless you are somewhat flexible when booking your flight, you will not find the cheapest airfare. Simple as that. There’s almost always going to be another, cheaper option if you look at an alternative time of day, another day entirely, or even an alternative airport.

Avoid flying on certain days

The topic of best day to fly is hotly debated. Some say the best flight deals are found on a Sunday, while others state you will find them on a Wednesday. While I cannot necessarily commit to saying one over the other – as I’ve found great flight deals on both – it is definitely best to avoid booking flights on Fridays and Mondays. I’ve never found a cheap deal on those days because it is when the masses are flying, at the end or beginning of a standard working week. Basically, prices are higher when the airlines know more people need to fly. Most airfare search websites actually allow you to click “flexible dates.” Clicking that will yield you the best possible results for your flight window. Similarly, if you look carefully at some fare search sites, you will discover that you can click on a “fare calendar” to show an entire month of fares for your destination.

Book at least one month in advance

Searching for a last minute fare deal is a bit like searching for a unicorn. As a general rule, never leave flight booking to the last minute. If possible, start looking for a flight around 3 months in advance of your travels. There seems to be a booking sweet spot — of between 6-10 weeks in advance of your travels – when you can most easily find the best deals. Unless you are booking a seat sale, booking too far in advance rarely leads to the best deal. I start researching fares around 10 weeks before I need to travel. As soon as the fare drops to the point that I think it won’t go much lower, I grab it. Just don’t leave it too close to the date. Seats in the lowest fare classes usually disappear 30 days before as airlines often require them to be booked a minimum 30 days in advance. So, when you pass one month before the flight, your odds of snagging a great deal drastically decline.

Clear your computer’s history, cookies, and cache 

This tip is really important, especially if you are regularly researching your fares online. Airline websites and travel search sites often keep track of your previous searches, and this is not always in your favour. Your best chance at finding the best deal is when the site doesn’t have record of your most recent visits. On more than a few occasions, after deleting my cookies and search history, I’ve found a cheap fare that didn’t appear to be available previously. I don’t have an official explanation for this phenomenon, but I think when sites detect you as a “first time” visitor, they offer up their best deals to grab you as a customer.

Book connecting flights

Airlines know that your time is valuable. Therefore, getting to a destination the fastest way possible, via direct long-haul flights, is often much more expensive. Thus, if you are not in a rush and have time on your side, you can really save by choosing an indirect option. Airlines need to fill as many seats on the plane as possible. So, a classic way for airlines to keep their seats filled is to discount seats for flights when these flights are part of a multiple connection itinerary. For instance, you may find a much cheaper flight if you connect in a major American flight hub such as New York, Chicago or Houston. If you use an airline search website, just be sure to click “see all results” or “show all” as sometimes searches display the direct flight options first because they are generally more expensive and earn the booking site a greater overall commission. 

Gadgets and iPhone Apps for Active Travel

We are all about embracing destinations to the fullest and loving every minute that you are on the go. So, we want to help you spend less time fretting over the little details. So many of us rely on our phones now for everything, even when we are away from the everyday. And we would hate to hear that you had to miss out on capturing your favourite views or moments because your iPhone died (hello, we’ve all be there, haven’t we?).APPstore

Here’s a list of great current gadgets and apps to help you embrace the moment wherever you find yourself biking, hiking or whatever else you get up to doing on your active holidays.

GADGETS

Lifeproof iPhone Cases
Doesn’t the name say it all?
And this company is after our own heart, as it also makes accessories like bike mounts, perfect for cycling trips!

SnowLizard SLXtreme iPhone Case
This case is waterproof, so it is perfect for those active days in places like Costa Rica, kayaking or whitewater rafting!

Mophie Space Pack for iPhone
Fear not when you are out biking, hiking or kayaking for hours away from plugs! You may never have to worry about missing that perfect pic again!

Otterbox iPhone Commuter Series Wallet
This handy little phone cover has a built in “drawer” to stash credit cards and bills so that you don’t have to dig through your bag for them or stuff them in your socks.

Olloclip for iPhone
If you like the versatility of other cameras but don’t want to carry that extra bulk, these little clip-on lenses turn your phone into a more sophisticated camera with fisheye, wide-angle and macro capabilities.

iPhone APPS

Word Lens
This app is absolute amazing for visiting foreign countries.  When you point the phone at a sign, as if to take a picture, it translates words into English for you read in real-time on your iPhone screen. Perfect for signs in foreign languages.

Sphere 360
This crazy cool app lets you create 360 images of what you are experiencing. This is the ultimate way to document your favourite views!

Packing Pro
This really is an essential app for anyone who stresses over forgetting items at home. You can create multiple, custom packing lists so that you never forget anything critical to your trip again.

Rove
This app helps you keep a private journal of all the places you’ve been without having to take time out to sit down and write it all down. Simply tap, clip and snaap (you can even attach picture posts to each place). Plus, if you want to make your friends jealous, you can share some maps and pics with them.

MileBug
This is the ultimate way to not only track how many miles you’ve traveled, with its GPS tracking and map display, but it can also keep track of all your expenses for meals, hotels, food, tips, etc. in one place.


A great related travel quote, and on of our favourites:
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

photo source

The Limitations of TripAdvisor and Guidebooks

You are planning a trip to a new destination. The flight is booked. Now you are really getting excited. Because it is so new to you that you know nothing about it other than that you can’t wait to go there and experience all that it has to offer.

So that gets you thinking. You better organize everything in advance so that you can make the best of your time there, right? That’s the automatic instinct, to get organized. So as the excitement of the trip builds, you start researching. You run to a bookstore and pick up a guidebook; you Google reviews of the hotels and restaurants; you scour TripAdvisor to see what other travellers have said. Then you start planning everything from where you’ll eat to what you’ll visit during the day and where you’ll sleep, all based on what other travellers have said.

And then, before you know it, your trip is all planned. You have a full schedule to follow. Because you’ve pieced together all that you are going to do based on what others have told you to do via aggregated average ratings on generic travel websites.

But wait a second. Do you want your trip to be just average or generic? Wasn’t the purpose of that “research” to help you enjoy your destination to the fullest?

Yet, now you’ll be arriving to your destination full of expectations. And you’ll be basing everything you do on what you’ve been told to do by the masses. Your trip now fits nicely into a rather generic box.

What about your unique, personal experience of the place? What about living and experiencing a place in the moment? What happened to experiencing YOUR trip?

It’s all lost to the likes of TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.

You’re about to go on a trip built by others, essentially for others. How can it possibly be a trip for you when you’re the last person to weigh in with an opinion?

And, as if that isn’t sad enough, when one simply follows TripAdvisor and guidebooks — comparing places on a broader, international review spectrum with average, international standards — the importance of local customs and character gets neglected.

5365508868_86a2b1f76c_o(1)

If you want to fully experience a place, shouldn’t the local culture be the primary focus? Isn’t that where you’ll discover local charm and character to its fullest? These hotels and restaurants may not be complete with all the luxurious, modern bells and whistles that you can find at the Hilton but they will best represent the local style. (Let’s face it, locals in Paris do not all have views off of their balconies of the Eiffel Tower nor does everyone in Santorini, Greece have a pool and a bedroom view of the caldera).

So while you could certainly travel based on what an average group of travellers has ranked as the so-called “best,” why would you want to restrict your experience by placing it within such a limiting box? And how many of those review writers arrived to the place with any true awareness of what is reasonable to expect in that destination anyway? What is reasonable to expect in Slovenia and Croatia, for instance, is far different than what can be expected in Guatemala or Nicaragua.

Instead of searching for other people’s reviews online and in guidebooks, why not spend that time researching local customs and culture? That seems like far better use of one’s time in preparing to make the most of your experience.

It’s your trip, after all. Embrace it. If you are going to surrender to anything, surrender to being in the moment. Make every single moment of it your own.


A great related travel quote, and on of our favourites:
“People don’t take trips. . .trips take people.” ~ John Steinbeck

Encountering Ancient Cultures on Trips

Interacting with locals is essential to truly experiencing any destination.  And most people realize that, I think.  Especially those within the adventure travel sphere.

However, beyond simply interacting, it is also just as important to respect local traditions and knowledge. That, too, may seem common sense. Yet, it can be rather surprising how many people still take this point for granted when travelling. But when we truly keep our minds and eyes open, we see evidence of thriving ancient traditions all around us. So many cultures in this world have extraordinarily beautifully ancient cultures and traditions. Generally, the less exposure to European colonization a culture has — such as, say, Nepal or Laos — the more prevalent these ancient customs.

For many of us, experiencing these vibrant cultures is what drives us to travel, to see the world… And the deeper off the beaten track we go, the more authentic our experiences. 

So, how can we make the most of these cultural interactions?

In many of these cultures, we will also have the privilege of meeting wise elders. These elders have varying names from one culture to another. In Cambodia or Vietnam, we may encounter them as Monks. In India, we may encounter them as Hindu Priests. Or, in Ecuador or Peru, we may encounter them as Shaman. No matter what their official names, these wise men or women are the purveyors of ancient traditions and wisdom and, generally, in their day to day lives, they embody a set of principles and practices based on this wisdom. As a result, they are very highly respected within their communities. So, it is important that we also remember to bestow the same level of respect upon them as would locals.

Nepal_blogThe more respect we show to these elders, the greater a connection we can develop with them as well. I’ve seen the most serious looking elders absolutely light up and smile ear to ear upon my simply expressing appreciation for their culture. After all, we must remember that for these elders, little is more important to them than having their ancient wisdom and traditions respected, by anyone and everyone, as part of their community’s historic and cultural legacy. So, showing our appreciation of the value of such traditions, even as a foreigner, really deepens our connection with them.

Finally, when we have the good fortune of witnessing a sacred traditional ceremony, or when we are lucky to be invited to participate in one, it is best to jump in and embrace it — all while realizing that in these places, it is hardly a “tourist spectacle”

—-
A related travel quote and one of our favourites:
“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” ~ Gustave Flaubert