Archive for April, 2009

10 Ways To Find The Best Last Minute Travel Deals

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Travel Deals

Do you get the impression new travel engine “clones” are popping up every day on the net.  Both new and well-experienced bargain travel hunters are having a tough time sorting through all the information to find the best travel deals.  They end up spending ridiculous amounts of time searching through every imaginable site for “the best” deal.  If you’re looking to book something a week or two (or even a day) in advance, there isn’t a lot of time for the price research you normally would like to do.  There is too much information to sort through to dig up the most relevant booking sites.  I’ve compiled the following list of the resources to find the best last minute travel deals:

1. and These two sites get the highest ratings for finding the lowest airfare/travel deals.  These two companies recently merged with each other, and I pretty much consider them the same site (even though Kayak says they search 140 travel sites and Sidestep searches 200).  The two sites feature a wide range of the most useful travel deal search tools on the net.  These include the Buzz Calendar tool, which shows a snapshot of the best deals for every day of the month without waiting for a search.  The Buzz tool allows you to search for the best deals to various regions of the world.  Also, you can search for trips in the upcoming weekend, calendar month or three days before or after your travel dates.

2. Hotwire is able to consistently offer some of the lowest rates on hotels, flights and rental cars because it doesn’t disclose which flight, company, or hotel you’re going to book until after you’ve paid.  This is too risky for most people for airline flights or hotels, but with rental cars, you get the same type of car regardless of which company provides it.  Works best for big chains in the US or Canada.  The site,, is a forum which helps you determine which hotel you’re booking on Hotwire.  I’ve used Hotwire to book 4.5 Star hotels in Toronto for more than 50% off what any other site advertised for the same hotel.

3. Allows you to “name your own price” for rental cars, hotels, and flights.  They boast savings of up to 30% for rental cars, %50 for hotels, and %40 for flights.  Like Hotwire, Priceline doesn’t tell you the name of the hotel/flight/rental company you’re booking until you buy it, and it doesn’t refund your money if you cancel.  The savings are usually worth the chance you take though. also offers a section for determining the hotel you are booking on Priceline.

4. Aggregate Travel Search Engines – I lump all of these “clones” together.  They may have some different prices, features and deals, but they all give you the impression of being the exact same site.  I usually check out these sites after referencing prices on a site like  Sometimes you can get the best deals here when adding on coupon codes.  You can find the current coupon/promotional codes at sites like and  Here are the three best engines to use:
b. – Find their last minute deals here
c. – Find their last minute deals here

5.  International Versions of Aggregate Travel Sites – Sometimes different markets in other coutries charge lower prices for flights and/or vacation packages.  For example – may have better deals in US dollars than

6.  Craigslist The popular global classifieds site sometimes lists desperate sellers trying to offload upcoming flights or travel packages for a small percentage of their value.  Keep a watchful eye for scammers on this site and try to only deal with people face to face.

7.  Airfare Watchdog – This site is known to be the fastest for posting airlines’ so called “fire sales”, which are unbelievable low fares usually lasting a short time.  They even include fares for smaller airlines that might not show up on the bigger airfare search engines.  Sign up for emails notifying you of unadvertised, “hidden” fare reductions in your city.

8.  VRBO – Offers over 110000 vacation homes, apartments, condos, b&b, cabins, beach houses & vacation villa rentals around the world.  Negotiate with the owner to get last minute deals at some of the nicest vacation properties in the world at a fraction of the price.

9. Vayama They advertise the best selection of flights for international travel.  I like their interface better than any other travel search engine I’ve used.  Go to their Deals link to view the best last minute airfare prices.

10. Canadian Vacation Selloff Sites – If you live in or near Canada, these sites are my first choice when looking for a last minute vacation package.  The prices listed are usually in Canadian dollars, which gives you additional savings when the exchange rate is in your favor.  Wait to buy a last minute selloff package a week or two in advance.  Of course your going to have to be more open to the destination and have the time off of work, but I’ve been able to take 4-star vacations for next to nothing prices.  I’ve taken an seven night, all-inclusive (flight, 4-star resort, meals, and drinks included) vacation to Punta Cana for around $600.
Check out:
Air Canada Last Minute Vacations

10 Best Mapping Tools to Never Get Lost Again

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Mapping Resources

Like the majority of travelers, I like to get the most out of every trip I go on.  This includes not getting lost and wasting a precious vacation day driving around aimlessly.  I remember when I was a teenager on Easter break with my family in Florida in the mid 90s, I spent a whole day riding around in the family Dodge RAM conversion van because my parents were relying on their 1976 road atlas.

In today’s digital age, there are numerous tools out there to make sure this never happens to you.  You can go pretty much anywhere in the world and have your roads, tourist sites, hotels, and any other hidden places mapped out for you ahead of time, or even while you’re traveling.  Here’s a list of the top resources to cover all of your mapping needs:

1. Google Maps – Google Map’s immense feature list and easy of use makes them my default link for online mapping.  Get driving instructions around the world, live feeds of traffic conditions and street views in major US cities, view the current location of your friends, and addresses, phone numbers, and web site links of the locations you’re mapping.  And you don’t have to stick with the default route generated either.  You can dynamically change the mapped route by dragging points on the route to other areas on the map.  This makes it easy to avoid bad traffic and plan a trip with multiple stops.  Other cool features include viewing photos, videos, and wikipedia links of relevant points on the map.

2. Microsoft Live Search – Another great tool for creating routes on the web.  It has many of the same features as Google Maps (interactive maps, live traffic reports, world directions, location information, etc.), while offering a few different competing features.  These include the ability to view 3D cities with high resolution imagery and export your maps in various GPS formats (KML, GPX, and GeoRSS), which can be sent to any personal navigation device.

3. Viamichelin – One of the best online, interactive mapping tools for driving directions in Europe.  This site allows you to scan information on 4.4 million miles of road across 42 European countries.  The mapping features include: displaying maps and locating places on them, route planning, service station locations, finding hotels and restaurants, tourist sights, speed trap locations, and traffic and weather information.  This service is also available on mobile phones and PDAs.

4. Garmin GPS – Garmin provides GPS devices for travelers finding their way via road, water, or trails around the world.  In the US, Australia, Brazil, China, and many other countries, Garmin’s devices offer a plethora of maps to help you reach your destination effortlessly while getting the most out of your journey.  Unlike other major GPS device manufacturers, they offer US based customer support, which keeps you from pulling your hair out when trying to get help from the guy in India who knows about 50 words of English.  Also, the ease of exchanging waypoint files between devices, easy-to-use menus, and constant addition of new and intuitive features bring this company’s GPS devices to the front of the pack.  I would choose the Nuvi 880 if you’re a high end user looking for all the bells and whistles, or the Nuvi 760 for the more mainstream user.

PHYSICAL MAPS – It’s always good to have a comprehensive map of the country you’re traveling in.  Online mapping sites don’t always offer all of the information you need, and it’s sometimes hard to put together all of your printouts in a manageable format.  Check out the following sites to order a diverse range of map types for pretty much all locations in the world:
5. Omni Resources Map Catalog – Not only offers road maps to most world locations, but also bicycling, railway, topographic, nautical, and many other types of maps.

6. – Tout themselves as the world’s largest map store for travel, wall, and digital maps.

7. Trimble Outdoors – Trimble Outdoors is a set of subscription based software tools used to show you exactly where you are and where you have been.  They allow you to use your GPS-enabled cell phone to navigate trails and highways (street, satellite, and topological maps), track your fitness performance (by recording your jog or bike route), geocache (a pastime in which objects are hidden at secret locations for participants to find using GPS positions), and create, manage and share your trips and maps with others.  The cost for this software package is $7 per month.  While most major cell phone carriers support some of Timble’s apps, Sprint is the only carrier supporting all of them.

8. Urban Rail – Very useful site when you’re relying on metro transit in a new city.  Offers subway maps for many major cities worldwide.  UrbanRail.Net gives you a general overview (including fare prices, times, and history), and a color coded map of each city’s metro system.

9. Google Transit – (a Google Maps feature) is growing rapidly and offers directions on mass transit systems in major cities around the world.

10. Local tourist office – If you don’t have time to gather your map data ahead of time, you’re spontaneous and like to figure things out when you arrive, or you want the most up-to-date information, local tourist offices (airports and hotels also) usually offer some of the best maps of roads and attractions for free.

4 Hacks for Working Anywhere

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4 Hacks for Working Anywhere

When was the last time you told yourself you wanted to live in your favorite vacation destination and sip Mojitos on a beach, all while working from your laptop on a lounge chair? I find too many people reading self improvement books about “living in the now” and cultivating their dream lifestyle, but don’t make any changes to their habits and live the “normal” 8-5 system in a cubicle.

I constantly hear stories about entrepreneurs who live dream lifestyles in tropical destinations and work their own hours. The problem is, most people don’t have the resources or know how to go on an extended vacation for the rest of our lives. On the bright side, it’s possible for anyone to live and work in the destination of your choice around the world, even if you don’t have millions laying around or a self-sustaining business bringing in six figures. I came up with a set of resources to get you started in the right direction and hack your lifestyle.

Here are four of the quickest solutions to help you get settled in your dream destination:

1. Work Exchange – This usually involves exchanging unskilled labor for free room and board. One of the best resources for finding matching jobs in your choice destination is WorkawayWorkaway promotes fair exchange (work for room/board) between travelers and hosts seeking help with a range of activities. Their philosophy is simple – “5 hours of honest work per day in exchange for food and accommodation with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.” Workaway ($15 euro/year to register with site) holds a database of families, individuals and organizations in many different countries, which are looking for volunteer help in a whole range of different fields. From painting to planting, building to babysitting or shopping to shearing, Workaway aims to introduce working travelers and language learners to like-minded hosts, without having to go through an agency. You do not need to have a skilled, technical trade to get one of these gigs.

2. Profession change – Some professions are easier than others to find a portal to a wide assortment of opportunities around the world. Travel writers, teachers, health care practitioners, entrepreneurs, IT specialists, and travel/tourism operators are known to have the widest selection of jobs and opportunities in destinations worldwide.
Here are some places you can search to get started on an International career path:

3. Telecommute – With the ever increasing number of off-shored jobs, this is becoming harder to pull off than it was a few years ago. Employers are beginning to offer this “perk” only when they are confident and trusting in your abilities. To convince your boss to let you work remotely, you first need to out-perform your coworkers IN the office and then show how productive you can be while working REMOTELY. Make this transition slowly and make sure your boss is seeing results and effort while you’re working away from the office. It’s rare that a place is going to let you work remotely 24/7 from day one. You have to build up the trust and show you can get results in any environment. When you reach the point where you are not expected to be in the office, you can start working from any destination with internet access. Check out this link for tips on staying productive while working remotely. Job types most likely to be able to take part in this include: IT specialists, travel agents, graphic designers, lawyers, customer support reps, writers, and freelancers.

4. Volunteer – Yes, many people looking for a vacation look down on this with the thought – “Volunteering – It Doesn’t Pay!” Even if you are not the volunteering type, you have to look at all the benefits you can get out of committing some of your time to helping others. On top of the good “karma” you receive from having a positive impact on the less fortunate, you can find an activity in a vacation destination, learn a new skill, and get away from the cubicle lifestyle for awhile. Also, it’s fairly easy to get donations from friends, family, churches, and organizations for your volunteering sabbatical and go for free. Here are some great sites to get you started on finding a volunteer activity of your choice in a preferred destination:

  • – Search over 20,000 nonprofit and volunteer organizations in over 150 countries, to find where and how you can best contribute.
  • Volunteer Abroad – This site can help you find information about volunteer opportunities all over the world. You can search not just by location, but also by the kind of volunteer work you’re looking for.
  • International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) – An alliance of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), IVPA functions both as a guide to people who are thinking about doing volunteer work abroad and also a resource to find out what NGOs are members of the organization.
  • Responsible Travel – Thousands of international volunteer opportunities abound via Responsible Travel for those who’ve had enough of mass tourism and want a distinct holiday (vacation) to write home about.