On This Day A Year Ago: My Security Lapse, Ground Transportation, etc.

7424f05e_oIn this 3rd and final report*, I will share the only bad news of my most recent trip to Europe. No worries though, it was not a tragedy. All’s well that ends well, right?

On March 22, 2016, my flight landed at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm a half hour ahead of schedule – a lovely ending to a beautiful flight. Clearing customs was a breeze. Finding an ATM was easy enough. Soon I had pocketed a starter stash of Swedish Krona and purchased a bus ticket for a ride into the city. So where’s the bad news?

When boarding the bus, I realized I no longer had my laptop. Immediately, I retraced my steps, starting in the area where I last handled the case containing the laptop. I could not find it and the tourist information service had no knowledge of its whereabouts. The bus had to depart, but the driver and the luggage assistant assured me that I would be able to take a later bus, even though my ticket had been taken and processed by the driver.

Thus assured, I headed for the airport’s Lost and Found office. Alas, they did not have my computer. A detailed report was filled out and left with Lost and Found.

Again I looked around the airport, a final search that was as fruitless as the others. There was no point in hanging around the airport. If the laptop was stolen, and I could come to no other conclusion, it was a thoroughly professional job. A thief of that caliber would have long since placed my computer out of view.

Now I should explain why the loss of my computer wasn’t that bad. The missing computer was a recently purchased used laptop. It had virtually nothing stored on it, and certainly nothing of great value. I had turned it on only twice since I bought it. My main computer, a desktop, was safely at home.

The refurbished laptop had recently been purchased for $117, shipping included. Hardly a fortune. Moreover, insurance could cover such a loss, although I didn’t think about that at the time. Three flash drives stored in the laptop case were more of a loss, but nearly all of their content was backed up on my desktop.

My reaction to this incident was slight annoyance with myself for violating my own security policy. Part of that policy is to maintain continuous visual and/or physical contact with luggage in airports and other public places. If it can’t be seen, physical contact should be continuous.

But neither my morning nor my day was ruined. I boarded the bus and quite enjoyed my ride into the city, as well as the remainder of my visit.

Obviously, this part of Special Report #3 is a cautionary tale. While relaying the story to a friend, I said I probably would not publish this incident. She, however, thought that it should be shared, that it would be instructive and might well save others from a similar fate. Okay, enough with the not-so-bad news.

Make sure you check out the post below and have a look at the video posted today on The Artful Traveler facebook page. The reason why will be obvious.

Feel free to leave a comment. I’ll read them all and respond.

*You can get this full report and others in the series by filling out the signup form on this page.



Defining The Art of Discount Travel

Some time ago (a few decades, actually), I created a consumer-oriented travel seminar. That freshly-outlined seminar was destined to be offered by dozens of colleges as a Community Education class. I named it The Art of Discount Travel.

Naming my seminar The Art of Discount Travel was not a casual matter. Although the naming process was quick, a few key factors were considered.

First, we’ll have a look at the word “discount” – An appropriate definition from dictionary. com is: “selling or offered at less than the usual or established price.” Any product or service, no matter its usual or established price, can be sold for less by anyone with the authority to do so. Which brings us to why I chose the term “discount” rather than “budget.”

Most any business will sometimes discount its product or service. Hotels from the level of Motel 6 to the Ritz-Carlton and beyond sell rooms – at least, occasionally – at discounted rates. The same can be said for all other travel suppliers. And by now, I’m sure, you get my drift. The word “budget” suggests belt-tightening, purchasing a lower grade of product than desired and other distasteful thoughts.

If you’re “on a budget” and need to buy a new car, you will not even consider the Mercedes, Lexus or Jaguar. And certainly not a Rolls Royce or Lamborghini! On the other hand, even if you can afford one of those upscale and ultra-upscale automobiles, you may yet explore ways to pay less. This line of reasoning, applied to travel, gave birth to The Art of Discount Travel.

One of The Art of Discount Travel’s taglines is: “No matter your style of travel, The Art of Discount Travel can help you pay less.”

Now we’ll look at the word “art.” Why art? Well, for one thing it is a heck of lot more pleasing to the ear than something as dull as “methods of discount travel” or “discount travel strategies.” Art of Discount Travel has a kind of elegance about it. The idea was to have the title be both fully descriptive and enticing. Art suggests beauty. Envisioning travel as an affordable thing of beauty certainly has more charm and warmth than the concept of discount travel alone.

For our purposes, dictionary.com provides another perfect definition. One of its definitions for art is “skill in conducting any human activity.”

The Art of Discount Travel – whether taken as a seminar, class or webinar – puts you squarely on the road to becoming a truly artful traveler. Logically and simply laid out, it makes possible (even easy) immediate application of the cost-cutting travel strategies covered.

Teaching Kids to Fly – Literally and Figuratively

There is a distinct category of potential travelers which does not get the attention it deserves as a vitally important demographic. This group is comprised of the children whose dream of travel is a dream of either piloting aircraft or supporting that activity. In this category we find those who dream with confidence and those who dream rather hopelessly. Economic status can make the difference between self-assured dreaming and visions of flight which the child considers entirely fanciful.

Fortunately for both dreamers, Vision of Flight, an Orlando-based, 501(c)3, non-profit organization, is established and expanding. Vision of Flight aims to help every kid achieve her or his personal vision of flight. Founded by veteran pilot Michael McKenzie, Vision of Flight is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based youth program with an aviation core.

But Vision of Flight is fundamentally not just about making pilots and building out the aviation infrastructure. It aims to ignite a passion for knowledge, competence and the discipline required for their attainment. And what parent doesn’t want that for their child!

While emphatically open to all kids, Vision of Flight also reaches out to and enrolls financially disadvantaged children. It is hardly surprising that interest in the program is strong and growing. When Vision of Flight came to the attention of PEOPLE magazine, it was featured in the March 9, 2016 issue. The resulting explosion of interest demands expansion. But expansion requires capital. Consumer Travel Seminars aka The Artful Traveler is certainly a natural enough ally and we are offering help.

The Artful Traveler is launching a fundraiser to help Vision of Flight meet the demand for its educational program. You will find details of our help on the Services and Products page of this website. But in a nutshell, through January 16, 2017 we are donating at least 50% of all webinar and seminar profits to Vision of Flight.

The fundraiser mentioned above has expired. Should you wish to make a donation to Vision of Flight, I am sure it will be appreciated. Please contact them directly.

If you would like to see The Artful Traveler’s Vision of Flight Fundraiser relaunched, let us know with a comment, or email me at: bill.anthony@artfultraveler.info.

The Artful Traveler Lends A Helping Hand

The Artful Traveler is stepping forward to aid the flood relief efforts of the Louisiana chapter of the American Red Cross. We are launching a major fundraising campaign. I will present a package of Art of Discount Travel seminars/webinars as the product centerpiece of this campaign.

70% of the package proceeds will be donated to the Louisiana Red Cross Flood Relief Fund. This one hour and 45-minute event opens with an exciting personal story of my $48 airline ticket to Europe. The Art of Discount Travel continues with an eye-opening array of simple, practical strategies for reducing the cost of transportation, lodging, tours and cruises.

In addition to the seminar, the package will include handouts and access to an in-depth webinar of choice. Webinars will be available on air travel, lodging, ground transportation and travel packages (including cruises).  Although The Art of Discount Travel will be presented live on Monday, October 10, 2016, individuals who are unable to attend will be able to experience the seminar as a webinar.  Since most of you live nowhere near Kansas City, I expect the webinar option to be quite popular.

Details can be found on the Services/Products page of this website. There, you will also find a link for purchasing the seminar package.

I expect that at some point in the next few weeks I will begin a regular, predictable posting of blogs. Meanwhile, you will see both flood relief campaign communications and travel postings. Actually, all of it has a travel connection.

WHILE THE PERIOD OF THIS FUNDRAISER HAS PASSED, THE WORK OF THE RED CROSS CONTINUES. Needless to say, you may contact the Red Cross directly regarding their funding needs.

How An Airline Won My Heart

7424f05e_oA delight from beginning to end! Those words describe my first-ever flight with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines).

On March 22 I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) about two hours prior to the scheduled flight to Stockholm. Entering the international terminal, I was greeted with dauntingly long check-in lines.

I asked an airport staffer (apparently a queue-control guy) which line I should join. To my surprise I was told that I did not need to stand in line. Instead I was ushered to the SAS counter, a counter for which there was no line. That was the fourth notable pleasure of my SAS experience. Within minutes of arriving at the counter, my seat assignment was confirmed and my luggage verified as carry-on acceptable. Incidentally, SAS did not charge for a normal-sized carry-on bag. Minutes later I had cleared the security checkpoint and was walking cheerfully toward the departure gate.

And what, you’re wondering, were the first three pleasure points? First there was the $48 – pardon me, $47.90 – one-way airfare. Second, I was able to book the flight at that price. They were not sold out. Third in this list of SAS delights was the ease of booking: very efficient, done in a few minutes on the first try.

Experiencing a full-service flight comes in as SAS delight #5. The new, or newly rebuilt, Airbus entertainment system boasts a 9-inch HD screen. Entertainment options include dozens of movies, a variety of music choices, games, educational videos, TV shows, a graphic flight tracker and more. Ear buds were stored and waiting in the pouch below the screen. There was no charge for any of this.

Dinner, breakfast and snacks were not only included in the fare, they were quite worth eating. Simply put: the food was good – fresh, tasty, Scandinavian fare.

From check-in to landing, SAS’ service was competent, courteous and friendly. My seat was comfortable and more than adequate for my trim 5’9” frame.

Were there any negatives? For me, no; however, the inability to control the airflow from vents above the seat could be considered a negative. In fact, it went largely unnoticed, as I was quite comfortable with the atmosphere of the cabin.

No airline can have a perfect on-time performance record. After all, they can’t control the weather. Certain other influences are beyond their control as well. Nevertheless, on-time departure and landing in Stockholm a half-hour ahead of schedule added to the SAS spell.

Remarkably, SAS allows EuroBonus (frequent flyer) points to be taken for a flight priced closer to free than to the lowest “reasonable” fare. I suppose we can call this SAS Passenger Pleasure #6.

Need I say more about how my heart was won by SAS?

If this entry is your introduction to The Artful Traveler, you might want to the get the backstory. Subscribe to the free Artful Traveler email series to learn exactly how I got this incredible deal. Better yet, you will learn how to vastly increase your odds of scoring a spectacularly discounted airfare, deeply discounted accommodations and more.

My Long-ago First Trip Abroad & Some Hot New Airfares

7424f05e_oGood morning, good afternoon or good evening,

Wherever you are, one of the three greetings should be appropriate. All of which is to make a point for the novice: a traveler should move about with a viewpoint that is both local to his or her current location and universal (planet-wide). After all, you will journey from city to city, country to country and culture to culture.

Certain experiences are indelibly etched in our memory. If it is a very pleasant experience, as was my first trip abroad, we don’t mind at all. In fact, we cherish the memories.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? A few decades ago, I decided it was time I experienced another country. This inspiration was communicated to my then girlfriend, who also found the idea exciting. It would be our first trip together. The planning began.

I owned a flyer distribution company and one of my clients was a travel agency, Faneuil Hall Travel. I recall clearly their slogan: “Please Go Away.” Having decided to heed their advice, I contacted my favorite agent for help in booking a hotel room. She helped me go away.

Only a hotel? Yes, I was living in Boston (across the Charles River in Cambridge, actually). Montreal is only a five to six-hour drive from Cambridge. We would get to see some parts of New England not previously visited. More true for me than for her. I was only a few years a New Englander.

Although I wound up making the trip alone – yeah, the girlfriend and I broke up – it was delightful and instructive. First lesson learned: one can sometimes get a good (pleasingly low for a decent property) hotel rate when using a travel agent.

Second lesson learned – you may be able to find a better deal on lodging upon arrival. I arrived late in the evening, checked into my hotel, ordered food and relaxed. The next morning I set out to explore the city. About two blocks away I spotted a sign on an attractive house. While I do not recall the exact wording, the sign indicated it was a bed and breakfast (B&B) establishment. What’s more, it offered a nightly rate which was $10 lower than my already low hotel rate.

I took the bait and I did not regret it. My host, a French Canadian lady, was fully bilinqual (French and English), friendly and gracious. The interior of the house was even more attractive than the exterior. After touring the home, I booked a room and immediately checked out of the hotel.

Once settled in my new lodging, I continued my walk into the heart of downtown. It was there that I booked a recommended city tour. Quite aside from its economic value, the tour provided a basic orientation to the city. It proved useful for further independent exploration. And there you have lessons three and four. Three: the savings in cost of admission to tourist attractions (Lesson 3) was already known and expected. What I had not considered was Lesson Four: the orientation value of a city tour. Getting oriented includes such things as: compass direction, learning the names of some of the most important streets and locating shopping, dining and parks.

Lesson 5 followed a full day of exploration. As evening approached, food and entertainment were on my mind. Back at the B&B, I asked my host where I could find bars, discotheques and nightclubs. She pointed the way and off I went.

I asked a couple of young women walking in the same direction to confirm that I was on the right track. They confirmed that I was and suggested I just follow them. Off we went, introducing ourselves and chatting all the way. In fact, they invited me to hang out with them. I agreed. Lesson 5 was learned: traveling solo does not mean one will always be alone or lonely. Solo travel can be at least as interesting and, in its own way, as much fun as traveling with others.

So why recount a decades old story? Travel from then to now confirms those early lessons to be as valid now as they were in the 70’s.

The Art of Discount Travel, a phrase I coined 1989 while outlining my first travel seminar, is my specialty. Some super discounted airfares can be found for fall and winter travel both within the USA and internationally.

For example, I just found the following: $237 R/T, Los Angles/Boston (or vice versa) JetBlue Airlines flight, departing December 7 and returning December 15. Kansas City residents may find this early December $208 R/T Kansas City/Miami, American Airlines fare enticing. Leave on the 2nd and return on the 9th. Other dates were available just minutes ago. And this just came in: A $679 R/T Atlanta/Hong Kong spring/summer Turkish Airlines fare. All fares include taxes and fees.

There’s so much more to share! For more Artful Traveler cost-cutting strategies, sign up and attend, for free, a 20-minute Taste of The Art of Discount Travel webinar. Simply send your email address to banthony8008@gmail.com and, within 24 hours, you will receive a webinar invitation from our webinar service. Expect to receive several invitations, each offering (for your convenience) a different date/time.

Each strategy presented will provide all information needed for immediate use! This is data that can work for both short-term and long-term travel planning. Strategies apply to both domestic and international travel.