Our Journey to Utah

You may be wondering why we chose to visit Utah, of all the places we could pick?

It all started back in January when Taylor flew to Arizona to see Clemson play in the National Championship. During his return home, Southwest Airlines overbooked the flight and needed someone to give up their seat. Taylor gladly volunteered, so they gave him a voucher for $600 towards another Southwest flight. Since then, we’ve been brainstorming different places we could go. We’ve always shared an appreciation for the mountains, and Taylor really wanted to hike the “Big 5” in Utah. In short, that’s how we ended up in Utah!

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We booked our flights through Southwest Airlines with his voucher for FREE! We found a great deal for $165 per person round trip, which left extra money on his voucher for another trip!

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When looking at the map of the United States, we noticed that Las Vegas was A LOT closer to the 5 mountains we wanted to hike, rather than Salt Lake City. If we had booked a flight in and out of SLC, we would’ve had to drive over 4 hours to get to the first mountain. Whereas, by booking our flight to Las Vegas, it only took us 2.

We flew out of the Atlanta airport and arrived extra early, because it was a holiday weekend and we were anticipating a long security line. They had so many people working in security that we were at our gate in no time!

We had a super short layover in New Orleans, and then flew directly to Las Vegas. This was THE WORST flight we’ve ever experienced. Taylor and I were sitting directly beside a young man with his one year old son. It was the child’s first flight and he didn’t pack a single item for him. Needless to say, the kid screamed the ENTIRE 2+ hour flight. It was so miserable that people around him were trying to offer anything they could to calm him down, but nothing worked. The most disappointing part was that the Southwest flight attendants did absolutely nothing. We didn’t have a second of peace the entire flight.

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We did have an amazing view of the sunset though!

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Once we landed in Vegas, we called an Uber to come take us to our airbnb. (Read our last post about our airbnb experiences.) We rented a room out of someone’s apartment for $40 dollars and it was wonderful! She only lived 15 minutes from the airport and provided us with everything we needed for a comfortable night stay. We highly recommend staying with her if you’re ever in Vegas!

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Our host was super sweet and made sure we had everything we needed. Our flight arrived pretty late at night and she was very flexible with letting us come at an odd hour. We had our own room, bathroom, and full walk-in closet. If you’re ever in the vegas area, we’d highly recommend staying at her place. You can find her page HERE.

The next day, we’d be heading to Zion National Park!!

Before you Click Purchase

Congratulations! You’ve read our Finding Flights post and found a great deal on airfare! With all the excitement, it’s easy to overlook the little details before you confirm your flight reservation. Before you hit that “purchase” button, stop and think about the following suggestions:

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When it comes time to enter in all your personal information into the system, always, always, ALWAYS double check the information. It can be easy for numbers and times to jumble together when scanning through. Slow down and take a few extra minutes to make sure all the times and dates are correct. We suggest saying everything out loud so you don’t miss a thing!

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When choosing your flight times and dates, never overlook time difference. If it’s showing your flight departing New York at 12pm and arriving in Chicago at 12:30pm, that does not mean your flight is only 3o minutes long. There  is a one hour time difference. This is especially important to remember if you’re making plans for the same day as your arrival.

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If you’re traveling to a new destination, make sure you know where the airport is. Sometimes, when there is more than one airport in the city, you can fly into one and depart out of the other. This goes hand-in-hand with double checking the details. On some occasions, you’ll have to switch airports during a layover, which leads us to our next point.

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When selecting a flight with a layover, make sure you’ll have enough time to exit the plane and find your next flight in time. Most flights close their doors 10 minutes before the scheduled takeoff. I’ve been on a flight that had a 45 minutes layover scheduled, which seemed realistic. However, when the plane landed we sat on the runway for 30 minutes waiting to find an open gate. I wish I could say I got off the plane right away, but we all know how unbelievably slow people are when exiting a plane. Not only did I miss my connecting flight, but I had to wait for another departing flight. Leave room for delays.

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When reading our Airport Anxiety post, you read about different ways to purchase your luggage. Know how many bags you’ll be checking in and carrying on before you purchase the flight. Not only will this save you money, but it will also save you time at the airport. You can always purchase your luggage online later, but sometimes life get’s the best of us and we forget. Take a few extra minutes to purchase it now.

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When you purchase your flight, you will be asked to select a seat (unless you’re flying with Southwest). Have an idea ahead of time about your seat preferences such as, middle, isle, window, etc. Pay close attention to which seat you select because some seats have a fee attached. It’s no secret that the closer you sit to the front, the faster you’ll get off the plane, or the emergency exit row will give you more leg room. If you’re flying with someone and both want a window seat, consider sitting in different rows. If you’re flying with a group, this can get tricky. This is all about preference.Capture.PNG

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Last but not least, if you plan on having someone drop you off at the airport, make sure your dates and times work with your driver. When we were in our long distance days, we had to make sure someone could take and pick us up from the airport. We could never book a flight for a Monday afternoon because everyone was either working or in class. If you plan on paying to park, then you have a wider range of times.

After you’ve considered all your options, it’s time for the exciting part! Booking your flight!

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Ash & Tay

Airport Attire

With Spring Break right around the corner, you may find yourself making lists and packing your suitcases! Before you start trying to shove everything in, don’t forget to consider what you’ll be wearing on your day of travel.

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There’s no “right” way to dress for a flight because everyone’s circumstances are different. Whether your flight is 2 hours or 15, it’s all about what makes you comfortable. Here are some things to keep in mind when dressing for your day of travel.

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It’s better to pick your complete outfit out while you are packing your bags and lay it aside, especially if your flight leaves early in the morning. Make sure you lay out everything from tops to socks and shoes! This will save you a ton of time and keep you from digging to the bottom of your bag searching for something. Don’t forget about packing for your return flight too!

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Before you set your outfit aside, check the weather! For example, if you’re living in Miami and flying to Michigan during the month of March, the weather is going to be very different. Don’t show up to the airport in shorts and a t-shirt. Make sure you are dressed for whatever weather mother nature throws at you when you step off the plane. In situations like this, it’s all about wearing layers.

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When picking your outfit, remember that you will need to walk through airport security. Most airports will ask you to remove your shoes, so make sure you can easily slip them on and off while moving through line. If you don’t want to walk across the concrete floor in your bare feet, wear socks (matching and hole-less). Also keep in mind that you will have to take off all belts, jackets, and jewelry. If you don’t have to wear these items skip it, because it will make the process for you and those around you a lot smoother.

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Keep your seating arrangements in mind. If you’re flying first class or business, your seat will be a little comfier and wider. Whereas, if you’re sitting in economy your seat will be more stiff and narrow (depending on the airline and destination of course). We’ve been on airlines that are so cheap you literally have to crawl to your seat because they’re so crunched together. Maybe reconsider wearing your fluffy parka if you’ll be sitting in the middle of two other people.

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When flying internationally, think about the time differences. If you’re flight is scheduled to fly through the night, wear something you’d be comfortable falling asleep in. First class offers you a mini “bed” that will be a lot comfier and easier to sleep on. If you’re sitting in economy, you will have to sleep in your upright chair, so keep that in mind. Taylor and I usually wear sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt when we know we’ll be flying through the night. I also never forget my fuzzy socks for extra coziness!

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Also, consider the time you’ll arrive and what time you can check into your hotel. If your flight arrives at 11am and you can’t check in until 3, you’ll need an outfit that is suitable for the plane AND exploring for a few hours (see point #2). Some hotels let you drop your luggage off at the hotel before your room is ready and may have a bathroom for you to quickly change. However, you’ll need to double check on this before you arrive.

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Last but not least, prepare for the worst. You never know when bad weather will strike and cause your flight to get delayed or even cancelled. If you’re flying from New York in the middle of January and they’re calling for a massive snow storm, you may want to consider wearing something you’d be comfortable sitting around in for several hours…just in case!

These are just a few things to consider when picking your airport attire. Everyone’s circumstances are unique and different, so you can take this post and customize it to your own needs! Thank’s for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Airport Anxiety

With spring break right around the corner, most people are flocking to warmer places! After anxiously waiting for the trip you’ve planned, the last thing you want to do is stress yourself to the max while at the airport. If you fail to plan ahead, your time at the airport could quickly become a nightmare. Here are some ways we make flying a smooth and simple process.

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or not, chances are you will find yourself at an airport you’ve never been to before. Since each airport is uniquely different, this may stress you out, so don’t be scared to look up a map online. By looking at the map you can get a feel for where all the terminals are and where the best food is. This will save you time and confusion.

Before you pack your bags, make sure you know all the bag requirements for your airline. Each airline has a different procedure and sometimes they can change their policy with little to no announcement. For example, American Airlines allows you to take one carry-on bag and one personal item. Your personal item could be a purse, pillow, backpack, etc.

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However, if you fly with Frontier they make you pay $35 for a carry-on bag if you purchase it through their website up to 24 hours before your scheduled flight. If you wait to check in your bag until you arrive at the airport, they will charge you $45…just for your carry on bag. Their prices vary for checked luggage as well. It’s better to do your research and make sure your bags fit the requirement. If you are boarding the plane and they notice your bag is too big, they will literally pull you out of line and make you pay for your bag and charge you $60! We’ve seen this happen and it’s all because they didn’t do their research and just assumed every airline had the same policies.

Click the links below to view the baggage policies for common American airlines:

Frontier Airlines , American Airlines , Spirit Airlines , Southwest Airlines , JetBlue , Allegiant Airlines , Delta Airlines , Hawaiian Airlines , Virgin America

Any bags that you are carrying onto the plane will need to go through security. (Keep in mind that security will not tell you if your bag is too big.) You also cannot have any liquid products over 4 oz. This means if you have a full bottle of sunscreen, perfume, toothpaste, shampoo etc. they will tell you to check in your bag or throw away the product. This happens so often that airport security have trash bins at each station ready to throw away products. We’ve seen this happen and it looks like a traumatizing event! Nothing worse than buying full-size supplies and having them thrown away before using them. Not to mention, you’ll have to buy the products at your final destination, which will probably be more expensive. You can find travel-friendly bottles and products at stores like Walmart or Target. There is usually a wall filled with tiny sized items specifically for traveling!

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Click here for a list of items you can and cannot bring with you on the plane.

If you are taking a larger suitcase that cannot be a carry-on due to size and weight, checking the bag in is your only option. Again, make sure you research how much your airline charges so you’re not caught off guard when you arrive at the ticketing desk! Typically, they cost around $15-$30 for your first bag. Most times, when you buy your flight online, the airline will give you an opportunity to check-in a bag at a reduced cost if you purchase it with your ticket. If you know you will be checking in your bag prior to the flight, take advantage of the discount!

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p.s. if you’re wondering why Taylor’s smile looks so forced, it’s because it was. He was battling an ulcer.

The great thing about technology is that you can now use your phone as your boarding pass! No more printing out pieces of paper and trying to keep track of them all! When you receive your boarding pass electronically, always, always, ALWAYS take a screenshot of it, because while technology seems great, it has its glitches and we all know how pesky the Airport WiFi can be. Even if you don’t end up using the screenshot, it’s important to have the backup.

 

 

Next, give yourself enough time to park your car, check your bag, get through security, and find your gate. What time are you flying? Is it at 5am when there is no traffic or 5pm during rush hour? Are you flying the day after a holiday when all of America is flying? And don’t forget about that long security line! If you are tense getting to the airport you will be tense until you get on the plane. Typically, domestic flights suggest arriving 2 hours before your flight and 3 hours for an international flight. It never hurts to be there too early.

You can make your life and the lives around you 5x less stressful if you pay attention and know what’s expected while going through security. Before they let you take your belongings through security, they will ask you for your ID and boarding pass. Too many people spend 20 minutes in line watching people go through the process and then when it’s their turn, they are fumbling around searching for their documents because they weren’t paying attention.

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When it’s time to have your belongings checked, make sure you take off anything that could possibly set the alarm off such as jewelry, electronics, belts, watches, etc. If you’re traveling with smaller children, keep in mind that they are expected to walk through security as well. Oh, and don’t forget to wear matching socks! 😉

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After you make it through security and find your gate, you’ll be tempted to shop around. Everyone loves a good book and snack on the plane, but these leisurely items can add up quickly when purchased within the airport because they always jack up the prices. Pack snack sized items in your carry-on and purchase your reading material beforehand. Don’t forget those headphones either!

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Hope this post helped! Happy Traveling!

Tips

Finding Flights

Taylor is the king of finding great airfare deals! When people ask us how we afford to travel so often it boils down to the cost of airfare. We NEVER pay the crazy full price for any of our tickets and people are usually amazed at how little we pay. Besides a lack of time, most people don’t travel because they don’t want to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars for a flight.

The internet is loaded with articles that will tell you how many days in advance to book a flight or which days you shouldn’t fly on, so this is not going to be another one of those posts. Because let’s be real, nobody actually buys their flight because this website said approximately 62 days before your trip your flight will be the cheapest. We also understand that everyone’s circumstances are different. What works best for us, may not work for someone else.

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The biggest piece of advice we can give you about finding the cheapest flight possible is always be persistent and be willing to be spontaneous. As soon as you know where and when you want to go, start researching flights. Flights change daily, so it helps to keep checking. However, airlines will drop their prices when they want to fill a flight and if you’re looking to get away on short notice, you can find excellent deals!

The number one site that we use is Sky Scanner. This website cuts our research in half by listing all the best deals from several different airlines all in one search. This saves us from having to go to each airline’s website and retyping everything. Taylor uses multiple pages to search different days, different airports, and sometimes flying to a destination just to catch a cheaper flight to where we originally wanted to go.

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One of our favorite features on Sky Scanner is the ability to look at the entire month and see which day is cheaper to fly to-and-from a destination. It’s no secret that flying on a Tuesday-Thursday can be A LOT cheaper than Friday-Monday. If your schedule is flexible, consider leaving on one of these days to save you a few dollars.

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Another favorite is Skip Lagged. This site will show you if your final destination is a layover for another flight. For example, when Taylor and I were looking for flights to San Francisco, all the flights were several hundred dollars. Taylor went on Skip Lagged and found a flight that was from Philadelphia to Phoenix, but the layover was in San Francisco and it was half the cost! We were only packing carry-on bags so it was such a smooth process. DO NOT MISS THIS: If you are checking in your bags, you may run into some trouble. When you go to check in a bag tell the ticketing desk that you want your bags sent to the layover location and they should do this with no hassle. It doesn’t hurt to check with the airline before you book the flight.

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When looking at the picture above, you’ll notice we were looking for a flight from Charlotte to Philadelphia. There were two flights that were going from CLT to LGA with a layover in PHL. By getting off the plane at the scheduled layover, we were able to save money. Win! Because of legal issues, you can’t just book the flight directly on this website. Unfortunately, you have to write down the flight number, airline, etc. and then go to the airline’s direct website to book the flight. Although it takes a bit longer, it can definitely be worth it. Also, YOU CAN NOT BOOK A ROUND TRIP TICKET! If you book a round trip ticket and get off at the layover destination the airline will cancel your remaining flight plans. So you need to book one way flights to-and-from your destination.

Don’t limit yourself to one airport. If it takes you an extra 15-45 minutes to get to another airport it’s worth researching, especially if the flight is cheaper! For example, it only takes us 20 minutes to get to the Greenville Airport and 1 hour to get to the Charlotte Airport, BUT the Greenville airfare is almost always double the price of Charlotte. So that extra drive is always worth it for us, even after parking expenses. You can use your better judgment with this.

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Don’t park in the parking garage unless absolutely necessary. Don’t get me wrong, parking garages seem like an easy idea, but we would disagree. Not only are you overpaying, but you have to drive around looking for an open parking spot and then carry all your luggage down the stairs, across the street, and then into the airport. Most airports have long -term parking lots where you can park your car for as little as $5 a day. This includes 24-7 transportation to-and-from the airport. They will pick you and your bags up at your car and then drop you off directly at your desired gate while unloading your bags. These parking lots are typically called Park and Fly or Park and Jet etc.

If you are from America and looking to do an overseas vacation, look for the cheapest country to fly into. For example, Taylor and I wanted to go to China, but flights were outrageous so we looked for other options. We discovered that it was much, much cheaper to fly in-and-out of Thailand and then catch a separate flight into China from there. We could have spent $1,200 on a flight to China, but the flight in-and-out of Thailand and the flight to China totaled only $800. So we were able to spend 5 days in Thailand while saving $500! Make sure you leave a little wiggle room for delays and the unexpected if you don’t plan on staying in the other country.

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If you are already at the airport and have an idea when you will be flying next, ask the airline desk what their best prices are for that date. During our long-distant relationship days, Taylor and I would already have an idea when we would see each other next and what airlines were offering online. When one of us was flying, we would go to the desk in the airport and ask for their price and they were ALWAYS offering a better rate. We’re not sure why, but it was totally worth it! One time, Taylor got himself a $50 round trip flight which was a fourth of the price airlines were offering online!

And last, as scary as this may be, airlines know EXACTLY what you are researching, how often you bring up a webpage, how often you’re on the page, and what you’re clicking on. Websites will raise their airline prices if they notice you searching for a flight, different hotels, and different restaurants in a specific area. They will know exactly when you’ll be there and how desperate you are to get there. Scary I know, but very true. The best way to avoid this is to delete your “cookies” and web history. You can also try searching in the incognito window if you are a google chrome user.

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Arriving in China

We were so sad to leave Thailand, but very excited to explore China! The night before we left, we asked the front desk at our hotel to schedule us a taxi ride for 5:30am the next morning. It took us 30 minutes to get to the DMK airport in Bangkok, which was 500 baht. This is equal to $13.83. For only a few cents, we could have taken the sky train a few stops to save us some money on a taxi, but we didn’t want the hassle that early.

We flew directly from the DMK airport to Kunming, China with Air Asia. This is a low cost carrier that will charge you for everything they can. Both checked and carry-on bags can only weigh a little amount and they will charge you for water, snacks, etc. while on the plane. They pack the aircraft with seats that are super tight, so we wouldn’t recommend this airline for any long flights. Also, when we received our luggage in China, our suitcase was broken. The handle was jammed and wouldn’t move up or down and there was a huge chunk missing from the top. We asked to be reimbursed for the damage, but they said no.

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Before leaving the DMK airport, we had some extra time to spare so we did the most American thing we could. We got Starbucks and Krispy Kreme. Also, Taylor found a yummy smoothie shop!

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Thailand doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so we were very impressed with their selection of festive donuts.

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It didn’t take us long to get through the Kunming airport because there were no crowds and customs went smoothly.

Once we landed in China, we found our good friend Caitlyn, our driver, and headed into the city to find lunch! Surprise, surprise, we found a pizza place. It was called Brooklyn Pizza and was very modern and westernized. We ordered fresh mozzarella sticks (which were some of the best we’ve ever tasted), parmesan chicken pizza, and buffalo chicken pizza. We also ordered water, but in China they believe that in the colder months you are only supposed to drink hot beverages like tea and water. I couldn’t adjust to the hot water so I ordered bottled water the remainder of the trip and received the strangest looks.

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We highly recommend this place if you’re looking for the comfort of American food and craving pizza!

Following lunch we headed to the train station for our 3-hour train ride into Jianshui.

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The train ride was filled with incredible views, funny stares from locals, and a really cute child sitting beside us. We are so glad that we took the train because we were able to see a ton of the countryside.

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Upon arriving in the city, we took our bags back to the apartment then hopped on mopeds and went for a ride to dinner at a restaurant in Old Town. The architecture was all from Chinese dynasty times and absolutely stunning. We ordered several family style dishes that were amazing!! We were too hungry to take pictures of the food, but it was all great.

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After dinner we hopped aboard the moped again to tour Old Town under the lights. Taylor really enjoyed driving the moped around and was soon acclimated to driving in Asia. We wrapped up our scenic ride home and settled in for the night.

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