How to save on flight tickets with Skiplagged, real example

A lot of you heard of Skiplagged, the site that saves you money on air tickets, created by this awesome guy, who is not backing down from the United lawsuit and continues to help people find cheap flight options.

I decided to give it a try, when my search for a R/T flight from New York to Montreal jumped to $475 (from $350 a day before). Because who is paying that for a 2-day trip, when you can get that same direct flight for half the price!

What does Skiplagged do?

  • It takes your destination airport, and searches for flights where that airport would be a stop-over. The 2nd leg of the trip would be somewhere else.
  • You, obviously, won’t need to take the 2nd leg. As long as you don’t check your luggage, you get off the plane and walk away.
  • And this way the trip is cheaper, because of some shady airline pricing tricks they play on consumers. Skiplagged to the rescue!
  • So here is my example (today tickets even more expensive, as we get closer to the travel date):

    New York (LGA) to Montreal (YUL), non stop flight: $607 round trip if you search on Orbitz, Kayak, Google flights, etc. OUCH!

    Go to Skiplagged, and type in your search. And WOW! $236, that’s savings of 61%, ladies and gents!

    You can’t book those flights directly on Skiplagged site, but just do another search on any site, knowing what your “new destination” would be, and book away.

    If someone tells me that it’s not a genius travel idea, I don’t know what is. Thank you Aktarer for this awesome service!

    15 minute DIY welcome banner

    Here’s how you can make a quick “Welcome Home” banner for your favorite person, who’s coming back from the airport in less than an hour.

    Supplies needed:
    – MTA subway map (available for free at any subway kiosk)
    – Black Sharpie
    – Scotch tape (or glue, but I find tape way quicker and easier)
    – String, about 1.5 – 2 meters long
    – Pencil (or pen, crayon, anything), scissors

    Step 1.

    The MTA map is folded trifold, which is perfect. Open up the map until you have 3 folds, and draw zig zag lines from top to bottom, so you have triangular flag shapes

    Step 2.

    Cut the map into triangular flags

    Step 3.

    Use Sharpie to write “Welcome Home” letters, or any other message you want


    Step 4.

    Fold top of flags about an inch, so you can put the string in that fold. Wrap around the string and tape it (or glue it)

    Step 5.

    Repeat so all flags are stringed together. Tip: since you’ll be taping on the back of the flags, you’ll want to string them in reverse order. So for “welcome home” you’ll want to start with the last E in the word “home” (e-m-o-h e-m-o-c-l-e-w)


    Bonus tip: I had some extra space so I added the name (and who doesn’t love hearing/seeing their name!), and an exclamation point at the end.

    Tada! All done! Hang this pretty sucker up high somewhere, and pat yourself on the back on the quick, but impressive job well done!

    Birthday gift idea: How to travel around the globe without leaving New York

    It was Sean’s birthday time of the year again, and of course, a few weeks prior to his birthday I started to think about a perfect gift for him. We both love to travel, and we both much prefer experiences, spending time with each other and friends/family, and doing fun stuff instead of getting things.

    Last year we went on a weekend trip to Providence and Newport, RI, that was a lot of fun and just a perfect celebration getaway, including romantic gondola ride, amazing dinner, visiting mansions and seeing a show at a tiny theater. This year I was thinking if it’s possible to figure out something fun like that, but at the same time different enough, and exciting enough. For some good logistical reasons, we can’t really travel far away from home these days. So all the fun had to happen here, in NYC… and that’s how I got the idea of creating an around the world adventure here at home!

    I picked a few European countries that we’d love to visit in the near future, and decided to make a little suitcase, plane tickets and a passport with clues and fun facts about those countries. Sean would open up a package, find tickets and solve clues, then we would go and visit cafes, restaurants and places that represent our countries and pretend that we are actually visiting them!

    What you’ll need:

    • list of countries/places you want to feature, with clues, fun facts, anything fun you can think of. Google is your good friend for this.
    • research on places you want to go, like cafes and restaurants. Find out their locations and opening hours, so you can plan and make reservations if needed.
    • themed paper goods: I found a perfect selection of a printable paper suitcase, customizable airplane tickets and a matching ticket jacket on Etsy. They send the files to you, and you just print and assemble them! Very easy. I’d suggest printing them on thicker/glossier paper for a nice finish (I stole, ahem, borrowed some from my office).
    • passport: I made one myself in Photoshop. The the pages took a bit of time to design, but I think it came out nicely (although the resolution was not that good and could be done better) and it was a lot of fun to create.

    • postcard: optional, but I think it just tied together the theme so nicely. I found this super cute traveling bear postcard on Etsy, and the designer Shanna was really kind to even personalize it for me with a European stamp and country flags on the suitecase. I totally loved the postcard when I got it!
    • country-themed little gifts: optional, I wanted to have them as souveniers that you would bring from real travels. So for Sean I got a bottle of beer from each country (Whole Foods on Houston St. in NYC has a great selection), and vintage posters from Etsy. Some other ideas: luggage tags with country flags, candy/chocolate from different countries, pins, etc.
    • and finally, a bit of time, good spirit and thirst for adventure!

    Places we visited in NYC:

    We are lucky to be living in New York, where virtually any culture in the world can be found within the city limits. But if you live in other cities, you can probably still find some unique ethnic restaurants, or even create your own adventure by just picking fun places to visit, such as museums or parks or cafes, and thinking of a theme to tie them together into a story.

    As you can probably guess, the whole “traveling around the globe” day was a lot of fun! We had the most beautiful weather, perfect for walking around and exploring, and having only 3 countries to focus on made it easy and manageable. All the places we visited were great, and we had the best time (I loved watching Sean figuring out clues and seeing that he liked the food we tried and places we went). Now we just can’t wait to travel for realz!

    Favorite business/creativity/life books

    I just started reading the book about Richard Branson (thanks Sean for the epub file!), and thought I’d list similar books by great people that really stuck with me. The books that make you want to do stuff, or grab your life and live it to its fullest, or both. The list is short, that’s why it’s good – only the best books (in my humble opinion), made it.

    Ignore Everybody by Hugh McLeod
    This book is not only witty and full of great life stories from the author and advice on how to stay creative and make a business out of it, but also has great hilarious cartoons sprinkled throughout. You can just read one chapter at a time, all of them are humorous, insightful and inspirational.

    Steal Like an artist by Austin Kleon

    I wrote about this book previously. It’s short, smart and highly enjoyable for anyone who’s even a tiny bit creative (=all of us).

    The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
    I forgot how I stumbled upon this book, but it’s by a very technical guy, who worked at some very innovative companies, and then was teaching CS at Carnegie Mellon. It’s a great, very inspiring read, and includes not only thoughts on technology and career but life in general and priorities and decisions one has to make before death. Highly recommended.

    If you don’t have big breasts, put ribbons in your pigtails by Barbara Corcoran
    Sean got me this e-book after we watched a few episodes of the first season of Shark Tank. We really like the show, and Barbara Corcoran is one of the “sharks” (multimillionaire businessmen and women who successfully made it, and have enough time, money and influence to help entrepreneurs achieve their business goals).

    The title of the book is funny, but the content is great. Barbara writes about her life from childhood (being one of many kids in a blue-collar family in NJ), to her first business venture, to running a successful real estate firm in Manhattan. The chapters are short and each one illustrates a point, and I especially appreciate her perspective from a woman who doesn’t talk about beaten women-in-business related cliches, but rather describes her experience straight and to the point. Loved it.

    I’m always, always on a lookout for great books, so feel free to send suggestions in the comments.

    11 great rules from Swissmiss

    This past week I finally had a chance to watch the video of Swiss Miss’s talk at this years SXSW.

    A wonderful talk – definitely watch it, I especially love the fact that she doesn’t complain and just does stuff (and that includes building things, teams and having a family).

    And as I was hoping to just find her 11 rules written out somewhere online, Rashi of BucketofSquash actually put it in a very neat graphic. Thanks Rashi!


    *Source: bucketofsquash.com

    When I grow up…

    … I wanna become Richard Branson. For the ability to speak with British accent, working on awesomest projects, having an actual life, family and fun outside of work, and owning islands in the Caribbean. And to top that off, a few billions of net worth.

    The news of of us. And the fact that Richard Branson and his teams made this happen absolutely deserves admiration and applause.

    I long wanted to read his books and downloaded whatever was available for Kindle, and loving it so far. If someone has a copy of “Losing my virginity” – please be so kind and lend it to me (as it’s not Kindle-ized yet for some silly reason). I’m very curious to learn about this great man’s first sexual encounter ;)

    My Puerto Rico travel guide (Vieques and San Juan)

    Recently we went on a 5-day family trip to Puerto Rico, and I wanted to write a quick guide, hopefully useful to anyone who’s considering visiting this beautiful place.

    Why Puerto Rico

    We initially had a few Caribbean destinations in mind, but chose Puerto Rico because it’s close, affordable, and flying there is less hassle since the flight is a domestic flight with no international passport/customs clearance requirement. A couple of my friends went before, and said they would visit again, which is a good sign it’s worth going and checking out.

    It’s a popular destination so getting a non-stop flight for a reasonable price (about 2 weeks in advance), was easy. Plus, there were enough places and things we wanted to see, so it would be a mix of relaxing time on the beach and activities (bioluminiscent bay, snorkeling, rainforest…).

    We knew we wanted to definitely visit Vieques island to the east of the main Puerto Rico island, and also spend some time in San Juan area.

    Getting there

    We flew JetBlue (our preferred airline to travel with), from JFK to San Juan, non stop. Then we had to get to Vieques, where we were spending first 2 nights.

    There are 2 options of getting to Vieques from San Juan:

    1) Flying there with one of the regional small airlines. We chose to fly because we were already at the airport and a 25-minute flight definitely seemed better than 3+ hours of alternative. One-way ticket with Cape Air was about $125 per person, but totally, totally worth it!

    2) Taking a cab to the town of Fajardo, then taking a ferry to Vieques. Cab ride would be between $75 – $100, and take about 1 hour with no traffic. Then ferry costs $2 per person, and takes 1.5 hours, but note that they run on a schedule, so you might have to wait additional time for the next ferry.

    I loved flying a litte Cessna plane to Vieques, the views were amazing, the experience was one-of-a-kind, and I’m not afraid of heights or small spaces, so for me it was a thrill :) Sean was a little concerned, but since it was only 20 minutes he fared well, and also agreed it was a great choice to fly.


    Gorgeous birds-eye view of San Juan


    We just flew this little plane!

    On the way back we took the ferry, and the line was long, it was packed and slow, and the trip was not pleasant at all – because of the slowness of the boat, you could really feel it rocking side to side. So people prone to motion sickness would not enjoy it one bit. One cool thing thou – on the boat we saw a guy traveling with a pet albino hedgehog:

    Vieques

    Vieques is famous for its beaches, quiet charm and the unique bioluminiscent bay (also known as Mosquito bay), where water glows neon-blue in the dark.

    I would suggest to spend majority of your time in Vieques, it’s beautiful and the beaches are much better than in San Juan.

    A rental car is a must-have, because you’ll want to drive to the beaches, and most rentals are jeeps that are great for getting there. We rented from Island car rental, which is located at the W hotel, they have nice new vehicles and they will pick you up from airport/ferry. We went at a busy time (Easter weekend/spring break), and only managed to get a car for 1 day, but it was so worth it! Our rental was $85/day.

    We stayed at Hacienda Tamarindo, a small boutique hotel just outside of the main town of Esperanza. It was really lovely, quiet, with beautiful grounds and views. We really enjoyed our room (2 suite room with hammocks and pool right outside), the library, honor bar, beach umbrella and chair rentals, and of course their great breakfast. Room rates are about $200 and up, and include breakfast.


    My cousin Max at Hacienda Tamarindo

    We checked out 2 beaches: La Chiva (Blue beach) and La Plata, where we met our snorkeling guide. Both were really nice, bring your umbrellas, chairs, food, etc.

    For activities we went snorkeling with the hotel-recommended Little Boat Sailing company. The tour is a ride on a tiny little catamaran with sails, where a maximum of 6 people and the guide, Jorge, go into the ocean, secluded beach, mangroves nearby and to the coral reef off-shore. We had less-than-ideal weather on our tour day, with lots of clouds, then wind and rain at the end, but we still managed to have a great time. Jorge was an excellent guide, the boat ride was a lot of thrill and fun, and snorkeling was awesome, especially because we saw a real big nurse shark sitting at the ocean bottom under a rock! Once we got to the beach, under the pouring rain and wind, we had to run back to the car and warm and dry ourselves up… but looking back it was an amazing experience, highly recommended.


    This was the last time anyone saw my Aruba hat, because next minute a gust of wind blew it away. I told Sean now we have to go back to Aruba, so I can get a new one :)

    We also planned to go kayaking at night at the bio bay, but due to weather and some of us feeling tired, we didn’t go. Well, it’s a reason to go back someday. I booked with Vieques Island Adventures, who offers clear kayaks and seem very professional, so I’d suggest booking with them.

    As far as restaurants, we ate at Trade Winds on the main street in Esperanza, which had good food (albeit very slow service, but I guess it’s part of the “island vibe”). My friend also recommended Next Course (requires driving there), but we didn’t try it. I’d also warn people to stay away from a place called Tin Box, because Sean got stomach flu afterwards (we suspect from there), food was not good at all (raw meat in bbq chicken!) and service was pretty bad.


    While eating at Trade Winds we witnessed a reenactment of Jesus’ assassination (it was on a Good Friday)

    San Juan

    We spent the last 2 days in San Juan area, and it was more than enough time.

    We stayed at Marriott Courtyard Isla Verde, they have the nicest beach, in my opinion, and the hotel is lively (compared to overpriced cold Ritz Carlton next door). Food was decent too, and the staff was very friendly. We had a bit of an emergency requiring a doctor, and the hotel called one up (came right up to our room), and even offered an option to charge it to the room. It was such a great relief, and bell guys were very nice too.


    Sunset on the beach at Marriott hotel

    Places to see: definitely visit Old San Juan one afternoon, and check out the old Spanish fort El Morro, with cool history, architecture and breathtaking views. I’d suggest going after 4pm, to avoid walking there in the hot sun during the day (it’s open until 6pm). Old San Juan is full of pretty streets, shops and restaurants. Our hotel recommended one called Vaca Brava (we didn’t end up trying it though), friends recommended Raices, both of which offer local cuisine. We had a quick bite at a sandwich shop called El Meson, which was fast, fresh and affordable.

    Condado also seems to be a cool area for going out and restaurants. My friend lives there, and we had dinner at a place called Casa Lola one night, which was excellent.

    So to sum it up, we had a great time, and would go back again. Hope the tips help fellow travelers, and please share yours – will be happy to add them here.

    Then and now

    Two seemingly unrelated conversations with friends this morning gave me this post idea.

    First discussion was about big and the toilet was separate from the bath room), sit on the floor and watch them, because it was dark and had a perfect white door to project onto.

    Those were such good times! And now, fast-forward to modern day, to the second conversation, which was about Tard, the Grumpy Cat, attending the SXSW. Don’t you love how she looks? And don’t you marvel, that if someone had a cat like this back in the days of diafilm, nobody would know about it, aside from neighbors perhaps. But today, the lucky owner of this cute cat, is an internet celebrity getting flown into the largest conference and sponsored by some big cat food brand. The cat is earning money for it’s parent!


    *Image from austinist.com

    I wonder if our future generations will know anything about either diafilms or Tard… because the speed with which we acquire knowledge these days is so so fast, and there’s exponentially more things to know for each new generation. So what will be lost, and what would be remembered?

    How to get great ideas

    By interacting with smart people

    If youâ??re lucky, you have this amazing kind of friends and with them you talk freely about anything. Absolutely anything. And when you do, randomly and magically, great ideas just pop into your head, based on the conversations you have, and you canâ??t wait to write them down and act on them.

    By doing things

    Working and tinkering with things leads you to other great ideas, sometimes not even related to your project. When Iâ??m working on a project, thereâ??s suddenly a lot of stuff I want to write about. And conversely, whenever I feel like I have nothing to write about – it means itâ??s time to start working on something new.

    By traveling to new places

    Thereâ??s no better way to break free from routine and conventions, than going to the other side of the world. And even though in this day and age, there are comforts of civilization almost everywhere, it is still amazing how immersing in different cultures, sampling different cuisines, hearing (and maybe even speaking!) another language shifts something within your mind and gets your creativity going.

    By reading

    Books have this magical ability to transport you in space and time, without you physically moving anywhere. And as your mind travels, it opens up to new ideas, you learn how people did things in the past, or how they are potentially dealing with events of the future, or on a totally different continent… Just make sure you read great quality literature, donâ??t waste time on vampires, nothing really you can learn from the things that could never exist.

    By being annoyed

    While it is not pleasant being irritated by some process that is broken, it gives you ideas on how to improve it, so that you, and everyone after you, donâ??t have to go through this pain anymore. Example: submitting paperwork in the world of electronic communications, doing timesheets, redoing same thing over and over… the list can go on.

    Just make sure that you capture your ideas when they come – write them down.

    How do you get great ideas? I heard people come up with them in dreams sometimes… curious to hear real world stories.