How to Survive a Low-Cost Airline

How to Survive a Low-Cost Airline

Ryanair. Air India Express. Spirit Airlines. easyJet. These are some of the low-cost airlines I’ve flown on and I can tell you that the experience can make a Greyhound bus seem like luxury travel. Although you’re paying vastly less by booking a flight with a low-cost airline, you’re also sacrificing leg room, being able to choose your seat, and sometimes even free beverage service! That being said, when you’re looking to get from Point A to Point B, taking advantage of a low-cost airline can make sense. That being said, it will take some legwork and research. Here’s how to survive a low-cost airline.

Avoid sticker shock. Low-cost airlines are notorious for charging extra for even the most basic amenities. Your cheap ticket might end up being much more expensive in the long run. Before booking your ticket, read up on the airline’s extra charges (e.g., selecting your seat) and always buy add-on amenities at the time of purchase as the price tends to go up as your departure date approaches. Of utmost importance is understanding luggage allowances as some low-cost airlines only allow you you one free personal item! Again, check this policy at booking and plan your packing accordingly.

Proofread. Carefully review all of your booking details. Some low-cost airlines will say you’re flying into Paris, for example, but actually you’re flying into an airport an hour or two away from the city center, which requires additional transportation. Similarly, carefully review the purchase screen and your ticket once it arrives in your inbox. Contact the airline immediately if there’s any errors.

Pack light. Once you know your luggage allowances, make sure that you follow them to a T. There’s going to be no wiggle room for a carry-on that’s an inch too big or a pound overweight. I recommend purchasing a luggage scale so you can be sure that the weight of your bag complies with regulation.

Check-in online. Low-cost airlines love to collect fees anyway they can, including at check-in. To avoid paying an additional fee to check-in at the airport, make sure you check-in online and print your boarding pass at home. And on your way out the door, triple check that you have the hard-copy boarding pass.

Manage expectations. By booking a low-cost airline you’re acknowledging a no-frills travel experience. Plan accordingly by packing your own snacks and a water bottle. If it’s a red-eye, know that you need to bring a pillow and/or a blanket unlike traveling on a legacy carrier. It’s definitely not glamorous, but you can make it tolerable.

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3 Days in Andalucia

3 Days in Andalucia
The impressive Alhambra in Granada

I say this in the nicest way possible, but Madrid was my least favorite city of my trip through Spain last month. In contrast to Madrid’s big city vibes, the towns we visited during our 3 days in Andalucia possessed so much Old World charm in their winding streets. The allure of these towns is that there’s not as much to see, rather you’re visiting for the pleasure of experiencing long lunches, sipping Spanish wines, and appreciating the quaintness of it all. I knew the day or so spent in each place wouldn’t be enough to fully grasp their character.

 

3 Days in Andalucia
Ripening oranges in Cordoba
3 Days in Andalucia
Afternoon sunshine in Cordoba

Our first stop in Andalucia was Córdoba. As with all of the towns through Andalucia, Córdoba’s architecture is representative of the melting pot of its inhabitants. You can spot the Roman influences as your stroll along its Roman bridge and its Islamic influences are felt visiting the Mosque of Córdoba. Stay: At the swanky NH Collection Amistad Córdoba. Indulge: Casa Tollin and Casa Pepe de la Juderia. Tips: Sure, the city center looks easy enough to walk to, but the cobblestone streets coupled with your luggage make it a workout. Take the path of least resistance and hail a cab at the train station.

3 Days in Andalucia
Morning in Seville
3 Days in Andalucia
Brilliant colors of Seville

After Córdoba, we spent just a leisurely afternoon in Seville and how I regret only penciling those precious few hours. Seville is meant for exploring: we kept stopping to peak into elaborately decorated courtyards and admiring the gardening prowess of the residents who adorn their homes with flower pots. Perhaps my favorite sight of the entire trip was the Alcázar of Seville (a.k.a. Dorne for fellow Game of Thrones fans!), which is worth a 2-3 hour visit.  Indulge: Restaurante Uno de Delicias. Tips: Take advantage of the luggage storage at the Seville train station. It made spending a day here very easy!

3 Days in Andalucia
Fountain on our way to the Alcazar in Seville
3 Days in Andalucia
Crepe myrtles in Granada

Finally, we wrapped our journey through Andalucia in Granada. Granada is home to the Alhambra, a sprawling Moorish palace and fortress, and a bucket list item of mine. Our afternoon at the Alhambra did not disappoint, but the real highlight was the summer palace, the Palacio de Generalife. Stay: At the quirky Gar-Anat Hotel. Indulge: VidaXtra Restaurant and Café 4 Gatos. Tips: Book your Alhambra entrance tickets far in advance. Even during a non-peak time, our entrance choices were very limited four weeks before our visit! Unwind after exploring the Alhambra with an Arabian bath experience and massage at the Hammam Al Ándalus.

3 Days in Andalucia
Street scene in Granada
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Tips for Traveling with Friends

Tips for Traveling with Friends
Travel companions from fraternity formals to spring break to much more chill and upscale 30-something reunions

Recently, I’ve been traveling quite a bit with friends (see: The Berkshires, San Diego, Spain), which is the best kind of travel! That being said, traveling can be stressful on a relationship unless you follow these tips for traveling with friends.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When you’re traveling with friends especially for the first time, it’s important to know each others travel preferences ahead of time: Can you spend all day at a museum or is that akin to torture? How early can (or will) you wake up to catch a train? Do you prefer staying in Airbnb rentals or do you need only the best luxury hotels? Sharing these preferences up front helps ensure every person will have her needs and wants met.
  2. Be honest about your a budget. Everyone’s finances are different. What I consider to be expensive might not cause my companion to blink and vice versa. Especially when it comes to lodging and food costs, set price limits early on and stick to them.
  3. Keep track of shared expenses using Splitwise. Depending on where you’re traveling and how big your group is, splitting costs across credit cards isn’t always possible. The Splitwise app makes it really easy to input costs throughout your trip. Since it integrates with both Paypal and Venmo, settling up is super easy once you’re home.
  4. Delegate planning tasks according to strengths. Who in the group is the most detail-oriented? That’s the person who should coordinate travel, make hotel reservations, and so forth. Who in the group is tapped into what’s cool? That’s the person who should suggest activities, restaurants, and other outings. Spreading out responsibilities ensures that no one feels like they’re doing all of the work.
  5. Be flexible. As the Rolling Stones sing, you can’t always get what you want. In the planning phases and on you trip, you’ll inevitably need to make a few compromises along the way. Regardless of how you end up spending your time, you’re there to build new memories and deepen your friendship. That’s what’s most important.
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Glamping at Safari West

Glamping at Safari West

I dare say last weekend was one of the highlights of our year! We drove the hour and change from San Francisco to Sonoma County to go glamping at Safari West. Safari West is a 400 acre private wildlife preserve founded in 1989 by a husband and wife passionate about wildlife conservation. It’s been on my bucket list since we moved here and it didn’t disappoint!

Glamping at Safari West

In addition to being home to 800 animals (including rhinoceroses, giraffes, and cheetahs), Safari West offers luxury tent accommodations for overnight stays such as ours. Our tent was high on the property and felt like we were staying a tree house. Each tent is made in Africa before being assembled at Safari West and is outfitted with comfortable beds, linens, and eco-friendly bath products. Despite the cool overnight temperatures, we were kept warm by an electric blanket (each tent also has a ceiling fan and a large space heater). Safari West’s tents may go beyond typical glamping experiences because we also had a large, fully functional bathroom and more electrical outlets than most of the hotels I’ve stayed in!

Glamping at Safari West

After being treated to breakfast in the morning, we took off for a three hour small group safari on the property. We were successful in finding almost all of the animals that roam the property including multiple species of antelope and ostriches. I appreciated how personable and knowledgeable our guide was and if you want to deep dive into the animals, Safari West also offers private “Talk Nerdy to Me” safaris with a biologist or someone of their Research and Education team.

Glamping at Safari West

As a cherry on top, Safari West’s location in Sonoma also made for excellent exploring. We dined and imbibed at Russian River Brewing Company and spent the afternoon after our safari exploring Healdsburg. We had the best barbeque outside of North Carolina at Kinsmoke and fueled up for our drive home with pie and ice cream at Noble Folk.

Glamping at Safari West

Glamping at Safari West

Glamping at Safari West

Glamping at Safari West

Glamping at Safari West

Glamping at Safari West

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