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September 2015

How To Find Cheap Flights
Cheap Airfare Image

Whether you're headed on a trip for pleasure with a spouse, family, friends or business, there's a good chance you're going to be flying. Despite the rigmarole with checking baggage, parking your car and going through security, it's still faster and more convenient for long distances than any other type of transportation.

Finding airfare that fits into your budget can be a challenge. You might find two seats on the same plane that vary up to hundreds of dollars in price. No one wants to overpay for a flight. I'm sure you'd much rather have the extra money for your business or to go on exciting excursions on your vacation. Deals are out there, you just have to know how and where to find them as making the wrong choices while you shop for your vacation can cost you big time.

Here are our top tips for finding cheap airfares.

1. Research Using the Right Websites

Many travelers head straight to the airline’s site when preparing to book their flight. If you’re looking at prices on an airline’s site, you’re missing the bigger picture. You could save more money flying a different date, and typical airline sites don’t make it easy to compare. You might save more with another airline entirely, too.

Instead of a small window of options, try Google Flights which allows you to search for tickets on multiple departure and arrival days to see what day has the best deal. You can also see a calendar of the lowest fares, search for a general region and see a map of specific flight prices, or go with “I’m feeling lucky” and let Google plan your dream trip. The site also includes a whole host of features that beat out any human travel agent. Other high ranking booking sites include Skyscanner, Airfare Watchdog, and Hipmunk.

2. Buy On the Right Day

There are so many theories as to what day and time of the week you should buy tickets. Of course, no one can seem to agree on the day or time. That’s why sites like Kayak and Yapta can help. Kayak is useful as it allows you to see a price trend box in the left-hand column. It tells you whether to buy or wait on Kayak’s confidence level. If you become curious as to how it made its decision, you can click the box with the lowercase “i.” Remember that just because you got a low ticket price doesn’t mean it won’t go lower. The good news is many airlines will refund you the difference if the price drops a certain amount after you buy.

If you don’t have time to scour ticket prices every day, Yapta can be your best friend. Yapta keeps an eye on your tickets and alerts you when the price drops. With annual savings on Yapta being $334 per user on average, that means you can put your savings toward a better hotel, a few nice dinners, or just keep it in your bank account.

3. Be Flexible

While seats usually get more expensive the later you book, the deals actually get better. If you're self-employed, retired, have a really understanding boss or simply don’t care when you depart, then you can get some amazing rates if you cruise enough deal sites. Last-minute deals are usually advertised through third parties and built entirely to fill the seats that might lose the airline money.

Be aware that it’s getting harder to search airfares based on flexible travel dates now that many sites (Orbitz, Hotwire, Travelocity and Expedia among them) have eliminated their flexible-date calendars. But, again, Kayak ranks high among offering a flexible date search. You must register as a user to see it under "more search options,” though. Another site to keep on your radar is Adioso, a flexible travel site that you should be using but probably aren’t because of its
“under the radar” approach.

4. Sign Up for Airfare Alerts

One of the easiest ways to track airfares is to sign up for airfare alerts. Many travel websites offer e-mailed airfare alerts that let you know when fares go down, and they all have some sort of offer. Try doing a browser search as well, for "airfare alerts" and you'll see what's available. They all work a bit differently, so sign up for more than one.

One thing to note: These sites use essentially the same airfare data provided by the airlines' computer systems or ITA Software [what does ITA stand for?] (which is now owned by Google), so they won't include discounted promo-code fares, and they don't include Southwest Airlines. Airfarewatchdog, however, includes handpicked fares from Southwest in its Fare Alerts. Using social media, like Twitter is also an immediate way to be alerted of great deals. @Airfarewatchdog’s Twitter account posts unusual airfare deals every day of the week and alerts followers to promo codes and other airfare deals.

5. Consider Making a Stop

Sometimes booking a flight that has a connection as opposed to flying nonstop can save you money. But you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. If it’s hundreds of dollars then yes, but if it’s just $20 do you really want to increase your chances of getting delayed or stuck? And be sure to avoid making connections in airports that have a terrible on-time track record like San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare or all of New York’s airports.

As you can see, bargain hunting can be a time-consuming process but it can certainly payoff in the long run. 

Happy and safe travels! 


With our days of sun and swimsuits being limited and soon replaced with changing leaves and light jackets, Labor Day weekend is the ideal time to treat yourself to a break. And, if you’ve already been on a vacation, who says you can’t get away again?

There are several places to spend Labor Day weekend. It truly just depends on how far you want to travel, and what you want to do. Labor Day destinations can include beaches, cities, countryside, or simple small town USA. Although Labor Day weekend falls after many kids have returned to school, it offers one last opportunity to end the season on a high note.

Here are four fantastic places where you can get away in end-of-summer style.

September in Orlando, Florida can’t be beat. It’s a month when hotel rates are at their lowest of the year and crowds have thinned with the back-to-school season. Everyone is aware that Orlando is home to Walt Disney World and several other theme parks, but Orlando also offers many dinner shows, sightseeing adventures, outdoor activities, and other attractions that can be enjoyed by all ages. Some ideas in and around Orlando include: Kennedy Space Center Tours, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Orlando, Legoland, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, and Discover Cove to name a few.

Legoland

September also kicks off the fall color season in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. With clear skies and cool weather, the Pigeon Forge area of the Smoky Mountains is ideal for outdoor activities. You can enjoy a wide range of happenings including music & variety shows, recreational activities, museums, white water rafting, horseback riding, Dixie Stampede, and so much more. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide range of exciting things to see and do as well, including Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country Waterpark.

Dollywood

When you think of an all-inclusive resort, is Pennsylvania the first place you think of? Probably not, but the Skytop Lodge in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains has been welcoming families since 1928 and offers a huge choice of activities over the Labor Day weekend, including zip-lining, kayaking, archery, tennis, boating, biking, rock climbing, and hiking. There’s also an excellent supervised children’s program, and golfers get a bonus that’s virtually unheard of: unlimited greens fees. This is the place to be for Labor Day Weekend, and events starting on Friday, September 4th include fall-themed activities for the whole family to enjoy: a beer and wine tasting, family fun grilled pizza with an interactive demonstration, live music, and a delicious Labor Day classic menu.

Skytop Lodge

Boasting the world’s longest front porch is the Grand Hotel, set on storybook Mackinac Island, Michigan. This iconic summer resort has been a favorite of vacationers since 1887. If you’re looking to take a step back in time this Labor Day Weekend, Mackinac Island will give you just that. What makes this area unique? Motorized vehicles are prohibited and folks get around on bikes and horse-drawn carriages instead. The Grand Hotel offers myriad ways for families to enjoy not only the resort, but the island as well. From biking to horseback riding, to swimming in the 220-foot pool, a Labor Day Weekend in Mackinac Island won’t disappoint. You won’t want to miss The Annual Labor Day jazz weekend either, which is a wildly popular musical event, featuring an impressive line-up of jazz and gospel artists.

The Grand Hotel


Why should you visit the state of Arizona? Our very own Mattie Little tells us why.

Mattie grew up going to Arizona on family vacations and fell in love when she was in the 6th grade. She fell in love so much that she left her home state of Ohio and went to college at Arizona State University. Upon graduation, Mattie realized her heart was near family in Ohio and moved back, but her love for Arizona stayed strong and since then she visits every year.

Arizona Pinnacle

She shares with us her most recent experience to the desert, along with where to eat, where to stay, and what to do in the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale!

Where To Eat?

I think everyone can agree that no vacation is complete without having some good grub! Trying new restaurants that aren’t in your home state are fun and truly make the vacation experience whole. One of Mattie’s most favorite restaurants in Arizona is Oreganos. If you’re looking for a mouth-watering pizza, a good salad, and an ice-cold beverage, Oreganos is the place to go! An original Chicago style pizza joint, Oreganos offers thin crust, stuffed, or pan pizzas, wings, salads, pastas, calamari, and so much more. The atmosphere takes you back in time as Sinatra, Martin, and Big-Band music stream through the entire restaurant.

Oreganos

If you’re looking for an authentic American restaurant, Houston’s is the place to go. All entrees at Houston’s are prepared daily from scratch, and the atmosphere is modern but provides a touch of history making this establishment one of a kind. From their famous French dip, to slow roasted rotisserie chicken you can’t go wrong with any item on the menu. Mattie, and her entire family’s favorite dish though, are the fall off the bone barbeque ribs paired with a side of coleslaw and French fries.

Lastly, there are two words when you head to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area that you may hear of, and hear of for good reason. Culinary Dropout. From the chefs on the line with silver-studded ears and mohawk hairdos, to the inked-up, decked-out bar staff mixologists, Culinary Dropout serves the very best in unique gastro-pub fare. Culinary Dropout is an exciting atmosphere with an outdoor area specifically for bean bags and ping pong. That’s right, while you’re waiting on delicious, warm pretzel bites or a local beer, you can grab your friends and play a round of bean bags! You can’t go wrong with the buffalo chicken meatballs or a piled-high turkey pastrami sandwich on of course no other than a pretzel bun.

Culinary dropout

Phoenix and Scottsdale offer so many unique, amazing restaurants. There are too many to even write about but to sum up Mattie’s favorites here are a couple more spectacular restaurants and some that offer breathtaking views. BLT Steak at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn & Resort, Sassi Italian, Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar, Blanco Tacos & Tequila, and The Breakfast Club.

Where To Stay?

Now that you’re aware of the best restaurants in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Mattie shares with us the best places to stay. Whether you’re looking for a resort with 4 pools and a lazy river, or a quaint casita overlooking boulders, there are a multitude of options in the desert.

If you’re looking for the ultimate desert oasis, look no further than the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. From four top ranked restaurants, six sparkling pools, an 18 hole championship golf course, and an innovative spa with a private rooftop pool, the Scottsdale Princess truly is a gem in the desert.

Situated on 316 acres in the Sonoran Desert, the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa offers a variety of activities designed for all ages. This resort truly offers a one-stop vacation haven and has 5 outdoor pools and a lazy river. The surrounding and local area also offers off-site fun with biking, hiking, miniature golf, shopping, and much more.

If you’re looking for a more low-key stay away from the high-end resorts, try Hotel Valley Ho. This downtown urban oasis is a short walk from hundreds of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Originally built in 1956 and fully restored, this hideaway in the desert honors its past with mid-century modern style. Hotel Valley Ho also caters to pets and there is no additional charge. Your pet will be offered a food and water bowl, doggie treats, a “pet in room” door hanger, pet cleanup bags, and two lush courtyards.

Hotel-Valley-Ho

With so many places to stay in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, it’s hard to choose which properties to highlight. Other great hotels and resorts include The Phoenician, W Scottsdale, Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch, and Firesky Resort & Spa.

What To Do?

Where to begin with the number of things to do in the desert: To start, an early morning hike is a must! Mattie’s top 3 places to hike include Camelback Mountain, Pinnacle Peak, and Piestewa Peak. The views of each one of these mountains are spectacular. Camelback Mountain offers 2 trails for the experienced hiker looking for an intense and difficult anaerobic hike as well as a trail where you still get a great workout, but not as strenuous. Pinnacle Peak is the most popular hiking destination in the valley because of the spectacular views and accessibility. The trail is 1.75 miles, 3.5 round trip and is a moderate hike for beginners and experienced hikers alike. Piestewa Peak is another fantastic hike and is a 2.2 mile out and back trail. Beware though-this hike is rated as difficult but very rewarding when you reach the top of the peak.

Mattie Hiking

Love to shop? Scottsdale is a shopping lover’s dream. To name just a few of Scottsdale’s finest shopping paradises- Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, Scottsdale Quarter, and Kierland Commons. Here you will find an array of stores to choose from. Of the three, Scottsdale Quarter is the newest and offers high end stores and dining.

For a fun way to cool off, everyone visiting Arizona must take a trip down the Salt River for Salt River Tubing, Arizona’s floating picnic situated in the Tonto National Forest. That’s right, grab a tube and choose from 2-5 hour trips floating down the river. You can attach a cooler to your tube and have your food and drinks right at your fingertips. Occasionally you will run into a couple of small rapids which will send you floating more rapidly, and guaranteed you will laugh until you cry. With the mountains surrounding you, and wild horses running free in the river, this will truly be an unforgettable experience.

Salt River Tubing

Not only do Phoenix and Scottsdale offer a variety of activities for vacationers, but the state of Arizona as a whole offers so many things to do. For a few other suggestions, take a day trip to Sedona and slide down the famous Slide Rock. Experience the true Wild West and head to Goldfield Ghost Town in the Superstition Mountains, or head to Old Tucson and take a step back in time to the old west town made famous as the location for more than 300 movies and TV shows. Oh! And of course, who could forget the Grand Canyon?

Slide Rock