Posts Tagged ‘tips’

How to Redeem Frequent Flier Miles
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

As discussed in Monday’s post, How to Accrue Frequent Flier Miles, earning and redeeming miles can be a great way to save money on your career break.

All frequent flyer mile (FFM) programs publish an awards table for the required miles needed for a flight redemption.  The exact number, of course, depends on your origin and destination countries.  For instance, at the time of this writing, U.S. Airways, a Star Alliance member, requires 60,000 miles to fly round trip from North America to North Asia while United Airlines, another Star Alliance airline, requires 65,000 miles for the same round trip flight.

Also, different frequent flyer mile programs group the same countries in different zones.  United Airlines categorizes South Korea and Singapore in North Asia and South Asia respectively.  Another frequent flyer mile program will group both countries in the same zone.  It helps to check with the redemption table to where your miles can take you.  Awards table changes are almost guaranteed to change for the worse, usually the required number mileage increases.  It’s always best to use your miles before such changes are imposed because I rather have memories from a trip far away than looking at a black and white number on my computer screen.

Once you have the required number of FFM in your account, it’s now time to search flights for the availability of seats open to folks redeeming miles or known as award seats.

Your first inclination may be to check the airline’s website for availability.  This isn’t wrong per se.  It’s the easiest to do and if the airline website search satisfies your needs on the first try, you’re done.  However, this will not be the case in nearly every circumstance.

Likewise with crediting miles from an alliance or partner airline, those miles can also be redeemed for flights on alliance and partner airlines.  Most online booking engines don’t display the availability of partner or alliance member airlines.  For instance, U.S. Airways, a Star Alliance member doesn’t display availability on Lufthansa or Austrian airline flights.  To find availability on flights for U.S. Airways, you’ll have to call the airline agent to get this information and ticket it.

Routing Rules

Each frequent flyer mile program has different rules when it comes to redeeming miles – some allow you to book a one-way ticket for half the required miles for a round trip flight while others frequent flyer miles programs don’t allow it.

Travelers may miss out on travel opportunities because they are unaware of the routing rules, stopovers, and open jaw rules of their frequent flyer mile program.  Most programs allow you to build in either one stop over or one open-jaw to an award ticket when you’re traveling from one zone to another, i.e. North America to Europe or North America to Asia.

A stopover is defined as a break in the middle of a journey before proceeding to your destination or origin.   An example would be if a traveler wanted to travel to Bangkok, Thailand from North America, they could book NYC to Bangkok via Europe.  Stopover in Europe for several weeks to several months, then proceed to their destination and return to NYC all for the same amount of miles as if the traveler booked a round trip NYC to Bangkok.  A stopover can be schedule for as long as the traveler wishes, but the entire round trip itinerary has to be completed within a year.

An “Open Jaw” ticket is when you fly into one city and fly out of another.  For example, let’s say a traveler booked a round trip from New York to London for X amount of miles.  If the traveler wishes to tour the main continent of Europe, the traveler would then have to book a round trip flight on a budget airline to the main continent.  Alternatively, for the same X amount of miles, a traveler could book an open jaw itinerary by booking a flight from NYC to London.  Then book a flight from to NYC from Madrid all for the same amount of miles.   All the traveler needs to book is a one-way ticket from London to Madrid versus a round trip ticket from London to Madrid on a budget airline.

Knowing these routing rules can be extremely valuable to get more travel as you would from the same amount of miles required for a round trip award ticket.

One-way tickets booked with miles don’t allow a stop over.  For these cases, if it’s an international itinerary, it’s possible to include a connection of less than 24 hours in a city because a connection time of less than 24 hour doesn’t count as a stop over.  It is technically considered a connection.  Having 22 hours on the ground is plenty of time to leave the airport and explore the city.

For instance, traveling from Singapore to Seoul one-way, you could include a connection in Hong Kong by arriving on 15:15 flight and departing on a 13:10 flight the next day.  This is a completely valid and legal connection that will not count as a stopover.

These short connections may not be conducive to career breakers traveling with children, but for those light packing travelers, it can provide an excellent way to experience a city.

With stopovers and open jaw itineraries on an award ticket, you’ll certainly make more stops along your journey, thus seeing more of the world we anxiously waited to take a career break for.

Things to Keep in Mind When Redeeming Miles

♦ Call the reservation agent of your airline to find availability of seats on other airlines.

♦ When booking an international award ticket, never ever book a round trip.  Build in stopovers or an open jaw to stretch those miles.

♦ If you’re willing to do so and your itinerary permits, add a connection of less than 24 hours to explore a city along the way to your destination.

Mike Choi is known as the resident world traveler in his office and blogs about his travels at thefitworldtraveler.com. With his knowledge of FFM, he runs a part time frequent flyer mile consulting shop at iflywithmiles.com to help those with miles see the world. After reading books authored by Rolf Potts, Mike’s been inspired to take a career break to travel long term.

How to Accrue Frequent Flier Miles
Monday, April 30th, 2012

Frequent Flyer Miles (FFM) can be an excellent way to subsidize airfare costs during your career break.  For those unfamiliar with FFM, they are a unit of rewards earned through an airline’s loyalty program by flying.  The objective of these loyalty programs is to retain customers by rewarding customers with miles, which translate to free flights with enough accumulated miles.

Earning Miles

In the United States, aside from flying, there are numerous ways to earn FFM such as purchases with co-branded airline cards and a slew of other promotional offers.

Unless you have a lot of reimbursable expenses, purchases with a co-branded airline credit card will not generate enough miles for a flight in a timely manner.  This post will focus on flying, assuming there are some future career breakers who travel for work and are allowed to accumulate FFM for personal use.

With work related travels, we’re usually committed to a schedule that may not be conducive to flying our preferred airline, so we end up crediting the flown miles to another carrier.  The end result is multiple frequent flyer mile accounts with smaller balances.  This is not the most ideal situation because account balances in different frequent flyer miles programs cannot be combined. It’s best to have a single account with a large balance so that they can be redeemed for a flight, ideally an international flight.

To accrue miles in a single account, it’s helpful to know the alliance and partner airlines of your frequent flyer mile program.  The Star Alliance, One World, and Sky Team are the three alliances in existence today.  In most cases, alliance member and partner airlines can be credited to a single frequent flyer mile account within the alliance.  Most people don’t realize this and end up creating multiple frequent flyer mile accounts from different airlines.

For example, a few weeks ago a friend was looking to purchase a round trip ticket to Atlanta and preferred to fly U.S. Airways because it’s where he has the greatest amount of frequent flyer miles.  However, this time around, he wasn’t able to go with U.S. Airways as it didn’t allow an ample connection time. My friend has a small bank of frequent flyer miles with Delta, so he was going to pay more money to fly with Delta directly to Atlanta for the convenience and mileage accrual.

After consulting with me, I suggested he buy a United flight that was similarly priced to the U.S. Airways flight and allowed a sufficient connection time.  I explained that United flights could be credited to his U.S. Airways account since they are both Star Alliance members.  I showed him the following miles earnings table from the U.S. Airways site:

Since the airfare he was purchasing was one of the fare classes that aligned with the 100% accrual rate, he would earn all the flown miles on the United flight to his U.S. Airways account.

Airlines also have partner airlines that can accrue miles.  For example, I have an AAdvantage account from American Airlines and last year I booked a round trip flight to Kathmandu from New York City.  One of my flight options was to fly on Cathay Pacific to Kathmandu via Hong Kong.  Cathay Pacific and American Airlines are part of the One World Alliance so a flight on Cathay Pacific would earn miles on American Airlines.

However, since the airfare booking code I would have purchased (Class L) aligned with 0% mileage accrual according to American Airline’s website, I would have earned zero miles to my AAdvantage account for a 20,000 mile flight from NYC to Kathmandu, which was the deal breaker for me.

Another comparable priced option was a Gulf Air flight transiting through Europe and the Middle East to arrive in Kathmandu.

Since Gulf Air is a partner airline with American Airlines and the fare class I bought aligned with the 100% accrual rate of all flown miles, I earned all the miles for the flight.  You can’t assume that just because airlines are in the same alliance you’ll earn all the flown miles.  You have to pay attention to the airfare booking codes and the corresponding earning rates table to be sure.

Keeping Miles

Frequent Flier Miles have an all-inclusive expiration date, meaning that if there is no account activity for the specified duration as detailed by the FFM program, all your miles will expire, not just the older accrued miles.

The good news is that it’s very easy to keep miles from expiring.  All you need is to generate any kind of account activity, which includes: flying, redeeming miles for a flight, and crediting hotel/rental cars to your FFM account.  With the various ways to earn miles these days, the options are nearly endless.  The obvious key is to keep your out of pocket expenses low if you have to generate account activity to keep your miles from expiring.

For instance, nearly all FFM programs have online shopping portals such as the “AAdvantage eshopping” or the “U.S. Airways Dividend Sky Mall” where a single low cost purchase from these Online Malls will generate account activity to reset the expiration date.

Things to Keep in Mind

♦ Know the alliance and partner members of your FFM account.
♦ Check your FFM account earning rules to determine which fare classes on alliance and partner airlines will earn miles to your FFM account.
♦ Accumulate miles in a single account because miles across different airline programs cannot be combined. It’s always best to have a large balance in a single account to be redeemed for travel.
♦ Always give the gate or ticketing agent your FFM account number before your flight because it’s easier to receive miles rather than after the fact.
♦ Never let your miles expire.  It’s easy enough to keep them from expiring with all the ways to generate any kind of account activity.
♦ If you have large amounts of reimbursable expenses, credit card spending on a co-branded airline card may be a method to earning miles.

Mike Choi is known as the resident world traveler in his office and blogs about his travels at thefitworldtraveler.com.  With his knowledge of FFM, he runs a part time frequent flyer mile consulting shop at iflywithmiles.com to help those with miles see the world.  After reading books authored by Rolf Potts, Mike’s been inspired to take a career break to travel long term.

Check back on Wednesday when Mike explains how to best redeem your hard-earned frequent flier miles.

Photo credit: Vox Efx

RTW Plane Tickets
Monday, March 5th, 2012

Booking RTW Tickets can be a complicated, if not expensive, affair for career breakers. The team at BootsnAll have put together a resource that would help long-term travelers find out which is the best option for your particular trip.

There’s a whole lot of thought that goes into the idea of taking a career break. Is this the right thing for me to do? Am I going to ruin my career by doing it? What am I going to do about my house/apartment/pets? How am I going to break the news to my family and friends? All are concerns that career breakers must contemplate before making that leap from dreamer to planner.

But once you do take that step and commit to taking control of your life and making your dreams come true, the real fun begins. Planning your career break is just as much, if not more work than making that initial decision to actually go. Once you decide, it’s time to turn your thoughts to other questions – where do you want to go, what do you want to do, how much is this whole thing going to cost? These decisions will shape what your career break trip will be like.

Costs for a trip like this are usually at the forefront of the mind of all career breakers and long-term travelers. Usually the biggest expense of any kind of travel is the plane tickets. And if you decide to go around the world, it’s going to cost you. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there for long-term travelers; however, those options can be complicated and finding the best one for you can be a time consuming and frustrating process.

For anyone who has looked into RTW (round the world) plane tickets, the process can quickly become muddled with complicated and confusing rules, terms, and conditions. How is one to know what the best deal out there is? How do you comb through all the different rules? How do you know which plane ticket option is best for you?

At BootsnAll, we have spent much of the last few months doing the leg-work for you. We wanted to put together a resource that would help long-term travelers find out which is the best option for your particular trip. We understand that all people’s situations are different, and there is no one perfect solution for everyone. So we started by doing a secret shopper project that priced 3 different round the world routes among 8 different companies (including just doing it yourself and buying one way tickets).

We came up with 3 fictional itineraries, from a super simple, 4-leg major hub route to a more complicated, 13-leg (9 flights. 4 overland segments) route, to a super complicated, 19-leg (13 flights and 6 overland segments) route. We took these three routes and posed as customers, searching each one leaving from 3 different cities around the world – New York, London, and Sydney. We started by writing short reviews of our RTW flight shopping experience – rating each company based on a variety of factors – price, search options, customer service, date flexibility, and route flexibility.

That was just the start. After publishing the reviews, we invited travelers who have used these companies to leave their own reviews, so we could get as many different perspectives as possible to help future RTW travelers when decision time came around. We also put together an Around the World Airfare Research Report that goes more in depth with our findings. In order to get this free report, all you have to do is sign up for the Round the World Ticket newsletter. This will give you access to this free report and will also allow you to keep up with our monthly round the world plane ticket deals. We plan on publishing an even larger ebook in the future and shopping routes 4 times a year to keep up with any changes and seasonal prices within the industry.

If you are planning or thinking of planning your own career break getaway, then you’ll want to keep on top of industry trends. We have made it easy for you, so sign up for our newsletter, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter to stay on top of the game and be as informed as possible when it comes time for your trip.

The Best-Laid Plans
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012


The best-laid plans of travelers often go awry…a truth you will most definitely learn on the road. Traveling long term is different than a vacation. In a vacation you normally have to maximize your short time very carefully; transportation, lodging, tours, and sometimes food is often planned. However when you are roaming from place to place over the period of 3 to 12 months, planning each detail becomes much harder.

Here are some things to consider when trying to plan:

You Will Change

One of the most rewarding things about extended travel is that you have time to learn; not only about other cultures, but about yourself. You may be surprised what you learn about yourself. The knowledge you gain will likely effect your plans, so consider leaving yourself open to new opportunities.

Seeing the Whole World

You can’t get to every ‘must-see’ in the world. We know it’s tempting to look at the globe and know that you have more time off then you ever have before in your life and want to do EVERYTHING. But really…do you want to do everything? If you do, then what’s left? One of the biggest benefits of taking a career break and traveling is that you will infuse travel into your life from this point on. We’ve never met anyone who traveled the world and didn’t want to go back out again. Travel and exploring will become a part of your life, you will have more opportunities to get back to places you didn’t get to on this trip.

You Don’t Know Until You Get There

Many times you plan to go to a place and have something specific that you want to do there or see. But once you hit the ground, you’ll meet locals and other travelers and bond with them. Soon you learn of other things that you want to see and do that they recommend. If you have everything already planned, then you may miss out on these new places/experiences that you just learned about.

Oh – The People You’ll Meet!

Whether you are a solo, couple, or family traveler you will meet hundreds of new people while you travel. Each person brings a new possibility; one which you will never be able to predict or control. You may decide to travel with a new friend, you may fall in love, you may get offered a job, or you may decide to stay and help someone. Remain flexible & open and you will most likely end up in a place that you never knew about – and certainly wasn’t according to plan.


Sometimes when you plan too much in advance, the universe has a way of laughing at those plans. That’s what happened to Stephanie and she shares how she now travels at a different pace.

You Will Get Tired

At some point in your extended travels you will get tired. You won’t want to move any longer, pack any more, see another museum, or ride another bus. If you plan everything in advance, then you’ll wear yourself out with no time to recover. Remember you don’t want to return home as tired and stressed out as you were when you left!

Overall we recommend to build a structure and foundation, but know it’s ok to fill in the details as you go. If you are the planning type, then we recommend to get the first few weeks or months planned with transportation and an itinerary, but leave the remainder open ended. It’s good to have a few core ideas, but fight the urge to connect them until it gets closer to the time in which they will occur.

Basic Training

We cover more on how to plan for your time in Career Break Basic Training, as well as other topics related to your On-the-Road experiences.

Travel Gear Tips from a ‘Gearologist’
Monday, January 9th, 2012

Jannell HowellJannell Howell is about to embark on an around-the-world journey that will take her through many countries including Thailand, India, Jordan, and Europe before coming back to the U.S. 15 months ago, she began blogging about her preparations on her site Traveljunkie’s World Tour.

Jannell has discovered a love of researching travel-related gear and services and shares some of her favorite finds with us.

While going through Meet, Plan, Go!’s Career Break Basic Training, I was introduced to some pretty incredible services and gear that I didn’t know existed. In the process of learning more about these newfound products, I found that I REALLY enjoyed the research. I have since completed the Basic Training course, but have continued to explore new items and I look forward to further study which, I admit, borders on obsession . . . perhaps I’ve become a travel gear-ologist?

Backpack

VentureSafeThe PacSafe VentureSafe 25L backpack is my favorite piece of gear so far. The VentureSafe has a deceivingly large amount of space, a padded 13″ laptop pocket and is surprisingly comfortable.

It’s also an anti-theft powerhouse with slash-proof metal ‘exomesh’ within the fabric, zippers that hook and hide closed and extra durable slash-proof straps. I think the VentureSafe is the ultimate traveler’s daypack and am so pleased I got one.

Wifi Antenna

One piece of gear that I can’t wait to see in action is an Alfa 802.11g/n wifi antenna. I got this tip from Anil Polat of FoxNomad (Thanks, Anil!). This palm-size antenna plugs into my laptop via USB port and is said to increase the wireless Internet range so I can search and find more (hopefully unlocked) networks. The Alfa wifi antenna can be used with either PC or Mac operating systems and boasts a strong signal, high speed data transfer rate, and keeps my wireless data secure. I love that the antenna is only 2 ounces and measures 3.5 x 2.5 inches (8.5 x 6.3cm) so it can be packed easily.

Airline Miles

Travel Hacking CartelHands down, the best service I’ve used this last year is the Travel Hacking Cartel by Chris Guillebeau. Per the Cartel website, Chris ‘teaches members about glitch fares, round-the-world tickets, padding mileage accounts, earning elite status and much more’. Members get video tutorials on what travel hacking is all about and deal alerts emailed to them on airline mileage promotions, hotel points, car rental offers – even frequent dining programs!

Chris offers a guarantee of at least four free plane tickets a year and monthly memberships start as low as $15 (well worth the information you get) with a 14-day trial period for just a dollar. With the information I learned in the Cartel, combined with some ‘strategic spending’, I’ve earned 94,000 frequent flyer miles in one year – without getting on a flight!

Sim Card

global sim cardOnce I am outside the U.S., I’ll explore Mobal’s global sim card service. I wanted the option to make/receive a regular phone call when I don’t have access to wifi/Skype. Since I will be traveling to more than 15 countries, I wanted to avoid the hassle of getting a new sim card for every country. Additionally, it is much easier to give my family one international phone number to reach me instead of 15+. By using the Mobal sim card in my unlocked GSM phone, I only have to pay for activation once ($9), the card works in over 190 countries without monthly service fees or minimum usage and never expires. Unlike other sim card providers, Mobal charges for calls after I’ve made them.

The best attribute about using Mobal’s sim card is the high quality call signal. The service will automatically connect to the strongest cell phone signal wherever I am. The only downer I could find about Mobal was the expensive call rates (from $1.50 to $3.95 per minute), but I don’t intend on using it often. Aside from testing it (in one minute spurts!), I’ll use the sim card in case of emergency when call quality is the most important.

Jannell HowellThese are just a few of my favorite items. I am already so confident about these products that I signed up as an affiliate, but will thoroughly ‘test-drive’ them in the coming months and will share my experience with Meet, Plan, Go! – So ‘stay tuned’.

You can read about other travel-related products I’ve studied and I will continue to research MANY more items. I’d love to hear from other travelers about their favorite gear and/or services (I gotta feed my obsession).

– Your friendly travel ‘gearologist’

2011 Recap: On-the-Road
Monday, December 5th, 2011

Traveling with kids, living in Paris, taking a writer’s retreat, and staying in hostels – just a few of the topics we highlighted this year On-the-Road.

Traveling with Kids: Building a Foundation of Learning

Rainer Jenss was a Vice President and thirteen-year veteran of National Geographic. As the Publisher, he helped transform National Geographic Kids into the most widely read consumer magazine for children throughout the world. In the summer of 2008 he decided to put his professional expertise and personal passion to the ultimate test by traveling around the world for a year with his family.

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably fantasized about quitting your job, packing a suitcase, and leaving town for a while to travel the world. When we first got married, my wife Carol and I often contemplated taking the leap — sometimes seriously, sometimes not. There always seemed to be some excuse why we couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Our careers, responsibilities, and commitments had to be considered, and how about what our friends and family would say? It was always something. Then after the birth of our sons Tyler and Stefan, all this talk about packing our bags seemed to suddenly fade away. After all, you can’t possibly do something like this with kids, right? Continue…

On the Road with Warren & Betsy Talbot

Shortly after hosting our Inaugural Meet, Plan, Go! event in Seattle this past September, Warren & Betsy Talbot (aka Married with Luggage) took off for their three year career break. Now with four months under their [shrinking] belts, we check in with them to see how they are adjusting to life on the road.

You spent two years planning your career break travels. Now that you have been on the road for four months, what have you found to be the most valuable aspect of your preparation process?
We have found that living on a budget is the most valuable skill for a long-term trip like this. In addition, doing the research to figure out what the trip would likely cost for our style of travel means that we are comfortable traveling with the budget we set out for ourselves and do not anticipate running out of money early. We lived for 2 years on a fairly tight budget, which means once we started on the trip, there was absolutely nothing to get used to. In fact, we felt like we could splurge more once we were on the trip because we had lived under budget for so long – which is a great feeling! Continue…

What’s the Right Amount of Time on the Road

San Blas, PanamaWhen I first started backpacking nearly 20 years ago, I never heard about gap-years, or for that fact, career breaks. I was traveling as a college student, adding to my education by backpacking through Europe and studying in London. That experience led me to realize that I wanted to incorporate travel throughout my life – whether it was three months in SE Asia or two weeks in Ecuador.

And during the majority of my travels, the Internet was not a prevalent part of my planning until the past few years. So I was unaware of any other people outside of my circle taking sabbaticals or career breaks to do extended travel.

But since co-founding Briefcase to Backpack, many more career breakers and RTW travelers have come on my radar. And sometimes it seems like many feel that they need to travel for at least a year or more, and in some cases, sell all of their belongings to do so. But in my experiences, I don’t feel that that is always necessary. Yes, there are many fascinating places in the world to see, but is it really necessary to check them off all at once? Continue…

A Year in Paris

Eiffel TowerIn the months leading up to her 33rd birthday, Jenny Sundel’s high-paying, but deeply unsatisfying interim job ended. After a decade of working around the clock – and sleeping next to her blackberry! – she knew she needed a break. “That only crystallized further when I attempted to find another job, right smack dab in the middle of a recession no less. ‘Knowing your background as a freelancer, are you sure you could truly be happy in an office,’ asked one interviewer. ‘Um uh um uh um uh um,’ I stammered. Needless to say, they gave the job to someone else.”

Jenny was so burnt out that she could no longer imagine returning to her prior freelance life either. “I had lost all motivation to hustle for assignments along with any passion for my work. I felt disillusioned, purpose-less and un-inspired. And all this right as I was turning 33, otherwise known as the Jesus Year. It was the perfect time for a reinvention.” Jenny decided to move to Paris and shares with us how her life is changing. Continue…

Studying Spanish in Argentina

Sarah GottliebMy backpack had hardly touched the floor in our new apartment in Buenos Aires when I was already illuminated by the friendly glow of my netbook, searching for a school to enroll in. I was eager to hit the books after so many years in the workplace and wanted to take advantage of every second of Spanish that I could absorb. Being a little older than your typical study-abroad student and already fairly fluent, I was a bit leery of the private language mills with their revolving hung-over students. My goal wasn’t to be able to say, “I’d like a shot of tequila please”; I wanted to speak with confidence about things that probably hadn’t happened in the past, but might have—in other words, to finally master the subjunctive mood.

I soon had a spreadsheet full of different programs ranked by cost per hour, students per teacher, reviews, and length of program. But after narrowing down the choices, I still wasn’t happy with the results. I was afraid that my classmates would all be Americans and the classes were surprisingly more expensive than I’d expected. Continue…

On the Road: Writer’s Retreat

Let’s ignore the fact that you’ll never work again. Skip over the part where you die alone and penniless on a twice-flipped mattress in some dockside flophouse. Such fates are inevitable if you walk away from your job. Accept it. Move on.

I know that’s slightly unfair to say, because I did exactly what you’re thinking of doing, and yet here I sit with all my original teeth and a perfectly pleasant relationship with my creditors. Still, it’s what folks told me, so I’m riling up your muse with an equal punch of pessimism.

That’s right. In 2007, against all warnings, I traded my desk job in Manhattan for the wilds of New Zealand. The plan was to wander a bit, to clear my head so that I may pursue a dream: Writing full time. It was a gamble, but for some reason that didn’t worry me. I knew that when I was checked into hereafter and they asked me, “did it all work out?” I could at least shrug my shoulders and say, “I gave it a shot.”

Of course, giving it a shot can mean different things to different people. Here’s what it meant for me: Continue…

The Modern Hostel Experience

Traveling is about the journey, and not reaching the destination; from the moment you start packing until you have returned. Think about how long you have planned to conquer this journey, and how fulfilling it is to participate in this traveling phenomenon; whether you’re a career breaker or a backpacker. Your travel experience is unique; shaped by the travelers you interact with. Shouldn’t the way you book your travel be the same?

The GoMio Service
Travelers love to talk; we share information about how awesome the Salar de Uyuni was in Bolivia, or where to find budget accommodation in Amsterdam. The Gomio team does exactly this; booking hostels and connecting travelers at your convenience. Continue…

2011 Recap: Preparation
Monday, November 28th, 2011

Traveling with a partner? Moving abroad? Want to travel with a purpose? We’ve had some great guest posts covering these topics as well as other preparation tips. Here is a recap of those featured in 2011.

Preparing for Long-Term Travel with Your Partner

Adam Seper and his wife Megan have embraced travel throughout their decade long relationship. And after getting married, they decided that instead of pursuing the “American Dream” of buying a house and starting a family, they wanted to travel the world instead. So in October of 2008 they set off on a 358-day adventure, visiting 4 continents, 11 countries, and nearly 90 cities. Since they’ve returned, Megan is back being an attorney and Adam is pursuing a career in travel writing – including running the site World Travel for Couples.

For other couples preparing for an adventure of their own, here are some important insights and tips they learned.

If you’ve never taken an extended trip before, you’re bound to have tons of questions. How do we begin planning for something like this? Do we just up and quit our jobs? Is a sabbatical possible? How do we choose where to go? What do we pack? What about visas? Certainly all important questions. But what some fail to think about is what it will actually be like out on the road, especially in regards to traveling with your partner. Continue…

Sorting Through Travel Information Overload

In January of 2012, Jannell Howell will set off on a year-long journey around the world. Her plans will take her West from San Francisco where she’ll travel through Southeast Asia, meander through India and the Middle East, explore Europe and the U.K., check out Morocco, then fly to the East Coast of the U.S. where she’s looking to relocate. Aside from some basic sightseeing and unique activities (e.g. ride an elephant, learn a language, etc), she would like to try working and volunteering overseas, as well as getting to know some locals and a different way of life.

Jannell has joined Career Break Basic Training to help with her planning and blogs about this preparation stage on her site Traveljunkies World Tour. Here she shares how her plans are coming along.

What inspired you to plan a career break?
I knew from an early age that I loved to travel and have gone on some wonderful vacations that allowed me to unplug from reality, but I always longed for more. Wanting to travel around the world has been a dream of mine for a long time, but I never thought I’d get to a point when I had the money or the time to go. Last year, the dream resurfaced as a way to celebrate my 40th birthday in 2012. Then, two weeks later, I attended a Meet, Plan, Go! event that gave me the courage to go for it! Continue…

Preparing to Move Abroad

Hudgins FamilyNot all career breakers dream of traveling around the world during their break away. Many prefer to utilize their time, no matter how long, based in one place, much like Abby Tegnelia did in Costa Rica. But unlike Abby, where a planned one-month stay turned into 12 months, the idea of moving abroad, even temporarily, can create some anxiety.

Coley Hudgins understands this after making the decision to move his family to Panama. Here he offers 5 risk-free strategies to get out of the “Inertia Zone” and on the move.

For many of us anxiety breeds inertia. When we’re outside our comfort zone, productivity stops. We surf the Internet, read, sit on the couch in our underwear eating cheese doodles, anything to avoid pushing through the anxiety. Continue…

Traveling with a Purpose: The Happy Nomad Tour

Adam Pervez in JapanAdam Pervez is no stranger to traveling. He’s been to 47 countries and has lived in six. “I am a master at hit and run travel. I arrive, run around like a madman for three days, see the museums and monuments, and leave feeling like I know the place. Yet I often don’t get a chance to talk to a local person!”

“After college I took a job with an oil services company in the Middle East that allowed me to travel extensively. I then did an MBA in Spain and ‘redeemed’ myself by working for a wind power company in Denmark. By all accounts, it was the perfect job in the happiest country in the world. It really was exactly what I thought I wanted – a comfortable life with stability and nothing to worry about. But it didn’t take long for me to start questioning, well, everything!” Continue…

Travel Health Insurance Providing Creditable Coverage

Delphine Foo-MatkinFiguring out health insurance options in the United States isn’t simple. Throw two-year round-the-world travel plans into the mix and it starts looking even uglier.

When my husband and I started seriously considering the idea of traveling around the world to surf for two years, one of our most pressing concerns was how to protect our health during our trip as well as after we return back home to the U.S. My husband holds a full-time position that provides health insurance coverage for both of us. However, we won’t be eligible for COBRA since he isn’t being laid off, and his company has fewer than twenty employees at the moment. Those are both requirements for COBRA eligibility.

In addition to finding the best level of coverage and customer service, it’s important to ensure that the travel health insurance policy you choose offers what is known as “creditable coverage.” “Creditable coverage” signifies a comprehensive health insurance policy within the U.S. in which the health coverage is not secondary to any other kind of insurance (eg. Liability or accident insurance). Continue…

A Career Break with a Purpose

Lisa Dazols & Jenni ChangAs if taking a year off to travel the globe was not enough of a thrill, Jenni and I decided to give our trip a little something extra. Overachievers by nature, we wanted to use our year abroad to accomplish something meaningful.

What began as a conversation with a friend who spent a year interviewing healers around the world for her PhD has now turned into an ambitious project to tell our story as a lesbian couple and interview gay people across the globe. We named our project Out and Around: Stories From a Not-So-Straight Journey and launched a website to tell these stories. Our latest goal is to raise $6,000 to make an educational documentary out of our journey

During our travels through sixteen countries, we’ll be on the hunt for the Supergays – individuals who are leading the momentum on the LGBT movement. Supergays may be directly involved in community organization, or they may be using their influence in politics, health, arts, entertainment, or business to raise awareness and make progress on gay issues. Continue…

Checklist Chaos

“I can’t wait to board the plane… I can’t wait to board the plane…”

As planning for the big trip continues, it’s turning into a mantra that I continue to recite to myself as I once again fold the lined 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper in half, in half again, and one final fold to get the result to a manageable size. As I tuck it away, this sheet joins its brothers and sisters as just one of a stack of several pieces of paper all quarter folded now in my front right pocket. This small stack of paper has become the source for most of my brain power when I am not at work…

What’s on these carefully folded sheets of paper? Checklists. Pages and pages of checklists. Continue…

Choosing the Perfect Backpack

How to choose the perfect backpack for long-term travel is no easy task. Dr. Sarah Johnson of the Spine Wellness Center in Las Vegas offers some key advice to help you through the process.

As a long-term traveler, you’ll need to carry everything with you, which means your backpack becomes your closet, you office and your home. Over the course of your trip, you’ll have to lift your bag hundreds of times, carry it dozens of miles and slip it on and off over and over again.

All of these actions can be rough on the body, so before you leave for your trip, take the time to find a backpack that fits properly, feels comfortable and doesn’t put any undue stress on your back or shoulders. Here are a few things to keep in mind when finding—and using—the perfect backpack: Continue…

How Much of My Trip Should I Plan?

Balancing Spontaneity and Preparedness

When planning that big trip I spent a lot of time daydreaming. I was going to glide from place to place with the wind; it would be amazing, we would just meet someone in a cafe in a small town who would tell a story of a lovely little island, and then we would say, “lets go”.

Well, it sort of can work that way, but enter Reality. It turns out long-term traveling has just as much to do with counting days on your visa, understanding bus routes, and knowing which day of the week an entire town is likely to shut down as it does with improvisation. Most travelers have a tendency to either over-plan every aspect of their trip, or remain blissfully ignorant under the belief that “everything will work itself out.” Here are some great tips on how to keep a healthy balance when planning your trip. Continue…

Leaving Your Job Gracefully

Warren & Betsy TalbotThere was nothing scarier for me after the decision to travel around the world than the aspect of leaving my career.

For 20 years I had identified myself by my career and the idea of leaving terrified me. I’ve written a lot about this internal turmoil and the resulting feelings a year later.

One of the many aspects I had to confront, and I am sure you are wrestling with as well, is how do I leave my job gracefully and when do I tell them. There have been jobs in my past where I wanted just to light a match, set it to the kindling, and burn the bridge in spectacular fashion. Trust me when I tell you that the corresponding elated and satisfied feeling will die away quickly when you see the impact in has on your career prospects. Continue…

Travel Tips from a Hospitality Manager
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Ranked by Chicago’s leading hotels as the number one Chicago program for preparing students for hospitality management careers (ORC International – 2011 Survey), the Kendall College School of Hospitality Management is led by some of the top professionals in the industry.

As an expert in international hospitality, Jeffrey Catrett, dean of the School of Hospitality Management, would like to pass along some tips to make your worldwide travel as safe, enjoyable and economical as possible.

Transportation

If you are seeking to bounce around Europe, look for low-cost airlines such as Ryan Air, Easy Jet and TUIfly. But keep in mind, these airlines are not built for luxury as flights are often quick and they will charge 10 euro/kilo for excess baggage.

To avoid having to tear apart your luggage, bring a regulation size carry-on bag according to the specific airlines’ allowance, split the weight equally if you are traveling in a group, and make sure your personal bag will be able to fit in your cabin bag.

Additionally, traveling for 3-12 months will best be served if you invest in a train pass, as train travel is the premier way to navigate Europe or Asia.

Accommodation

When selecting a hotel, it is crucial to remember that Europe’s hotel star system bears no relation to that of the U.S. There is no unified standard as to what is a 3-star hotel, for example. Ratings are often provided by the government, which utilizes a quantitative measure to determine the price range of the hotel and the amount of tax the hotel pays annually.

However, you can qualitatively evaluate a hotel by relying on other sources such as a Michelin guidebook.

Food

Another important factor to consider is dining. To achieve the true local experience, you will need to wander off the beaten path. Speak to the locals about where they like to dine— avoid the tourist centers that overcharge! Sampling the country or town’s specialty dish is a must and oftentimes you can speak with a guide about the opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal from a local.

A tip for spotting traditional cuisine is to look for menus posted outside the restaurant that are small and in the local language. Avoid restaurants that post “tourist” menus printed in English. However, keep in mind that dining etiquette abroad is quite different than in the United States. Tipping at 5-10 percent is the norm and dining is typically two hours whereby individuals socialize and unwind.

Another point to consider is when dinnertime is wherever you are. Restaurants may not open until the traditional dinner hour – after 7:00 p.m. or even as late as 10:00 p.m. in countries such as Spain.

Safety

Finally, safety should always remain your primary concern. There are many products on the market, such as portable door alarms that somewhat resemble an iPod, that are easy to carry and affordable. Also, try to blend into the crowd by wearing clothing that does not advertise you are an American.

Kendall College School of Hospitality Management has generously offered its space to host our Chicago Meet, Plan, Go! Event on October 18, 2011.

Register now and be ready to you’re your bags!

How Much of My Trip Should I Plan?
Monday, September 19th, 2011

Balancing Spontaneity and Preparedness

When planning that big trip I spent a lot of time daydreaming. I was going to glide from place to place with the wind; it would be amazing, we would just meet someone in a cafe in a small town who would tell a story of a lovely little island, and then we would say, “lets go”.

Well, it sort of can work that way, but enter Reality. It turns out long-term traveling has just as much to do with counting days on your visa, understanding bus routes, and knowing which day of the week an entire town is likely to shut down as it does with improvisation. Most travelers have a tendency to either over-plan every aspect of their trip, or remain blissfully ignorant under the belief that “everything will work itself out.” Here are some great tips on how to keep a healthy balance when planning your trip.

Decide On Your Countries First

First, you can’t show up at every border and walk right into the country. Sometimes you need to get Visas in advance. Even when you can get them on arrival each country has a different number of days you can stay, and it usually depends on the type of visa you applied for, what country you’re from, and if you enter overland or through an international airport.

The good news is this gives you a great framework for your trip. For trips longer than 3 months a great idea is to have “Must See” countries and then some “If there’s time” countries. Once you know your countries research the basics:

  • • Seasonal weather. You have no idea how many people get caught unaware in monsoon season
    • Cultural awareness. Particularly know what the appropriate dress codes are!
    • Common safety warnings. Read up on scams and bad neighborhoods
    • Currency/exchange rate. If you carry a smartphone, download an app for that.
    • Understand all the destinations a country has to offer, and then don’t try to see them all (unless you’re giving yourself a long time to do so). I love using sites like: tripadvisor and wikitravel for this kind of information. Also, the Bootsnall forum was a great resource for itinerary planning help.
    • Break your trip into “legs”. Since planning a trip lasting months or years is certainly overwhelming, break your trip up into “legs” and focus on planning the upcoming leg that may be 2 months and keeping the rest vague until a certain date.

Book A Room In Advance If…

  • • It’s your first stop on the trip. Trust me, after a long-hull flight you’ll be glad a bed is waiting for you. It’s a great way to ease yourself into travel-mode as well.
  • • There’s a Festival or Holiday. Heading to a Full-moon Party? Sydney for New Years Eve? Munich for Octoberfest? Sounds awesome! Book way in advance.
  • • You’re traveling with more than 4 people.
  • • You’re traveling in a major European city in the summer, or any place else that you’ve heard rooms book up quick. I guess it all depends how agreeable you are to sleeping in a train station.
  • • If there’s a particular hostel/hotel you really want to stay at.

This may seem like a lot of scenarios but in Asia my husband and I showed up without rooms booked probably 85% of the time. Advantages are the ability to negotiate rates and see the room and location before you book, and more freedom if you get delayed traveling.

Fly Less, But If You Have To Fly…

  • • Book longer/major flights at least a month in advance. Or be willing to part with more money for booking it later.
    • As you plan your trip, do quick Kayak searches to confirm you can easily get between destinations. (We personally had a “no connections rule” while traveling – too much opportunity for missed flights, and lost baggage. Whatever connection city came up in the Kayak search usually became at least a 2 day stop-over destination instead)
    • Check the Wikitravel airport pages to discover small airlines that you can’t book over the Internet. Yes, they still exist in some places. You show up in person and pay in cash. Really.

It All Comes Back To Your Budget

Planning correctly saves you money. Spontaneity is easy if you have a bottomless purse, but most backpackers aren’t that lucky. If you blow through your budget you only have three options: Spend even less for the rest of your trip, Go home early, find some work on the road.

• Estimate a daily budget for each country. If you don’t know what you should be spending everyday to stretch your budget for X months it’s really easy to overspend.
• Have a separate budget set aside for expenses outside the norm, like expensive attractions, activities like Scuba Diving, and splurges for special events and occasions.
• This is over-said in the travel community, but it’s true: Slower travel is cheaper travel. Don’t be in a hurry to count countries, and move out of town every third day. Your money will last you twice as long if you’re not purchasing a $100 plane ticket or $50 train ticket three times a week.
• Take vacations from traveling. Pick a few destinations without a lot to do and plan to spend a week or more. It’s a great way, to really get to know a small town, recharge, and plan the next leg of your travels. Volunteering or taking a class is recommended during these longer stays.

Don’t let all these tips overwhelm you, once you’re on the road it’s easy to find your style and travel speed. Of course, once you do your homework it’s a lot easier to concentrate on the stuff that really matters, like finding out where that island is you heard about in that cafe.

Robin Botto and her husband Tim were directors in corporate America who decided they wanted to get off the rollercoaster and take a break. They planned and budgeted for two years before quitting their jobs and taking five months to travel and volunteer in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Before their break, they had traveled to at least 30 other countries, mostly using vacation days. You can read about their journey on their site On the Banana Pancake Trail.

Robin & Tim will also be sharing advice and inspiration at the Boston Meet, Plan, Go! event on October 18, 2011. Reserve your ticket now!

Preparing to Move Abroad
Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Hudgins FamilyNot all career breakers dream of traveling around the world during their break away. Many prefer to utilize their time, no matter how long, based in one place, much like Abby Tegnelia did in Costa Rica. But unlike Abby, where a planned one-month stay turned into 12 months, the idea of moving abroad, even temporarily, can create some anxiety.

Coley Hudgins understands this after making the decision to move his family to Panama. Here he offers 5 risk-free strategies to get out of the “Inertia Zone” and on the move.

For many of us anxiety breeds inertia. When we’re outside our comfort zone, productivity stops. We surf the Internet, read, sit on the couch in our underwear eating cheese doodles, anything to avoid pushing through the anxiety.

And what could be more anxiety-inducing than quitting or taking an extended break from your comfie job and catapulting yourself into a foreign country where you don’t know anyone, don’t know the customs, and where you may not even speak the language?

For families, the inertia zone is even more profound. It’s one thing to be single and make the decision to move abroad, but it’s something else entirely to make that decision when you have a job, a house, a mortgage and little mouths to feed.
(more…)

Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go