Monday, July 20, 2009

Saving on travel costs, part 2

Air fares are probably going to account for the biggest chunk of your trip expenses. But there are ways to cut down the cost of a plane ticket.

We try to fly United as much as possible. I'm not that keen on the airline service and I think the meals are pitiful. But back in the days when United was a better airline, we racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles, and decided to keep flying United, rather than splinter the miles off to different airlines. Actually, in Pasco, Washington, we don't have a whole lot of airline choices, anyway. United, which is convenient for Europe, especially now that the airline flys nonstop to London from Denver; Delta, which also is convenient for Europe; and Alaska/Northwest which goes to Seattle and points beyond. Delta and Northwest are in the process of merging, so that will cut down on our options. We frquently find it is cheaper to drive to Portland or Seattle and pay parking than to fly Pasco to Portland or Seattle. If you have that luxury, check out ticket prices from nearby airports.

So I always check the airlines' websites first to get my price bearings. If nothing else, this lets me know the price I have to beat. Sometimes the cost of the ticket is surprisingly reasonable, and I'll book from the website. You can usually earn a few extra frequent flyer miles booking this way.

Most airlines now will provide fares for two or three days on each side of your estimated departure date. If your dates are really flexible, try plugging in the same day of the week for the weeks before and after you want to leave, to see what those prices are. Generally, prices for weekend departures/returns are higher.

I may do this check many times, as fares change frequently. You should also do these checks at different times. I once snagged a pretty good Beijing/Portland fare at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday. This fare was only up about three hours, so if I hadn't decided to do a spur-of-the-moment price check on my lunch hour at work, I wouldn't have found it.

There also are a lot of ticket agencies out there which appear to offer pretty good fares. Some sites, like, just search for the fares and then tell you where to find them. Checking one of these sites is good for comparison purposes. However, be aware that some of the fares quoted on comparison sites don't always include departure taxes and fees, which can add up quickly.
And sometimes booking airfare and accommodations through an online travel agency such as Expedia or Travelocity is the best way to go. I'll write more on that in a future blog.

Update on Parents Guide to Beijing

Solange Hando, feature writer for China travel on Suite101, has favorably reviewed by new eguide, Parents Guide to Beijing. : “This new Parents Guide to Beijing offers sound practical advice and reveals a city full of exciting attractions for all the family.” Read the full review here. The ebook is available for sale on
If you're planning a trip to China, please see my website for information on travel in China.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Parents Guide to Beijing

After much anguish and pain, (almost as if I were giving birth to a real baby), my Parents Guide to Beijing is for sale as an ebook on

Getting to this point wasn't easy. The book practically wrote itself, but then there was the design to do. Everything went well, up until it came time to PDF the book. That's where the real pain began. It is best left unsaid what I went through in this process. But it's done. Finally.

The ebook got its start as a podcast, Beijing for kids, that I did for (They specialize in tours which are downloadable to mobile devices while you're on the scene.) It was a really fun tour to write, but I had so much information left over when I finished it, it begged for a book. So I kept on writing, and Parents Guide to Beijing is the result.

The name may be a misnomer, because it's about things that kids of all ages (even those in their 80s!) can do in Beijing, Beijing is such a kid-friendly city that even if you don't know the language, you can still have a good time. The book includes some very common phrases and numbers in Mandarin. I've given phonetic pronunciations and if you or your kids are anywhere in the ballpark with them, the Chinese will compliment you on your speaking skills.

The ebook takes in major sites to see, such as the Great Wall, as well as mentions kid-friendly things to do at them. There are sections on restroom tips and how to eat kao ya, as Peking Duck is called in Beijing.

The picture here is on the book's cover. It's one of many playful statues outside the Gulou ditie (subway station) on Second Ring Road. I really love those whimsical statues!

Parents Guide to Beijing is only available in ebook form now. As soon as I work out some more bugs, it will be available as a print book also.

Please see my website for more information about travel in China, especially Beijing.