3 Tips for Traveling for Less

My husband and I love to travel. 

We love the experience of going to new places, seeing new things and experience different environments. My husband even loves the experience of going through TSA, passport control and checkin as quickly and efficiently as possible (maybe I'll write about that in a different post).

But the problem with loving to travel is that it can get quite expensive.  There are a few things that you can do to help minimize the costs of traveling and these are some of the tricks we use to get the most out of our vacations.

1. Booking flights on a low-cost airline.

When we want to take a small weekend get away we turn to the low cost airlines to find where is the cheapest place we can go that we haven't been to yet.  Here in Israel EasyJet flies to many different European locations and we have been able to go to both Geneva and London for relatively cheap.

The secret with low-cost airlines is to make sure that you only take what you absolutely need.  Because the baggage fees can be large on these airlines (thats where they make all their money) you need to travel light.

For a quick weekend getaway we are able to get by with one or 2 small backpacks and a rolling carry-on each.  This means no checked bags, no fees and no waiting at baggage claim when you get there.

We have also been fortunate that on one of the flights they decided to gate check all rolling carry-ons so we were able to gate check our bag for free.

2. Get the miles

Some thing that I have discovered recently is that if you are a milage plus frequent flyer member through United or Star Alliance is that you are earn miles from shopping online.

For the longest time I had thought that there were only two ways to earn miles.
1. Fly more often
2. Get an airline credit card

But there is a third option, its online shopping.

This all started when my miles were about to expire (yes they expire) and I wasn't planning a trip on United anytime soon.  I took a quick look on their site to see maybe there is another way for me to keep my miles (I didn't want to have to buy more miles) and there was!

When we travel to the states we order just about everything that we are planning to buy there online through the United Airlines Mileage Plus shopping site and earn thousands of miles.

Just on this last trip my husband ordered a laptop from HP at 12 miles per dollar! Not all the offers will be this good but if you are someone who typically does a lot of online shopping, this is definitely worth checking out.

The miles that each store gives can vary day to day, I recommend only placing an order when the milage is more than 1:1 so your dollars will go father.

If you rack up enough miles you could fly for next to nothing or stay at a nice hotel.

3. Know where to book

In addition to the miles for shopping you can get cash back for booking your hotels and flights online.

I have used the site Ebates to get cash back on flights and hotel stays but you can also get cash back on car rentals and even luggage.

If a place that you want to order that flight or rent a car from isn't on the United list then check Ebates because you could get as much as 10% back from just activating Ebates cash back!

So traveling doesn't have to break the bank.  Book a cheaper airline, order the tickets through a cash back site like Ebates, and do all your online shopping through United.

Before you know it you will be traveling the world for less.

The world is waiting for you.

Jack of all Trades

For the past 2 years I've been working at a start up. Everywhere I go and all the people that I meet are constantly saying "wow, a start up. So do you get free lunch and stuff?" The answer is no.

The truth that many people miss, myself included is that working at a start up is hard work. I joined the team when there were only 6 employees we were in a cramped crappy office. It smelled awful all the time and the air conditioner leaked constantly.  We did go out for lunch most days, but not because we got free lunch but because the only way we would all be able to eat together and not be at our desks was to leave the office. Not to mention that the mini-fridge in the office always had a funky smell.

When you think about this kind of start up, you expect to work hard, and believe me we did. Every day was a hustle and we sratched and clawed to keep everyone of our customers. But when the team makes the leap from six to 15 and then to 30 people suddenly there is more work to do. When we were six there was a lot of hustle but there just seemed to be more focused work.

I joined the team as an Account Manager (now called a Customer Success Manager) and for the first year or so I was almost fully dedicated to the task. Then the company began to grow and there came the "growing pains" of a rapidly (although from the inside feeling slowly) growing company.  Suddenly someone needed to be on top of the company's growing finances, QA needed to be taken more seriously, even the shear sizes of the customers grew expoentially.

Thats when I found myself learning about test cycles, test plans and testing out all kinds of QA software (which I ended up not using since excel was the easiest solution).  I got to the point where I was good enough at doing manual QA so that was added to my plate.

Flash forward a few months and on top of the previous two positions I was suddenly learning all about the world of billing.  What does net 30, net 45, net 75 mean?  Tons of acronyms and filling out all kinds of ACH and ETF (huh?) forms. 

As things moved along I started exploring into areas that are more interesting to me personally and what I want to be doing with my career. So, now my job description looked something like, product manager, QA, invoicing and Customer Success Manager.  That is quite a mouth full.

The point of this post is that there is a lot of truth to the phrase "A Jack of all trades is a master of none. I find myself everyday getting by with just being good enough.  I'm OK at doing manual QA, at this point I could probably manage the billing department of a small company, and I am a pretty good Customer Success Manager.

But I just don't feel like my skills in any of these feilds are really something to write home about. I've gained an emense amount of knowledge and experience in this short time but there is still a feeling of being a Jack of all trades and a master of none.

I guess this can be applied to just about any facet of life.  I'm a creative person, well I fancy myself a creative person. When I was younger I used to be into photography and drawing, and now I find myself still into photography, less so in drawing (haven't really drawn in years), but I also enjoy cooking, UI design and learned to code.

Living in this Internet Century, as they put it in "How Google Works," it is understandable that you will have knowledge in many different areas.  We don't live in the middle ages where if you were trained as a blacksmith thats they *only* thing you would do for the rest of your life.  You have access to all the information out there, its literally at your finger tips.

What we have to realize is that in the current state of the world you can know a little bit about a lot of things because there is always someone who will know more than you or be better at something than you and it is okay.

Buying Books Outside the US

Book Depository Free Shipping World Wide
The book Depository logo
A while back I wrote a tip for getting money transferred between an American Paypal account and an Israeli Bank account, I have decided to add an other tip for lifehacking in Israel. Since moving to Israel a few years ago one of the biggest challenges that I have been facing has been getting good books to read. There is always the option to borrow books from friends but on occasion I have found that there are books that my friends and people around me just aren't reading. That's when I would turn to good old Amazon and order books to my parents house in America and wait for someone to bring them in for me.

The problem with the Amazon method was that it could take weeks or months to get my books and this was time that I just couldn't wait so I went on a mission to find a different way to get my books delivered. When I told a friend at school about the situation she told me that she has been using this site for a while that offers free shipping to Israel as well as many other countries around the world called Book Depository. So figuring what could be the harm I signed up for an account and placed an order for a relatively cheap book (just in case it never arrived I wouldn't feel like I had lost money one it).  Sure enough the shipping was free and the book came in perfect condition!

The service:

I placed my order around new years and according to their site it was supposed to take a little more than 14 business days to get to me. I received an email confirming that the order had been placed and the next day an email letting me know that the book was en-route. This was really exciting, I marked the calendar for the day that it should arrive so that I would be on the look out for it.  When the day that it was supposed to arrive came around it wasn't in the mail, I waited a few days and still no package, so I emailed the Book Depository and asked them where it was. I was surprised by how quickly they responded and they told me that if the book hasn't arrived yet it was probably lost in the mail. They offered my two courses of option, I could get a refund for the book or they could send me a new one on them.

I took them up on the replacement and sure enough 2 weeks later the book was here!  It was a small book so it came in a padded envelope (I have ordered bigger books that come in cardboard) with a bookmark inside. That first book was the only one that has had any issues and since then everything has been arriving on time.


I was impressed by the prices of the book on this site. All the books that I have ordered since joining the service have been at least 10% off some of them more. The books are priced very aggressively and with the free shipping spending $7-10 on a book doesn't seem so bad.

You have the ability to create a wishlist in your account that sets up an alert so when a book that you want drops in price they will send you an email letting you know. This is huge because no other site does this in house, you can set up a tracker like TrackIf that will let you know when a price drops but Amazon isn't going to alert you when a product goes down in price.

 Book Depository also has a newsletter that comes out every few weeks with books that are on sale and things that are trending now. So you can almost always get the book that you want at a very low price.

Other fun features that they have on their site are things like seeing what is hot now, and what people in your area are buying. You can see a live map of the world and see what books people are buying in real time and where they are buying from, they have competitions on the site that you can win all kinds of goodies.

When it comes down to it their service is the Zappos of Books.

** please know that the links in this post are affliate links, if you do not wish to use affilliate links you can access the site from here.**

All For The Best

Everyday coming home from class I take the same bus and pass the same bridge with the words “Everything is for the best” written in graffiti on the side. A while back I had been reading “The Zen Art of Happiness” and one of the first messages or lessons in the book was talking about seeing everything that befalls you to be for the best. There are many times when I can look at things and say yeah if I didn’t make that choice then X, Y, and Z wouldn’t have happened. At the same time you can look at bad things that are happening and just feel like the sky is falling.

I always get the feeling that when it rains it pours. Take for example a few weeks ago my watch battery died. Perfectly natural thing to happen, I’ve been wearing for over a year and this was bound to happen. Saturday night I go out to get a new battery and life is good again. On the following Friday my boyfriend and I go to the beach where my watch get a little wet (okay it kind of took a swim) and everything seemed fine. Saturday morning my watch is no longer working. These two events on their own don’t seem all that bad, it was extremely annoying not having a watch for my final exams and getting used to not wearing one, but no reason to feel like the end of the world was coming. Until Monday afternoon when one of my headphones started acting up, where by Wednesday they were dead. Then all of the sudden its like the world is coming to an end. Too many bad things are happening too close together and I no longer know what to do!

I have been working on dialing back my reactions to when the sky is falling. I have a regular habit of listening to the Jillian Micheals podcasts (I’m very behind) and there was one that really felt like it hit home. She was talking about admitting that you have anger in your life and working on controlling and managing it. Ways that she talked about controlling it were to have a tantrum mat, a place that you could just get all your anger out in a safe environment, writing a handwritten letter to the person you are angry at and then trowing it away. Just getting the aggression out is key is not letting the world get to you.

Last year I took up running and that was the one thing that really kept me sane with all the things that were going on in my life. After moving to a third floor walk up apartment I just stopped having the energy to go for a run and then have to tackle those stairs that I gave it up. That seems to be the biggest mistake that I made this year. Had I been pounding the pavement to get that aggression out then all the little things wouldn’t be adding up to so much weight like they are now.

So I guess the take away here is that you have to find what keeps you calm. Thank god none of us are the hulk and will smash buildings with our anger but that doesn’t mean that we don’t really cause damage in our lives. Every time I go down that rabbit-hole of this happened, and then that, and she said, it pisses me off! And I just go and unload all that nonsense on the people in your life it just drives them away, but if you keep it all in then all this aggression and anger just consumes you.

There are certain realizations that we have to come to. Things like we can’t fix everything, things that happen in our lives happen for the best possible reason and that its all for the best. You just have to get there, to see the messages that are out there around you and internalize them.

That message on the wall is a reminder to me everyday that “everything is for the best” and that we have to start realizing and taking advantage of it.

Pushy Israelis

This morning we were all sitting in our online journalism class like we have been doing every Monday morning since the beginning of the semester.  All class the door is opening and people are looking in like they are expecting the room to be empty and leaving right away, we don't think anything of it because this happens all the time.

At 1 o'clock this big Israeli guy walks in to the room and starts yelling at the teacher that she has taken his room. That he has 3 classes to teach today and no room to use because she is "hogging" his. She calmly says to him that we have had this room all semester and that there is no way that this could be "his room." He leaves angrily and we all start talking about how rude he was.

Three minutes later a woman from the logistics office comes in and tells us that she has a new room open for us to use until 1:45 when the class is over. So for the last 40ish minutes of class we move down the hall as the angry Israeli guy (who apparently works at a TV station) glares at us like we've done something wrong.

I have been trying to understand why all these Israelis are always trying to put themselves first. I understand the whole "if you let them push you around then they'll walk all over you" mentality but a little consideration. Can't you choose your battles? This one wasn't really worth it was it? Maybe I'm missing the point here.