Posts in Travel tips
Favorite hotel booking website

I travel in other countries a lot, often in remote places, and when I do I prefer smaller hotels, hostels, guesthouses, homestays, inns and Airbnb. Over the past decade I’ve used many apps and sites for booking smaller places in Asia, Latin America and Europe, but in the last 3 years I’ve settled on Booking.com as my go-to. It has a unified interface to 1.1 million hotels and guesthouses worldwide, with the widest coverage and selection, accurate prices and info. It is also high reliability (if they say you have a reservation, you do) and they make it very easy to change or cancel. If I can, I will always book through Booking.com rather than the hotel direct. — KK

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Automate travel itineraries

Google Trips is an app (for iOS and Android) that scans my Gmail for travel and dining reservations to build an itinerary and offer things to do at your destination. It’s worked like a charm so far, identifying every upcoming trip I have planned. It even created summaries for past trips. — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
How to pick your seat

Would you like to improve your chance of having an empty middle seat when you fly on Southwest? Here’s a trick I’ve started to use that works. When I board, I look for a 3-seat row of chairs where a very large person is sitting in the window or aisle set. I will sit in that row, either in the aisle seat or window seat. As the plane starts to get full, passengers will be reluctant to sit in the middle seat because the big person is encroaching on the space. One time when I did this, the guy sitting in the seat (he was probably 6’5” and weighed 300 pounds) leaned over and said conspiratorially, “No one will sit here. It’s always the last seat they take.“ — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Airport terminal guide

GateGuru is a smartphone app with a lot of travel features, but the only one I use is the amenities list. It will show you all the eateries, shops, and services located in your terminal, along with the location. It also has user ratings for the places. I use it to find the best place to eat when I’m waiting for a flight. — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Qualify for TSA Pre-check

A Global Entry pass is a true bargain if you do any international travel. You don’t need to wait in line for immigration at reentry to the US. But it also serves as validation for the TSA Pre-check short-cut for security screening at most major US airports. Much shorter lines. To get in the program requires an appointment to get fingerprinted and $100 every five years. Well worth it. — KK

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Second passport

I have two US passports, both valid and official. Because I travel overseas so much, I often have my passport tied up in getting a visa somewhere, so I have the second passport available. This gives me some breathing room. It’s also useful if you are traveling to countries that don’t recognize Israel and you have an Israel stamp in your passport. To get a second US passport you apply as if you are renewing your passport by mail and add a letter requesting a second passport. Instructions here. — KK

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Cheap flights

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a free newsletter that finds amazingly inexpensive flights all over the world. The newsletter includes Google Flights and Momondo links, so you can book the flight yourself. The latest newsletter has a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles to Stockholm for $343. — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Easy flight delay compensation

My international flight to Los Angeles was delayed for 10 hours. The airline didn’t tell me I was eligible for compensation, but a friend told me about an app called AirHelp. I entered my name and confirmation number. Instantly, AirHelp told me the airline was obligated to pay me about $700. AirHelp did all the work, and about a week later I got the money, minus a 25% commission for AirHelp, which was a small price to pay for not having to do anything. — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Onward ticket hack

There are occasions while traveling that you want to enter a country with a one-way ticket, but that country requires an onward ticket to enter. This is a job for Best Onward Ticket which will sell you a legit onward ticket that you use only to get in and then they cancel after 48 hours. It costs $12. Much easier than booking a ticket yourself and cancelling because it avoids byzantine fees and hidden charges. I have not personally used this service yet, and other similar services in the past have gone belly up, so buyer beware, but this outfit gets good reviews and I find the hack useful so I’m mentioning it. Let me know if you’ve tried it. — KK

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
Airfare price drop alerts

Hopper is a smartphone app that predicts when airfare to a desired destination will be the cheapest. I’ve set up an alert for Chiang Mai, Thailand. About once a month Hopper sends me a message with the best price it can find, telling me to “wait” or “buy.” The price recently dropped from the $900s to the $500s and Hopper said “buy.” — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson
All the travel info you need

The Basetrip provides essential information you need when traveling internationally. Just enter your country of origin and your destination and the site will tell you the currency exchange rate, mobile phone service options, the crime rate, electrical outlets, drug and prostitution laws, and more. For an extra $5 per trip, you’ll get passport & visa information, travel advisories, and language phrases with audio pronunciation. — MF

Travel tipsClaudia Dawson