The Costs (and Potential Costs) of Flying to NYC During a Blizzard

On Sunday night, I got an email from United Airlines to let me know that my Tuesday evening flight to Newark had pre-emptively been canceled due to Blizzardy Storm Juno.

Around the World on $80 a Day

$7 for a double room with private bathroom (cold shower) and overhead fan. Geckos are free of charge.

When Your Airbnb Rental Catches on Fire

I haven't traveled anywhere yet that's made me consider using Airbnb (except maybe Madrid a few years ago), but here's a good question to ask if you are ever looking at spaces: Is your place insured? Medina Eve learned to ask this after her Airbnb rental caught on fire due to a wood-burning stove:

Have a Terrible Time Traveling? Good! You’re Supposed To

The New Yorker is as angry as that sedate, patrician magazine gets in this screed about the state of the travel industry, specifically airlines, and how their intent is to make us deliberately miserable:

The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dollar profit in 2014. To be fair, airlines are not just profiting because of fee income. Reduced competition, thanks to mergers, helps. There is also the plummet in the price of oil, which the airlines seem to have collectively agreed is no reason to reduce fares or even remove “fuel surcharges.” But for the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007. …

the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.

Extortion! Sadly, even longtime holdout (and my up-to-this-point favorite airline) JetBlue is in getting in on the action. 

Following Soccer Around Europe on $20 a Day

The Eurocup is just like the World Cup, but without all those "soccer is my religion" South American teams adding to the competition. In the summer of 2008, I took the standard solo trip around Western Europe, staying in a combination of hostels, couches, and dusty German hardwood floors. The dollar was at an all time low against the Euro, and I was on a budget of about $20 a day—so most of my experiences involved cheap beer, street food and wandering around looking for free tourist attractions. But one way I was able to break out of the American "backpacking through Europe" cliché and experience some bona fide culture was to join in with the locals in every country to root their national soccer team on to victory as the Eurocup unfolded on just about every screen on the continent. On Thursday I might be an avid fan of the Spanish and their incredible ball possession skills, but when my train rolled in to Paris I was raving about the French defense.

Hitchhiking: A Terrible Idea That Saves You Money

As perhaps you’ve heard, three boys, including an American citizen, were kidnapped this week while hitchhiking in Israel. Hitchhiking used to be a national pastime, a cheap and easy way to get from Point Aleph to Point Bet; though we knew the dangers, even my friends and I did it on occasion, with no ill effects. (I lived there in 2000, before the Second Intifada and the wall and everything, basically the last good time.) Now it’s mostly settlers and very religious people who are tremping (hitchhiking), not just because it’s convenient, but to make a point:

With a vast manhunt under way since early Friday as police and the army search for the three teenage boys abducted late Thursday night, the subject of hitchhiking is on everyone’s minds. The three boys were tremping home from their schools in the West Bank, as is customary. It’s a cheaper, and often more convenient way of getting around than the less frequent public buses. … 

S., the high school student, lives in Jerusalem, but attends an all-boys school in Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to Hebron. His parents would prefer that he only take the bus, and have even offered to pay for a private cab, but that’s not an option, he said, even though his parents can afford it. “It’s just not normal to take a cab, no one does that,” he said. “If you’re right-wing or an extremist, you take a trempTremping is the norm.” He said he knows how to identify a safe driver, or fellow hitchhiker. They look like him, he said, pointing to his jeans, polo-shirt and kippah. “If I see someone with a kippah, wearing a tee-shirt with a school emblem and with a backpack, I feel like I know him,” said S.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting someone because they look or act like you. (See: Frozen. “We finish each other’s –” “Sandwiches!” “That’s what I was going to say!”) Especially when there’s an economic incentive. (See: Madoff, Bernie.) And of course everyone thinks their own judgment is solid; we’d have a hard time functioning if we questioned every first impression and gut instinct. How do you thread that needle? How do you decide who to trust with your money or your safety? Do you have any good hitchhiking stories, or is it something you’d never do, never never never, no matter how cash-poor you got?

The Economics of Reclining Seats During Flights

During my flight home, the passenger in front of me turned around and mumbled something, and when I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you," the passenger across the aisle from her said: "She asked you if it would be okay for her to recline her seat."

The Cost of a Solo Trip to Montreal

I chose Montreal because I could get there by train: the trip is scenic in its own right, winding up through the Hudson Valley and traveling parallel to Lake Champlain.

The Cost of a Solo Trip to Greece

I just went to Greece on my first solo trip. Although I kept it cheap by visiting just ahead of high season, staying in hostels, and making it rain with my expired student ID (even the metro has a student discount, can you imagine?!) there were a few expenses that it would have been nice to split with a travel companion.