Holiday Gifts for Travel Junkies

Hello Dear Readers!

So, today I’m going to do something a bit different. I began writing this blog as a catch-all for travel- from rewards points to fancy hotels to stories about the things I do. But lately it feels like all I’ve done is tell you guys these stories. And that’s good, really it is. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

The thing is, I’ve got more to say. So I’m gonna try this a bit. Maybe some reviews on cool travel items I’ve found/used (no, they don’t pay me for it…yet (Though I did join Amazon’s affiliate program so if you buy through the linked photos they will maybe give me money? Who knows!)) Or some recommendations for what to pack based on where you’re going. Maybe even inspirations for dream vacations (I did a couple of these some months back, but wasn’t sure of the reception)

Do these things interest you guys? Let me know in the comments!

And without further ado, my abbreviated list of the coolest and best travel gifts for the holidays (and no, not the awesome novelty ones that you’ll use once and throw into the back of your closet):

1.An excellent travel backpack:

I found my current backpack, an Osprey FarPoint 40, using this list. And it’s gone with me everywhere. I switched from a rolling bag to a backpack fairly early on, because cobblestones are hell and most of the world isn’t paved.

2.Packing cubes:

I know, these sound dumb. I was as skeptical as you, believe me. But then I got some, and my life was changed. These things squish your clothes smaller than you would have ever thought possible, and keep everything super organized so when you get to where you’re going, you can unpack in seconds.

3.A plane amenity kit:

I can’t tell you how many flights I took before I finally gave in and accumulated my amenity kit. Half the time airlines will give you bits of these free- but if you don’t want to take forever to gather it all, buying premade ones is cheap- and worth it. My own kit has a pair of socks, chapstick, an eye mask, earplugs, breath mints, a toothbrush/toothpaste, and some lotion. Trust me, they make a huge difference on the plane.

4.Noise canceling headphones.

This probably seems obvious to a lot of you, but I can’t recommend these enough: I initially went with a huge, bulky pair (like the ones you’re probably thinking), but I got tired of carrying them around all the time. Now I use noise canceling earbuds, and they’re both tiny and effective. Awesome!

5.Laundry sheets:

Look, travel isn’t always glamorous. And if you’re gone for a long time, your clothes are gonna get dirty. I always keep these laundry sheets in my bag, so any sink I come across can be turned into a makeshift washing machine and I don’t have to keep turning my underwear inside out.

6.A universal adapter:

I actually forgot this once, in Australia, and ended up paying $25 Australian dollary doos for an Australian adapter. Don’t be like me. Bring your own. This one is good for basically the whole world and costs much less to purchase online.

7.A microfiber towel:

I’m going to guiltily admit to you all that I don’t have one of these. But I wish I did. I have dried myself off with t-shirts…at least 5 times. Do yourself a favor. Save your clothes. Bring a towel.

8.A reusable tote:

Raise your hand if you buy souvenirs on vacation! Right, that’s 99% of you who said yes, and 1% who were lying. I always bring my extra bag with me because I end up bringing more crap home than I left with. I also use it as my mini bag on planes, in which I stash all my carry on necessities (amenity kit, iPad, cellphone, etc), so I never have to take my backpack out of the overhead bin. These things can cost 99. cents and take up no room. Get one!

9.A portable battery charger:

People make fun of me for this brick- I don’t blame them, because it is literally the size of a brick and who needs that much charge? But I’m the one laughing after I’ve recharged both my iPad and my cellphone 4 times without needing to rejuice this thing. It’s excellent for things like camping trips where you’ll be away from electricity for a day or two.

10.A tablet:

Ok, this one can be changed up, truly, depending on how attached to your laptop you are. But I didn’t want to haul a heavy computer around the world, so I invested in an iPad and a keyboard case, and saved myself a lot of back pain while managing to stay relatively functional. (I do all my blogging on here, even).


11.A laundry bag:

Again, something really simple but really necessary. I hate packing dirty clothes with clean ones, and a cheap bag keeps everything neatly separate.

12.A packable rain jacket:

Something small, light, very foldable and super useful when it’s yucky drizzling outside.

So there you go. I realize this list isn’t all that glamorous- I mean, soap, really? But these are the kinds of gifts that will make a big difference in the quality of your travel. I’ve tried and error-ed in a lot of big ways through my trips, (falling into a volcano, anyone?), and these are the trusty things that have made the cut and earned a permanent place in my bag.

Hope you guys like em!

Merry Christmas!

Carissa “Nondenominational Holiday Greetings” Rawson

Where Are You Going? The Best and Cheapest Airports for International Flights

Hello Dear Readers!

As I continue to write, I realize that a lot of things I take for granted, a lot of people probably don’t know. Things like: where do I get cheap flights? What’s the best way to look up airfare? Are all airlines created equal?

To that end, I’ve decided to make a list of the best/cheapest airports to fly out of, depending on where you want to go internationally. I know when I first started, I had no clue, so here you are:


1. New York’s JFK is by far the cheapest airport there is, often flying to/from Spain for less than $400 roundtrip on full-service airlines (think Delta, American Airlines, and United). There are frequently price wars here, and I’ve seen itineraries as low as $300 for these trips.
2. Washington D.C. is another cheap one. Though not as common as JFK, you can still often find flights for less than $500 on full-service airlines.
3. Boston can often be had for as nearly cheap as D.C. and JFK. Specifically, it often flies to Dublin, Ireland, for around $400 on full-service airlines (Aer Lingus). Flight routes mean that this flight path is the (one of?) the shortest to Europe, mileage-wise.
4. Chicago will pop up occasionally, though not as often as the above two.
5. Miami handles a lot of international traffic, and before flight prices got so low, was the cheapest I was ever able to find ($700 Miami-London in 2011).
6. Atlanta will also have some pretty good deals to places like Paris and Amsterdam, though these are sporadic and you need to jump on them quickly.
7. WOW Air and Norwegian are budget airlines, which have begun launching flights across the country for ridiculously cheap prices. For example, San Francisco-Edinburgh can be had for as low as $69 one-way. A return ticket will run you $250, though, and these airlines add fees on for everything. Checking a bag will cost you about $60 each way, but may be worth it if you find a cheap enough ticket. I flew WOW from D.C. to Paris last September for $500 roundtrip and found their coach seats to be quite roomy, and their planes are all new, which is nice.
8. As mentioned above, Norwegian is also really cheap/ new, and has awesome deals around Europe and Scandinavia. Last December, I scored a roundtrip New York-Oslo ticket for $335 and spent an amazing few days in Norway. It’s always worth looking at their price calendars, as prices change drastically from day to day.


1. San Francisco is one of the best for flying to Asia, with roundtrip flights to Japan and China running daily for $500 or less. (They also go other places, but I most often see cheapest flights to these two countries) I flew Japan Airlines from here last May (using points), and absolutely loved their seats. International airlines will always best US airlines for legroom and recline, so if you can find one with a good price, take it.
2. Oakland, the sad smaller sister of San Francisco, has far fewer amenities but can also run really cheap flights. It’s also an easier drive and is better to park at than San Fran.
3. Los Angeles, similar to San Francisco, has tons of daily flights to Asia, which can be had for $500 or less. It’s also usually the cheapest location for Australia, which usually runs about $1000 (or more) roundtrip. I recently snagged a seat on Virgin Australia for $700 during a price war, and it’s a nonstop 15 hour flight, which should be fun.
4. Houston, as strange as that may seem, can have some pretty good deals too. In May, I flew roundtrip to Bali for ~$500 on Singapore Airlines as part of a celebration sale. Word of warning, though- flying from Houston takes you the long way around the world. We went Houston-Manchester (UK)- Singapore- Bali, which totaled 24 hours of flight time. It was too long.
5. Seattle and Portland will pop up at times, though not nearly as often as LA and San Francisco. Their flights tend to cost a little bit more, say $600 or so roundtrip.
6. New York’s JFK also has flights, though far less often. You’ll find JFK a lot on this list, as I find that overall they’re the cheapest for international flights.


1. JFK is one of the few to offer sale or otherwise affordable flights to Africa. I’ve seen some go for around $700-$800. This isn’t common, though.
2. Another option, if you’re not averse to connections, is to fly one of the cheap flights to Europe as outlined above, and hop down to Africa from there. I often see flights from the EU and the UK for very cheap- anywhere from $300-$500.
3. London, Zurich, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam are the ones I see popping up most often with discounted flights to Africa.

Middle East:

1. Los Angeles runs a surprisingly large amount of flights to places like Dubai that aren’t too expensive. On a regular day, I snagged a roundtrip flight Los Angeles- Dubai for less than $700. They’ll even have fares going as low as $500 on occasion.
2. Seattle, which is where my flight to Dubai connected to, can be one of the cheaper options as well.
3. JFK, of course, is on the list. Flights can cost between $500-$700 here. A flight from JFK to Amman, for instance, was $700 in April on Royal Jordanian, which is a pretty decent airline.

Central and South America:

1. Though I’ve never been to South (or Central) America, there are regularly cheap flights down that way. Los Angeles in particular has flights to Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, etc. for decent prices- say anywhere from $400-$800, depending on your tastes. Southwest will even fly you to Costa Rica, with roundtrip flights often less that $300.
2. Dallas, Southwest’s home field, serves Southwest’s cheapest flights to Central America. This is a new area for them, so they’re priced very competitively. Additionally, expect to see expanded flight options in the future, as Southwest has already stated that they’re making this area a priority. Here’s the link to their flight map, which will show you all the routes they fly.
3. Boston is one of the cheaper ones too.
4. JFK, as always, makes the list.
5. San Francisco, though not as often as Los Angeles, will have decently priced flights. The same holds true for much of California. Overall, it’s usually the cheapest state to fly from.
6. Atlanta, every once in a while, will have good stuff.
7. Orlando is a major airport and often has sales.
8. So does Miami.

The Caribbean:

1. Many of Florida’s airports run very cheap flights to the Caribbean and back- think: Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Miami.
2. Atlanta, Delta’s home base, will often have discounted flights across all the Caribbean islands. Delta’s competitor’s, American Airlines especially, tend to start price wars over these fares, and it’s not uncommon to see a roundtrip flight from, say, Atlanta to St. Maarten for around $200.
3. Washington D.C. is one of the more common ones for sale flights to down to the Caribbean as well.
4. As always, JFK makes the list.
5. Charlotte, NC is also often an easy one to find flights from.
6. Dallas, using Southwest, will have good prices as well.
7. Boston, specifically flying JetBlue, which runs fare sales every month or so.

Ok! So I think that covers most places you’d want to get to from the U.S. Keep in mind, if you aren’t near any of these hubs, it’s often still worth it to look at prices for these flights and then book separate tickets from your nearest airport to these hubs. This is called positioning, and is used very often in order to keep prices down on airfare.

I follow many different sites to track airfare prices, but my favorite is Secret Flying. They post throughout the day on all sale fares that they find, and have gotten me some of my best prices to date. I follow them on Facebook too, so it’s always a part of my news feed.

As always, being flexible on your dates is the easiest way to get cheap airfare. Even within the span of a week there will be very different prices on flights, so if you can, (I know, a lot can’t between work and kids), try to maintain a window of open time rather than set-in-stone dates. When searching for flights, I almost always start with Google’s Air Matrix, which shows month long blocks for almost every airline (minus Southwest).

I hope this has helped you all! Let me know if you have any questions!