How To Easily Find Out How Many Miles You Need For A Free Flight On Any Airline

May 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Advice, Air, Money

rainy airplane window

Whether they’re scattered across airlines or you have your frequent flyer miles accumulated in one place, finding out how many can get you where isn’t always clear. Most of us sign up for mileage programs to get free flights (although there’s a lot miles can be used for) but often get sidetracked since it’s difficult to work toward vague goals.

Straightforward Numbers is a simple site lacking a lot in design that lets you enter in two cities, an airline or mileage alliance, and then tells you the number of bonus miles needed to make a round trip. The site also breaks down the miles into economy, business, and first class in case you’ve got extra bonuses with or without credit cards.


 Target Your Spending By Comparing Multiple Carriers

One of the best features of Milez is that it can show you a single, multiple, or how many miles needed for a free flight on over 75 airlines at once. This means you might be able to find an especially attainable program and fly for $5 like this travel hacker did or use one of these 7 ways to earn more miles fast. So, if you want to fly from New York to Istanbul, Milez can tell you the number of frequent flyer miles it takes to go for free on Turkish and American Airlines for example.

  • Charge It? – Many credit cards come with mileage sign up bonuses but Milez can show whether 30,000 on say, American AAdvantage makes that rewards card worth the miles.

Although you probably should be using one of these 3 American mileage programs not matter where you live to collect more miles, you might be able to spot a carrier-specific deal that’s right for you.

Destination Suggestion

Milez works the other way around too – got the miles but don’t know where they can take you? The suggestions page makes for fun browsing, admittedly, it’s easy to get lost there a bit longer than you should. (Antananarivo anyone!?) There are a few drawbacks to Milez, mostly to do with aesthetics. I wish it could calculate one-way tickets for those of us who like to see more with multi-city flights. And although it’s not very apparent on the site how often or when it was updated last, in 10 scenarios I ran using 10 different airlines, all of the Milez results came back accurate.

milez suggestions

Milez is a nice tool to use if you’re gifting miles, want to see how many more miles you need to fly free, and ultimately be more informed about the programs you’re using. Tracking your miles effectively is something the airlines don’t really want you doing since the better you are at it, the more advantage you’ll make of any mileage program.

What To Do With All The Random Currency You Have Left Over From An International Trip

May 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Advice, Money

tunisian coins

No matter how good you are at keeping a digital travel budget when it comes to cash, most of us tend to get stuck with small amounts of currency when a trip ends. Below a certain amount traditional exchange isn’t possible or worth the fees but travel often enough and all of that leftover money adds up. In fact Visa Europe estimates there’s 1.42 billion US dollars worth of unused foreign currency in the United Kingdom alone.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do with those Tunisian millim to turn it back into your local currency or put it to other good use.

It’s Easier The Further You Are From Home

Exchanging very small amounts of a foreign currency becomes much more difficult when you leave that country. So, before you leave the hotel or hostel you’re staying in, try to have them convert what money you have leftover into one of the major world currencies (i.e. USD, Euro, British Pound) they’re likely to have on hand. Although you might only have 2 Euro after such an exchange, if you travel frequently that can add up to an amount that makes sense converting at a later time.

feelgood hostel tallinn estonia

Donate At The Airport

Many airports have donation boxes supporting a number of worthy causes, accepting all kinds (and amounts) of currency. Since these organizations are collecting lots of money they typically won’t have issues exchanging it – so don’t think any amount is too little.

  • Direct Deposit To Paypal – There aren’t many locations around the world but hopefully TravelersBox takes off. They’ve got kiosks in 5 airports (including Istanbul’s Ataturk) that let you deposit any amount of various currency as cash, which is then deposited in your Paypal account.

tunis tunisia international airport

In the case you’re not flying, before you leave the country ask your local host or hostel if they know of any good local charities. Some might be a close walk by where you can give back the change you have. Although these are small amounts we’re talking about, donating is much more useful than keeping coins in the bottom of your suitcase.

Use Your Change For Good

Since it was established in 1987, UNICEF’s Change For Good program, where you can donate change directly on partner airlines, has raised over $130 million dollars.

  • Airlines Working With Change For Good – If you’re flying any of these airlines (Aer Lingus, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, JAL and QANTAS) there should be donation envelopes. In case there isn’t an announcement by the time you land, ask a flight attendant.

kids mexico

A number of other airlines have similar programs, including the first such one, Virgin Atlantic’s Change For Children (raised $3.46 million so far) and British Airways’ Flying Start which has collected $11 million from travelers since 2010.

The Change You Have At Home

For all the change stuck in your closet or you forgot to convert or donate before you got back home there are still some options. The first is to mail it to one of the major change collection programs listed above.

The address for UNICEF’s Change For Good program is:

U.S. Fund for UNICEF
ATTN: Change for Good Program
125 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10038

In case you’re not nearby for that address, contact one of your favorite local charities who may be able to accept the leftover notes and change you’ve got.

copenhagen denmark mailbox

Whenever mailing cash however keep in mind you should be using some kind of registered mail service to ensure your money arrives in the envelope you send.

  • Bank It – You might have a closer local solution though if you’ve chosen one of the best banks for travelers, with a large enough local branch. Many times they’ll take various foreign currencies (especially the big three mentioned above) and deposit them directly into your checking or savings account.

Finally, if you’re absolutely lost with what to do, get in touch with your local elementary school. Your impressive international coin collection might make for an interesting school project or there might be kids (or parents!) who collect worldwide currencies.

The Skytree Reaching Into The Clouds Over Tokyo, Japan

May 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Pictures and Video

Despite making an unconscious to rarely visit the top of such tall buildings, the Tokyo Skytree is actually the world’s highest tower. Initially disappointed the 139 meter (~456 foot) television and radio antenna atop Japan‘s tallest human-made structure was obscured by rain clouds, I was fortunate water droplets falling onto my camera lens forced me to look up.

With this photo rain delayed, I wandered back into the Tokyo Skytree Metro station beneath the tower to find Mokuchi, discovering one of the best places to try takoyaki – a non-sushi you must try in Japan. When drier skies returned I made my way around to find fairly short lines to the top of the 634 meter (2,080 foot) Skytree.

You can purchase tickets in advance at the Skytree itself (online purchase is only available with Japanese credit card) to access the 350 meter (1,148 ft) Tembo Deck. Tickets with a scheduled time are $21; if you want to take your chances and show up whenever, you’ll save $4. The 450 meter (1,476 ft) Tembo Galleria is as high as you can get but with no advance tickets you should arrive early otherwise you’ll be paying a lot of time on top of the $8 ticket; a great deal considering the cost to climb the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

The World’s Most Interesting Church Is In Mexico But You Can Only See It In Person

church san juan chamula

Although I’ve come across a number of incredible sights I couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to capture on camera, the Church of San Juan is one where it wouldn’t matter. Behind this deceptively normal exterior in Chamula, Mexico, is where I witnessed the strangest customs I have seen, smelled, or felt in a religious building.

The Mayans Of Chamula

Located in southern Mexico, Chamula is an autonomous state inhabited by the Tzotzil, a Mayan people. Chamula itself is completely autonomous within Mexico, where by law, Mexican police or military are not allowed to enter and Spanish is a second language. The Tzotzil have their own police force for protection against crime but also loss of cultural heritage. Cameras should be pointed carefully as the Tzotzil believe having their picture taken robs them of one of their souls.

cross chamula

  • You’re risk losing your camera for taking pictures you shouldn’t.

But beliefs in Chamula are much more integrated with the outside world. Although the Tzotzil’s religion is polytheistic, when the Spanish brought Catholicism to the area in the 1500s, it was absorbed to fit existing traditions. This explains why there’s a church in Chamula, a Mayan town of 77,000, in the first place.

Jesus The Sun God And Chicken Therapy

For example, the moon god is interpreted as Virgin Mary while Jesus might be the sun god. Walking into the Church of San Juan the first sensation is of pine leaves altering your step. As you look up from the pine leaves which obscure most of the stone floor, you notice a haze produced by thousands of candles burning around your feet. Candle flames illuminate Tzotzil worshipers looking up to murals of Christian saints as they burp Coca-Cola and posh, a liqueur made from sugar cane.

chamula graveyard

Families huddle around colored candles, praying in the Tzotzil language for alleviation from ailments represented by various wax shades. Particularly bad spiritual cases require the help of a shaman, who takes a chicken the suffering have brought, then rubs it on them.

church san juan chamulaPulse, Pulse, Snap

As the confused bird is rubbed up and down the side of the afflicted in the shaman’s right hand, the left is taking the human’s pulse. It’s believed during this process that negative energy is transferred from person to chicken; once complete the shaman snaps the chicken’s neck. Followed by sips of cola and shots of posh, enthusiastic belching finalizes the cleanse.

How To Visit The Church Of San Juan

San Juan Chamula is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from San Cristobal de las Casas, the largest city nearby. (In San Cristobal don’t forget to visit one of Mexico’s quietest churches.) Local buses are available as are guided tours, giving you the advantage of a local who shows you around the neighboring areas. Most transportation leaves in the morning, returning in mid-afternoon; enough time to see the highlights. The Church of San Juan is open 24 hours with a nominal entry fee. Or course, no photos are allowed.

I visited the Church of San Juan with friend and fellow travel blogger Wandering Earl and while he has no photos to add you can read his description of The Most Amazing Church I’ve Ever Seen and Can’t Show You as well.

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