Are Wow Air Deals Worth It?

washingon dc from sky

You may have seen recently a lot of seemingly spectacular deals from Wow Air, a low-cost airline based in Reykjavik, Iceland, that offers transatlantic flight deals for less than $99. Those deals seem worth it (answering the question above) of course, if they are what they seem upfront.

I spent some time booking flights using Wow Air and found while it might be an inexpensive way to cross the Atlantic, it may not always be the best way.

Wow Deals

A lot of low cost carriers advertise big deals on flights, pricing them so low it feels more like you could be booking a bus ticket. Often, those low fares are only for select seats offered on a first-come-first-serve basis or come with high fees, meaning most of the people booking that flight won’t be getting the lowest advertised price. The advertised deals get you to the booking process, and in the case of Wow Air, the fees for most people bring the airfare up to less attractive numbers.

wow air

First Thing Is One Way

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Wow Air’s wonderful $99 prices (they’re sometimes as low as $69) from the United States to Europe are only for one-way journeys. Return flights are typically 2-3 times the one-way fare, around $219 back to America. And don’t forget about the taxes, around $100 usually. Although paying around $400 for a round-trip ticket to Amsterdam from San Francisco isn’t bad at all, there are some other fees you’ll need to accept or avoid to keep prices as low as possible.

The Other Fees

You quickly come across some of the more avoidable fees during the plane ticket booking process, starting with seat assignments. Paying for a reserved seat isn’t necessary, especially if you’re traveling alone or in a small group, plus have the patience to get queued up in line early. Otherwise it will cost you about $8 for each seat reservation. Food or drinks aren’t served, so unless a long haul flight is when you want to experiment with intermittent fasting, bring your own or pay about $12 for an airplane meal. Also, there’s no entertainment center, something you shouldn’t miss too much if you’ve got a travel good book or download a few movies ahead of time.

A few of the less avoidable fees are for checked bags. A checked bag carries a $70 fee per leg, meaning even on a one-way trip, if you’ve got a layover in Reykjavik (Wow Air’s hub), you’ll be paying the baggage fee twice. One carry-on bag under a reasonable size and a ‘personal item’ is free.

Wow Air doesn’t hide its fees but unless you’re traveling especially light or making use of a multi-city flight, your final price might be closer to an Icelandair ticket which offers stopovers, meals, and included baggage. Those of you accumulating frequent flyer miles too might decide Wow Air’s not worth what ends up being a small discount on airfare. Still, many travelers rate Wow Air as a decent airline that doesn’t feel cheap, but be sure to calculate all the fees because the reality is, it may not be that cheap after all.

Is It Safe To Travel To Turkey? [Updated: Jan. 2017]

turkish airlines airplane wing

Around a year ago I originally wrote whether it was still safe to travel to Turkey, a question I get regularly in my inbox. A lot has changed over the past year – and not for the better – with more attacks, a coup attempt; many people have stopped bothering to ask altogether. It’s a dramatic shift in a country that was the 6th most visited in the world, back in 2015.

There are so many reasons to visit Turkey, from balloon rides over ancient volcanic rock formations, the impressive 1,480 year old Hagia Sophia, beautiful beaches, and of course all the food. Still, Turkey’s perception as a travel destination has changed, so has the reality.

Focused Fear

Most countries have rough parts, cities, and often those locations are far removed from the tourist experience. In other words, you have to look for trouble. In Turkey, a lot of the violence it faces from Kurdish terrorist groups, not to mention ISIS, was previously limited to the distant southeast. Recently, it has moved to Turkey’s travel capital, Istanbul.

istanbul from above

A goal of terrorism toward tourists is to invoke a disproportionate amount of fear from attacks designed to make you feel like, “I could have been there,” so that you decide not to go to the country at all. It is easy to dismiss one, even two attacks, but terrorism in places tourists are likely to frequent is no longer an anomaly. There are other unsettling events as well, coup attempts, assassinations, and arrests. Although the chance of something happening to any given person in a terror-related event are low, in Turkey, those events are becoming more common. Disruptions directly related to such events, Internet blackouts, flight delays or cancellations, or curfews, could potentially occur during your trip.

Istanbul, for now, might be a better plan for those who have a little bit of travel experience.

Experiencing The Numbers

A lot of experienced travelers will proclaim, “of course it’s safe, go!” Much like the crime in your own city never seems so bad, because you live the statistics. As you travel you begin to become familiar with what is normal in various regions around the world. You see the nuance. Turkey is a very large country. Multiple terror events, government upheavals, you realize, are very unlikely to affect you specifically. But it takes time for your experience to support what your logical mind can decipher based on numbers alone.

The Real Question

Yes, Turkey is safe. But you have to be prepared when you travel to Turkey, that something bad might happen during your stay there. Not to you specifically, but in a country where there were 16 attacks in 2016 – and maybe to a place you could have been. Internet access might be cut for a time, making it difficult when you need it most, to inform your loved ones you’re safe.

Millions of tourists a month are still visiting Turkey, having wonderful trips, and seeing a truly remarkable travel destination. The question isn’t whether Turkey is safe, but whether or not traveling there makes you comfortable. Everyone has a different level of risk acceptance, and in Istanbul particularly, the risks, although rare, might for the time being exceed your personal limit.

How To Stick To Your 2017 Travel Resolutions

“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”
-Muhammad Ali

Angelina Eberly statue austin texas

There’s a really big problem with New Year’s resolutions – namely, that most of us don’t keep them. And when it comes to travel, making plans in the middle of a holiday season that often involves being intoxicated doesn’t help get you anywhere in June. Fortunately for us, technology is much less forgetful than we are and our brains can be hacked to get the results we want from them.

Where do you want to go in 2017? Let’s get started:

remember the milk androidRefine Your To-Do List (aka. Resolutions) So It’s Believable

The most common list problem is the easiest to solve and neglect at the same time – where to keep your list. The free site Remember The Milk lets you set specific lists (e.g. ‘2017 Travel Resolutions’), prioritize them, and set schedules to make sure you stay on track. Remember The Milk also syncs with your iPad, iPhone, Android, and email accounts if you choose, as well as a few other online services you’re likely using.

getting things done  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

amazon buy now

There are 4 types of travel lists that won’t help you very much and you can avoid creating one by keeping your travel resolutions short, have well defined steps toward your final goal, and set rough timetables for each item.

Use The Winner Effect To Knock Out Resolutions

Don’t make the first resolutions you want to tackle be the most difficult. Rather, use the winner effect to improve your chances of accomplishing more difficult goals down the line by setting up easier victories now. It works for boxers, 3-point shooters in basketball, and can for you by modifying your physiology for increased confidence.

3 pointer shot

The winner effect in many studies was nullified for subjects not in their territory (think home-team advantage) so for added chances of success early on, set up your early travel resolutions in familiar surroundings. Rather than making your first goal “travel to Thailand and live for a year” set yourself up for smaller victories like “go to the bank and open a savings account”. (Here’s how to choose the right bank for international travel.)

Digitize Peer Pressure

An effective way to get around saying one thing and doing another (a form of cognitive dissonance) is to hold yourself accountable to others. You can do that by informing close friends of your plans (and the key steps in your resolution lists – the winner effect can encourage them to believe in you more). That makes it all the harder to ditch your travel resolutions.

habitlist app ios

Another way to keep the pressure on yourself to get out the door and travel is to use apps where you can set goals, see progress towards them, and be nicely reminded when you might be falling off track. The Habit List app ($3.99 iOS) and free Habit Bull (Android/iOS) both let you set goals big and small, showing you streaks, and creating a flexible schedule so you can plan your way to success.

Motivate Yourself By Visualizing

The biggest path to our memories is through our eyes and we tend to believe what we see. That effect goes beyond what our eyes see to what our minds can visualize. Imagine yourself accomplishing each of your travel resolutions and you’re much more likely to believe it’s possible, less risky, and rewarding. (For more on this bias check out How Risky Is It?)

We often spend much of our travel-motivational efforts externally, trying to convince our family and loved ones who might not be as supportive initially as we’d like. The real conflict happens when their doubt becomes contagious or rather, they highlight flaws in our overall plans. Be an efficient and powerful dream-to-reality converter by motivating the most important person who needs it – you.

steve jobs biography  Steve Jobs

amazon buy now

The Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson is a great read for geeks for the technical tale it weaves; but also highlights what an incredible motivator the stubborn innovator he was. His 2005 Stanford commencement speech is both touching and powerful. A 15 minute dose of confidence and conviction for your travel resolutions and other passions in life.

The Hardest Steps Are The Ones You Haven’t Taken Yet

Traveling means many things to many people and there is no one way to go. Whether you want to take one trip to a nearby city once a year or go on a one-year RTW, define your goals for you. Once you know where you want to be, it’s up to you to get there. You can get from your desk to all the places you want to travel. Your craziest dreams are only crazy until you believe in them. Your biggest obstacle is yourself. I believe in you. Believe in yourself. Now go make those crazy dreams come true.

Happy New Year,
-Anil

This is an updated version of a post originally written in 2012.

A Review Of The World’s Thinnest iPhone Charging Case: ChargeTech ThinCharge


The ChargeTech ThinCharge is a such a simple piece of technology, it’s hard to appreciate how useful it is, until everyone who sees it asks you about it. ChargeTech sent me a ThinCharge for the iPhone 6s, which I’ve been using for the past few months. You can see more in the video above on how it works, how thin it is, and what a benefit it is to expand your iPhone’s battery capacity by 1.5 times in an 85 gram, 11 millimeter-thick protective case.

chargetech thincharge  ThinCharge: World’s Thinnest iPhone 6 / 6S Battery Case [Black]

amazon buy now

The ThinCharge takes around 4.5 hours for a complete charge, which should comfortably get you through the day (or a long flight). An LED light on the side indicate how much charge the case itself has (the more it flashes the less power is left).

Nearly Perfect For Case Haters

The buttons of the case where the LED light is located is my only real gripe with the ThinCharge. Although you can charge the case and sync your phone with iTunes on your laptop without having to take it out of the case, you need to turn the case on by long pressing the top volume button. That means every time you turn on or off the ThinCharge, your ring volume will jump to maximum and you’ll need to remember to turn it down.

thincharge chargetech

Otherwise, the ThinCharge is an ideal charging case for people who both hate cases for adding bulk to a phone and hate Apple for making anemic batteries. iPhone 7 and 7 Plus users, ChargeTech’s Indegogo campaign was successful, so those should be available for purchase soon. I’ll post links here when the iPhone 7 model is released; available now is the ThinCharge for iPhone 6 and 6s which you can find here.

The Best Credit Card For Travel Perks? Chase Sapphire Reserve Review

chase sapphire reserve

Writing about a specific credit card offer isn’t something I thought I would ever be motivated to do but the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is an incredibly enticing offer for travelers who take as little as one flight per year. In other words, you don’t need to be a very frequent traveler to get some serious travel benefits that will save you money, get you free flights, travel insurance, plus a lot more.

What you do need is to be a resident of the United States; so although I am generally hesitant to post an offer that omits 95% of the world’s population, if you can get this card and travel occasionally, here’s why you should seriously consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Points, Miles, Or Both If You Choose

Before I get to the upfront travel perks, let’s start with the Sapphire Reserve’s big hook, 100,000 bonus points. To claim them, you’ll have to spend $4,000 within the first three months of being approved for the card. $1,333.33 dollars a month goes pretty fast especially if you live in the U.S., eat, make car payments, pay an electrical bill, or exist in general.

Travel points can be a confusing system but Chase’s is relatively straightforward. Your first bonus points are equivalent to about $1,500 in the Ultimate Rewards store where you can purchase airfare plus shop at the Apple Store, Amazon, for hotels, and more. Those points can also be converted, one for one, directly into frequent flyer miles for most programs as well. (You should really be using these 3 programs to maximize your earning.) As an example, 100,000 miles with Untied Mileage Plus gets you two round trip tickets from the U.S. to Europe or three, one way tickets, if you use multi-city flights to see more for less.

Points can also be used to put cash back into your account, the first 100k being roughly equivalent to $1,000. Once you get the Sapphire Reserve card, you continue earning points by spending: 1 point per dollar on most purchases; 3 points per dollar on travel and dining related expenses. Like the bonus points, you can convert any points into cash, miles, or for use in the Ultimate Rewards tore.

Fees And No Fees

Let’s get Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card fee out of the way because it probably puts a lot of people off at first sight. The annual fee is $450. Although you may balk at first, if you travel at all, $300 is offset by a credit on any travel or dining costs. Essentially, the first $300 you spend on travel every year is credited back to your account – effectively making the annual fee $150.

prague view

On the other side, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has no foreign transaction fees, which can add up quickly if you travel internationally often.

Now The Coverage Perks

There are a few benefits the Sapphire Reserve has that really make it a unique offering, starting with the travel and purchase coverage:

  • Included Travel Insurance – (Outside of the U.S. only.) This coverage includes medical (up to $100,000) for you and any immediate family members traveling with you.
  • Car Rental Insurance – (Worldwide) So long as you use your Sapphire Reserve card to pay for a car rental, you can turn down the rental companies collision and theft insurance (up to $75,000 protection).
  • Small Item (Electronics) Coverage – Anything you buy with the Sapphire Reserve card is insured against damage or theft for the first 6 months (up to $50,000 per year).

iphone 6s charging case

You really shouldn’t be traveling without insurance but many people neglect to do it because it can cost $60 a week or more depending on where you’re traveling. When you book with the Chase Sapphire Reserve it’s a cost you no longer have to consider. There is also other coverage, you can see all that’s included here.

Priority Pass Into 900 Airport Lounges Worldwide

On its own, an unlimited Priority Pass membership costs $399. You’ll be able to enter over 900 lounges in at these airports (and hopefully remember to share wifi details with your fellow travelers). Also, if you decide to sign up for Global Entry or TSA Pre, you’ll be credited back $100, effectively making them free.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a travel card with a lot of benefits (no, nobody paid me to write any of this) but isn’t the credit card you want to use if you carry any balance from month to month. Interest rates are high (16-23%) plus there are cards without annual fees. In case you’re not eligible or interested in the Chase Sapphire Reserve, remember there are plenty of ways to earn frequent flyer miles without getting more credit cards.

Use This Tip To Save Yourself Up To An Hour When Landing At Havana’s International Airport

Havana Cuba Jose Marti International Airport

The first thing almost all tourists will need upon arriving in Havana, Cuba’s Jose Marti International Airport, is cash. This is particularly true for Americans, whose ATM cards won’t work; nationals of other countries have no guarantees either. And everyone can pretty much forget about using credit cards in Cuba’s heavily cash-based society.

As a visitor, it’s practically a necessity to take all the cash you’ll need with you for the duration of your entire trip prior to departing for Cuba. Unless you’ve got a prepaid ride waiting to pick you up at the airport, you need to convert some cash (e.g. dollars, euros, etc.) into the tourist-local Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Since everyone else has the same idea long, long, lines form outside of the exchange office in the arrivals hall.

Understaffed hardly ever open on time, here’s how you can forgo up to an hour of waiting in arrivals at Jose Marti International Airport after you land.

Go Upstairs To Departures

Walking into the arrivals hall your first stop might not seem like the departures hall upstairs, but it should be.

The departures hall (which will be deserted) has several staffed currency exchange booths and not a single person using them. Walk up, exchange enough money to get yourself where you’re staying, plus some extra. The exchange rate at the airport is often the same, if not better than most of the hotels in town (the primary place to exchange money in Havana) so it’s not a bad idea to convert larger amounts.

cuba old car taxi

Once you’ve converted your money, you can go back down to arrivals. Just past the massive line full of tourists waiting to get CUC will be a taxi that can take you into town. Now you’ve got an extra hour to explore Cuba, which might not be what you think it is.

Small Tips Often Pay Big

Because Havana airport only has a relatively small number of flights, arrivals and departures don’t overlap significantly which is why one is usually empty when the other is not. Keep this in mind when departing Jose Marti International Airport, currency exchange in arrivals is likely to be much less busy.

Many travel tips are as simple as this but go a long way in saving you money, time, or enhancing an experience. For instance, you should do this before visiting the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, find this restaurant in Kosovo, and can save a lot on trains in Japan before ever leaving home.

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

Get my latest posts in your inbox:


Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube FeedBurner

Recent Articles

There Are 8 Cities Left: Vote For Your Final Four In The Best City 2017 Contest

How American Expats Can Lower (Or Eliminate) Their Taxes Back Home

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2017 Is Down To A Sweet 16