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Category: Money

How To Avoid Airbnb’s Latest Fee

A few days ago Airbnb changed their Terms of Service to introduce a new fee that will come into effect on April 1st 2024. That fee will add 2% to you next booking but there’s an easy way to avoid it and actually save even more money.

Conversion Fee

The new guest service fee of 2%, before taxes, will be added on the total rate if a booking is made where the local currency differs from the currency set in your Airbnb account. That means if your Airbnb account has a currency set in US dollars but the villa in Spain you’re booking is listed in Euros, there will be an additional 2% fee added at check out.

airbnb settings

Airbnb hasn’t made it clear if this fee will be shown separately or just added under the generic “fees” you see at checkout, but know that it will be in there where there’s a currency conversion.

Avoiding The Fee

To get around the new 2% fee, all you have to do is change the default currency your Airbnb account is set to so that it matches the local currency of your next destination. Log into Airbnb, click the globe icon, then currency, and then change the currency. For example, if you’re looking for an Airbnb in Bulgaria you would change the currency into Bulgarian lev and if the place is in Spain, that would be Euros. Airbnb doesn’t make it clear what currency the host listing is in so you just have to look up the local currency in a given country if you’re not familiar and adjust it accordingly.

airbnb currency setting

Why This Saves More Than 2%

After April 1, 2024 this trick will save you 2% in fees but changing the currency to match the local money will save you double or more because of another clause in the Airbnb terms – one that’s been there for a long time. When you book an Airbnb in a currency that differs from the currency a host as set, Airbnb converts the listing price from local to your currency, using rates they determine. In many cases this rate is not in your favor and hardly the best conversion and can add 3% or more to a booking where the currencies differ.

You should always change your Airbnb account currency to the local one when booking internationally to save at the 2% conversion fee and then another 2-4% in conversion rates. While you’re at it, make sure you keep an eye on Airbnb cleaning fees as well.

The Problem With Boeing Planes

You’ve probably seen the images from Alaska Airlines flight 1282 where a section of the plane was blown out in mid-flight. Fortunately, the plane was able to make an emergency landing and aside from 3 minor injuries nobody else was hurt or killed. Still, this was a brand new Boeing 737 Max 9 – only in service for 3 months before this incident – but since the Max line of planes was introduced, there have been two fatal crashes.

What is going on with Boeing and should you be worried about flying in their planes?

Safe But Less Safe

Previous generations of Boeing 737s have a fatal accident rate of .2 per million flights while the 737 MAX have a 4 in million fatal accident rate, still safe, but twenty times more accident prone. The Boeing 737 line is the most popular passenger plane ever – beginning production in 1968 through the latest generation called MAX which began in 2017. Throughout much of that history Boeing was the dominant jetliner manufacturer. Boeing’s main rival Airbus wasn’t a serious rival to Boeing until the 1990s.

alaska airlines

In the 2000s Airbus overtook Boeing in the narrow body aircraft market and today Airbus has 62% of the share of airliner backlog. Their main advantage: fuel economy.

Savings In The Sky

In the 2010s Airbus starting using a new engine design using with what’s known as high-bypass. Technical details aside, these are engines that are bigger than what was previously being used but 25% more fuel efficient. (And 35% quieter, a nice bonus.) Before this jetliner engines were made to be narrower thinking it would reduce wind resistance.

Over time airlines began gravitating toward these narrower, smaller capacity planes because they saved money on fuel. Those cost savings meant that airlines could run more flights versus the larger Boeing planes which burn more fuel. It’s easier to fill up smaller planes resulting in fewer empty seats. Again, economic benefits.

Boeing Plays Catch Up

Boeing isn’t able to put those newer more fuel efficient engines on their existing larger planes because the wings are too low for them to fit. This leads to the decision to make the Boeing MAX, their version of a narrow body jetliner to compete with Airbus. Building planes takes experience and Boeing didn’t redesign the 737 Max from scratch. The larger more powerful engines being placed on modified existing designs have lead to issues. Boeing had to put the new engines further forward on the wings of the MAX but combined with more thrust they have a tendency to pull the plane up more – in other words give it more lift.

jetliner engine

To compensate, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was implemented. That’s basically a computer than detects when the nose of the plane might be going up too high and then forces the plane to pitch downward. Boeing engineers allowed the MCAS to be fed information from a single sensor with no redundancy because “they calculated the probability of a “hazardous” MCAS malfunction to be virtually inconceivable.”

The Federal Aviation Administration also agreed and did not adequately inform pilots about the MCAS in their manuals. Unfortunately in the case of Lion Air Flight 620 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines 302 in 2019 that lead to two fatal crashes, killing 346 people. Boeing was later charged with fraud and ordered to pay compensation of 2.5 billion dollars for concealing information from the FAA.

Failures For Dollars

There were failures on the part of Boeing and the FAA, who overruled their own engineers in the regarding the 737 MAX 8 and there have been well documented quality control issues with the MAX 9 (the plane involved in the Alaska Airlines incident). A U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure report also pointed to the FAA’s practice of delegating some of its inspection functions to Boeing’s own engineers, noting that this structure “creates inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”

The grounding of the MAX 8 cost Boeing 21 billion dollars. Still, the 737 MAX 8 and 9 still have 4500 orders combined so far but it seems like Boeing’s push to make a profit – which that haven’t done since 2019 – has lead to cutting corners in their race to compete with Airbus. Travelers can only hope there are no more accidents before oversight of Boeing, investigations, and changes both to personnel and production are implemented.

Best Travel Tech Gifts Under $30

organic beanie

Shopping for people who travel frequently can be difficult as they tend to be minimalist, picky, and seem to have everything they already need. As someone who fits into that category, these are some things that have changed how I travel and become useful gear that doesn’t take up a lot of space across various price points.

For The Carry-On Only Warrior: $12

Going through security at airports means having to take out your sprays, gels, and other containers, even if they’re under the weight limits. The Ogato 3 pack of clear, easy-close pouches is perfect for small toiletries.

Tropical Traveler: $14

Small and powerful, Sun Bum makes a vegan, roll-on SPF 50 sunscreen which happens to be under the limit for most carry-on gels.

Romantic Road Writer: $21

A good notebook is the best tool for writing ideas, sketching, and connecting with your thoughts when traveling. Aside from the creative benefits of writing on paper versus digital jotting, the rugged Moleskin notebooks are perfect places to drop in receipts, postcards, and other small physical media.

Fingerprint Fighter: $25

This is the stuff they use in Apple stores to clean products and an iKlear kit will keep your screens and keyboards looking like showroom new too.

Digital Detection: $29

Airtags are incredibly useful for tracking the location of your things. Don’t believe it? You will after experiencing the power of knowing your luggage was actually packed on your plane before every single flight. Thanks Airtag.

Sale

Useful and durable don’t have to mean expensive, like the foXnoMad organic beanie, on sale now. For travelers, small gifts are a compliment and hopefully some of the 5 items above will make you their favorite gift giver this year.

The Worst Websites To Book Flights With

There are a lot of reasons to not use any of these sites but terrible customer service, undelivered bookings, and general hassle are some of the main offenses.

1. eDreams

edreams

Let’s start with the first offender, eDreams, a site that keeps their airfare listings low by basically not having a customer service department and by sneaking in fees right after you book. For starters, eDreams shows you the absolute lowest price you’ll definitely not be paying when searching. A lot of aggregators do this but eDreams is a particularly bad offender where your final fare can be 30-50% more than what you’re first shown.

Another shady practice many have come across with eDreams is they show you fares with their “Prime” membership discounts included.

So, for example for a flight from New York to London is might show a $535 round trip. Notice the greyed out fine print in the video above though and it’s actually $608. But eDreams automatically includes a free 30 day trial of prime when you book, which isn’t very clear – because Prime is $59 a year – so many people are unwittingly charged a month later for a service they didn’t explicitly sign up for.

You have to click to “Show other fares” to see the true price.

2. SmartFares

smartfares

The trick SmartFares likes to do is show you low prices for a fare, then when you do book, will send you their confirmation code. That’s not confirmation by the airlines – a few hours, up to a day passes, then they say your flight wasn’t booked because the airline raised their price. They’ll then (hopefully) send an email asking if you want to book at the new, higher rate. If you try to cancel, they’ll charge you a fee to do so.

There are in fact so many issues with Smartfares that they’ve included an entire section in their terms about charge backs and credit card disputes. Basically saying you agree to not dispute any of their fees with your credit card and they you’ll be charged a $250 charge back fee if you attempt to dispute.

You know things are bad when there’s several sections in the terms on how you can not get a refund for botched bookings. My advice, avoid using SmartFares when possible.

3. GoToGate

gotogate

GoToGate is so bad, in my testing, I wasn’t able to book a single flight. All were dropped, requests for refunds ignored, and there are fees for handling refunds. And believe me when I say, Gotogate will fight you and your credit card tooth and nail for that refund or charge dispute. They’re really nasty to work with so avoid them. Seriously, you can find a flight elsewhere.

There Is Hope

All services and booking sites not to mention airlines, screw up. They make mistakes are incompetent, some percentage of the time. With enough customers, even a small percentage adds up. But with eDreams, SmartFares, and GoToGate, that percentage is very high. To stay in business they make refunds difficult, charge fees wherever they can – and just enough people have a smooth experience that sites like Kayak still work with them.

Keep that in mind next time you’re looking for a flight and see an unusually low price through an aggregator. It’s probably too good to be true and if it’s one of those 3 sites I’ve mentioned, not worth the trouble.

Use This Trick To Get 10% Or More Off Every Booking.com Reservation

booking.com

Making reservations for hotel accommodations can often seem like a budgetary afterthought since you’ve already spent so much time trying to find the best deals on flights. You then get to the hotel part of the equation and well, it’s often last minute so you have fewer options and with less obvious money saving hacks, you end up paying more than you should.

Within 24 hours to spare however you can use this trick to save 10% or more through Booking.com.

Look Don’t Book

First, start searching for accommodation on Booking.com. Set your actual travel dates, look through the reviews, and find a place to stay like you normally would. In case you have a Booking account you can login but it’s not a requirement for this to work. Once you’ve settled in on a hotel or other type of rental, click the “I’ll reserve” button and let it take you to the next page.

Add your name in the fields provided and importantly, make sure to give a valid email address.

Once you’ve done that, scroll all the way down to “Final details”.

Almost, Not Quite

After you’ve clicked the “Final details” button, you’re going to not do anything else. Yet. The trick to getting the incentive bonus from Booking is to not do anything for 24 hours. Since you’ve entered a valid email address, Booking knows how to get in touch with you. Their system seems to track near-bookings, that is, reservations that got very close to completion but for some reason you left.

With that in mind to try and get your business in about 24 hours Booking.com will send you a discount code for around 10% off.

One Time Use

It’s not a huge discount but 10% off is better than nothing and for more expensive stays that can really add up. The discount code is one-time use only and usually comes with an expiration date, so don’t let it sit in your inbox too long. To continue looking for discounts though make sure you compare prices with other rental platforms and check for conference discount codes.

How To Expertly Reduce Risks When Faced With A Mugging Abroad

bogota colombia night

We’ve talked about protecting yourself from pickpockets when traveling but in cases where the thief is overt – like in a mugging – what should you do? Every situation is different and the first rule is to never put yourself in danger but if certain opportunities present themselves you may be able to reduce some of the riskier parts of the situation.

Practice And Acceptance

Practicing how you would handle a particular situation can help you remain calm in the worst case scenario. Know where your decoys are if you are carrying a fake wallet – is that your right or left pocket? Split your cash up and know where your smaller bills are. Maintain a routine so there’s less you have to think about and can rely on muscle memory. Whatever your particular setup keeping it consistent is important – even if you don’t carry any decoy cards.

Thieves want to commit their crimes as fast as possible and you fumbling around for your money in your purse if going to prolong the encounter and put yourself at additional risk.

ridge wallet

It’s a good idea to always keep the placement of your personal items in the same place each time. If that’s decoy left and card top, stick with it. That will make you less likely to fumble at the wrong time. Also, if you’re asked to hand over your purse or empty your pockets, be compliant and get the moment over as quickly as you can. Your stuff is not worth getting hurt or killed over.

Calm Visualization

Time can be an important factor in a mugging with both you and the mugger wanting the theft to be as quick as possible. You can though buy yourself some time prior to a mugging by recognizing the instances right before it occurs. That means avoid walking alone at night and if you plan to, check with your hotel or accommodation about the route you plan on taking. Keep your eyes off your phone when walking (especially at night when your eyes have to adjust to a bright screen) and don’t use headphones. You don’t want to be caught off guard and a few moments can help you put into action any handover plan you’ve been practicing.

Being calm, collected, and calculated can help save some of your things if you get stuck in a bad situation when traveling – whether it’s getting pick-pocketed or mugged but remember – no security is foolproof. You can’t protect all of your things all the time but if you get out of a nasty situation with your health, even if you are a little rattled, it’s a win every time.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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