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How to find the best flight deals

How to find the best flight deals

After snagging two < $700 trips to Europe in less than six months, I have gotten a lot of questions about how to find the best flight deals. There are various loyalty programs for airlines and hotels as well as credit cards that you can utilize and I will write another post about those ways at some point. However, now I want to focus on the traveler who wants to know how to find the best flight deals without miles, credit card points, or loyalty status.

Austin and I on our most recent trip to Maui at Haleakala Crater.
Austin and I on our most recent trip to Maui at Haleakala Crater.

There are two ways that you can go about planning your travel when looking for deals…

1) Have set days and a flexible destination

OR

2) Have a set destination and flexible travel dates

Now if you have both set travel days and a set travel destination, you can find several flight trackers that will let you know if/when the price drops. But for now, back to the deal finding.

1) Have set days and a flexible travel destination.

So you requested your vacation a year in advance and it’s something that cannot be changed? This is largely our situation when I am planning on going on vacations with my husband since he is a surgery resident and their vacation dates are planned up to 16 months in advance.

Your best friend in this situation is Google Flights. If you haven’t used Google Flights before, you are really missing out. You can read more about Google Flights here.

With fixed dates, I like to set my departing airport and dates in Google Flights and then for the destination you can put “Europe” or “South America”. From there you can peruse the destinations to see what comes up for you and your particular dates. This is exactly how we decided we were going to Paris because the dates we had for vacation were already set and the flight prices on those days were cheap.

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This is what you will see when typing in google flights. Then you click on the picture that looks like a map.
google-flights-europe-map
This is what comes up when you click on the map picture under google flights and you are searching for European destinations. Here you can click on cities to view flight details.
google-flights-south-america-map
This is what comes up when you click on the map picture under google flights and you are searching for South American destinations. Here you can click on cities to view flight details.

Now let’s review the other scenario that you might have and how to find the best flight deals…

2) Have a set destination and flexible travel dates

Have you been dreaming of a trip to Hawaii? London? Tokyo? For people with more flexible dates but with a great idea where you want to go, you have two routes. The first is to check out Google Flights again. On Google Flights you can put in your timeframe, picking say a week in October and then pulling up the calendar. When you have the calendar pulled up, you can see what days are cheaper. You can also use the flexible dates option where it will show you a graph of the cheapest days to leave and come back. Lastly with Google Flights you can set the number of days you would like to be gone for and then search by price using the Price Graph feature. Google Flights can also send you price notifications as well.

Using the calendar feature on Google Flights.
Using the calendar feature on Google Flights.
Using the flexible dates feature on Google Flights.
Using the flexible dates feature on Google Flights.
Using the Trip Planner feature on Google Flights.
Using the Price Graph feature on Google Flights.

The other option with flexible dates is to utilize Kayak. The best way to do this is from a computer rather than a tablet or a phone. Then google “cheap flights from [insert your home airport code/city] to [insert destination airport code/city]”. So for example, if I live in Salt Lake City and I want to go to Maui, I would google “cheap flights from SLC to Maui”.

From there, click on the Kayak link (may not be the first one or two results). Many websites have this function somewhat including Google Flights, but I really do like Kayak’s the best. From there you will see a nice price graph. The difference between this price graph and the one from Google, is that this is comparing trip prices across varying different lengths. Why is this helpful? Well if a 7 day trip flight price is $900 and an 8 day trip flight price is $650, odds are you would want to do the 8 day trip because it would likely be a cheaper overall option for you unless you are spending a lot of money on hotels.

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How to find the best flight deals when you search on Kayak. You can scroll with the arrows on the bar graph to change the date time frame.

Hopefully you are now ready to book your next trip. Make sure you check out my pictures from Hawaii and subscribe to my list to get more travel tips. Have any other tips you have found for how to find the best flight deals without using miles, credit card points, or loyalty status? Leave them in the comments!

Cheering on our favorite tall drinks while enjoying the semi-final game against Oregon.
Cheering on our favorite Tar Heels while enjoying the semi-final game against Oregon.
How to find the best flight deals
Kaanapali Beach from the Hyatt Regency.
How to find the best flight deals
Kaanapali Beach from the Hyatt Regency.
How to find the best flight deals
Enjoying a nice walk on the beach
How to find the best flight deals
Austin enjoying the beach.
How to find the best flight deals
Second angle.
On the beach!
On the beach!
Before yoga on the beach
Before yoga on the beach
Luau ready
Luau ready

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The incredible view from the swim up bar at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.
The incredible view from the swim up bar at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.
Heels win the championship!
Heels win the championship!
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Austin at the Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Me at the Haleakala National Park
Me at the Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
Mama's Fish House drink. Our meal and drinks were amazing! *Side note* The bartender mentioned he averages 1000 drinks per day and there are two different bars in this restaurant!
Mama’s Fish House drink. Our meal and drinks were amazing! *Side note* The bartender mentioned he averages 1000 drinks per day and there are two different bars in this restaurant!
Sunset outside of Mama's Fish House.
Sunset glow outside of Mama’s Fish House.

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to (I actually JUST finished it as I was typing this): “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero ****If you haven’t read or listened to this book yet, PLEASE do. This is somewhere around the 10th time in the last year I have read/listened to it and it is SUCH a great book. Very influential mindset wise. I always get something new out of it each time.


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Adventures are best when they’re shared

Adventures are best when they’re shared

When Austin first matched at Utah for residency, I really didn’t know what we were getting into. I visited Salt Lake City once in February during my own residency for an American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation meeting in February 2013 and I thought it was a miserable place. Little did I know that because I was visiting in February I caught the dreary inversion at its worst. Then Austin and I visited together when he was considering ranking Utah #1 and we had some very gracious hosts from my pharmacy school class. Utah was cool then, but I still didn’t really grasp the whole I-might-actually-move-there thing.

But then, match day came. He opened the match envelope and there it was. His #1 choice. Utah.

Then everyone started asking “oh do you ski?”

Me: “Nooooooo……”

Everyone: “Oh well how about the outdoors?”

Me: “Not really…”

I had always equated the “outdoors” with camping and getting dirty. I much preferred showers and a warm bed. But you have to think about where I am coming from. I lived in North Carolina since the age of 7. Growing up through college, I lived in central NC where there is neither mountains or beach. Then, after school I moved close to the beach. “Outdoors” in eastern NC was the beach. OR sweating your butt off on a walk around the park in the humidity, not ever seeing anything besides a pretty lake or pond because it was flat. And if you went camping, it was just to get dirty and say you did.

Austin’s very first vacation during residency we decided to do a “Utah world tour”. We wanted to check out all of the Utah national parks in 8 days. We were going to do some camping and some hotel stays. For anyone who is into National Parks, you know that just one day at most of these places is not enough…and we figured it wouldn’t be, but we lived here now so if we liked it enough, we would come back.

During that vacation we went to Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. It was pretty wild. And more importantly, I was hooked. Absolutely sold on the “outdoors”.

Since then, we have spent most of our free weekends exploring. It was even my idea to go camping a few weekends ago to Goblin Valley. Here’s a post about that weekend. I have wanted to share the beauty of Utah and the rest of the west with everyone since I moved here. Hey if I didn’t know about Utah, how many people did? (This is a rhetorical question…plenty of people knew, which is why they asked me over and over again if I liked the outdoors)

So when one of my friends, Collin, texted me about coming out to Utah over his spring break, I was pretty darn excited. Someone from the “outside” to share this place with. And he was a great sport. He arrived when I was out of town for work and explored the city and then when I got back, we immediately drove to southern Utah to get our adventure on.

We went to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Horseshoe Bend in northern Arizona. Horseshoe Bend is going to be my next post so stay tuned. Here I am just focused on the two National Parks. Here are some pictures from our trip. Be sure to compare these to just a few weekends ago when my parents were here (Bryce Canyon with my family & Zion National Park with my family)… it is AMAZING what a few weeks can do to the scenery.

Wildlife in Zion National Park
Wildlife in Zion National Park
Collin & I on top of the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Collin & I on top of the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Me at the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Me at the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Hiking in Zion National Park
Hiking in Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Life is all about perspective, right?
Life is all about perspective, right?
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

The trip was fantastic… going to have a part 2 for the northern AZ portion coming very soon. Once again, be sure to check out the posts from just two weeks ago to see how different the parks looked (Bryce Canyon with my family & Zion National Park with my family).

 

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero ****If you haven’t read or listened to this book yet, PLEASE do. This is somewhere around the 10th time in the last year I have read/listened to it and it is SUCH a great book. Very influential mindset wise. I always get something new out of it each time.

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 3 – Zion National Park

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 3 – Zion National Park

My last two posts were about the first portion of our family trip down to the Nationals Parks – Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Park. The final part was the grand finale – Zion National Park. Zion National Park is the most well-known national park in Utah, and it is a pretty incredible place. Instead of driving along the rim like you do at the Grand Canyon or Bryce Canyon, you drive IN the canyon and get to look up at the massive stone walls.

The most famous hikes in Zion National Park are Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Both of these hikes are decently dangerous with Angel’s Landing having very steep drop-offs and chains to keep you steady and the Narrows with extreme flash flooding risks. That being said, for in-shape/avid hikers, those are both MUST hikes.

Since we were a little less aggressive, we opted for the East Rim Overlook Trail. This is a trail I had never been on before that still offered a fantastic view without the extremes of the hikes that I mentioned previously. It was not extremely steep, and therefore much more generous to my east-coast family.

Although we made this trip from Salt Lake City, Zion National Park is only 2.5 hours from Las Vegas and definitely a worthwhile, shorter-trip-than-visiting-the-Grand-Canyon adventure.

Here are some of the pictures from the hike!

 

Zion National Park
Walked under this massive rock along part of the trail.
Zion National Park
Here is my attempt at a panorama picture to demonstrate what it looked like under this rock.
Zion National Park
Walking along the edge…this is looking down.
Zion National Park
Christina on the trail.
Zion National Park
The view from the top.
Zion National Park
Another shot of the view from the top.
Zion National Park
Christina at the top.
Zion National Park
Mom & dad
Zion National Park
Dad showing off on the rocks.
Zion National Park
Me at the top.
Zion National Park
Christina at the top
Zion National Park
Yoga time!
Zion National Park
Christina at the top!
Zion National Park
Family photo 🙂

 

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 2 – Bryce Canyon

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 2 – Bryce Canyon

If you caught my last post, you know that my parents visited over President’s Day weekend and as they had already visited once before, they decided they wanted to see some parts of Utah besides just Salt Lake City and Park City. Therefore we decided to take a weekend trip from Salt Lake City to the National Parks. We planned a nice little loop from Salt Lake City with the first stop being the closest national park – Capitol Reef. The next stop after that was Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon is definitely more popular than Capitol Reef, but still not the most well-known national park in Utah. It is also significantly higher in elevation than Capitol Reef. Since our visit was in February, we caught it in the snow! It is truly a magical place in the snow. If you want to do some hiking in Bryce Canyon in the winter time (or ANYWHERE at a high elevation), you will definitely want to invest in some Kahtoola microspikes. These spikes attach to your hiking boots and will help substantially with your footing in the snow. As a side note, these are the exact spikes that I have and I highly recommend them. Many people go instead with Yaktrax, which are much less expensive but also not nearly as substantial. I have heard many reports of these breaking.

Here is a link to the Kahtoola microspikes:

Since the whole family was not equipped with these, we decided to pass on the hiking. However, I have done the Queens Garden trail twice which takes you down in the canyon so you can see it up close and personal. It is very beautiful!

Bryce Canyon is famous for the “hoodoos” which are beautiful rock formations. You can see a lot of these various formations in the pictures below.

 

Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

So this is part two of our weekend trip from Salt Lake City. Once again, if you missed part one, you can check it out here. Be on the lookout for part 3 coming soon.

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Weekend Trip From Salt Lake City to the National Parks – Part 1 – Capitol Reef

Weekend Trip From Salt Lake City to the National Parks – Part 1 – Capitol Reef

My parents visited over President’s Day weekend and as they had already visited once before, they decided they wanted to see some parts of Utah besides just Salt Lake City and Park City. Therefore we decided to take a weekend trip from Salt Lake City to the National Parks. We planned a nice little loop from Salt Lake City with the first stop being the closest national park – Capitol Reef.

As a side note, you could spend a week in each national park in Utah and not see everything. This was more of a “let’s hit the highlights” type of trip – and one that my parents really enjoyed.

Capitol Reef is a little under 3.5 hours south of Salt Lake City. It is the least famous of the Utah National Parks making it extremely enjoyable all year around, even during “busy” season. The hiking trail we visited, Hickman Bridge, is one of the more popular choices. However we still only encountered 2 other groups while we were hiking – much less than during the spring, summer, and fall but it doesn’t seem to ever get really crowded.

The Hickman Bridge trail is about 2 miles long and 500 ft of elevation gain. Not much, but if you aren’t adjusted to the elevation it can be a little challenging. Be sure to bring water.

Hickman Bridge
Hickman Bridge
Christina and Mom under Hickman Bridge
Christina and Mom under Hickman Bridge
Dad under Hickman Bridge
Dad under Hickman Bridge
Family photo minus me
Family photo minus me
Let me take a selfie ;)
Let me take a selfie 😉
Ok let me take two selfies ;)
Ok let me take two selfies 😉
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
View from the Hickman Bridge Trail
One of the "Capitols"
One of the “Capitols”

So to summarize, it is totally doable to take a weekend trip from Salt Lake City to the National Parks and Capitol Reef will likely be your very first stop. Be on the lookout for the next two posts from the rest of our trip!

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Moab for the Weekend

Moab for the Weekend

Somewhere between terrain that looks like Mars and the Lion King’s Elephant Graveyard you will find Moab, Utah… probably one of the most unique looking areas in all of the United States.

Austin’s sister and her boyfriend were visiting us for the past week and we decided to wrap up the week of skiing with a trip to Southern Utah to visit Moab. Austin and I have been only once right after we first moved so we were excited to make the trip again. I was in Philly for work so I joined the rest of the crew on Friday night so I enjoyed a solid two days.

While you may have heard of Moab before, most people are unaware that it’s the closest town to two of Utah’s National Parks:  Arches and Canyonlands. Canyonlands is comprised of three separate districts that are divided by rivers: Island in the Sky, Needles & The Maze. Many people overlook Canyonlands and spend all of their time in Arches National Park and they are definitely missing out!

Also contrary to popular belief, southern Utah can get cold. Early Saturday morning in Arches National Park was cloudy and cold (teens-twenties) but the afternoon brought sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures. All of the pictures below of Arches National Park were on the same day and taken by me.

 

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Garden of Eden, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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The Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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The Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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The Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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Austin & I under the Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
GoPro Version – Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
GoPro Version – Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
Okay I really couldn’t pick between the two pictures – Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
Okay I guess make that three - Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
Okay I guess make that three – Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
GoPro Group Photo – Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, UT
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White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT
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White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT
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White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT
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White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT
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White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT (taken at sunset). Photo Credit: Ryan Spain

 

 

Want to visit yourself and only have the weekend? Here is what I would recommend:

Friday – Drive from Salt Lake City to Moab

Saturday – Spend the day in Arches National Park.

  • Drive from the Visitor’s Center all of the way to Devil’s Garden stopping at the viewpoints that interest you.
  • The hike to the Delicate Arch is 3.0 miles RT and a must if you are in to hiking. 95% of the hike is not shaded and if you are visiting when it is warm outside prepare for this hike to be incredibly hot with extra water, sunscreen, and snacks. The Delicate Arch is extra beautiful at sunset but be careful to bring a flashlight if you are going in the evening.
  • After the Delicate Arch head back towards the Visitor’s Center and take the turnoff towards the Garden of Eden and take the short trail to the North and South Window if time permits.
  • Extra activities depending on fitness/interest level:
    • Fiery Furnace – This requires a permit or a ranger-guided tour. Advance arrangements are required. Refer to the nps.gov website.
    • Devil’s Garden Hike – This hike is over 7 miles long and goes on a primitive trail where you can see many beautiful arches such as Landscape Arch and Double O Arch. 95% of the hike is not shaded and if you are visiting when it is warm outside prepare for this hike to be incredibly hot with extra water, sunscreen, and snacks.

Sunday – Spend the day in Canyonlands “Island in the Sky” District.

  • Although popular, Mesa Arch is beautiful at sunrise. If you are an early riser, go ahead and head to Mesa Arch first thing allowing for plenty of time to park and hike the 0.5 miles to the Arch. This is a popular time and the limited parking can be taken. If you would rather avoid the rush and the early wake up call, consider doing this at sunset instead.. still a golden hour of photography so the colors are less harsh and it will be a lot less crowded.
  • Continue beyond the Mesa Arch down to the White Rim Overlook. Although the actual 0.8 mile each way walk is not incredibly impressive, the end view is amazing.
  • Want a view in the other direction? Go to Grand View Overlook. This is 1.0 each way and it is along the edge of the island. Very cool.
  • If you want to skip the Grand View Overlook, check out the Green River Overlook which has a short path to the viewpoint and it’s in the same direction as the Grand View Overlook, although it’s not quite the same view.
  • Extra activities depending on time/vehicle:
    • Drive Shafer Trail Road. This windy narrow road is not for those afraid of heights or without a high clearance vehicle. If you love off-roading, this is a must although make sure you allow for plenty of time if you are taking this road to Moab and verify conditions with the Visitor’s Center prior to your departure.
  • Head back to Salt Lake City

 

Currently reading: “Happy Pocket Full of Money” by David Cameron Gikandi and “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: Starboy by The Weeknd