Portland Travel Tips Turns One

One year ago today I made my first post.  I started this blog because I felt like there was something missing in the online travelsphere.  I thought it would be nice to have a blog that you could visit to offer a local’s advice on visiting Portland.  A year ago I never would have thought that this blog would be read by anyone and I remember getting excited when 10 or 20 people would visit the site.  A year later and over 30,000 people have visited this site. Small potatoes for the big boys out there but it still amazes me.  So I hope everyone finds something helpful in these pages, and here is to another a year.  Hopefully the next year will be as great as the first.  To celebrate Portland Travel Tips’ one year anniversary I thought I would post my top 10 most popular posts from the last year.  Thanks for reading.

1.  How to Save Money With Priceline: Rental Cars

2. How to Save Money With Priceline: Airfare

3.  How to Save Money With Priceline: Hotels

4. Reader Question: Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood in One Day?

5. TILT: The Best Burger Place You Have Never heard Of

6. Portland U Brew: Learn to Brew Beer With an Expert

7. Portland Mayor’s Mansion

8. Top 10 Things to do in Portland

9. Five Essential Portland Apps

10. Transportation Options for Getting to and from PDX

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Save Money On Hotels With Roomer Travel

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Since last week I posted about a new website to save money on airfare, I figured this week I should post about a new website to save money on hotels.  I recently learned about a new hotel booking engine called Roomer Travel.

Roomer is a little different than your typical hotel booking website.  Have you noticed lately that most hotels offer discounted prices but the catch is that the reservation is non-refundable?  What happens when life gets in the way and you can’t make your reservation?  In the past you just had to eat it.  That is where Roomer Travel comes in.  People who cannot use their reservation can sell it on Roomer. Roomer is like Stubhub for hotel rooms.

Personally, I think the idea is fantastic.  It is also a great tool to keep in your pocket for those of you using my Priceline hotel bidding strategy.  If for some reason you were unable to make a reservation you now have a tool to offset some of your losses.  Heck, if you are really successful on Priceline you may be able to turn a profit with Roomer.

Due to the nature of the inventory that you are purchasing there are some pretty good deals to be had with Roomer.  However, because Roomer is pretty new, the inventory is not great.  Your best bet to see if anything on Roomer will work for you is if your dates are flexible.  If they are, click the flexible dates button when you begin your search and Roomer will show you all the rooms that are currently for sale at your destination.

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Here is an example of the your potential savings.  Roomer shows that someone is trying to sell a reservation at the Hilton for $96, staying 1/1/13 to 1/6/13.

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According to Kayak the cheapest rate for that room is currently $119.

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That is a savings of 20%.  Not too shabby.

Hopefully, this website will grow in popularity and the inventory will increase.  Right now because of the site’s newness the low inventory makes finding a room hit or miss.  Over time as the inventory increases your odds of finding a room will get better.  Still, this is a good tool and something worth exploring before your next trip.

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Save Money On Airfare With Throwaway Ticketing

I recently learned about a new airfare search engine, www.skiplagged.com (H/T VFTW) that takes advantage of throwaway ticketing to save money on airfare.  Throwaway ticketing is method of booking airfare that can save you money.  I’ve used it in the past and have found it to be a helpful trick.  Here is how it works:

Lets say you want to fly from Portland to Detroit the day after Thanksgiving.  Most people would probably go to a site like Kayak or Expedia and search for a flight and then book the cheapest flight.  Seems logical right?  That’s because it is, but here is a little trick.  For reasons that are beyond me sometimes the airfare will be cheaper if you add a connecting flight.   So if you want to go from A to B it may be cheaper for you to book a ticket from A to B to C and then when you land in B all you do is get off the plane and “throwaway” the B to C segment.

One reason why this is not widely published is that, while it is NOT illegal, it is against airline policy.  What does that mean?  For the most part nothing.  The worst thing the airline could do to you is cancel your ticket (and keep your money).  If you have registered your frequent flyer number with the ticket they may also close your account or not credit you miles.  However, there is no reason for an airline to ever find out that you are getting off the plane at point B.  So the chances of these things happening should be small if you follow some simple rules.

Rule 1: NEVER call the airline.  This is real simple, don’t call the airline!  If you have issues do it online.  If you must talk to an airline representative do not tell them you are getting off at point B.  Here is a real easy way how someone might shoot themselves in the foot by calling the airline.  So don’t do it!

Passenger:  “Hi, so I am flying from A to B to C, but I am getting off at B.  Is there any way my checked baggage can get off at B.”  

Airline Rep:  “You can’t do that and now I am canceling your ticket and keeping your money.  Good day sir!”

Which leads me to rule number 2.

Rule 2:  Do not check luggage.  If you check luggage your luggage will get off at point C.  You must carry on.  Do not gate check for the same reason.

Rule 3:  If you want a roundtrip flight you must book it as two separate bookings, i.e. two one ways.  The reason why is that if you were to book this as a roundtrip ticket, when the airline realizes you missed the B to C segment they may cancel the rest of the ticket on that booking.

Rule 4:  Do not link your frequent flyer account to these tickets.  Taking advantage of throwaway ticketing occasionally is not going to raise the ire of the airline.  However, if you were to do this often enough then the airline might take notice.  One thing they could do is forfeit your frequent flyer account if you have linked it to these flights.  So, do not be greedy and do not link your frequent flyer account.

Rule 5:  The best airline to do this with is Southwest.  Why?  It is actually not against policy and they are totally cool with it.  I know this because I have done this with Southwest and after reading their contract of carriage I broke Rule 1 and called and asked.  They are fine with it.  But the rule about checking luggage still applies.  Do not check luggage and do not gate check.

For most folks this is probably outside your comfort zone.  While the risks are minimal, the one thing that could mess things up is if there are operation problems that cause the airline to re-route away from point B.  If that is the case just make up some excuse as to why it is very important to go to point B.

All of this is a long way of me explaining why www.skiplagged.com is so cool.  If this is something that interests you, you may be wondering how to search for such fares?  In the past the way I would do it is manually through either Southwest’s website (for Southwest) or ITA (for other airlines).  Skiplagged has automated the process.  With their site all you do is plug in your destination and if there is a lower fare to be found with “throwaway ticketing” they will show you that fare and tell you which segment to skip.  Here is an example.

Lets say you want to fly from Portland to Detroit the day after Thanksgiving.  A search on Expedia shows the cheapest flight as $305, with a 2 hour layover in Chicago.

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Now do a search on Skiplagged.  Portland to Milwaukee with a connecting flight in Detroit is $244.  That is a savings of 20% and it is a direct flight!  You save money and time.  Pretty darn good for the day after Thanksgiving.

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If this is something outside your comfort zone do not do it or only do this with Southwest.  If this is something you are interested in, just be aware of the risks and follow some simple precautions.  Another thing worth pointing out is that I have found that this works best when your destination is a hub.  Unfortunately, Portland is not a hub so it is hard to find these types of tickets when Portland is your destination.  However, your return trip is a different story.

More from Portland Travel Tips
Throwaway ticketing is good for the occasional domestic ticket, but for international travel on the cheap I have a much better strategy.  Would you like to learn how to save tons of money on travel? Read more here.

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Pictures From My Trip To Eastern Oregon

I returned from my elk hunting trip this weekend, unfortunately empty handed.  We spent the week camping in the Malheur National Forest in the Silvies hunting unit.  This is an area about 25 miles northwest of Burns, Oregon.

Our most adventurous day was on Tuesday when myself and a friend tracked a band of elk through the snow on the side of Dry Mountain (6000 feet) for 2.5 hours.  it was pretty exciting.  We jumped the band twice but never got a very clear look at the animals.  We knew there was a bull elk in the group from the tracks but could never see him.  When the band headed down the mountain we decided to call it a day.  At this point we were a couple of hours late to our rendezvous with the rest of our group and they were getting anxious since we were out of radio contact.  This day also had a bunch of wet snow and we were wet and exhausted.  It was time to get dry.

We went back up the mountain the next day and there was fresh sign of elk all over the place but they’re like ghosts and once again we couldn’t get eyes on them.  It was nonetheless a very fun trip.  I’m disappointed I was not able to get anything, but there is always next time.

Here are a handful of pictures from the trip.  I didn’t take as many pictures as I had hoped to but I was too busy looking for elk.

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Pond at base of Dry Mountain

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Snow on Dry Mountain

 

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Snow on Dry Mountain

 

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Mahogany Tree with Moss

 

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Sunset

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