Tag Archives: Freedom

TRAVEL TIPS SERIES: PART 1 — Strategies on Finding Affordable Airfares!


If you’re hell bent on traveling the world in the same old way each time you do it, these tips may not be helpful to you. What I’m sharing here is for the OPEN-MINDED traveler that is willing to explore different and unique approaches to travel.

Although I have experienced travel where I’ve stayed in top notch hotels, ate numerous gourmet meals and taken my share of spacations, I am equally at home in an AirBnB, where I can prepare my own meals and still have very nice amenities at my fingertips.


What I would like to share with you over the course of several posts, are travel tips that allow you to travel economically thereby allowing you to maximize your dollars!

So let’s start in this post by examining a number of ways to secure deals on your flights.

I strongly feel that being flexible and not relying on one mode of securing flight arrangements, no matter how it has worked for you previously, opens you up to the best opportunity in the moment.  For example, I once found a round trip ticket to New York City for $150 USD inclusive of taxes and and all typical fees! How?  That time through a travel agent.  Ironically, that same trip was pricing out at $100 more not more than a month later.  The next time that I needed to book a trip to NYC, I searched for another travel arrangement through Travel Zoo.  Although the cost was more expensive than the $150 ticket I secured on that first example I spoke of, it was still less expensive than the instance that cost me an additional $100.  This time it cost me $177.00.

Another tactic in your air fare search arsenal is to keep your ears and eyes open on special and often unbelievable deals that the airlines offer.  For example, recently Southwest Airlines ran a 72 hour promotion for its shortest routes in the United States.  My cousin got her ticket for NYC to Atlanta for $104 round trip!  Although I purchased my ticket prior to Southwest’s special promotion, I was able to find a great deal for $222 by going directly to Delta’s website!

What about International flights? Well, I needed to get to Madrid back in June, and I found one hell of a deal from Chicago to Dublin to Madrid on Expedia for $893.72.  For this flight, I had a seven hour layover in Dublin (going to Madrid), and although I had a 17 hour layover in Dublin (on the return to Chicago), I had enough time to experience some of this fun Irish city! I met some great people, hung out on O’Connell Street had had a fantastic meal, along with  beer at a local pub — The Temple Bar!

This mini excursion gave me enough to know that I would like to return for a longer visit. I have never had a layover that long, but I made the most of it by not spending it in the airport.

Dublin has a wonderfully vibrant airport with over 200 businesses, eateries, chocolatiers, perfumeries and designer stores.

NOTE:  Literally two minutes ago, a notification from TRIP Advisor came up n my feed informing me of an airfare for $734 from Oakland to Madrid (as you have probably guessed, I love Madrid)!  Now that is a deal.


The following are search options that I have not only researched when looking for a good fight price, but these sites have produced for me some results at wonderful prices:

Fareness.com — Where should I go in April for the best flight destination?  This site offers a wide range of destinations and travel periods (e.g. check where to travel to from October to February) and receive immediate results highlighting the lowest air fares. Then you can build the rest of your vacation based what is most economical for you versus making that decision based on locale only;

Yapta.com — A very underutilized resource — tracks pricing for millions of flights worldwide allowing you (like Fareness.com) to first pick a travel spot, then creating your activities around that.

The Flightdeal.com — Targeting flights to cities that are six cents or less per mile — Chicago, Seattle, NYC, Baltimore, Philly, D.C., Portland, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco!

Airfarewatchdog.com — The airlines reduce airfares daily, but they don’t advertise them. This site notifies you of fare glitches and/or bargains.

Expedia.com — I have had really good success with this site.  If you don’t mind layovers (sometimes long ones), Expedia can become your best friend! You can find really good deals, and you can access by internet or telephone agents.

In summary, here are the things you must be willing to do to snag great deals:

  •     Search Often;
  •     Sign Up for Email Alerts;
  •     Use Twitter;
  •     Use Priceline for Last Minute Trips;
  •     Combine Two Separate Fares Versus Booking One Fare (can be cheaper)

To utilize my consulting services on economical trip planning, please contact me at robin@thisidoforme.com











EXCITING NEWS — Our Washington, D.C. correspondent Yvonne D. Hawkins brings us a new DMV excursion — The Underground Railroad Trail in Sandy Spring, MD!

It’s amazing how frequently hidden treasures can sit in plain sight. I heard about a piece of the Underground Railroad that runs through Maryland’s Montgomery County from a Facebook post that had gone viral among folks in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.

The Montgomery County Department of Parks maintains the site and sponsors an Underground Railroad Experience Trail Hike. The department also sponsors field trips and programs for schools, but I’d bet many folks in this area don’t know about the place exists. Maybe that’s because the trail is in the small community of Sandy Springs, which sits on the outskirts of the DMV. Turns out, though, you easily could spend two days exploring this tiny hideaway. Sandy Spring was settled by Quakers, who were early abolitionists. And the area became a refuge for freedom-seeking slaves and home to a community of freed slaves. Today, there’s the Sandy Spring Slave Museum to see. Tours are by appointment.


Photo:  The spring that gives Sandy Spring, MD its name

Families also can hang out at The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, complete with zip lining, climbing labyrinth and climbing forest park that feature the area’s wooded landscape. And the Underground Railroad trail is among several features at the Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park in Sandy Spring. Plus, the trail is part of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. After learning about the trail on Facebook, I decided to walk it as something different for Sunday worship. I planned to meet a friend there. Oh, but I overslept and missed our rendezvous time. To bide time, my friend explored the sites historic stone barn, which features exhibits about the Underground Railroad, before she jumped on the trail alone. Judging from her response to the exhibits, I’ll check them out the next time I visit the area. Because there definitely will be a next time.

After I arrived, though, I met up with my friend about 1/4 way along the trail as she was returning. I walked back with her, but after she left, I decided to start over. I wanted to complete the entire experience. And the time I spent alone on the trail was deeply moving and spiritual. At one point, I stopped at a bench, close to the end of the two-mile stretch, to take a break. A wonderful spot there marks the underground spring that gives Sandy Spring its name. I sat there feeling grateful about my decision to finish the trail. Because it sank in that I was at the same place where my ancestors determined to secure their own freedom and stay on this same trail no matter what.




Photo:  The meditational spot sits near an Underground spring that goes through the Quaker community of Sandy Spring, MD

The trail’s last marker lies just a stretch beyond the spring. It ends at a white ash tree that’s been at that spot for nearly 300 years. Today, the tree is surrounded by a newly fangled housing subdivision. I actually missed the tree the first time I walked by. Though I had a trail map—and the trial is well marked and super easy to follow—I decided to double-check with strangers along the way to make sure I was heading toward the tree. One man walking with his dog in the opposite direction told me, “Yep, just keep going. It’s about 100 yards that way.” Still, I missed it. The tree blended so beautifully with these new, big houses, I thought surely he didn’t mean that tree.

Instead, I saw a tall, barren white tree in the distance. So I kept walking. Until I ended up in someone’s back yard. And I knew that wasn’t where I wanted to be. With nothing left to do but to turn around and go back, I decided to pay closer attention this time. I didn’t really know what a white ash tree looks like. So truthfully I didn’t know what I was looking for. But I decided to stop assuming that the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on the whole trail couldn’t be it. And this time, I noticed the teeny, tiny spur shooting off the main path. And I took it. And it led me to the marker that let me know, yes, I had arrived.


Photo:  A White Ash Tree marks the end of this section of The Underground Railroad in Sandy Spring, MD


Yvonne D. Hawkins is a former newspaper journalist, certified spirituality and life coach, and Baptist minister. She currently lives in Northern Virginia and enjoys exploring the Washington DC-Virginia-Maryland area. But being a former Chicago and Evanston, Ill, resident, she also misses Lake Michigan. And the Taste of Chicago. Her newest blog is http://www.artistssaw.com.