How to explore two cities for the airline ticket cost of one flight destination

Back in 2009 my wife and I traveled from San Francisco to Australia, visiting Sydney and Melbourne for a total of 6 days, yet we paid for an SFO to Melbourne flight only. Sacre bleu – how is that possible?!

This definitely works for United Airlines – it might work for other airlines, but I haven’t explored that option with them. The secret sauce lies in the airport connections and the power of lay-overs.

For the above trip I searched for flights from my (then) home airport to one of the two cities to check where the connections were.

Option 1: San Fran to Sydney: Melbourne isn’t one of the connections – not good.

Option 2: San Fran to Melbourne: Yes! Sydney is one of the connections on the way to Melbourne.

Notice how the lay-over is just 2 hours and 20 minutes. No chance of checking off the Opera house in that short amount of time. Here’s the trick – you can extend the lay-over for 1, 2,…. x days! Instead of catching the 10:55 flight on Friday Nov. 13th, you could take the 10:55 flight on Tuesday Nov. 17th (just an example, you can pick any date).

Extending your lay-over doesn’t cost anything directly, but indirectly it costs $25 (back in ‘09, this may have gone up since then). This is because you can’t extend the lay-over online, but need to speak to a United Airlines customer service representative to implement the proposed schedule. When a United Airlines human helps book your trip, this (back then) cost $25. If your membership status is high enough (e.g. Premier Executive back then with UAL), then that booking fee gets waived.

Now go have planning fun! Here are some ideas/options:

  • San Fran –> Marrakech (Morocco): Explore Portugal (lay-over in Lisbon)
  • San Fran –> Tokyo (Japan): Explore Hawaii (lay-over in Honolulu)
  • San Fran –> Bangkok (Thailand): Explore Hawaii (lay-over in Honolulu) and/or Japan (lay-over in Tokyo)

Begone foul noise!

It’s not just Bose that can do the trick, other brands such as Sennheimer or Sony can deliver the same peace of mind and piece of silence.  I’m talking about a good set of noise-cancellation headphones.  Even though a good set can cost you $300, it is so worth it, for frequent business travel or the occasional vacation travel.

Not only is it great for canceling out ambient noise (planes, babies, snoring neighbors), but it also makes music and movies so much more enjoyable, be it on your smartphone, tablet device, or laptop.


One time I stayed at a hotel at Piccadilly Circus in London, and construction was going on outside.  My noise-canceling headphones saved the day, or more accurately my night.

The only downside was, I woke up with headphone hair.
Also, if one day you are not feeling especially sociable (we can’t be happy, over-easy, sunny-side up every day), you can wear headphones to deter your neighbor’s socialization attempts at work.

Scanning receipts/documents couldn’t be easier: Evernote & Scannable

So why this post?  Why should you care about scanning receipts or documents?  Do you like shoe boxes full of old receipts, or even worse, having to dig through jacket pockets, laptop bags, and underneath the car seats, to find those elusive receipts?  Business receipts equal money back in the pocket.

Scanning receipts as you receive them saves time and hassle.  Picture this for a moment:  You’re done with your business meal, still sitting at the table, signed receipt in hand.  You could fold it neatly, put it in your wallet or purse and deal with it at the end of the week.  Or.. you could use your iPhone which hasn’t left your side, take a picture and with a few taps be done with it.  You could then crumple up the paper receipt and yell “Begone, foul miscreation!”


  1. EverNote account
  2. EverNote app on iPhone
  3. Scannable app on iPhone

If you haven’t heard of Evernote, I highly recommend this free program/app for tracking notes, shopping lists, to do lists, recipes, web pages, etc. It’s easy to enter information and say you paste in a PowerPoint slide, EverNote will actually full-text index the words. I might do a post just on Evernote – let me know by leaving a reply if you’re interested.

I already posted about expenses and how important it is to keep track of all those receipts. *Scannable* to the rescue. This (free) iPhone app by Evernote can take a picture of a receipt (or any document), brighten it up, make it crisp and store it….(drum roll)… in Evernote as a new note! The quality of these resulting scans can be better than actually scanning said receipts in a traditional scanner! Two words I never use, but Evernote combined with Scannable deserves them – *total awesomeness*.

Below is the high-level procedure I recommend for making use of aforementioned *total awesomeness*:

  1. In Evernote, create a new notebook called _SCANNABLE or _RECEIPTS (or whatever you wish to name it). I added the underscore (_), so that it would be listed at the top of my notebooks (underscores come before letters).
  2. Set up Scannable to use the Evernote notebook above.
  3. Scan.
  4. Enjoy *total awesomeness*.

Let’s get into it:  Open the Scannable app and tap Settings.

Open the Scannable app and tap on Settings.

Tap File Type, select Auto, then tap the Back ( < ) icon.


Tap on Evernote, then in the Notebook section tap >, select your notebook to use, then tap < to return to the previous screen.  This concludes the one-time / administration set-up.


That’s it for the one-time / administrative set-up.

Now we’ll deal with the actual fun. Get close up to your receipt and Scannable will pick it up.  Unless you have multiple pages to scan into the same file, you are done and you tap the image of the receipt.


Tap the “Receipt” name, then type in what you want to save this as in Evernote.  Then tap Done.


Tap the upload button (bottom of screen) and see the confirmation that your receipt was scanned into the appropriate Evernote notebook.  If you have more scanning to do, you could hit DONE.  For now, tap VIEW IN EVERNOTE.


In Evernote you will see the newly create note. Tap the note to see the original receipt. *Total awesomeness*



You might be stuck somewhere for the weekend and don’t know what to do.  A good way of exploring your host city and finding something to do for the weekend is to browse

Meetup is not a singles club!

Meetup groups help people:
  • Find others with shared interests
  • Get involved locally (truly locally or locally away from home – awaycally?)
  • Learn, teach, and share things
  • Make friends and have fun
  • Rise up, stand up, unite, and make a difference

This is useful for travelers.  You might have a hobby or interest back home that you want to continue to pursue while on the road, even during the week – international travel, hiking, reading and reviewing books, cooking, etc.

Finding and subscribing to one or more ‘local’ Meetup groups will help you explore your host city and increase the life portion of that much sought-after work-life balance.

Even if the work-life balance thing seems too theoretical to be true, it helps to be part of a Meetup group, have an event at least penciled into your calendar.  At best you have an excuse to leave the hotel room or get away from yet another late meeting.  Work will await you as you get back, but at least you’ll have had a constructive break good for the mind, good for the soul.

I joined a local “Shut up and write!” group.  Every Thursday night a group of 8 of us met at a Starbucks, did 15 minutes of chit-chat and then the moment came: The organizer told us to shut up.  From then on we had 60 minutes of focused quiet time, to do some writing.  There was no pressure to discuss our writing, and 15 minutes of pre-chit isn’t that bad even if you’re a little socially awkward or shy.  After the hour is up, we chatted a little longer or took off.

The point is, it is a refreshing break.  I did have to make constructive use of the hour though – no emailing, no work stuff, just focused personal time.  If I wanted to plan a surprise birthday party, that was fine.  I did something via this Meetup for which I’d usually not have uninterrupted time…. or wouldn’t make time.

Onsen and Moonlight

It’s 4AM.   We lay on the futon on the tatami floor of our Japanese-style hotel.


We’re awake and know that we’ll surely be tired later in the day if we get up now. . . but can’t go to sleep.


We make our way to the hot spring area in our Yukatas (Japanese casual robes). Our hotel is built into the mountain on one side of the valley and the hot springs are situated on the other side below. We crossed the bridge over the running creek that cuts through the valley.  We can’t see over the mountains.  There are dim lights along the pathway.  The hot springs are carved out like cul-de-sacs along the side of the mountains.  Its chilly, about 55 deg. F and the humidity makes it feel like a damp cool mist on your skin. We move quickly, but not too fast as to avoid slipping on the unpaved pathway and smooth rocks.  We can see the steam/mist above the hot spring as you approach.


No one is there, but us.


We disrobe, leave our Yukatas to the side, and walk in. (It’s customary in Japan not to go in with clothing, this is not some x-rated writing). The water is hot, yet the perfect temperature after the brisk chilly walk.  There are smooth rocks you can sit on in the hot spring so that the water goes up to your neck.


It’s November and the season’s turn is visible.  The trees along the valley are orange and yellow in the daylight.


We talk about our life, how dinner was the night before, how nice it was to have the whole pool to ourselves, plans for the rest of the day . . . .


From the top tiered pool, there is a bamboo pole that extends out about 10 feet above. It trickles a small stream of cool water to the lower pool.  We make our wishes as the water falls over our heads.


After an hour or so, there is a hint of light starting over the valley.  Other hotel guests are starting to feel the effects of jet lag too, so we make our way back to our room.


I don’t consider myself overly imaginative sometimes, but what I love about travel is that you can reminisce about moments in time that can seem surreal in hindsight.  Of course special moments can happen at any time and anywhere. . .but getting yourself on a plane, traveling to a valley far from the city, into the mountains, and wandering around pools of hot springs in the night is sure to elicit some feeling. These are the moments that you can think about that make you smile and be happy to have experienced.


I can picture myself in the hot spring before dawn, making a wish under the trickling water fall in the center of the pool, and sharing that with my best friend.


DATE:  November 2013