Travel shrinks the world and expands the mind. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain.

My White Whale


As a tourist, even without intentionally photo-bombing, you are in someone else’s photos. To me, my white whale is finding a stranger’s photo with me in it. Paris, London, Rome, Brussels, New York City, Austin -> You would think I would pop up sooner or later. The search is on via social media and Flickr.

Home Alone, Taking 15 Family Members to Paris Is Expensive

Home Alone and How Much that trip would costLast night Home Alone was the movie du jour. The family, 15 in total, travels to Paris leaving Kevin behind as part of the plot. In the movie Peter’s brother, Ross, purchased the trip as a gift for the family. As a travel buff, I thought about the planning and cost involved. What an expensive trip! How expensive would the trip be today?

Ground Transportation
Airport shuttle vans to O’hare from suburban Chicago (671 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL 60093) = $206

RER/Metro train service roundtrip from Charles De Gaulle Airport to central Paris (Abbesses 18th  arrondissement*) – 10 x $9 = $90, 4 x $12.89 = 51.56 X2 = $291.12

* The family visits their brother, “Ross”, his apartment is a stones throw from Sacré-Cœur which is very close via a window shot, that’s why Abbesses was the stop chosen. Notice we used 10 instead of 11 as Kevin was left at home.

The Flight
11 economy class* roundtrip non-stop*** tickets from Chicago to Paris (Paris Orly was used in the film**) in December – $1,249 x 11 = $13,739
4 first class* roundtrip non-stop*** tickets from Chicago to Paris (Paris Orly was used in the film**) in December – $10,049 x 4 = $40,196

* The kids flew economy and the parents flew first-class as depicted and stated in the film. I was tempted to use the lower business class figure of $5,123 but the parents have a conversation about first-class in the movie. ** I selected Charles De Gaulle airport as non-stop to Orly is no longer an option. *** The parents have a conversation with the ticketing agent about the length of the flight (8 hours) from their destination, so we can safely assume it is non-stop. We could have used 10 for the number of kids since Kevin was left behind but we assume the family bought him a ticket in advance.

Since the family, all 14 (Kevin missing), stayed with brother “Ross”, there is no cost. The idea that 15+ people would stay in a small French apartment is a little crazy but we’ll roll with it. – $0

Food / Fun
It is shown in the film that the family just hung out at the apartment all day while waiting to hear word about Kevin, the kids discuss this fact in the film. So, we’ll just calculate food cost to feed 14 nothing fancy (you could use 13 since the mom was at the airport but she most likely ate at the airport so we’ll keep her in). We’ll guess it’s $20 to feed each person for one day and that the family was there for 4 days – 14 x 4 x 20 = $1,120

Total trip taken in 2013 = $55,552.12


Total trip if taken in 1990 = $31,088.79

The numbers above are shoe-string, they don’t include passport fees, incidentals, baggage fees and other common items. This is a bare-bones estimate. The 1990 figure is based on inflation – a more accurate figure could be calculated based on the Consumer Price Index for air transportation.

Priceline: Pros & Cons

priceline-startI am a super travel nerd, TripAdvisor is my Mecca. But sometimes I want to save money and not obsess about the finer details of my hotel. I am taking a very short trip to Austin, TX for some business. I arrive very late at night and just need a place to crash for one night. Today, I used Priceline for the first time. I’ve been a fan of The Shat for a long time but now it was time to trust him. Here is my experience:


Location – I wanted to stay downtown as it makes the most sense for my day in Austin. I should have paid a little more attention at this step because their definition of “downtown” was not what I expected. They have a map to the right, not pictured here, that depicts what each area covers. In reality I was 1.5 miles from downtown Austin, it is my fault for not studying their map better in this step.



Star level selection – I have never believed that star level, which is the level of amenities but is confused with quality, is very valuable. For example, not having a pool lowers a hotel down one whole star, regardless of the quality of the hotel. In this case, you must select a star level. I chose 3 at first but went back and chose 3.5 stars, because there is a little green “best deal” icon that convinced me to go up a level.



The bid – Based on the fact that $184 was the average rate for downtown Austin (I confirmed this with my own research), I bid $100 – because if I can’t pick the actual hotel then I want a big deal. My thinking was that if I can’t get a 3.5 star hotel room near downtown for $100 then I would move to picking the hotel based on reviews from TripAdvisor. I didn’t expect my bid to be accepted.



The result – The bid was successful, the Doubletree hotel normal rate is $169 (before tax, confirmed by my research), I got the room for $100 (before tax), a savings of $69 or 40%. Wow, I am very happy with the results. The hotel reviews are good, the location is good and the savings is impressive. I would recommend Priceline to others in similar scenarios.

Six Months of Travel

I’ve done a lot of traveling this year. In fact, in the first six months of 2012, I’ve flown 19,048 miles. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901 miles. My goal for 2012 is to hit 24,901 miles, essentially flying around the world.

I’ve held most of my travel content back for a book I am working on but I plan on sharing more in the next six months.


I will be in Rome and then Paris in March. (Photo: Paris 2008)

I am a nomad, as I move to a new domicile every year. I also love to travel, so that plays into it too. In the past six years, I’ve lived in eight different rentals. I’ve left on great terms each time choosing flexible leases. I am restless by nature. My current lease will end April 1st, so who knows where I will end up.

The Travel Channel is a Sham

I love travel and I can’t get enough travel programming. PBS is one of the best at providing travel shows, who doesn’t like a 3 hour block of Rick Steves? But PBS doesn’t offer enough for me, I want more and I’d expect The Travel Channel should hit that spot. Wrong. I just can’t take the abortion of programming that is the “The Travel Channel”. All of their shows are about food or food related travel. I already have Food Network, I want a real travel channel in my life.

Let’s look at a typical day on The Travel Channel:

Man vs. Food – Fatbody Adam Richman eats his way through America. I recently watched the San Diego episode, they don’t  even tell you where in San Diego these pig-out spots are located.

Man vs. Food Nation – A spin-off of the above with contestants.

The Best Thing I’ve Ever Eaten – Chefs, actors and comedians talk about their favorite places to eat.

Food Wars – A food challenge show.

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern – Fatbody Andrew Zimmern eats odd shit from odd places.

Bacon Paradise – A show dedicated to bacon.

Burger Paradise – A show dedicated to where you can get a great burger.

Sand Masters – A show about people who build sand sculptures.

As you can see, there is much to be desired from the Travel Channel’s lack of travel programming. Am I the only one who wants to call the Travel Channel out? Too bad you can’t unsubscribe from individual channels, yet!

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